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The Great American Triple T 2009 Race Report

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The Great American Triple T takes place in Shawnee State Park, just outside Portsmouth, Ohio. It consists of four triathlons over the course of three days — beginning with a super sprint prologue Friday evening, followed by two Olympic distance triathlons on Saturday, and concluding with a Half on Sunday. The total distance of all the races combined is approximately an Ironman. And if that was not hard enough, the course is extremely challenging, with a very hilly bike and run course. The swim is at least thankfully flat.

Race 1, Friday P.M. — Prologue

The big event kicked off with a small race Friday — a 250m swim, 5 mile bike, and 1 mile run. It was just a little tease to get people into the racing mindset and offer a preview of the severely undulating terrain to follow. Although most people completed this race in under half an hour, care still had to be taken not to push oneself overly hard, and burn a precious match very early in the weekend. Only partially heading this advice, I went pretty fast, but not all out.

Swim6:26Includes T1
Bike12:19Includes T2

Race 2, Saturday A.M. — Olympic

Participants mulling around before the start of one of the races

The calm before the storm

The first major undertaking of this event came Saturday morning with a standard Olympic distance triathlon. The two loop swim was wetsuit legal and went smoothly. I hopped on my bike and experienced the infamous terrain first hand. The course started off nice enough, with some rollers along smooth, tree-lined forest roads. This utopia gave way to some major climbs, most notably Thompson Hill, which maxed out with a 17% grade. I kept my pace under control though, except for those couple ascents where I ran out of granny gears and had to get out of the saddle. For the majority of the bike though, I never went harder than a afternoon distance ride. I headed the advice of prior Triple T participants and took this first race extremely easy, having the attitude I was still in a warm up. Entering the run, I kept my miles around my goal of seven minutes, which left them somewhere between a distance and tempo run. The same run course was used throughout the weekend, consisting of an uneven out and back trail with an unfriendly hill that had to be climbed in each direction. I survived the run without incident though and felt a little odd approaching the end still feeling relatively refreshed. It was still way too early to be exhausted at this finish line.

After the race I immediately went into recovery mode, taking post-race drinks and consuming food — mmm…PB&J. I stood around in the lake with other racers for a pseudo ice bath, although the water was not frigidly cold. In between races most people went back to their accommodations, but I just relaxed in the park. It was the first afternoon in a long time that I was truly lazy, lying in the shade under a tree catching a couple of winks. There was absolutely nothing else for me to do, a perfectly enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. I am almost never so laid back in the real world, always keeping myself occupied with working, training, or catching up on chores. The irony of having to do two triathlons in one day in order to enjoy such relaxation was not lost on me.

Swim26:12Includes removing wetsuit and 100 yard run up beach
Bike1:23:3517.6 mph, 178 watts, 128 BPM
Run44:426:50 min/mile, 149 BPM

Race 3, Saturday P.M. — Inverted Olympic

Myself exiting T2

With the race from the morning still fresh on everyone’s legs, the afternoon soon rolled around with the gun ready to start us racing again. To add a little variety to the long weekend and add additional difficulty to an already hard race, the second Olympic triathlon had a unique bike-swim-run order. I again tried to keep my power under control on the bike and did not push myself too hard. I had to remember that I was still not even at the halfway point in the overall race. I was actually patient and mostly succeeded in this strategy. After the ride and its over ten minute climb, I performed my first ever bike-swim transition. Thankfully the water was warm enough where I could swim sans wetsuit, allowing me to forget about having to put one on quickly. Everyone had warned about severe and strange cramping during this swim, but I never encountered such pains and completed the horizontal portion of the race without incident. My split was about two minutes slower than the morning, mostly from foregoing a wetsuit. It would have taken me longer than that to take one on and off though, so I actually saved time overall. Emerging from the water, I tried keeping the run easy, but my strongest sport got the best of me, and I picked up my effort. My splits were only marginally faster than earlier in the day, but the accumulated fatigue on my body made the effort much harder that the slight time decrease would imply.

Saturday went very well for me. I definitely felt the two Olympic triathlons I did that day, but I had paced myself well and was not exhausted. The next day would be hard, but I think I left myself in a good position for the Half to come. With that day’s races finished I wanted to relax and space out, but unfortunately the condensed format caused participants to always be thinking about their next race. Back at camp I had to get my bike, clothes, and nutrition prepped for the next race before I could have the luxury of sitting down. All due course for this event though.

Bike1:18:1319.0 mph, 192 watts, 132 BPM
Swim28:27Includes 100 yard run up beach
Run44:056:44 min/mile, 148 BPM

Race 4, Sunday — Half Ironman

I had dolled out my energy well on Saturday, maybe even going too easy, but that was an asset on the starting line Sunday. I was definitely aware of the races in the past twenty-four hours, but I was not grotesquely sore as some other competitors were complaining about. Or perhaps I have just gotten so accustomed to training tried and sore that doing back to back races was not too unusual for me. In any case, another two loop wetsuit legal swim transpired without incident, and I mounted my bike for the final time. The two loop bike course was the most challenging of the already hard weekend. A long section of switchbacks and numerous other climbs hindered the riders. Although I knew about the hills, one thing I had not considered was what happened after I got to their summits, namely the descents. I am no expert bike handler and the roads were steep, curvy, and narrow so the downhills were a little precarious. I actually used my breaks more than I ever have before. Good thing my break pads were new. I slugged my way up and down these hills, and even across rare flat sections. I once again paced myself well and rode almost exactly even splits for the loop course. By the end of the second circuit my bottom was about ready depart the saddle, and I eagerly embarked on the last 13.1 miles by foot. I began conquering the course at the same pace as the day before, which was a little fast. Although I slowed considerably by the end of the run, I do not know if it was due do this quick start, or if I just reverted to the almost inevitable Ironman shuffle that grasps people on the second lap of the run. Either way, my first trip went decently, but by the second my legs were shot. I ran the entire race, but on some of the uphills I was barely going faster than a walk. Through the pain I kept moving forward, very thankful that the last two and half miles of the course were downhill. That assistance carried me into the finish, and I crossed the line, this time finally exhausted.

Swim32:42Includes removing wetsuit and 100 yard run up beach
Bike3:16:1617.0 mph, 167 watts, 126 BPM
Run1:35:327:18 min/mile, 160 BPM


Transition area

After stowing my gear and cheering in some of the later finishers, I attended the awards banquet at Shawnee State Park’s Lodge, which once again had more food. (Note to self: Lodge Trail from the beach is not maintained). Photos from the weekend were shown there and awards distributed, of which I was not fast enough to earn any. With the race entirely complete, I headed back to camp, consuming a nice unhealthy bowl of ice cream from a local stand. By this time my car was also infused with the nauseating scent of sweaty, damp clothing. The single air freshener was insufficient, and my car would need a full fumigation upon returning home.

To add a little more justification for the long drive to the race, I spent the Monday following the race at King’s Island, hitting all the roller coasters, before driving back through the night for work on Tuesday. Although I did not arrive at work quite as bright and early as normal.


The finishing chute

The Triple T is a unique race, and the following are some random thoughts that do not neatly fit into any one specific race.


Finished 25th overall in a total time of 11:00:25. I did not have any specific goal entering the race, but was very pleased with my performance. I probably could have squeezed out a couple more minutes, but being able to pace myself is at least as important. Full, official results.

Overall Place vs. Race

Overall Place vs. Race

Place vs. Event

Place vs. Event for Race 1 (Sprint)
Race 1 (Sprint)
Place vs. Event for Race 2 (Olympic)
Race 2 (Olympic)
Place vs. Event for Race 3 (Inverted Olympic)
Race 3 (Inverted Olympic)
Place vs. Event for Race 4 (Half Ironman)
Race 4 (Half Ironman)

Power Profiles

Power profile for Race 1 (Sprint)
Race 1 (Sprint)
Power profile for Race 2 (Olympic)
Race 2 (Olympic)
Power profile for Race 3 (Inverted Olympic)
Race 3 (Inverted Olympic)
Power profile for Race 4 (Half Ironman)
Race 4 (Half Ironman)