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Survival of the Shawangunks S.O.S. Triathlon - Triathlon

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New Paltz, New York
United States
Survival of the Shawangunks
75F / 24C
Total Time = 5h 48m 40s
Overall Rank = 48/142
Age Group = M50-54
Age Group Rank = 5/17
Pre-race routine:

This race occurs about an hour and a half north of NYC or Newark. It's a swim/run preceded by a bike. 30 mile bike, followed in order by run/swim/run/swim/run/swim/run. Basically run between, and swim across, a series of lakes in the Catskills. After you get off the bike, whatever you start the first run with, you have to finish with. So carry the cap/goggles in your pocket, swim with your run shoes. There's lots of methods, most people shove the shoes up their short legs, or down their tops, or into dry bags, but I chose (like 2014) to simply take them off in the water and put them between my legs like a pull buoy. Worked well for me. I put them back on while in the water (prevents rocks and dirt getting in there) and run out of the water. No socks. All practiced ahead of time.

We opted to fly out from California on a Wednesday redeye to spend a couple days in NYC prior to the race and acclimate a bit to the eastern time zone. I was racing with my training buddy Annie whose brother Mike was crewing for her, and my wife was crewing for me (every racer needs someone to take their bike in T1). This was Annie's first time, my second one having done it in 2014.

Because we rarely get to NYC, we spent Thursday and Friday running around - 9/11 museum, seeing Hamilton, dinner with family and friends each night, Central Park bike tour -- (just like 2014....) and it was pretty tiring but tons of fun. Love the city for a couple days but after a while happy to get away from the crowds and into a more rural, slower environment. 48 hours and we were out. Did get to grab a drink with BTer Jonah Klein, nice to finally meet him after all these years

Saturday morning made our way back to EWR to pick up the rental van (gotta fit two bikes) and started the drive to New Paltz. I screwed up my mapquest and had it set on avoid toll roads so it took about :30 longer than it should have, but we did get to see some nice rural backroads :)

We were staying at an airbnb on a horse farm, La Luna Farm. It's 3 or so miles from the race start, and is nicely situated between the towns of Gardiner and New Paltz for restaurants and shopping etc. Dropped off our bags and headed up to the town of Rosendale about 15 minutes away to pick up the bike rentals from TRT Bikes.

In 2014 I had borrowed a road bike from a local but felt intrusive to ask again, and there is a benefit to a tri bike on this course, so this year was going to bring my BMC. In had packed it though, and realized how much $$ it was going to cost and having to lug it through NYC and airports and train stations.... At the last minute emailed the bike shop that Annie was renting from and they had a frame in my size so I opted to rent. $50 vs. all that other crap. Wouldn't be ideal but the bike isn't really where SOS is at anyway. Bike was advertised as an AL frame with Sora, nothing fancy. Turned out absolutely fine, a nice BMC Road Machine, and I ride 105 anyway so Sora isn't too much of a step down :) Quick swap of the pedals and seat post adjustment and we were off.

Pre-race dinner at the Gilded Otter on Main St. VRBO owners described is as "good (enough) food," it was a bit oversold. Tried the blueberry pilsner and it was actually full of blueberries. Don't much like fruit bumping into my mouth as I am drinking a beer....

The horse farm was very peaceful and serene. We didn't get to experience much of it on Saturday and i was hoping we'd get to enjoy it more post race.
Event warmup:

Check n is 6:15-6:30 ish for a 7:00 a.m. start. In 2014 we showed up on time and I remember a lot of hanging out time. Opted to hang out at the farm for a while and let the coffee do its pre-race thing. Quick drive to the start for the mandatory bike check and body marking.

In 2014 we drove up to New Paltz on a sweltering Saturday, in the mid 90s and high humidity. Race day was 79 and cool and dry. Oddly, the exact same thing happened here, Saturday was very hot, Sunday was perfect, although a warm 75 in the morning it was forecast to drop a little in the later morning (which would be prophetic) and then rise to 78 by race finish. Since it started so warm, opted to wear the tri bibs and tri top, no arm warmers

The Bike - 30 miles
5/17 AG, 55/148 OA

This "tri" starts with a 30 mile bike ride, with waves going off every minute. It feels more like a casual century ride start than a real race though, as you take off through farm fields and rows of sunflowers. The bike course essentially carves a counterclockwise loop around the Shawangunks, and from the start (as well as a few other places on the course) you can see the Smiley Tower where the race finishes way up high on top of the mountain.

It's a fairly straightforward course and well marked and manned at the major intersections. The first 25 miles are flat to rolling with a couple small climbs, then the last five miles are a decent climb up to the Lake Awosting parking lot, where you give your bike to your crew and set off on the trails. About 10 miles in there is a steep-ish downhill followed by a hard left, and it was at the bottom of this descent that the first few drops of the promised rain appeared. Then some more drops. Then a lot more drops. Then it just started dumping.

OK, shit just got more epic. The rain was warm though, and we were all gonna be really wet after the first run anyway we just got soaked a bit early this year. At one point the course passes by what I would later find out was a cave, but it was very strange and disconcerting to going from cold and warm in the rain to wet and freezing as cold air blew out of the cave.

The bike course is open to cars but there is not much traffic on a New Paltz Sunday morning, although the rain made it a little more dicey (but not very much so compared to Southern California riding). While I still would have preferred my TT bike, the roadie worked fine. I alternated between resting my forearms on the top bar and riding in the drops, and passed a fair number of people on their TT bikes. I also did not have a powermeter or any HR info, so I was going strictly by feel. I tried to gauge my effort best I could but there were a few spots I may have overcooked a little early.

Because there are only 150 people or so, there were no issues with crowds or drafting that I saw. Not that kind of race.

Once the rain stopped about 15-20 miles in, the headwinds started on the backside of the large loop. While it made it a bit more difficult (especially not being able to hide in aero at all), the wind made for an iconic moment or two, as a gust would take all the fall leaves from a tree and rain them down on the road, it was pretty cool to ride through.

Eventually made the last turn about mile 25 and started up the 44/55 to the T1 area at the top. Not a long continuous climb, but more of a series of 1K-ish shorter climbs broken up by flats and even a downhill or two. In 2014 the bike I borrowed had different gearing than what I ride, but this year had identical compact and 11/28 gearing that I use. I was able to spin up pretty easily and comfortably, although my lower back was complaining a little on an unfamiliar frame

The SOS transition area is not quite as.... organized as your typical tri. No racks, etc. Just a parking lot where people throw down a towel with some shoes on top. But this year because of the rain and a construction project in the park, there was less dry room, so crews were (expertly) directed to set up car transitions.

I ran in with the bike and Wendy and Mike were there to guide me to the parking spot. It was a great transition, with both Annie's and my gear set up in the back of the van. I dropped off the bike and started trying to figure out what gear to take. I had my shoes, a hat and glasses, and a small hand water bottle (same gear used in 2014). Because this transition is so unique, had a hard time determining whether I had everything, but nothing was left in the van so I guess I had everything and started off with a kiss from Wendy up the trail.

Run 1 - Awosting Lake Carriage Trail
4.5 miles
7/17 AG, 75/148 OA

The first run is a gradual uphill for about three miles, then a left turn over a bridge onto the first named hill, aptly titled Cardiac Hill. I was feeling a little tight on this run but found a comfortable pace to start off with the idea that I had 18 miles of hilly trail running left. Although the rain had clear it was still quite windy and somewhat cool, and I actually hoped it would warm a bit more as the swimming would drop the core temps somewhat.

During the first 3 miles a guy came by on the gradual ascent and asked "Is this Cardiac Hill?" "Uh, no, you'll know it when you get to it...."

We did eventually get to it, and as planned walked Cardiac. It was fairly steep in parts, and flattened out gradually at the top. Shortly another left turn to the first aid station next to Lake Awosting, and the trial follows the lake edge in a counter clockwise fashion to the far edge, where we were to get in and swim back. Could hear splashing of swimmers on this leg as I ran along the lakeshore.

I had practiced the run / swim transition a few times but for some reason this didn't go smoothly. But the timing mat is on the shore, so on to the first swim......

Swim 1 Lake Awosting
1.1 Miles
1/17 AG, 31/148 OA

Awosting is a "jump in" lake, off a rock into 3-4 feet of water. I had stashed my hat and glasses (down the front of the tri bibs) and the water bottle in the back pocket, but I didn't put on my cap and goggles. Because I put my shoes between my legs I couldn't really tread water and as I moved into deeper water trying to put the cap on that would not cooperate, it was a bit of a mess. Finally got it sorted out and started the swim.

Awosting is typically the coldest of the three lakes and some years is in the low 60s I've gotten lucky both years with mild temps, and this year was reported as 73.

The swim route takes you to the far shore that you follow to the exit. There's one buoy I think guiding you across the lake, and from there kayakers keep you in line. There are also divers scattered along the shore and in the lake. The water was clear and you could see various packets of gu that people had lost from their pockets. I unfortunately added to this, in the first 2-300 yards, reached back to feel for the water bottle (and a Clif bar) and they were gone. Have not had that issue other than in choppy ocean swims, so was surprised. I looked around but didn't see it floating around, so after responding to the kayaker that inquired as to my well being, carried on. Since the day was cool I was unconcerned (and not much I could have done anyway), hopefully someone finds the bottle and can put it to use.

Because the route hugs the shore, the water was fairly protected from the winds so this swim was pretty calm, unlike later swims.

I passed a few folks on the swim, neared the exit, and in about 3 feet of water turned over, popped the shoes on, and ran out over the timing mat taking off the cap/goggles and reaching down my suit for my hat and glasses (which by the way I never wore on my face.....) I was certainly not the only one with a hat but didn't see many (any?) other glasses....

Run 2 - Castle Rock
5.5 miles
5/17 AG, 49/148 OA

There were a lot of folks at the swim exit/run start sorting out their shoes, wearing space blankets, drinking soup. It wasn't that cold to me and as the shoes were on I took off down the trail. This run is essentially 2.5 miles up to Castle Point, then 2.5 miles back down to Lake Minnewaska.

Heading up the first few hundred yards, I felt the familiar hamstring twinges of a potential cramp. This race is famous for cramps, especially cold water years, but i feel sorta left out as I've never really experienced bad cramping. I think part of it is because i put my shoes on in the water and as a result am not bending over trying to put them on, which might be the cause of the cramps in others.

At any rate, I knew this was a pretty long uphill, and I needed to prevent the cramps from really coming on, so I slowed down a bit and shortened my stride. Eventually the twinging subsided and it was not an issue for the rest of the day. Just like last time some of the same people that ran by me on run 1, and that I had re-passed on the swim, passed again on the run. One guy came by on all three runs, saying "there he is!" :)

This trail winds around and up Castle Rock and most of the uphill ends at Caste Point, where the aid station is for this run. Due to the winds they had to move across the trail from the edge, but at that point you can look back and down at Lake Awosting, where you just swam, and see the kayaks and swimmers, and it looks a long long way off (and way down in the valley, hard to believe how much elevation you can gain)

This run is just gorgeous as it winds through the forest on a crushed gravel path. Just when you start feeling like the lake should be near, you make a hard right and go back up a hill on the trail that encircles Lake Minnewaska, and shortly you can start seeing water through the trees, and hear people cheering at transition (this lake is easy to access for folks wanting to see the swim entrance or exit, via a mile long path around it).

Lake Minnewaska is a "run in" lake so I determined to do this transition better. About 300 yds from the lake a guy ran by me wearing a drawstring backpack, I presumed with his shoes. I followed his led and well before the entrance I stowed the hat and glasses and pulled out and put on the cap and goggles. Would have been great if I hadn't run past the timing mat for the swim entrance though. :^ There were a lot of racers again milling around prepping for the swim so it was a bit unclear. Drawstring bag guy was still there. Its sort of odd how long people take, one girl passed me with about a mile left in the run, then she passed me again halfway thru the swim.

Swim 2 - Lake Minnewaska
  • 5 mile
  • 17:18
    3/17 AG, 27/148 OA

    Got back on track and ran right in, got the shoes off and started swimming. This lake is a bit over a 1/2 mile, but has a buoy line running across it so just need to follow the rope. But this lake is a bit more exposed, and the wind was ow at our faces causing some wind chop and making it slightly more difficult. Plus my swimming just wasn't feeling smooth.

    Also regret not getting new goggles. I had bought a couple new pair earlier in the summer but during ocean swims lost both of them, so I was wearing a pretty worn out pair that would not clear well. Tragic that I could hardly see the shoreline, or the trees, or the views, of these beautiful lakes, just the buoys and the splashing swimmers ahead of me.

    This was the only swim that I saw someone pass me, the girl mentioned above.

    I knew Wendy would be waiting at the swim ext since, even though we'd already run 9 miles and swam a mile and a half, it was only about a 1/4 mile on the road from the transition area. It was great to see her there, and I knew all I had left was one long run and a bit of a swim to finish! Minnewaska is also a wade out lake, so in shallow water put the shoes on, popped up and ran off onto the trail.

    I also appreciated being able to get some food and drink, other than lake water (which I drank)

    I should mention the volunteers here, they are the greatest of any race, and all shapes, sizes, ages, it seems the town comes out to support the race. I think there are almost 2 volunteers for every racer. And the stations are also incredibly well stocked. Not sure how they get the water and food to some of these areas but it's such a well run race.

    Run 3 - Trapps Bridge Run
    8 miles
    5/17 AG, 49/148 OA

    This was the long run, the granddaddy. 8 miles to Mohonk Lake, with a huge climb at th end known as Godzilla. But first you have to get there. I broke this run into four 2 mile sections, since there were aid stations every two miles. The first part is actually the only paved part of the run and it's an incredibly painful and very steep run down the 1/4 mile entrance road to the lake. Some folks can fly down these things, but not me. My quads were burning as I was running down, and I couldn't wait to get back on the trail.

    Soon after the right turn to the trail, drawstring bag guy came by again, running a little faster than me. We started chatting, and in return for company he kept me running at a decent pace where otherwise I would have slowed in the early miles. At the first aid station, we'd grab a drink, he says "come on Chris, let's go..." and we'd go. We ran about 7 of the 8 miles together. Phil from Long Island. One of the things i like about long course racing. I still remember the guy I ran with at my first IM in 2008 at Arizona. Second aid station he was still drinking, "let's go" I'd say.

    At one point he saw a (younger) teammate running ahead, he had been telling me how they hated that a 59 year old was beating these guys in their 40s. He caught and passed him with some smack talk, and as I came by moments later I said "you let that old man beat you?" Personally I was glad this 49 year old was passing a 42 year old :)

    After the second aid station at Traps Bridge he pulled ahead a bit, he stopped a couple times for cramps, but this section got hard. You can take your mind off of it a little by taking in the climbing teams that use the cliff on the side of the road, but it just gets hard! By the third aid station I had caught up or Phil had slowed down enough, he said "where's Godzilla, I figure I'll be walking and we can walk it." I said "just wait, around this corner and..." Boom, there it is.

    We were walking up but his pace was faster and soon he was a couple hundred yards ahead. The top of Godzilla isn't really the top, and there is Son of Godzilla. Proud to say I only walked Cardiac and the two short Godzilla portions. Soon enough I came to a point on the trail where four little old ladies were just hanging out kibbutzing, and they pointed me onto a rutted rooty path through the forest. I could hear the next swim entrance but it was too thick to see. Water came into view, down a steep path and along the lake for a few feet, and Phil is still there getting ready to get in the water (turned out he was carrying roka sim shorts in his bag and was putting them on for every swim).

    This was a god run for me and about 4 minutes faster than last time, although it got hard at the same spot.

    Swim 3 - Mohonk Lake swim
  • 5 mile (a short half mile)
  • 14:18
    3/17 AG, 43/148 OA

    This swim is a slide down a steep slope into the water entrance. By this time I had the process down, and got in the water with cap and goggles on and cap and gasses stowed.

    This swim is also buoyed and you are instructed to stay to the left of the buoys and the shore, and you are led right to the exit. Had some more goggle clearing issues here, and by this time it was just a tough swim, with a little chop, end of the day, and tired! I wanted to see views of the Mohonk Mountain House, a 30s era hotel on the shore, total Dirty Dancing summer camp in the Catskills type stuff But couldn't see thru the goggles.

    This swim exit to the finish is the cruelest part. To get out of the lake, you basically have to climb up the steep rocks, legs burning, and try not to fall over. But you know its almost done!

    Run 4 - Skytop
  • 7 miles (more like .5), but 300 feet elevation
  • 6:42
    3/17, 42/142 OA

    Out of the water, started up the trail. Just steep, and it's really no more than a shuffle here. Things start cramping and you can't breath... I came on some folks coming down, and was very glad to see that the color of the shirts was cool!!! Shallow, I know. But it felt great to have people say, "there's been five guys we've seen coming up and they're all walking, you're still running!" It kept me going. Soon you top out of the trail and it gets even steeper up an asphalt ramp. Then you turn and huge steps... ugh, but you can hear the finish line.....

    Turn right and it's a quick run to the finish line, over looking the beautiful countryside you just ran through.

    My goal was to improve on my 5:57 from 2014 and break 6. Done!
    • 00m
    • 3696 yards
    • / 100 yards
    Transition 1
    • 00m
    • 00m
    • 30 miles
    • 0.00 mile/hr
    Transition 2
    • 00m
    • 00m
    • 18.7 miles
    •  min/mile
    Post race
    Warm down:

    Food and massage

    What limited your ability to perform faster:

    Nothing, great race and well done for me!

    Event comments:

    Waited for Annie to finish about :30 after me, and then trudged our way back down Skytop to the buffet. Best race ever, gotta have the best post race buffet ever, with open bar (beer). Did my best to replenish the calories I had lost, and did a damn fine job of it.

    We had to return the bikes by 5 so we stayed at the buffet for a bit then left. That night had local pizza and beer around the firepit at the farm, and enjoyed the evening weather.

    This is by far the best race i've ever done in 10+ years of racing. Look forward to going back

    Last updated: 2015-11-23 12:00 AM
    00:00:00 | 3696 yards | / 100yards
    Age Group: 0/17
    Overall: 0/142
    Start type: Plus:
    Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
    200M Perf. Remainder:
    Breathing: Drafting:
    Waves: Navigation:
    Time: 00:00
    Cap removal: Helmet on/
    Suit off:
    Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
    Jump on bike:
    Getting up to speed:
    00:00:00 | 30 miles | 0.00 mile/hr
    Age Group: 0/17
    Overall: 0/142
    Road:   Cadence:
    Turns: Cornering:
    Gear changes: Hills:
    Race pace: Drinks:
    Time: 00:00
    Riding w/ feet on shoes
    Jumping off bike
    Running with bike
    Racking bike
    Shoe and helmet removal
    00:00:00 | 18.7 miles |  min/mile
    Age Group: 0/17
    Overall: 0/142
    Keeping cool Drinking
    Post race
    Weight change: %
    Mental exertion [1-5]
    Physical exertion [1-5]
    Good race?
    Course challenge
    Events on-time?
    Lots of volunteers?
    Plenty of drinks?
    Post race activities:
    Race evaluation [1-5]

    2016-09-21 3:14 PM

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    Subject: Survival of the Shawangunks S.O.S. Triathlon
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