Last Friday I went to my first official Triathlon Camp held by HITS
. I was unsure about what to expect, how many people would be there, but most importantly where I would be sitting in the group as far as ability. My fear, well not really a “fear” but a concern, when dealing with group activities is that, like most of my races, my current ability will hold people back in no drop work outs. Let me be clear, I have no worries about being slower, but I never want to hold others back from a good workout.
We met with the race director, Mark Wilson, on Friday morning and were immediately put at ease. He’s a very nice guy and had an enormous “goody bag” for us before we started, which always is welcomed. Obviously sponsored by Hammer products, which is something I have used in the past exclusively, so was happy to take it, though most of it I am not currently using as part of my eating lifestyle changes. It’s OK though, supplies are supplies, and you never know when that Gel is going to be needed on the long run or bike. Into the pack it went!
The first day’s plan was to do the Olympic course. There were only four of us; me, Jenny, Bill, and Sue, plus Mark, so the “fear” of being dropped was there. With a large group you can usually find more than one in your speed range, but this was going to be different, as Bill and Sue were obviously more experienced.
The Olympic course starts off the same as the others but does a double loop and cuts off shorter. It was a pretty easy start. I was actually thinking, “Wow, if this is what the whole course is like it may not be an issue”. I was easily holding 18 mph and tucked in behind the group. I kind of got dropped at one point because I was held up on a left turn by a car, so the group stopped and waited but I don’t think that counts right? But, as I said, the ride was challenging but not too difficult …
… until about mile 4.5 ….
After a nice decline you round a corner and there it is … a nice 9.8% climb. Now, for seasoned bikers and those used to hills, not an issue. It almost killed me. But I got up the thing at barely 5 mph, telling myself the whole time to just get to the top and I would be OK. But that’s where the fun started, because after cresting that one, after about 2/10 of a mile further, there another one at 4.2%. Now a 4.2 is not considered hard, but after a 9.8, holy leg burn Batman!
Mark stopped the group before the left turn back toward the park to wait on my slow ass, thank God. As is usual with Triathlete groups, they were very supportive even though I know I was sucking hard, but that’s why I keep going. After making the left turn … FUN … 6.4% decline that I hit 41.7 mph going down. Fun and Scary at the same time. Another right turn takes you back into the park, and after a quick stop for water, we did it again. The cool thing on the second loop was that I did that hill faster the second time (7.5 mph!) so I KNOW I can do it. I am slow … but I get up the damn thing.
After the bike we got changed over to run gear and Mark led us through the first 3.5 miles. It’s what I would call a trail run in this section, as it goes into the forest, but man was it pretty. Very cold weekend (for us Floridians) but the sky was blue and everything is still green. A very very nice run.
Saturday was a different story. I strained something in the Friday workout in my right Achilles which was causing pain when I pushed off on the right ball of the foot. I am a freak about things like this. If this was a race I would have powered through it, but since it wasn’t I didn’t want to risk rupturing the thing, so opted instead to drive the course and do some recon for friends and others coming in three weeks for the event. They changed the bike course from what is shown online from the figure 8 to an out and back, mainly because last year a racer was struck by a vehicle during the event and this keeps us off of 40, the busier road.
I have to be honest, when I heard “Ocala” I was expecting MUCH worse than what we saw. Now I know it will be much different on a bike, but I tracked the course using the Garmin and the WORST hill was a 4.8%, and even that one is a short climb. For those reading this that did Florida 70.3 or Augusta 70.3, this is no comparison. You speed demons out there (i.e. KC, Summer) are going to LOVE this course. I am CAUTIOUSLY hoping for my first sub 7 hour race, but a sub 8 will still be a Personal Best. One can dream right?
Because I was hampered and down about getting nothing done, we drove up to Jenny’s gym in Gainesville and swam their pool. Great gym! Highly recommend it if you’re in the area. Definitely a “pretty person” gym, but the equipment and amenities are outstanding.
Sunday we drove through the run course. Here is where I need to caution everyone. It starts out in the same 3.5 mile forest trek and then heads out to the road, but there are 4 detours though neighborhoods that are on dirt roads and very narrow. It is the same two roads, out and back, so you will have foot traffic coming both ways. There are roots, potholes, leaves, packs and loose dirt. Be very careful and be prepared for this. If you wear racing flats, you may regret it.