The past two years for me were marked by injuries, the loss of my mother, and a work schedule that prevented me from participating in many of the triathlons I’ve come to love in the area, like FS Series Battle at Buckhorn, which was the last race I did. As a result, my Kuota K-Factor had been wasting away in my shed (I’ve been riding my road bike with triple chain ring - taking great advantage with the extra gears on all the hills here in Raleigh). A week ago, I bought new tires, pedals and arm rests, re-attached my bottle cage, and gave the K-Factor a little tune-up. That night, when I saw the Mayo Lake Sprint was only $30, I couldn’t say no - and I’m glad I didn’t!
Mayo Lake is about 1.5 hours from my house, a very reasonable distance for me to drive for a clean lake swim, which seems to be hard to find very much closer to Raleigh. Passing over one of the fingers of the lake, I was excited about how calm the water was - like glass. As the swim takes place in a pretty protected finger of the lake, I doubt you would ever experience much chop. Although I didn’t check the course maps prior to the race, the point to point swim (750 meters) including only one sharp turn, unlike the two you typically experience in a normal triangular sprint swim. Sharp turns mess with my navigation a bit! But, on the course, I was able to spot the buoys a long way off and keep my head down. I churned out a nice 12:36 swim, right on pace with how I’ve been training.
I heard that the swim exit was changed this year because of the water level, resulting in a longer uphill run to transition. I hit it pretty hard, put on my race belt, glasses and helmet and shoulder my bike for the run to the mount line, but would soon find out that my 1:37 transition wasn’t much to my benefit.
What time I gained in transition was quickly lost at the mount line for the bike when I immediately realized that I couldn’t remember how I normally did this - right foot in my clipped in shoes first? Or left? I punted and hopped on my bike and rode feet on top of both my shoes before I finally manage to snake the right foot in. But, I compressed the top of the left shoe so much and couldn’t get my foot in. I gave up, pulled to the side, dismounted, and on wobbly legs (funny, they didn’t feel that way on the bike - must have been the uphill run to T1!) put both shoes on, mounted, and even then had trouble clipping in to my pedals.
Once rolling, my lack of time on my K-Factor (rode it twice in past two years) showed through on the 16-mile bike course. I kept clicking through gears hoping to find the right one, but couldn’t seem to find one throughout most of the course, which is a shame, since the course is on very smooth surfaced roads, featuring all right hand turns. The consistent rolling hills kept me running through a variety of gears most of the ride. The course wasvVery well marked with orange arrows and police/volunteers at intersections. Early on the bike, the sky let loose. While it was warm and very humid early on, the rain brought in cool temperatures. Given my 50 minute bike split, I wish I could say the rain slowed me down, but honestly, it was just lack of riding time and a botched mount, which I’m know will come back with a practice or two. On this day, I think I preferred the cool wet weather to the hot dry weather we’ve been experiencing.
I normally shoulder my bike and dash through T2, but the botched mount was still in my mind and I opted to go easy and push my bike through. I still had a nice 42 second transition and managed to kiss my daughter who ran down from the pavilion in the rain. My son, on the other hand, saw two guys ready to pass me and refused to give me a kiss. Go! Go! He said. I demanded a kiss and he blew one to me and said “Now Run!”
With a max long run of 4 miles in the past year (injuries) I had no idea what to expect on the 3-mile trail run. I heard there would be lots of skinned knees on the course, but given my trail running experience, I felt that was an overstatement. While the course was endlessly undulating with steeps rises and drops, featured plenty of roots and rough surfaces, the majority of it was on soft and spongy dirt, turned wet this day in the endless rain, which created more than a handful of mud puddles to run through, but only a few truly slick muddy parts.
My hopes for this day was to finish strong (nothing to do with it being an FS aka Finish Strong Series race!) and comfortable. There will be days when I push myself hard again, but today wasn’t one of them. I wanted to have fun and not experience any discomfort at any point in this race, so I kept a nice even 9-minute per mile pace throughout the run. I tend to run faster off the bike then slow down later on in the run, so I was extremely happy at mile 2 when I was right on my 9-minute pace and feeling good. Just as I started to wonder if the course was long, I turned a corner and saw the finish, which I hit pretty darn close to what I expected for this race (minus the bike difficulties).
As I said, I’ve run a few trail runs and given the shade this course would provide on a hot day, the run course is one of my favorite ever in a triathlon. I love trail runs and triathlons, but hate mountain biking - if you share the same interests, this is THE perfect triathlon for you.
Being able to throw in a fun excursion for the family is such a bonus for a triathlon, that I have to mention the nearby Rock of Ages Winery. Afterwards, the family and I detoured by the Rock of Ages Winery. We arrived at the beautiful winery and vineyard a bit early, but ran into the owner, Kevin Moore, a runner and former triathlete. He shared some stories of the early days of North Carolina triathlon and chatted it up with me until it started pouring again. When the rain stopped, the kids had plenty of space to run around and blow off some steam built up being cooped up in the pavilion during the rainy race. In a few minutes, the winery was open and we had a very generous and entertaining wine-tasting with a very unique creation of Kevin’s that pairs amazingly well with barbecue. Quite a surprise for a North Carolina wine.