Lee’s 2016 SOS Triathlon
This is a great race! The atmosphere is very different than any other race I have done. Not corporate at all. It is well organized and structured while also have a very local feel to it. The organizers are passionate about this race and go to great lengths to make it successful for all involved (racers, community, volunteers, Mohonk Mountain House, Minnewaska State Park, sponsors, etc….)
Getting In: To sign up for this race I needed to sign up at 12am on November 1st (late night Halloween). I tried for the 2015 race, but got shutout. This year I practiced the sign up form at got in. The race actually sells out in under 1 minute. If interested in the race after reading this report, then my recommendation is to practice the form a bunch of times and then make sure you have a good fast internet connection at the sign up time.
Evening Before Race: They host a big dinner and do an orientation. People are very friendly. It was clear at the dinner that this event attracts a lot of talent. I know I am in good shape, but looking around the room and talking to some of the people made me feel like a bit if a slouch. Some seriously hardcore people doing all types of crazy races. 100 mile marathons in Sierra Nevada mountains, etc… The organizers gave a really nice welcome to everyone and went over details of the next day.
Race Morning/Check-In: Only 150 people in race and we start on the bike so check-in takes only a few minutes. Showed up at 6:30am and race started promptly at 7:00am.
Bike: 30 Miles – Waves were 1 minute apart. I was in the 3rd wave. Course starts out fast and flat. Then gets into rolling hills and finally ends with a 5.5 mile climb up a mountain. First 2 or 3 miles it was hard not to draft, but things spread out quick. I took the advice of many and kept my power under control The race cannot be won on the bike. At mile 10 it started to downpour. Got soaked and the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. The rain was blinding, but I knew the road was in good shape so I just pushed on. The rain ended at about mile 15. To this point I was averaging about 21 mph. Upon rain ending the wind came up strong and was directly in our faces. That was demoralizing because in this race everyone counts on fast speeds up until the massive hill, but with the headwind it was hard to get over 13 or 14 miph. Finally hit the turn to go up the mountain. Just got into low gear and climbed the hill. The hill was more social than any triathlon segment I have been on before. Seemed like everyone was up for conversation as we all made our way up, up, up to the top.
T1: Jen (my wife) was there to grab my bike and give me my running shoes, swim cap and goggles. I took off my bike jersey and actually changed shorts as well. I did not rush through this transition.
Run 1: 4.5 Miles – This run is all up hill for the first 3.5 miles. It is gradual uphill for 3 miles and then the last half mile of hill is called Cardiac Hill. It is quite steep. The last mile is around lake Awosting. I felt great on this run. Had spring in my legs and the temperature was perfect for running. Seemed like smiles were on everyone’s faces. Things spread out a lot once we got on the run, but still at this point you always have competitors within 100 yards or so in front or behind.
T2: Stuffed shoes like I practiced and then have to jump into water.
Swim 1: 1.1 Miles – We swam across the lake and then down the length of it. Support was incredible and the water was super clean. I felt like I was snorkeling. No fish in the lake, but the water was so clear. I was enjoying seeing all the scenery at the bottom of the lake. Swimmers ended up pretty spaced out, but I did get passed a few times. For safety they have kayakers every 100 yards and scuba divers about every 100 yards. First time I have ever seem scuba divers used in a triathlon.
T3: Swim Out to Run – I had no problem making this transition, but seemed like a lot of people were struggling with it. I put on my shoes at the end of the swim and did some kicking to get legs going again. I jumped out the water, worked my way back up to the train and took off fast.
Run 2: 5.5 Miles – This run is 1/2 up hill and then 1/2 downhill. The scenery on this run is absolutely amazing. Every turn leads to another incredible view. At this point in race it gets even more spread out so I only saw maybe 10 runners. They have one aid station on this run. Up until this point they had one small aid station, but this is the first real big fully stocked one. The uphill is hard, particularly because it is right after getting out of the water, but the views are so amazing that I just wanted to get around the turns just to see what was there. The downhills were tolerable. A few steep ones, but the trails were soft so I could handle it. I don’t do downhills well.
T4: Perfect timing as just about starting to cramp a bit from running and was ready to cool off in the water. Stuffed shoes and jumped in. Entry was a bit rocky and stubbed to a bit.
Swim 2: Long Half Mile – Not sure how long this swim is, but I think about .7 miles. They just call it a “long half mile”. They have a rope across the lake that we follow. This makes sighing a breeze. I just enjoyed being in the water and the lake is beautiful. This lake was deeper so I could not see the bottom. People were in water with me, but spacing was pretty far apart by now. In this lake the wind was ripping so it was choppy. I was getting mouthfuls of water, but it was clean so did not annoy me much. If we had to really sight it would have been tricky because of the choppiness.
T5: Tricky exit from the water. I was a bit dizzy and almost fell off a rock climbing out. They guide the racers up, but it definitely a bit technical getting back up onto the running trail.
Run 3: 8 Miles – This is where my race got real challenging. This run starts with a very steep and paved (only paved part of the course) 1 mile section. I started running it and very quickly my right hip and left knee tightened up. My body just does not agree with steep downhills. It got me in Syracuse and then again today. We turned off the road and back onto trails, but I never recovered. From this point forward it was a slog to the finish. I tried salt tabs, water, gatorade, walking, running, stretching, sitting on a rock and just about anything in an effort to get really running again. Nutritionally I was good and I had plenty of energy. If my left knee was not locked up I could have definitely crushed this run. Instead I was painfully getting through it. This run starts with the big steep downhill. Then is basically flat for 6 miles and finally ends with an 865 vertical foot climb they call Godzilla. This entire run I maybe saw 10 people, but unfortunately they were all passing me. The run then ends with a short section of single track (very technical) downhill train to Lake Mohonk. Though this run was brutal, I was all smiles. The views were beautiful again and all the volunteers were just awesome. They had 2 aid stations on this run.
T6: Stuffed shoes and climbed over a fence to get into the water.
Swim 3: 0.5 Miles – This just felt great. I still had gas in the tank and the water was refreshing. The Mohonk Mountain house was in view the entire time and you can see crowds of people at the swim exit waiting for the arrival of swimmers. I had one guy about 100 yards in front of me and one about 100 yards behind. The water was still and sighting was pretty easy. Nice big buoys all the way across the lake. The exit required some climbing again.
T7: Climbed out and back onto the trail.
Run 4: .7 miles – This run is straight up hill. It is brutal, but the crowd support was incredible. Jen caught me about 1/2 way up the trail and urged me on. I was in pain, but still managed to eek out a respectable time I think. Just limped fast up the hill. The swim did help too loosen up my knee. As I got closer to the top they had people shouting up my number. Eventually I knew I was about at the top because the announcer starting yelling my name. Finishers only come through every minute or so (sometimes further apart) so they have plenty of time for “build up”. Crossing the line felt great. Got the medal and a finisher T-Shirt. These guys are funny about that participation T-Shirt. They are always making it clear that the shirt comes after the finish. Not with registration. Got an SOS towel and a nice medal as well.
Finish Food – Great selection of fruits, cookies and other things directly at the finish.
Reception – At 2pm they opened up the reception. It is a first class finishers event at the Mohonk Mountain House. Full on buffet with lots of great food, beer and wine. Unlike any other finisher food selection I have ever seen before. We hung out for about 2 hours and then took off.
Funny thing about this race is that I ran into a guy I knew from Armonk. Last year I finished right in front of him at the Windmill Triathlon. Then it happened again today. I finished and then a minute later the next guy to cross the line was him.
One thing I left off here was my socks strategy. Wore socks for first 4.5 mile run. Then just carried them the rest of the way and ran without. I had no issues. I did have to dump stones out of my shoes a few times along the way, but no blistering. Overall it is a great race. Very challenging, but so much fun that it kinds of masks it well.