Litchfield Hills Olympic Tri Race Report

Litchfield Hills is an Olympic distance triathlon put on by the Hartford Marathon Foundation.

I picked this race to be a mid-point in my training for Pumpkinman 70.3, and didn't spend any time analyzing the course maps, looking into elevation, or the field of racers from previous years. In fact, I only looked into anything on the day I received my final race instructions in my email, and the day before the race for directions. The only "prep" I did was kinesiotaping my right knee the night before and packing my gear.

I remember seeing a comment in the email about a "screaming hill" out of transition, and a 2 mile climb at the end of the bike into transition, and rolling hills in between. No big deal. It also mentioned bringing shoes to wear for the quarter mile trek from the swim to transition on a rocky path. I ignored it, because how would you find your shoes getting out of the water?!

I picked up my bib the day before, but I still wanted to leave early to have plenty of time. I hate feeling rushed, or getting a bad spot on a rack, so we left at 5am. We got there slightly after 6, and as we approached the park, drove up some killer hills. "Holy crap, I hope these aren't the ones I have to climb," I jinxed myself.

After body marking, I headed into transition to set up.

Gear all set up!

I met a woman who has done the race a few times. I told her it was my first Olympic and I was really nervous. She told me, "Well, you picked a really challenging course!" Wait.... what?? At this point I still had thought I just had that last 2 miles of hills, but now I was getting even more nervous. After setting up, Kevin and I went to the beach to check out the swim. The buoys looked so far away, and I figured it would take me forever.

Another racer recommended shoes for after the swim, so I decided to use my flip flops. After wiggling into my wetsuit, and heading down to the beach, I got ready to start. It was a relatively small race (only 218 finishers), but everyone looked so serious! Not the usual fun sprint races I'm used to! I was in the 2nd wave, which was all women, including Athenas.

Swim start, 2nd wave

Off we went! I swam smooth & strong, no panicking, little contact with other swimmers. Only problem was the congestion near the turning buoys. The water was fairly clear, I could see feet in front of me, swimmers to the side, and had no trouble sighting. I couldn't believe how good I was feeling throughout. I got to shore to hear a man with a megaphone shout "33 minutes!" 

exiting the water
Official Swim time: 33:03
.9 miles
Overall : 171/218

I saw Kevin and I got my flip flops, and started the .25 mile trek to transistion. I didn't want to hurt myself tripping or spend energy running up the hill to transition, so I walked briskly with Kevin, then jogged once I got to the top of the hill. I sat down to get on my bike shoes, get the helmet, sunglasses, eat part of a LARABAR, and get ready for the bike.

T1 time: 7:02

I headed out on the bike, feeling good about my swim time. My Garmin behaved and started perfectly, and off I went!

exiting transition to the bike

The course started with a nice downhill, then a few rolling hills. I thought to myself, "I can totally take this course, no big deal!" Then came more down hills. I was flying! Some of my splits were faster than I had ever seen.. 

I actually topped of at 43.2mph! I had to hit the brakes on some of hills because they were so steep & I was so nervous! The first 15 miles were amazing, and I was calculating how quickly I could finish. I only had the last 2 miles of hills right? I think my Garmin lost some reception earlier (maybe around 15), and had me about 2 miles off the course, but I had no idea. When the hills hit, I was unprepared. They were frequent and big. There were little or no downhills following. The last 5 miles were a steady incline up. I actually had to get off my bike 3 times and walk up the hills, because my legs just wouldn't  go anymore.

I hit the top of a big hill where some volunteers were. I was walking. A race photographer tried to take my picture. I yelled, "Can you at least wait until I get on my bike??!!" A volunteer told me I had a downhill, another uphill, and the finish was less than .1 miles away. I realized my Garmin was off, and celebrated in my head. I was dying of thirst, I had run out of water about a mile or so ago.

Kevin was waiting for me a little bit down the road. I was so happy to see him! I told him my legs were toast. I told him that I just rode/walked up all those awful roads we drove up earlier and wanted to die.

coming up to Kevin

yikes, I'm tired!
When I saw the volunteer with the "Dismount Here" sign, I told him I loved him, and was so happy to see that sign. Getting of my bike was fabulous. My back was killing me from struggling up the hills, and my legs were done.

Official Bike Time: 1:52:12
24.8 miles
Overall : 214/218

Kevin met me by my transition area. I almost started to cry. I told him my legs were done, I couldn't do it. He told me to put on my sneakers and go. So I did.

T2 Time: 2:09

Race belt, visor, sneakers, out. There was no volunteer telling me where to go, In fact it seemed like all the other athletes were already finished, and on the course for the run! Luckily there were spray painted arrows on the ground telling me where to go. A few runners wished me luck as I headed out on the run.  6.2 miles, and I had no idea how I would make it. 

I decided to make it a run a little, walk a little. First I started going by minutes, then switched to walking up hills. They weren't nearly as huge as the bike, but there were still plenty.

I got passed by one woman, but soon had another one in my sights. I got closer, and closer, but told myself not to focus on passing her, but just feeling strong throughout. Soon, I caught up to her. "Do you think they'll still have beer for us at the finish?" I asked her. She told me she just wanted to jump in the lake. I focused on the beer, and a soft serve ice cream cone we could stop for on the drive home.

I walked up most of the hills, and when I had to. I felt like I had nothing left, but was running on determination alone, because seriously my legs were done. Finally I saw the 6 mile marker, not long now! I picked up the pace and sprinted to the chute...

Official Run Time: 1:21:35
6.2 miles
Overall : 213/218

I was so happy to be done, I couldn't believe I finished! I almost cried, and Kevin took my picture.

Official Time: 3:55:59
Overall Place: 214/218
Athena Division: 7/8

Things were winding down. I knew there weren't many people behind me, and saw many racers driving away in their cars while I was still running. We packed up my gear, and Kevin took it to the car while I got food and beer. I told the beer girl it was the only thing I though of for the last 3 miles of the race. After some 10 Penny Ale, a veggie grinder, and some apple pie, Kevin came back. He got some food & I got another beer. The race volunteers gave us a HUGE 3 foot grinder to take home because they had so much extra, score!

Kevin had the car parked closer, and we drove home. Then Kevin asked... 
"Wait, how's your knee?"
Could you believe it felt amazing all day? Not an ounce of pain whatsoever.
My kinesiotaping magic: Patella mechanical correction for lateral tracking patella, 2 subpatella straps, and inhibition of my IT band. Perfect.

Great finishing food
Awesome race medal
Clean lake swim
Nice Tech shirt

Overall a Tough Course
The disappearing volunteers
Athletes standing/eating on the run course who had already finished 
The super fast racers made me feel like such a slacker

Probably not a race I'll do again, but I did learn a few things...
1. Be prepared & KNOW the course details on elevation. 
2. Pay attention to info in emails and advice from other racers.
3. Get the training miles in... (I got some great workouts in at the cape, but slacked after that)
4. Pick a race with less hills.
5. Practice more hills.
6. Freeze the waterbottles the night before (I did this, and it worked GREAT!)
7. ALWAYS have Kevin there to push me on (He's a great motivator)

I took a rest day today, but tomorrow is Officially Day 1 of Pumpkinman 70.3 training!


BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

Yay!! Congratulations!! I can't wait for your 70.3!!

Erica Elia said...

I am so proud! Awesome job!!!! I really enjoyed reading all the details!

Anonymous said...

Awesome for not quitting and toughing it out! Yes you are a Tough Chik!! Congrats!

Aimee said...

Unbelievable job! You rocked that tri. You look so fit and strong Stephanie. Good for you for pushing through. I'll remember your determination as I'm climbing the steep incline during the Shelburne Falls 10K in August. It's nothing compared to the hills you conquered, but it gets me every time.

Suz and Allan said...

Amazing job on the race! Hooray for no knee pain too!

Kayla said...

Congrats! You did great! Glad to hear the knee didn't bother you!!!

The Green Girl said...

Wow. Congratulations, girl. I am so proud of you!

And I'm so glad your knee behaved.