I just completed my first sprint tri in Philly this June and I'm hooked! I'm now looking to do my first olympic distance race this fall and am torn between doing either Naylors Beach or Giant Acorn. I figured I'd check with the experts to see if you all recommend one over the other? I've reviewed the forums and see that both races are popular with the group, but I guess I'm curious about 2 factors:
1) I don't own a wetsuit and really would prefer not to rent one - is one body of water warmer than the other?
2) The run is my weakest piece so if one race has a run with fewer hills, or more shade, than the other, odds are good that race will win my heart. :)
PS - If I decide to do Naylors Beach, I may be interested in camping - anyone ever camped down there? Is that a bad idea the night before a race? Any feedback appreciated.
I suggest the Myrtle Beach Tri on Oct 2 (same day as Giant Acorn). We're trying to get lots of club members to go. It's guaranteed to be fun & lots of support out with you!
Naylor's was my first oly. Bike course has 3 big hills and lots of rollers. Run is flat and sunny. Water was choppy and I did not use a wetsuit. But know that if a swim is under 3 miles, I generally don't wear a wetsuit.
Here's a bit I wrote about the experience.
Like all extraordinary bad ideas, it started innocently enough. Forgotten popsicle melting in my sticky hand, I stood in front of the television, mesmerized. Men and women trying to run, collapsing on the ground, struggling to get to their feet and cross a finish line a few feet ahead. Unable to stand, a few brave souls clawed the ground, inching their bodies forward, screaming, crying. Their pain, determination, and guts captivated my six-year old imagination. I didn’t understand what they were doing. I just knew when I grew up, I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be an IronMan.
* * * *
On my road to IronMan, I registered for a shorter, Olympic-distance triathlon - 1 mile swim, 26 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run and promptly forgot about it. I calendared the race in my trusty Blackberry but I failed to pencil in a date to start freaking out and start training seriously. A procrastinator at core, I waited until a month before the race to really digest what I about to undertake. Reaching for my beeping cell phone, I munched on my third bacon cheeseburger of the week. Hmm, text message from my fellow triathlete, Jill. We’d hit it off at clinic one weekend and become training partners, swapping horror stories, injury treatments, and encouragement. “Did calcs. Race will take 4 hrs!!!!” I smiled, intending to wash away her concerns with a few well-chosen words after more soda. Let’s see, the swim will take me 25 - 30 minutes, depending on the strength of the current; a 16 mile per hour average speed on the bike but discounts for the hills and fatigue; and 6.2 miles at a 13 minute per mile pace . . . oh crap! This race WOULD take 4 hours to complete! 4 hours of racing! And that’s only if everything went as planned! It could take longer! I’d never biked 26 miles in my life and I sure as hell couldn’t run, especially on knees I blew out skiing in my youth! I’d never run more than a couple miles before switching to walking, and even then the most distance I’d covered on foot was 5.5 miles. Doom! I was going to die. I needed tequila! Wait, I needed to run. Then a moment of clarity – I’d run the mile to the liquor store, drool over the gallons of tequila, then run home and drink lemon-lime Gatorade from a margarita glass! Slightly calmed, I informed Jill of my plans. A true friend, she offered words of encouragement. “Try margarita flavored Endurox.”
The following week I had another breakdown. Oh dear god, what had I gotten myself into? My first Olympic-distance tri was less than 3 weeks away! The swim was no big deal, but the hilly bike course would take what little strength my chicken legs held. And just when my legs were cramping and I begged for death, a 10K run. Did I need psychotropic drugs or cyanide? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then I remembered - it was Tuesday night! Tomorrow the Haldon Supercollider would be fired up, creating black holes that would suck up the entire universe and I'd be dead! What a relief! I got on my knees and prayed the whacked-out crazies were right this time and my misery would end in a cosmic clusterfuck. But the next morning I awoke, still in this dimension. Sighing, I grabbed my gym bag and left for the pool, but not before stopping to grab a Milky Way bar to mark the occasion.
In the ensuing weeks my prayers for alien attacks, natural disasters or a disruption of the space-time continuum went unanswered. All those years of being an atheist had finally caught up to me. I loaded my gear into my car and drove the three hours to the race site, meeting Jill at our shared hotel room. Over a pasta dinner, we speculated about the race with other participants – water temperatures, tides, currents, when the forecasted rain would begin falling. But nothing could prepare us for what lay ahead.
Luckily, I managed to keep myself calm and even got six full hours of sleep. Never a morning person, I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal and green tea in silence. As we boarded the elevator and left the hotel, I saw Jill's race shirt and had a moment of panic. 26 mile bike. 6.2 mile run. SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!! STOMACH KNOTS!!!!!!!!!!!! I tried to calm myself down and not look at her shirt again. Breathe in, breathe out. I can do this. A wave of relative calmness temporarily washed over me, only to be forgotten 10 minutes later when I arrived at the race site. Tanned, fit, athletic gods mingled, pumped air into their bike tires, laughing and joking. I spied millions (okay, probably only a dozen) athletes wearing the coveted IronMan finisher T-shirts. I snorted. Yeah, this race was merely a warm-up for those gods while mortal me was just trying to complete the damn thing, hopefully in four hours but probably closer to 4:15. Whatever. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax. Remember, once upon a time they were mere mortals too and I am not racing against them. I am racing only against myself. And as an atheist, I don’t believe in gods!
All too soon it was time to jump into the choppy water for the staggered swim start. As I waited, the cool water and nerves shook my body. Young men, followed 3 minutes later by the older men, then relay teams, and finally the women. The shotgun start killed my nerves. Adrenaline took over and I barely noticed getting kicked in the head during those first few meters. As a former competitive swimmer, I passed the men who started 9 minutes before me and were struggling with the strong currents. I relaxed a bit and settled into my natural rhythm. This was fun! Sure, I may have chicken legs and suck on land, but I could kick some ass in the water! All too soon, the shore appeared. I stood in the shallow water and ran to my racked bike. Working quickly, I tossed on my shirt (carefully chosen for to look good in the race photos), sunglasses, helmet, socks and bike shoes.
I hopped onto my bike and started the 26 mile ride. My legs felt weak and rubbery like jello, but with the weight of lead. Prepared by my coach, I knew this was the result of blood rushing from my arms to my legs. Remembering her advice, I switched to a higher gear and spun, knowing I had a couple miles to get my legs under control before the first hill. I’d ridden the course two weeks before the race with disastrous results. This loomed heavily on my mind and left me more scared of the biking than running on my blown-out knees. But to my surprise, I succeeded and made it up the first hill. I'm sure I annoyed the people around me because as I struggled up the hill, I muttered 'GO' as I exhaled. Whatever, it got me to the top.
Four miles later, the second major hill appeared. On the pre-ride I’d been forced to get off my bike and push it up the hill and knew I’d be pushing my bike again. I planned to struggle halfway up the monster before getting off my bike, but as I rounded the corner and got ready to ascend, I noticed a rider lying on the side of the road holding his leg. I stopped, got off my bike and yelled back to the volunteer that a crash needed help. (Because it was a corner, I could see both the rider and the volunteer, but they could not see each other. Turns out the guy was just having horrific cramps.) As I pushed my 16 pound bike up the steep hill, I ate a packet of vanilla Gu, a horrific sugary slime manufactured to provide athletes the necessary sugars, salt and calories to ward off cramps and bonking. At the top of the hill I remounted my bike, knowing the worst was behind me and only one big hill lay ahead. I cruised over dozens of small rollers before encountering a behemoth. This was it. I was not going to let this third hill conquer me. I would conquer it! Inhale, GO! Inhale, GO! The end is in sight! Keep moving! I’m there! It’s over! I did it! I am one with the bike! This is FUN! This is the sugar from the gel pack kicking in!
The zen lasted four whole miles. Then I hit mile 18. Crap. This was the third and final hill of the course. I should have looked at the map before the race to refresh my memory. I tried clipping out and toppled over. I laughed because whenever I topple over it’s never to the right and the nice grassy shoulder. Rather I always gravitate to the left and the hard pavement, and always when a car is cruising by. I got up, assured the other riders and those in the passing cars I was okay and pushed my bike to the top of the hill. I threw my weary leg over the bike and prepared to mount. Something seems off. Why do my pedals feel odd? And what is that grinding noise? Only then did I notice the force of the fall knocked my chain off its ring. I moved my bike onto the shoulder and spent another minute wrapping the greasy chain around the spiked ring. I patiently waited for riders to pass before I re-mounted, not wishing to cause a crash if I couldn't get going fast enough and had to topple once more. Great, I probably just lost five minutes due to my own incompetence. Ugh. And why does my left handbrake feel odd? Oh, it’s been knocked 45 degrees inward. Whatever, only 8 more miles to go. 8 miles. A year ago 8 miles seemed like a million. I’ve come a long way.
Finally, the end was in sight. I racked my damaged bike, took off my helmet and tried to get my sneakers on. But I couldn't slip my heel into my left shoe. So I broke a cardinal rule of triathlon racing - I sat down on the ground. I knew I’d burn in hell and was wasting precious fractions of a second because sitting slows you down, but I figured it would be faster than continuing to struggle with my shoes. What’s was 5 seconds of sitting after losing five minutes on the bike?
I grabbed my cap and ran onto the course. Well, jogged. Okay, a slogging death march. As a child I hated running and always faked a stomach ache on Track Day. Then during high school, a particularly nasty mogul beat me up and stole a meniscus and most of my cartilage while skiing. This gave me the perfect excuse to never run, unless being chased by a man sporting a hockey mask and wildly wielding a chainsaw. But if I wanted to be an IronMan, I’d have to run. Ugh. I planned to alternate 8 minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking. Repeatedly looking at my watch quickly got annoying, so I picked two points and ran or walked between them. I kept my head down, prodding along the pavement. About 20-22 minutes into the run I saw a large 2 painted on the road. Wow! I’m doing 10 minute miles! That’s the fastest I’ve ever gone! Wait a minute, was that 2 miles or 2 kilometers? Am I nearly a third of the way through the race or only a fifth?
I finally reached the orange traffic cone, signaling the turn-around. Head still lowered and plodding along, I spied a 4 painted on the road. That had to be miles because I am past the turn around. Wow! I am going to beat my 1:20 goal on the run. I am going to smash it! This is great! Keep going! I had visions of future marathons dancing in my head. I could hear the noise and music at the finish line. It was in sight! Balloons, crowds of cheering people, the smell of post-race food. Life is great! I am going to smash my goal time! Oh wait, I have to turn right and run away from the finish line! What sadist set up this course? Doesn't this count as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment? It's torture to tease runners, showing them the finish line, being merely 25 yards from the thing and then make then run away from the finish! I really should have consulted the course map! I still have another mile to go! UGH!!!!!!!!! I shuffled on, blinking back tears. What do I want more – a cheeseburger or to puke? My tender, swollen feet cried out with every step. I can hear the music again – the finish line is near. In less than 5 minutes it will all be over. I can survive five minutes of anything. Again, the balloons and crowds appeared before me. Time to finish strong. A volunteer’s radio crackled. “93 approaching.” I rounded the corner and entered the finish chute. “Here’s Tammy Farmer! And she’s still smiling!” I wanted to yell out a good natured “fuck you” to the announcer, but settled for a wave. Limping to the cups of Gatorade and water, I waited for Jill to finish and cheered 5 minutes later as she too crossed the line.
After the race, Jill, other new found friends and I toasted our first Olympic finish with a couple bottles of champagne. Maybe it was the endorphins and maybe they had too much champagne, but they started talking about doing the Kinetic Half IronMan in seven months. Since I only had a small celebratory sip, I didn't have the same delusions about being ready to do the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run that soon. But I could be ready for the half-IronMan distance race 12 months away . . .
Tammy registered for the September 2009 Patriot’s Half Iron distance tri. Her tentative breakdowns are scheduled for 2/1/09, 5/8/09, 7/23/09 and 8/13/09.