race report: HITS hudson valley

a sample of things I remembered to bring on my triathlon camping trip:

  • travel Connect 4, circa 1988
  • Exploding Kittens
  • an extra blanket and sheets, in addition to my sleeping bag
  • 3 kinds of flashlights
  • 3 remote phone chargers
  • trash and recycling bags
  • a container for food scraps, to be composted at home
  • a deck of cards
  • a hat and a visor
  • 3 different kinds of anti-chafe products
  • a travel clothesline
  • a spray bottle for cleaning my bike
  • rags for cleaning my bike and other things
  • a bag in which to put potentially dirty rags
  • 3 swim caps
  • 3 sets of goggles
  • 2 sets of swimming ear plugs
  • 2 race belts
  • 4 containers of sunscreen

things I forgot:

  • any sort of recovery/massage tools
  • tri shorts
  • tri sports bra
  • tri top
  • socks

lessons learned:

  • Checklists are only helpful if you remember to grab all the bags in which you packed all the things you crossed off your checklist. (I left the fully packed bag of race day clothes in my apartment.)
  • As long as you have something to wear during a triathlon — even if it’s not tri-specific or is something you’ve never worn before — you’ll be fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s fine.

Here’s how this circus went down:

night before the race

Several weeks before, while drinking beer at a Cubs-Mets game, my friend Christine Meyer and I decided it would be really fun to pitch a tent at a campground the night before racing the half distance at the HITS Hudson Valley triathlon. We followed through on the idea and drove up Friday, July 6, pleased that traffic wasn’t at all bad. It was almost 8 p.m. when we got close to the campground and there weren’t many food options, but we spotted a food truck outside an art gallery in Woodstock, The Green Palate. It was delicious: carrot dogs, vegan sliders and knishes. If we hadn’t been so tired (and lazy) after the race, we would have gone back.

It was almost dark when we arrived, but we successfully set up our temporary home in less than 30 minutes, and soon after we got ready for bed and set out our things for the next day. Then things got interesting.

“Um… I think I forgot my kit.”

“No, it’s probably in there.”

It wasn’t. I knew exactly where I left the bag. I could practically see it on top of my dresser.

While I started taking stock of the clothes I actually had and tried to imagine racing in them, CM threw out potential solutions:

“Rahim is driving up tomorrow. He can swing by your place in the morning, and Matt can give it to him.”

An excellent solution — until we remembered we were in the middle of the woods with no cell service. (Kenneth L Wilson Campground, for those wondering.)

“Maurya! She was up here training today. We’ll text Maurya in the morning.”

My backup was a sports bra and a pair of 15-year-old spandex volleyball shorts for the swim/bike and a change to old, baggy running shorts for the final leg. I figured I could do the half marathon with no socks.

race day (saturday, july 7)

I’m glad I didn’t have to use that back-up plan. Maurya, a Brooklyn Tri Club teammate and my personal hero that day, had extra stuff: a swimsuit, a full cycling kit and socks. We met up just before transition closed and I changed into the swimsuit (thank god it was stretched out, because we’re not the same suit size). The plan: swim in the suit and pull on the cycling kit over the suit in transition. Before the run, I’d take off the cycling kit and pull on my running shorts over the suit. I had a sports bra on under the swimsuit the whole time.

the swim // 1.2(ish) miles

The half distance required swimming two loops of the rectangle (trapezoid?) course in Williams Lake. On race day, the water was too warm for wetsuits, but people were saying swimskins weren’t allowed, either. I asked someone working the race if swimskins were allowed and he said no, but I couldn’t imagine why and couldn’t find an official to ask. A bunch of people had them on, and under USAT rules, approved swimskins are allowed in any water temperature. So I decided to wear mine.

But when we got down to the swim start I realized I had never raced in my swimskin. The zipper doesn’t have a pull string like my wetsuits do, so when I tried unzipping it, I had an unpleasant reality check: I didn’t know how to do it myself.

“I changed my mind. Not wearing this.” Transition was already going to be a slog with the wardrobe change. I didn’t need to mess with the swimskin, too.

CM looked at me, half laughing, half bewildered. “You realize you’re not wearing the ONLY thing you remembered to bring, right?”

this about sums up the day. (credit: captivating sports photos)

We paddled to the in-water start and the announcer started to count down. The pre-race chatter was a mix of “Good luck!” “Have fun!” and “Can anyone see the buoy?”

The buoy marking the first turn was directly east — completely lost in the sunrise. The horn went off and we all blindly swam away. I didn’t see the buoy until I was more than halfway to it. The only other noteworthy part of the swim cane after the second turn of the second lap. A kayaker intercepted me as I swam off course: “You’re sighting the wrong buoy!”

Ah, yes. I was. The buoys marking the olympic course (a triangle swim) and the half course were the same color. Both that and the orientation of the course relative to the sun seem like easy fixes for the race company, but besides those flaws, I really enjoyed the swim. The water was smooth and the race uncongested.

time: 38 minutes 20 seconds.

the bottom jagged lines are from when I was swimming straight into the sun. the top jagged line is when I started to sight the wrong buoy on the second loop. (screenshot from strava.)
please enjoy this photo of me in a borrowed, brightly colored swimsuit, picking my wedgie. (credit: captivating sports photos)

T1

The run from water to transition is partially on gravel but it’s brief (not even a quarter of a mile) and not too steep uphill. I smiled when I heard Maurya yell, “Suit looks good!” and heard my friend and teammate Lena cheer from outside transition.

Shocker: It is really difficult to pull on a spandex cycling kit over wet skin and a swimsuit. Like a flailing T-Rex, I struggled to get my arms through the sleeves. After about four minutes, I was on the bike.

Race results had my T1 at 2:16, but those were a bit of a mess (more on that later).

hero of the day Maurya is in the background cheering on my ridiculous self. (credit: captivating sports photos)

bike // 56(ish) miles

What a lovely, smooth ride. The single-loop course took us through a corner of the Catskill Forest Preserve and offered some stunning views. My watch recorded a little more than 3,000 feet of elevation over the course of nearly 54 miles, though that’s probably high. The rolling hills were a nice challenge — any steeper parts were short — and the field was spaced out enough that traffic and drafting wasn’t at all an issue.

In fact, I went at least 10 miles without seeing anyone at one point. The course was only marked at turns (of which there weren’t many) so I started to worry I went off course. I literally called out, “YEEESSS” when I finally saw another cyclist and stopped worrying about five miles later when I got to a turn.

alas, this would’ve been a sweet photo if I was in aero. (credit: captivating sports photos)

A little more than 30 miles in, we rode right along the Ashokan Reservoir, prompting an athlete behind me to comment, “Wow.”

The scenery was a welcome distraction. Maurya’s kit was super comfy, but the swimsuit-under-shorts situation wasn’t great. The pressure of the saddle on the sodden chamois and seams of the swimsuit got really unpleasant around mile 30. I wanted out of that suit ASAP and started to consider my options.

If I see a portapotty, should I stop and take it off?

No, it wasn’t THAT bad.

What about changing in transition, and running in just the sports bra and shorts?

Is that allowed? (Ironman has rules against unzipping tops below the sternum, which is why I questioned this.)

I decided to take my chances. I didn’t want to wear the suit any longer than necessary.

time: 2 hours 57 minutes 28 seconds.

T2

I racked my bike, grabbed my clothes and made my way through the obstacle course of gear between me and the portapotty. The change resulted in a transition longer than 5 minutes but it was so worth it. (A plus about this race is the small size, which means a small transition area and the potential for fast times.)

run // 13.1(ish) miles

I started running toward the trailhead, trying to suppress any feelings of self-consciousness I had about running in just a sports bra.

Those disappeared when I grabbed a cup at the first aid station and tipped it over my head, only to process the fact that the volunteer had just said “HEED.”

“Wait, that was HEED?” I had just showered myself in a sticky electrolyte drink.

The volunteer looked more flustered than I was. He grabbed a pitcher of water and I asked him to douse me, which he did. (Thanks!)

It was all so ridiculous. I laughed my way through that first mile and settled in for a great run, which was on a shady, flat trail. The half course was twice out and back and a little rocky at some points — I saw a handful of people with scraped up hands and knees.

To my surprise, I was ahead of CM — she’s a WAY faster runner than I am. Knowing she was chasing me down helped me push to my 2nd-best run split in a half, but she passed me in mile 12, and I definitely lost steam after that. Still, I was super happy when I crossed the finish line well under 6 hours.

time: 2 hours 7 minutes 9 seconds.

and the absurdity comes to an end. what a day. (credit: captivating sports photos)

finish: 5 hours 50 minutes 34 seconds.

in short

I had a great day, despite making it more difficult for myself by forgetting my race clothes. I’d definitely do this race again (and camp beforehand), but it’s a “you get what you pay for” situation. Initial results were very off, which was apparent during the awards ceremony, and HITS didn’t post the official results for several days after. When they did, the results were inconsistent and full of gaps — CM didn’t have a swim split, for example. Still, I had a really fun day, and the ballpark figures I have for my times are good enough for me.

pros:

  • Easy to get to from NYC
  • Cost: $200 (before processing fees) three months in advance of race day
  • Fun, laid-back atmosphere
  • Beautiful course with a well-paved bike leg and a shady run
  • Small race

cons:

  • Not the most organized
  • Infrequent course marking
  • Small race — if you’re looking for a deep field and intense competition, this isn’t the best option
  • Every leg measured a little short of the “official” half distances
  • Post-race food was meh. I ate a lot of pretzels. However, we went to a cool brewpub afterward (Keegan Ales), so it wasn’t a huge deal.

the nitty gritty

fuel

[before] breakfast: peanut butter and banana sandwich. coffee. // while setting up: a quarter of a peanut butter and banana sandwich. (oh yeah, I also forgot the jelly for my pb&j)  // right before: lemon-lime nuun.

[during] bike (carbs every 15, water every 10, two salt sticks every 30ish): hammer nutrition perpetuum (caffe latte) the first hour. then the rest of my pb&b. then shot bloks. about half a bottle of HEED (strawberry — it was the on-course fuel). // run: water every aid station (and I run with a handheld water bottle.) HEED at the first aid station (I actually ingested some, not just bathed in it). I had a two shot bloks but really didn’t want to eat anymore, so I drank coke at every aid station that had it (until they ran out, when they offered me sprite and it was gross. never again.) two salt sticks every 30ish.

gear

goggles: Roka R1 – Dark Amber Mirror.
bike
: 2017 Cervelo P2 with Di2
bike hydration system: Xlab Torpedo Versa 200 + Profile Design RM-L Rear Mount Hydration System
helmet
: S-Works Evade Tri
cycling shoes
: old-af Louis Garneau tri shoes
running shoes
: Saucony Freedom ISO
chafe prevention: 2Toms Sport Shield Roll-On around bra and swimsuit seams. Applied Tri Slide all over in T1 before putting on the cycling kit and again in T2. (I had no idea how all this gear was going to fit.)
the rest: Maurya’s Speedo, Maurya’s Santini cycling kit, Maurya’s socks. Oiselle 2016 Verrazano bra. Under Armour running shorts circa 2010. Roka SR-1sunglasses with white frame and HC Fusion Mirror lens. BOCO Ironman visor.

results

age group: 1 of 4
women: 6 of 27
everyone: 24 of 67

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