I wanted to close out the season with at least one more race, and not having had the opportunity to race much shorter stuff this year, I really wanted to get one more Olympic distance race in. We decided to the Pitch Pine Olympic at pretty much the last minute, but I’m glad we did. It’s a small race, but one of the best venues I’ve been to. Right on the border of the White Mountains, White Lake State Park had great views, a challenging bike course, and a really scenic run.
Race morning we arrived bright and early, except it wasn’t so much bright as incredibly foggy and not bright. There was so much fog on the lake (water in the mid 60’s and air was low 40’s), that the race was delayed 30 minutes in the hope that it might clear. Eventually they decided to go with a two loop rectangle course that kept us close to shore so the lifeguards could see us. MASSIVE props to the race organization for having the balls to go through with the swim and making it work on the fly. The willingness to adapt quickly is not a common characteristic among RD’s, so it was much appreciated here.
The adjustment to the swim meant that a good portion of the mile swim could be completed by running or dolphin diving since the lake was pretty shallow. Consequently we were able to throw down some pretty fast times despite the fog and difficulty sighting when we were actually swimming. I went pretty much balls out on the swim hoping to get a good cushion since I didn’t know how my legs would feel given that I was on race #3 in as many weeks. After the first lap I had 3 guys right behind me, so I picked it up again for the 2nd lap and managed to come out with a good buffer in 14:15 (apparently you can ‘swim’ a mile pretty fast when you get to run/dive a big chunk of it!).
Onto the bike course it was hammer time. When I have the lead I always end up racing terrified, and being in front on the bike is a rare and particularly terrifying experience for me. It’s much easier mentally to be chasing or hanging with guys. I tried to just focus on the motorbike in front of me and ended up hammering the first lap at just under 300w. Mid-way through the lap there was a 2.5 mile climb that I crawled up, followed by an equally long and steep descent that I hit just shy of 50 mpw on. Starting the 2nd lap I was actually lapping sprint athletes by the halfway point, so I wasn’t as lonely as the first lap. My watts dropped a bit on the 2nd lap to low 280’s – I think the cumulative effect racing a lot and not riding all that much since before Timberman last month. The bike course was surprisingly well paved for New Hampshire, and the ride through farms, woods and small towns made for one of the more enjoyable courses I’ve done, especially since the leaves had just started to change. Despite the hills and wind, I managed to cover the 27 mile course in 1:06 and change.
Starting the run I had a bit of an adrenaline rush knowing that winning was a possibility. Winning is pretty rare, and I didn’t want this opportunity to slip away. After my sluggish run last week, I really wanted to drop a bomb. The long bike and shortened swim cancelled each other out, and I also realized at that point I could break 2 hours if I ran pretty hard. The run course was shaped like a T, so I knew I’d have two opportunities to see how much of a lead I had. I took off running pretty much as hard as I could. Racing long course this year has made the 10k seem pretty short, so I didn’t find the run as daunting as I have in the past. After the first out and back I couldn’t tell if anyone was behind me, since we were mixed in with the Sprint athletes. Heading out on the second portion of the T, which only the Olympic athletes did, I kept pushing. I felt like I was running fast, so I was really hoping to have a good split. The run course was rolling through a bunch of farms, and none of the hills were bad enough to slow you down much. Coming back I realized that I had an almost 10 minute lead on 2nd place. Not being capable of math at that point, I was still scared that someone could make that up in 2 miles, so I picked it up again and settled deep into the pain cave. In the last 200 meters I finally realized I was going to win and break two hours. I came across the line (pretty unceremoniously – not even announced as the winner) in 1:58, having run one of my fastest 10k splits off the bike in 35min.
Carolyn also won by a handy margin, despite going nearly 2 miles off course, and we took home some classy stump plaques and gift certificates to a local running store. It always feels good to make back the entry fee at least. Afterwards the race had a pretty awesome meal – catered breakfast. So we crushed some eggs and salty breakfast meats and coffee, and hung out with Ezra and Emily who came up to NH to hang out with us for the weekend, and Eric, who managed to win his age group and break 2:30 in his first oly. Hanging out by the lake afterwards was pretty great, and once the fog cleared the views of the Whites were pretty awesome. Small, local races are always a blast and this one was well organized and had a great course. I could definitely see this becoming really popular in the future. We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out at the house, did some more riding, and a quick hike to the top of Black Mountain – just in time for a storm to roll in, obscuring the views of Mt Washington and drenching us on the hike back down. I’d been thinking about trying to extend my season to race Rev3 Fl, but the lack of cheap flights, the waning daylight, and the long trip to Hawaii all were working against that plan… plus going out with a victory and 4 minute pr seems to make a lot more sense. Plus now I can focus on the biggest event of the year, Kancman.