I didn’t actually get a hotel for this race, I stayed with my friend from home, Heather, out in Florence, South Carolina. That meant I had to be up at 3:00 am race morning to drive the 90 miles to the race. It’s not like the hotels were that much closer, the nearest ones were at least 40 minutes away from White Lake with exception of the “resort” at the race site. Sure, you can stay at the resort and you’d be right on top of transition, but they REQUIRED a 3-night minimum stay at the place and I mean this didn’t look like the kind of place worth paying for three nights at, maybe one just because of its proximity to the race seeing as part of it’s parking lot was used for transition.
I managed to get out of Heather’s house at 4:30 am after I had nearly 30 alarms go off. It’s actually really tough for me to get up that early because I usually wake every morning between 9-10 am. When I got off I-95 I stopped at a BP to do the deuce. A tweaker came up to me so ripped out of his gourd he was just speaking gibberish, none of it made any sense, so I got the hell out of there as quickly as I could.
I arrived at about 6:15 and was underwhelmed. That “resort” was more like a renovated motel–not exactly what you’d picture if someone said a resort hotel but by comparison to its immediate surroundings of really dilapidated and rundown mobile homes and double wides you could see how one could consider this high class—but hey it’s not like it mattered to me because I slept on a really comfy couch for free (I went to bed at like 8:30 the night before). I picked up my packet & timing chip then set up my transition. I had forgotten both my heart rate monitor and my Base salt but it wasn’t anything that would keep me from racing.
The swim start was on a beach and I loathe sand—I didn’t grow up anywhere near a beach so I’m not used to it. The water is very shallow for a good bit of distance so it was a while before I could even dolphin dive—not a huge fan of that. The course was a two loop triangle with an Australian exit. By the time I hit the second leg of the triangle I couldn’t see shit because the glaring sun was in my eyes, so I tucked in behind a dude and trusted he’d lead the way. If I would have packed one of my deep tint pair of Speedo Vanquishers I probably would have been okay but I didn’t and you never really know if it’s bright enough to use them until you’re swimming. The third leg wasn’t any better either, as a matter of fact it would be a lot better if they reversed it for future races.
I had never done an Australian exit before and I have been racing since 2014—I gotta tell you I’m not a fan of that either. It was so draining on my legs to have to run through so much shallow water that I just walked and I was still tired from it. The second loop was the same as the first with the sun being in my eyes and nothing exciting. I hadn’t swam at all for the past nine months and really haven’t swam much since the end of my 2019 season (I just threw money away on an LA Fitness membership).
I was so exhausted from wading through all that shallow water at the end of the swim that I just walked my ass through transition while I peeled out of my wetsuit. I had to wear my old wetsuit because I gained like 40 lbs since last October. I was out and on my bike in about four minutes (39:52 for the swim).
The bike was flat and two loops—it was like riding on Zwift because I didn’t have a chance to stop pedaling. There was a moment at the beginning of the first loop that was kind of cool where an old military airplane from WWII era buzzed us, it couldn’t have been more than a couple hundred feet off the ground. Dude those people and pick up trucks out there are assholes, one blew past a train of us at at least 100 mph. That’s not an exaggeration for that douche, because of my PTSD it really freaked me out. The back stretch of the loop is chip and seal (not smooth) asphalt so it cuts down on your rolling resistance. The last 10 mile stretch of the loop was all headwinds both times, which is really bad for me because I already have bad balance from the TBI so it made me wobble even more. The whole bike I got in and out of aero, I just was not comfortable in it. By mile 50 I just wanted the fuck off that bike and on my run legs.
The dismount line is really close to transition and since I wasn’t exactly sure of its location so I played it safe and got out of my shoes to do a flying dismount a little early as well as slowed it down. I should note that I wasn’t able to wipe off all the sand off my right foot with my rag so I’d had blisters from the sand grinding away at the flesh when I was pedaling. Not a huge deal though, I sprayed them down with Tri Slide because I knew there was a chance I’d be slow enough to get caught in the rain at the end and it prevented the blisters from being any worse. I was out and on the run course in three minutes (and a 3:08 on the bike).
My legs felt pretty cooked from that Australian exit during the swim and fighting 20 miles of headwinds so I decided I’d run 0.4 miles then walk 0.1. I did that for seven miles but my legs said “No mas” after that and I had to end up walking after that but I did manage to walk fast at a 16:00-16:30/mile pace. Part of that has to do with me not doing a lot of running. Well, I was pretty under trained as a whole which is why I finished in a 7:16. I only saw my all3sports teammate Alex twice during the race, three times if you count him yelling “Go Eric” out his car window as he drove home while I was still on the run course.
I didn’t go home directly after the race though, I went back to Heather’s in Florence and our friend Jess came down–it was a Kent State Survey Research Lab reunion that hadn’t happened since March 2017 when I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon (sans a fiance this time). Those were good times. I ended up eating Mexican for three days straight and didn’t crap my pants during the race. I did go to bed at like 7:30 when we got back and slept for 12 hours. The temperature the next morning was 35 degrees cooler so we lucked out with nice sunny weather, however I got some wicked sunburn from it and I even sprayed myself with sunscreen before the swim and in T2. Basal Cell Carcinoma runs in the family on my mom’s side so that could be in my future if I’m not careful but I mean it’s not like I didn’t use any sunscreen at all, you know?
I have a couple of suggestions about the race: 1. Reverse the swim direction for less sun in our eyes, 2. Put those digital signs up saying cyclists on the road so we can breathe a little easier, 3. Clean up the road kill on the run course, there was a hawk that got blasted and was mostly skeletonized on the run and oh my god there were these little dead turtles, like half a dozen I saw that were dead, poor guys were barely bigger than a quarter…it was sad, I had never seen turtles that small, 4. More than one John for the entire course would be nice.