2010 Pat Griskus Triathlon

The vibe was rocking at last night’s Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon in Middlebury, Connecticut. More than 500 triathletes toughed it out in less than ideal conditions. With the Northeast gripped in one of the most severe heat waves in recent memory, it seemed ironic that folks (including me) were donning wetsuits for the ½ mile Lake Quassapaug swim. One of the things that I love about New England is the changeable seasons, but it is no secret that I dislike heat, at least the sweltering and humid type.

I don’t complain about it because compared to other places on Earth, 95 degrees Fahrenheit is considered cool. My travels in Arizona and Sonora during summertime have been marked by temperatures that were 20 degrees warmer than last night’s. Of course, you expect it in Death Valley, in the Gobi desert, and in Western Australia. The thing about New England is that there was snow on the ground less than five months ago! All of those rides and runs in the snow, wind, and rain were meant to prepare me for riding in more beautiful conditions. Last night’s conditions were far from beautiful. In Connecticut, we get it all and that is why athletes in these parts are hard-core.

The ½ mile swim was followed by a 10.5 mile bike and then a 5km (3.1 mile) run. I first did this race last year, but have been following it for years. Next year will be the 25th annual. Just holding a Wednesday night race in July is exciting. Add more than 500 athletes and an equal amount of spectators and the Lake Quassy Amusement Park turns into Ironman Hawaii for a night. (I’ve been told that it is hot in Kona too!). The post race part was extremely lively. I stayed through the awards ceremony because I was solo. Last year, we had our son with us, so we hit the road shortly after the race was over. Last night, I wanted to enjoy the full experience. Heck, it was still 85 degrees at 9:00 P.M.

As for the race, well, let’s say it was OK. I shouldn’t complain. I’m not in peak form right now, and I didn’t have any snap in my legs. I also raced twice on Monday. My result was par with last year, 10th overall and a bonus was that I was 3rd in my age group (5th last year), which earned me a nice medal and a new Timex Ironman watch. You can never have enough watches! My swim was erratic. I couldn’t hold a straight line and that had to have cost me some time. I was definitely not comfortable in my wetsuit. It was just too warm for the insulation, but the rule of thumb is that if they allow them, use them. The performance advantage matters.

The bike course is a rolling. I made the mistake of staying in the big ring on a few climbs, rather than shifting down. My new Seven Kameha SLX was awesome, though I have a little work to dial in my perfect position. By the end of the loop, I was wiser. For the most part, I just made up ground on the bike. That has been my mode lately. Horrible swim followed by a better bike and an even better run. Last night, I left off the “even” part of the better run. I only passed and didn’t get passed, but I didn’t make up as much ground as I would have liked. I got by a few people, settled into a rhythm, and then got stuck there. I couldn’t speed up. The 2nd half of the out and back course is more hilly, so if you haven’t got any pop, you are going to pay. I wanted to at least pick up one more spot, hoping to improve upon last year’s finish. I really want a top 5 finish at this race, but it is likely I will have to prepare FOR it rather than use it for preparation, if I’m going to reach that goal.

I had only one man (Matt Boobar) in sight on the 2nd half of the run. The gaps had formed and he was the only guy left that I had a chance to catch. I gauged his gap at about 20 seconds. I was actually closing in on the downhills. That would make sense. He is a super strong mountain biker and cross-country skier. He probably has the lungs and legs of a mountain goat. I might have gotten within 10 or 12 seconds, but when it went uphill again, he extended his lead. Ultimately, I was 19 seconds behind him in 1:05:19. That is 2:02 slower than last year, but both the conditions and my conditioning were factors. I’m curious to see my splits. I suspect that the run was much slower. The crazy thing is that Chris Thomas blew us all away again, finishing in under 58 minutes. Thomas and the guys that put up times that are 20%+ faster are at a whole other level. It is fun to watch. I know…train more, right? John Babcock was second and Dan Theleen was third.

The women’s race was a tight battle. I passed the two leaders early in the run and they were neck and neck. Michele Wolfson got the best of Cassandra Maximenko, with only two seconds to spare at the finish. Kathryn Flodquist was third. Finishers were streaming through the finish line as darkness was settling in and the rest of us were enjoying the BBQ and music at the finish area. It was great fun. The volunteers, particularly at the busy intersections on the bike course and at the water stops on the run course, are to be commended. Of course, all the volunteers were great. You can’t forget about the lifeguards in the kayaks who were baking in the hot sun like the rest of us. It was probably a harder than usual night for them too. Communal suffering. That is what triathlon is all about!

Coda: one drawback of a 6:00 P.M. weeknight start. You can’t sleep well with adrenalin and endorphins coursing through your body. Factor an almost-four year-old into the mix and it makes for a very restless night of sleep. Hiking and some rest are on the agenda in the next few weeks. I’ve got to watch the competition…it can burn you out, literally.

Race Results

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