Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race Report & Review – Kevin Hartstein

I love running. Since beginning to train for my first marathon in 2013 the feeling of slipping into a pair of running shoes, knotting the laces, and trotting out the door has brought me endless joy. I run to relieve stress, to improve my health, and to compete with others (especially my twin brother) and myself over how long and fast I can go. I’ve ticked most of the important boxes – completing a marathon, qualifying for and running Boston and New York, and upping the distance to 50K, 50 miles and even 100 miles at the VT100 Endurance Race last summer. I love the purity and freedom of running – all you need is a pair of shoes and some willpower to start putting the miles in. But I hate cross-training. I have a difficult time convincing myself to stretch or do core work, never mind swimming, cycling, or (god forbid) running on an elliptical… So why on earth did I sign up for an Ironman?

Like many important life decisions, it started in a bar. Club sweetheart Cara Baskin, my brother Taylor, and I had just run the Lake Wawayanda Trail Ragnar Relay in New Jersey. Although the 120-mile race was meant for teams of 4 or 8, we failed to fill the 4th slot on our roster. Despite this setback, we won the Ultra division and finished 3rd overall among the 8-person teams. Inebriated with victory (and perhaps a few too many IPAs) we planned our next move. We had all run ultra-distance events already – in fact, Cara had completed the VT50 the weekend before – so we wanted a new challenge. “Let’s do an Ironman!” It seemed so simple. Taylor had cycled in college and Cara had completed a Half Ironman the year before. I had only a vague notion of the swim and bike distances and almost no experience with either sport, but had run for 23 hours straight in the VT 100, so figured a race that took about half that time would be no problem. The drinks wore off sometime the next morning and the lactic acid ebbed a few days later, but the Ironman idea caught hold.

Ironman mont- tremblant

Triathlon training would be the most intense cross-training I had ever done. I signed up for a winter spin class at the Dartmouth gym to see what cycling was like and started swimming once a week during lunch. My friend Robert Gill joined for spinning and decided to get in on the action. Our friend and UVRC club-mate Taylor Black had raced at Ironman Mont-Tremblant the year before and gave it rave reviews, so we all pulled the trigger and registered. The months that followed that decision seems like a blur of wetsuits, carbon time-trial bikes, and Clif Shot Bloks. My goal shifted from completing the event to racing it. I learned how to fix a flat tire and keep my goggles from fogging up. UVRC member and triathlete Jeff Reed introduced me to the Dartmouth Triathlon Club coaches Jim Anderson and Eliot Scymanski, who taught me to bike and swim correctly and what a “brick” workout was. I met my girlfriend, Vanessa, at an Upper Valley Triathlon Club event and she decided to race with us at Mont-Tremblant. I borrowed time from my running to give swimming, cycling, and even core work a fair share.

Before we knew it race day had arrived. We pumped up our tires and deposited our bikes and running shoes in the transition area. The Canadian Air Force jets flew over the beach at Lac Tremblant and the cannons went off to start the race. We charged into the water for 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles on the bike, and a full marathon. We all crossed the finish line. After drinking some water and shuffling to the hotel room for a shower, we met up at the bar to start planning our next adventure.

In the end, my season of cross-training comprised about 2500 miles of cycling and 100 miles of swimming in addition to 600 miles of running over the four months between the Boston Marathon in April and Ironman Mont-Tremblant on August 24th. I still find reasons to avoid core work and stretching, but I really enjoy swimming and cycling now and plan to continue cross-training to some extent through the winter in order to compete in another Ironman next year. With enough work, I think I have a chance of earning an age-group slot for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

On the other hand, I’m thrilled to focus on running for the rest of the season. It is my first and true endurance love. I don’t have to worry about tire tubes or goggles or goofy one-piece suits with padding in the shorts. From now until the end of the year I’ll just be knotting my laces and hitting the road, first to prepare for the VT 50 miler in September, then for the NYC Marathon in November.

I would encourage anyone who’s considering a crazy athletic dream to go for it. The biggest obstacle is usually just committing to your goal. Once it’s in sight, everything else will fall into place. Especially here in the Upper Valley, there are a lot of friendly, helpful people who will point you in the right direction and give you training advice. Ask for help. Whether it’s a 5k, charity bike ride, triathlon, or ultramarathon, someone in the UVRC, Upper Valley Triathlon Club, or Upper Valley Velo has done something similar and would love to talk to you about it. I’m honored to be a board member for our club and my mission as Vice President is to bring these resources together for our members.

USAT Age Group National Championships Race report - Emma Sklarin


It was 8:55am in Omaha, and we were sitting hip-to-hip with our competitors, our legs dangling over the edge of the dock. After months of anticipation and training, Katie, Sonia and I finally had our toes in the race. We were smiling and laughing with the girls around us, though they would soon become our fiercest competitors when our wave took off minutes later. That’s just the magic of this crazy sport: when you’ve traveled halfway across the country to push your body through a two-and-a-half-hour, three-sport sprint, you just can’t take it too seriously.

After five long minutes, the buzzer went off and the swim began. The water temperature was 80 degrees on race morning, so it was declared a non wetsuit race. This meant slightly slower swim times without the flotation power of a wetsuit, but it also meant we would shave time from our transitions since we wouldn’t need to rip off our wetsuits or change clothes at all. Besides the lack of lane lines, the lake swim almost felt like a pool.

While the swim looks peaceful to fans on the docks, in the water it’s a battlefield. Remember that pool game “sharks and minnows,” where the shark grabs as many legs as she can while the other kids scramble to cross the pool? The swim leg of a triathlon is just like that game, except everyone is a shark and it lasts for a mile. I fought my way to the first buoy, and Sonia got stuck between two swimmers, claiming that at one point she “rode on their backs” as she found herself in their line of motion. We circled the buoys to complete the mile, Sonia and I coming in at 27 minutes with Katie close behind.


Sonia and I ran to transition together and cheered each other on. Soon, we were running with our bikes to the bike mount line. Sonia started just ahead of me and Katie, quick as a whip, passed me within the first couple miles. The bike is my worst leg of the triathlon by far, so my goal was just to hang on to a 20 mph pace and try to hold my position for as long as possible. I was only successful until the turnaround – when my lack of speed work caught up to me –, but I still finished the bike leg in my goal of an hour twenty. Katie and Sonia finished the bike leg in 1:10 and 1:14, and I cheered them on the start of the run as I sprinted to transition.

By the time I got to T2, it was almost 11 and already 80 degrees. It was hot, and you could see it on the red faces of all of the runners. I followed Sonia’s advice and dumped a cup of water on my head at each aid station. At one, the volunteer handed me the paper cup and called out “wait, that’s a block of ice!” as I ran away, but I’d already poured it, the ice melting on my head. It felt great.

My run was a blurry mix of bliss and pain, and I couldn’t help but smile. There we were in the middle of Nebraska, running down country roads with some of the best amateur triathletes in the nation – and they were all just as excited to be there as we were. I crossed the finish line six minutes ahead of my goal time with Katie, Sonia, Jeff and my dad all waiting at the end. Katie had finished in 2:26:53, coming in an incredible 7th in our age group. Sonia finished in 2:32, coming in 16th. I came in at 2:39, finishing 25th.

That night at the awards ceremony, Katie took to the podium, standing with the top finishers in our age group. She also found out that all three of us had qualified for Worlds in 2018 in Australia. The next morning, Coach Jeff had an amazing race in the Sprint, coming in hot at 1:13:51 and finishing 7th in his age group. Talk about a coach that can do both! Jeff guided us through our race-day prep and cheered us on throughout the race, only to wake up and absolutely crush his own race the next day.

Two years ago, I raced Nationals in my Dartmouth kit, but I competed mostly for myself. I could’ve never imagined how far our team has come since then. At the finish line, we met an alum, Gabriel, who was racing, too. Maybe that’s why I never stopped hearing “Go Big Green” throughout the race, both from strangers and friends. It propelled us forward, pushed us to dig even deeper and put smiles on our faces in the toughest (and hottest) moments. I think it’s safe to say that Dartmouth made a splash at Nationals this year.

Now for a few huge thank yous: First, dad – you’re the best cheerleader in the game (thank you for flying to (the most exotic) midwestern cities with me)! Jeff – you are a saint for driving to Omaha by yourself with our bikes so that we could have the perfect race set up. I’m not sure how we will ever repay you! Jim – this summer, when the devil on my shoulder told me to stay out on a Friday night and skip a Saturday double-day, I’d remember the joy of the TrainingPeaks box turning green and knowing you’d see me kicking butt in my workout and the devil would pipe down. Thank you for thoughtfully writing training plans that made all three of us fit and confident for race day!   - Emma Sklarin, Dartmouth Triathlon Club & Endurance Drive U23 athlete



Boston Olympic Triathlon

Boston Triathlon Olympic Race

Boston Triathlon Olympic Race Report & Review

This was my second year competing at the Boston Olympic Triathlon. The race is run by our good friend, Mike O’Neil.  For some background on Mike and the race, here’s a Slowtwitch interview

I really enjoyed the event last year but faded on the run so was looking forward to finishing the race much stronger this year and hopefully earning a podium finish in the elite field.

I started with the elite wave, competing against strong competition always brings out my best performances.  If I want to make the jump to the next level, these are the kind of athletes I will need to beat.

The swim was a simple out, over and back course with an out of water start. As they gun went off, the pace was fast.  I entered the water without too much drama and started swimming hard.  At the first buoy I was in level with the two other leaders. For the next 300 meters, I focused on keeping my tempo high and getting as many deep breaths as possible. At the first buoy, eventual winner, Lucas Pozzetta and I were level and my body was finally starting to come around; I pushed the pace a little harder. On the second half of the swim, I was able to take the lead and continued to up my tempo to the shore.

The bike course is four five mile loops, including two 180 degree turns and an out and back around the Head Island light house. Early on, Lucas was not pushing the power I anticipated on the first lap and 3rd place Spencer Ralston was starting to catch us. I decided to take the lead and stick to my planned effort. The power was coming easily and did my best to enjoy the effort, stick to my nutrition and power race plan. I led the first three laps with Lucas in tow and about a 30 second led on Spencer. On the last lap, Lucas decided to push and I did not chase, I knew I wanted to run hard and so I stuck to my plan and entered T2 about 10 seconds off the lead.  Bike section here

My goal for the run was to hold sub 6:00 pace. My running has consistently lagged behind my swim and bike splits but there have been some good signs of progress over the past year. I was excited to see the improvement. For the first mile, I focused primarily on keeping my tempo high and taking deep consistent breaths. I was quickly passed by Spencer but knew I had to run my race so stuck to my plan. By the second mile, I was starting to feel much better. I ran the middle 5 miles solo and for the first time in a long time, I was able to really work hard at the end of a race. In the closing mile I was passed by two more athletes, Matt Alford and Thomas Whitmore, obviously this was not the best feeling but I was giving it everything I had so just put my head down and focused on getting to the finish.  Run section here

I finished in 1:46.37, two minutes faster than last year, all of which came from the run split, 36:16. My run pace was 5:51’s for the 10k which is a personal best.  Despite not being in a position to take the win, I was very satisfied with the effort and improvement in pace, good signs for the future.

Up next is a solid four week training block with very specific work on 70.3 efforts and as always trying to extract the most from my run split at the end. Onwards.

Boston Triathlon 2017 results 

Boston Triathlon 2017

White Mt Velo 40-mile Swiftwater Bike Time Trial.

Swiftwater Bike

White Mt Velo 40-mile Swiftwater Bike Time Trial. July 6, 2017. Franconia, NH

White Mt Velo is a road ride group that is supported by Littleton Bike & Fitness. They organize rides from April through September.  Jen Dodge is the current event organizer extraordinaire.  She does the scheduling, organizing the rides, planning appropriate routes, explaining the routes and re-group spots.  You’re always in good hands when Jen runs the show. 

The White Mt Velo group primarily rides out of Littleton, NH but also holds various Thursday night group rides out of other northern NH towns such as Lancaster, Whitefield and Franconia. 

Their Swiftwater 40 mile Time Trial (TT) has been an annual event for over 15 years.  It’s a self-timed ride/race.  Some people ride it as a group and others ride it individually.  Here’s the Strava segment for the course:

Last year’s event was rained out so I was itching to get in on it this year.  It was a beautiful northern NH evening as we met at Mac’s store for pre-ride instructions and information from Jen.  People start when they are ready to launch. I waited a minute or so as to have people to chase. 

The route starts with a 9 mile incline on the Easton Rd / Rt. 116 (part of the White Mountain Half Triathlon uses this road), a right on Rt. 112 losing elevation from miles 9.5 to mile 20 where it intersects Rt 302. It’s a gentle elevation gain for 10 miles through Bath and Lisbon. The crux starts after taking a right on Rt 117 to climb up to Sugar Hill through mile 30 – 35+ ending with a big descent back into Franconia.  

This TT was well-timed with my triathlon season training: For the better part of the Winter, Spring and early Summer, I ran a lot, as in twice as much as I had ever run, as we needed to address fading late in the half marathon part of 70.3s i.e., build run durability, finish the race strong.  As many triathletes can attest, running can sap your high end bike power.  It’s not uncommon to be 10 – 20% off of your ‘normal’ bike power watts with a lot of run miles in the legs during a training phase.  It’s part of the balancing act in triathlon training.  If you want to produce huge watts at your local race or weekly group ride, running can take a backseat for many un-coached athletes.  You have to give a little to get a little (or a lot).  I had completed my A race, Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in mid-June and had backed off the run miles a bit with upcoming shorter races.   In other words, power was being restored to the legs and it was time to push some watts!

As with all races, it’s easy to blow up your entire race in the first half.  I was particularly careful during the first 9 miles, especially between miles 7 – 9 where there are steeper, short pitches.   I didn’t want to burn any matches with big power surges and tried to maintain an even watts range through these hills.  It was tempting to go harder through this part as I had caught my friend, Steve Saffo, and he hooked on and then proceeded to re-pass me on the hills.  Steve is a strong rider (and runner) and I wanted to make the next pass definitive.  As we turned right onto Rt. 112, I put my head down and put in a surge.  Steve was riding a road bike and I was on my TT bike so was able to make just enough of a gap to exploit the rider / bike drag between the two riders and two different types of bikes. 

Recent heavy rain storms had damaged Rt. 112 and it was a rough ride down through the Ammonoosuc River valley, avoiding gravel, potholes and large cracks. In this section, I tried a new fuel source: Untapped Maple.  Due to lack of practice, most of it ended up on my hands and just a bit in my mouth. I had only one package of it. Oops, lesson learned. 

The southwest headwind we had experienced on the first 20 miles turned to a nice push on Rt. 302 as the course rolled north through Bath and Lisbon.  By Lisbon, I was feeling the lack of fueling besides the two bottles of Skratch (one with ice cubes to help internal cooling).  I backed off slightly for the last few miles of 302 knowing that the crux was coming on the Rt. 117 climb into Sugar Hill.   But overall, I was feeling good and it was nice to finally see some real watts (at least for me) on the Garmin. 

Late in races, no matter the distance, is where your fitness level shines (or falters).  As I climbed up Rt. 117, I asked my body to do hard work and it responded.  Those weeks of 1000+ TSS (Training Stress Score) through the Spring and Summer were paying dividends when I needed it.   My power increased through the 5 mile climb and crested Sugar Hill to see the sun’s angled light reflecting off of the Cannon Mountain buildings and bathing Franconia Ridge in warm, orange light.  A true north country evening!

Mile 35+ to mile 38 is a screaming downhill. Not being familiar with the descent and valuing the skin on my body, I sat up for most of it and checked my brakes a few times down through the corners (showing my triathlete side of bike handling skills).  At the bottom, it’s a quick flat sprint back to Mac’s store and done!  Time: 1:44:35 which was 2nd overall on the night. 

To my surprise, I didn’t know there was another guy up the road, ultimately finishing two minutes ahead of me.  Nevertheless, I put out my best effort, was very happy with it and two minutes would have been a tough ask.  Just goes to show, you never know how a race is going to end, keep pushing until the finish line.

Big thanks to White Mtn Velo, Jen and the Littleton Bike & Fitness shop for keeping cycling alive and vibrant in the north country.   - Jim                               (photos credit: Jen Dodge)


King Pine Triathlon Race Report & Review Olympic distance

King Pine Triathlon was an addition to my race calendar this year.  The bike course features a 32 mile route, longer than the standard 24 mile (40K) Olympic bike.  The benefit of the longer than standard bike was preparation for my A race at Ironman Syracuse 70.3 two weeks later.

On race morning it was cold, warmer than the New England Season Opener race, but still in the 50’s. The water was chilly although once the gun went off it was the best I have ever felt in a swim leg. The course was an angled out and back and I was able to take a good look at half distance and focus on my form and breathing for the rest of the swim, being well ahead of the trailing swimmers. I came out of the water a few minutes ahead of the 2nd swimmer.  All systems go.

On the bike the race place was to push between 310 – 320 watts, drink 2 small water bottles and eat 2 gels. As with most plans, it was interrupted when one of my bottles ejected about a mile in. I readjusted my pace of drinking and made sure to grab an extra bottle when water was available.

Early on, I realized I was having a great day and the power was coming easily. I was still on top of my breathing. As I made my way through the du-athletes who started ahead, I focused on staying under control and relaxed.

Once I was in the lead, I had a motorcycle escort ahead of me for the remainder of the ride. Unfortunately, as much fun as it is to follow a motorcycle, the driver was not familiar with the figure-8 nature of the bike course and I had neglected to memorize the bike course map.  At mile 32 and beyond appeared on the Garmin, it was clear something was awry.  Instead of taking the second loop of the smaller figure-8 course, we were doing the bigger first loop a second time.  At mile 34, I waved down the motorcycle driver, compared notes and we determined we went right when we should have gone left at the second loop. Oops.

Mistakes happen and thankfully I had a nice easy 30 min ride back to transition where I was able to cool off and manage my frustration. It was a strange end to the lead the race and then suddenly DNF.   The upside was I was secretly very happy with how I felt on the swim and bike.   Checking bike power and effort were part of the day’s race goals, along with swim effort and both of those were achieved.   And lesson learned: Always know the bike course map as even the moto-guy may not know it!

King Pine Triathlon 2017 Race Results


Photo Courtesy of Harrigan Photo

Photo Courtesy of Harrigan Photo

New England Season Opener Race Report & Review

This race is held in mid-May and for the last two years, the weather has been cold to challenging.  The 2016 edition was sunny but had a cold, stiff wind.  The 2017 edition continued the wet New England Spring ’17 Spring theme.  Race day dawned with driving rain at 42F with wind chill at 35F.  Needless to say, the swim was cancelled and the race was turned into a duathlon format.

The Endurance Drive was at the race in dual roles, one to race and two to support our U23 Dartmouth Triathlon Club athletes.  While we coached up our U23 athletes for weeks on open water swim technique in the pool (it was too cold to get into open water in the Upper Valley proceeding the race), many were relieved to not swim in those conditions.  And a few of the swimmers were not happy about the change!

Another principle we instill in our athletes is being flexible and rolling with whatever race day brings, be prepared for everything and nothing will surprise you.  There are two types of variables: Variable A’s, ones we control such as training, our reaction to circumstances and effort.  Variable B’s are ones we can’t control: weather, who shows up to race, water temperature, etc. There are a lot more Variable B’s than A’s.

The race started with a 2 mile run, transitioning to an abbreviated bike of 7.5 miles (reduced from 10 miles as parts of the course were flooded) followed by the standard 5K run.  In the freezing rain, I got away well at the start and was able to run away from my starting group over the first two miles.

Both of my transitions were sloppy and showed a lack of practice in the early season. Note to self: more work on transitions as Sprint Triathlons are all about the seconds gained or lost in the small details.

Despite the rain I really enjoyed the bike. It had been a very long winter off season and it was good to finally just push as hard as I could for a few minutes. I have never worn as much clothing as I did during this race but the bike was very cold, even for someone who normally runs very hot.

The final 5K run leg was decent but felt the effects of the first run and hard bike so had noticeably less pop than the first segment. In the end, I finished 3rd  overall. A solid start to the season, a numbers of lessons learned and re-learned and more work to be done for the longer races to come this season.

For the Dartmouth Tri Club recap of this race, check out their blog post

Max Performance 2017 Season Opener

Max Performance 2017 Season Opener Race Results

Season Opener - Eliot Scymanski

Muncie 70.3 nutrition plan and post race thoughts

3:45 - Woke up and had a bottle of water

4:30 – Left for race and ate a bonk bar and a gel on the drive, plus more water

5:45 – Bottle of Scratch and packet of rocktane blocks post setting up transition

6:30 – Sat down for awhile, got my wetsuit on

6:40 -10 min swim warm up, 5 or 10 seconds of up-tempo but pretty much just easy

7:05 – Race start

T1 – big sip of water bottle in transition


1 gel every 30 mins on bike

2 salt pill every 45

Front 32 oz bottle started with 3 scoops of scratch and got more and more diluted as added water at every aid station

Stomach pretty good for the most part on the bike, had a few moments of burping but in general everything went down smoothly and was happy with my ability to hydrate and eat


Grabbed two gels from my t2 setup

Only ended up having one of the gels at about mile 4, was concerned about water intake versus sugar intake to played it safe, may have explained slowing a bit the last 5 miles.

Was grabbing water and sponges at each aid station.

Took one orange and one cup of redbull at 8 and 10


My thoughts –

Pre race – still open to suggestions for staying calm, I am getting better at it but eating anything is pretty forced pre-race, more or less just trying not to throw up for a good chunk of the morning.

Swim – Always get a bit of cotton mouth so I like having the extra bottle in T1 but I think taking some nutrition or hydration closer to swim start would be a good idea.

Bike – Not a perfectly controlled test but seems like salt was a good addition, had no problem taking them during the race. Calories/Carbs wise I think I could have taken more, probably not more gels because that starts to get gross at some point but another 300 calories or so would likely go a long way at the end of the run and is going to be very important if I want to take another step forward/have the ability to run hard instead of just controlling. Will probably consider adding calories to a bottle in the future. 

Run – Kind of just going by the seat of my pants on this part, thought I was going easy on the way out but still suffered the last two miles despite not really adding to the effort on the way home. I usually like to carry a bottle out of T2 but didn’t this time,  in the future I will go back to that, I think it will help get a gel or two down early on in the run.

A good step but plenty to work on.

Eliot S. 


Syracuse 70.3 Race Plan

Race plan syracuse 70.3

Race plan Syracuse 70.3

4:30 – 5:00– Wake up, bathroom, drink a bottle of Nuun, make oatmeal. Raisins, honey.

5:00 – 6:00 – Make sure all equipment is ready, roll out, keep hydrating, lay down, put on a podcast or shower if nerves are going.

6:30ish – Arrive and set up Transition – make sure cooler is properly set up with run bottle

Pre race – stay calm – eat a bar plus another bottle of Nuun, probably bathroom again

7:40 race start –

Swim – Keep it chill, nothing more than a light 2 beat from the back end, keep the tempo up, focus on your catch and taking nice deep breaths. Assess the situation mid swim, back it off even more if you are away, save a match for the run. Little steps out of T1

T1 – Should be a quick one, big sip of one of the cold bottles in my little cooler.

Bike –

·       You are very powerful, now is not the time to prove that. Stay in control. Stay in Control. Stay in Control. Aid stations at miles 15,25 and 40. Before each station grab a gel plus big sip of electrolyte, in the aid station grab a bottle and take a few big sips as you get back up to speed. Even if you don’t feel that hot dump the rest on your back and neck, be on top of temp at all times.

·       Watts NP 270 – no spikes over 300, don’t be afraid to stand up every so often, stretch the back, you are strong enough to take it.

·       Cadence between 80 and 100 the whole time

·       Be easy on the three main hills, 1st climb, steadier on the steep parts and then keep the power up as the % backs off to ramp up the speed, 2nd, way too steep for your gears so just get to a little gear quickly and then stand up and chill, 3rd climb, try and stay seated and keep the power going up over the top, plenty of chance to catch my breath over the next 8 miles after the top.

·       Nutrition plan –

o   Big sip of electrolyte mix every 10 mins – will be a bit too strong but you will have extra water at the aid stations, use as much of it as possible.

o   Gel every 30 mins, perhaps an additional blocks at 1:00 if your stomach is feeling it.

T2 – Socks on, Shoes on, hat on, sun glasses on, grab cold bottle. Goal for first three miles of the run should be to drink the whole cold bottle and get down one gel.


·       Rest of the run will be grabbing any water or ice to keep core temp down as well as taking water and red bull for a little boost. Hold on dude, last few miles should be a bit of a ride, but you are tough enough.

Plan and be ready for anything – you have enough fitness to make up for a few mistakes or unforeseen circumstances. Fire it up.

Eliot S. 

Eliot S.

Patriot Half Race Report & Review by Katie Clayton, U23 athlete

Patriot Half Race

Patriot Half Ironman race recap: 

    On June 17, I crossed the finish line at my first 70.3 race, the Patriot Half. Patriot is put on by Sun Multisport Events every year in East Freetown, Massachusetts. It features a swim in the warm, calm waters of Long Pond, a mostly flat two-lap bike course with a few rolling hills, and a beautiful run loop on quiet country roads with an aid station at every mile. If there ever were such thing as a “beginner friendly” half ironman, Patriot is it. 

    I decided to sign up for the race in October after a great summer of several sprints, my first Olympic distance race, a bunch of road races, and a century ride. I was ready to push myself to the next level of triathlon training, and I was motivated by three other U23 athletes who had the same goal. Our “70.3 group” met weekly with Jim and Eliot in the fall to set up TrainingPeaks accounts, talk about what training would look like, and generally come to terms with the idea of racing for multiple hours. Our official base training period, complete with detailed daily workouts imported into TrainingPeaks, began on January 1st.

    It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the new training plan. I had never really done doubles before (two workouts a day), and I was exhausted after the first week of waking up early to fit in one workout before my internship and then doing a second workout directly afterwards. Luckily, the plan was designed to ease me into the increased volume, so the intensity level of most of the workouts was low. As I came to learn, base training is all about keeping your heart rate low and slowly turning your body into an aerobic engine that will be able handle higher intensity speed work in the spring. So, I spent a LOT of time pedaling determinedly on the trainer with my heart rate in the 140s (while making it through five and a half seasons of The West Wing), jogging along snowy roads in the dark at a pace that felt much too easy, and doing light but consistent strength training in my basement to ward off injury. My only intense workouts were in the pool, as the swim was the triathlon leg that needed the most work for me (I have a background in running, but could barely get across the pool when I started triathlons). I did several weeks of “swim blocks” where I would be in the pool, usually before 7 am, six days a week. Even though it was tough to force myself into the water on those cold winter mornings, the consistent high yardage worked. My times started to drop off, and I felt a lot more confident in the water. I sent Jim and Eliot a video of me in the pool a month or so in, and they didn’t even believe it was me at first. From there, I was sold on the swim block strategy, and I continued to improve. 
    I was back on campus at Dartmouth in the spring after my winter off-term, and I was thrilled to begin training alongside two other U23 athletes (and some of my best friends), Abiah and Valentina. We excelled at different legs of the triathlon and our schedules didn’t always overlap, so we didn’t do all our workouts together, but we really enjoyed having each other’s company for our longest workouts. The other big change of the spring was transitioning into the build period, where we finally got to incorporate some speed into our bike and run workouts. On the bike, we started to ride outside and began doing “sweet spot” interval training, which involved rides with several 6-15 minute intervals at threshold heart rate with recoveries in between, as well as longer rides with 15-20-minute race pace intervals, and super long 3-4-hour rides at low intensity to get used to being on the bike for a long time. On the run, we added 15-25-minute race pace efforts to the end of our long runs to simulate how it feels to go hard on tired legs. We kept up the intensity in the water as well, and focused on improving our technique, maintaining our speed, and developing open water swimming skills like sighting and swimming with a wetsuit. As the intensity increased, I noticed how much stronger I felt from all the base training. My run times and bike power were improving significantly too, and I could go much harder than I could at the beginning of base training without maxing out my heart rate.

    One of the most important elements of our spring training were three “big weekends” or “big days” in which we tried to simulate what it would feel like to exercise as long as we would be racing. We also practiced our nutrition and hydration strategies on those days so we could get used to fueling mid-race. Our biggest training day happened a little under a month before the race, and it featured a 2500-yard open water swim with wetsuits, a 60-mile endurance bike, and an 8-mile run with five miles at race pace. Although the intensity wasn’t as high as it would be at the race, completing that big day showed us that even without tapering, an audience, or any type of special race preparations, we were physically capable of exerting ourselves for a long time. Mentally and physically, our big days made us feel race-ready. As Jim told us, when the race came around, we would be more than prepared: it would just be about execution. 

    The two weeks leading up to the race brought a big decrease in overall training hours. We kept some of the intensity to keep our legs from going stale, but we dropped the volume to get rid of some of the micro-fatigue that had been accumulating since training began. I was antsy, to say the least, but I knew that it would pay off when I felt fresh on race day. I took the day off completely two days out, spent the day before doing a series of pre-race prep workouts on the actual race course (a short bike and a short run with a few pickups on each), and did everything as planned on race evening: laid out all the gear, ate familiar pre-race foods, and tried to visualize success as Jim had recommended. At 4:30 am the next morning, I was up and ready to go.

    I’m happy to report that Patriot itself went as well as I could have hoped for. The weather was ideal, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s. My swim wasn’t all that fast, but it was much faster than it would have been had I not spent so much time working on it. More importantly, I got out of the water feeling strong and ready to ride. The bike was awesome, and all the high intensity training (particularly on the hills of the Upper Valley) made the relatively flat course seem easier than I expected. I drank every 15 minutes and ate every 30 minutes as I had practiced, and I kept my heart rate high but in check to save some energy for the run. When I got off the bike and looked at my watch after the first mile, I was shocked to see that I was actually running at goal race pace (which I had told Jim would be impossible after the swim and bike), but I held on to it as long as I could and made it to the finish line in just under five hours (4:58:18), with a half marathon PR by five minutes (1:35:11; that’s including the half marathon road races I had previously done without biking 56 miles and swimming 2100 yards beforehand). After getting down some food and water, I called Jim to let him know that it had all worked. Sure, I was tired, but the exhilaration I felt post-race almost made me forget that I was totally spent: it was the ultimate triathlete’s high.

    The whole week after Patriot was recovery mode for me. Not only was I chafed, sore, and stiff, but I also had to get four wisdom teeth out two days after the race. Luckily, having a week to do nothing but drink smoothies and relax was enough to make me feel more than ready to jump back in. A week later, I was up and running, swimming, and biking my way towards the next goals for the summer (another century ride, the Boston Triathlon, and USAT Age-Group Nationals in Omaha). I’m not sure what the training goals will be after that, but one thing’s for sure: I’ll cross that Patriot finish line again. After all, now I have a record to break!    - Katie Clayton, U23 athlete
Patriot Half Triathlon 2017 Race Results

Patriot Half Triathlon 2017 Race