IMLP is the A race…Quassy is the training race. Yeah, sure…does anyone actually do a “training” race? Do you still not go in with goals, ready to compete and do your best? Maybe the taper isn’t quite as good – but I still want to do well.
We picked Quassy for a few reasons. Primarily, bc all who have done it says it is the PERFECT 70.3 race to prepare you for Placid: hilly & hard. Someone definitely forgot to mention hot. It also falls on the exact weekend our Placid training program recommends a 70.3. And finally (but no less important): it was free for me, from my AG win at REV3 Cedar Point 140.6 last September.
While training one day with Mike Peterson, he mentioned he and Heather were going to do the race and since he was from CT, he planned to stay at his dad’s home. Since his dad and stepmom would be travelling and out of town, Mike graciously invited us to stay with them as well. Perfect!
We rolled out Friday morning, caravanning with the Peterson’s. A relatively easy and uneventful 6.5 hours later (except for the longest wait at a Subway eva and a harrowing ride thru NYC on Mike’s “shortcut”), we arrived at Quassy Amusement Park. (Which, as a side note, since REV3 markets family friendly venues, you need to know Quassy is the smallest amusement park on the planet – more like a carnival.) We checked in, got our bibs and swag, and headed over to the practice swim.
Okay, first a word on the “swag”. REV3 will always hold a special place in my heart…Cedar Point was a fantastic 1st ironman distance experience. I absolutely love the people who work for them and some of their special perks to make their races stand out. And like all businesses, I’m sure they have had to make some cuts in places they would prefer not to, just to keep the lights on. But my personal opinion is, please don’t cut the swag! By the time we get to race day, we don’t remember what we paid for the race…so charge me an extra $30-40 on registration and reward me on race day with something I’m excited about. The Blue Seventy goggles? Gone. The race specific visor? Replaced by a very bland and generic REV3 visor. In the race bag swag? Literally….a power bar. Seriously. And the post race finishers shirt? Cotton long sleeve. Not too popular in my wardrobe or my athletic wear. I will advertise the he!! outta your race, if you give me something I enjoy wearing. That’s really my only complaint with REV3…everything else they do, I LOVE. And this is all new this year…so maybe they take feedback
After getting our packets, we got in a nice 20 minute practice swim…Lake Quassapaug is clean, beautiful, flat (only flat part of race day), and was pretty warm (sleeveless would be the way to go, if only I had one). We then headed out – Mike’s dad’s house was a 45 minute drive – we got to know it well over the weekend, but it was worth it for the good times we had! We went to dinner at one of Mike’s old childhood pizza hangouts…good nostalgic trip for him all the way around. His dad’s house was comfortable – we had our own room – and I was thrilled to look at all the pictures of the places they have visited in their RV (they have my retirement dream…tour the US in a sweet RV), as well as all the pics of UConn womens basketball (his dad and I share a passion there!) But the best pic, without a doubt…Mike in high school. It started an intense debate as to whether he was sporting a mullet…a debate we took to Fbook to get a better consensus (Yes, the people spoke…it WAS a mullet!)
In the morning, we did an easy brick near Mike’s house (10 minute ride, 10 minute run), then headed back to Quassy. The Mitchells had arrived and we were able to get in a 2nd practice swim. But first, the Ugly Wetsuit contest. Heather promised us she had a winner…she was right. Straight outta ugly, she strutted that bad boy against 2 worthy competitors…we were pretty loud in our support of the Ugly and I believe Danny’s shout out “it looks like Mustard” swung the win in her favor. Sweet for Heather…she was already dealing with not being able to compete due to injuries and health (she did do the swim)…at least she came out of the weekend with a sweet $600 wetsuit. (If you need a new wetsuit, DO the contest…they have it at every race and turnout is low. The odds are in your favor, if you bring local friends. One guy told us he bought a crazy ugly wetsuit on Ebay for $15, wore it in the Knoxville contest, and won himself a wetsuit. That’s a pretty fair return on his investment!)
After our swim, we did the usual bike racking (REV3 bike racks are fantastic, if you haven’t done their races yet – make sure you save your personal name from the rack after the race). Then we drove the bike course. Quassy is a 1 loop bike ride, so 56 miles takes awhile. I have to admit, I was so exhausted, I dozed off a few times in the backseat. There were parts of the ride on race day that I didn’t remember driving thru I think that’s just as well…the drive really exposed all the hills and had me a little nervous for race day. Not for the climbs…I knew I could handle those. Some of the descents had me a little concerned. After our drive, we headed back to our weekend home. It had been a long day, so after a delicious dinner at home that Mike & Heather cooked (awesome Quinoa, Heather!), we packed up our transition bags and headed to bed.
Up early (45 minute drive meant REALLY early: 3:30 I think). Quick breakfast as usual of bagel with peanut butter and OJ. I always try for the banana, but as I get more nervous, I can’t get it down. Nothing special about setting up transition – it was going to be really hot, so minimalist worked best.
SWIM: A GU just prior and a quick warm-up swim (definitely a plus), then headed over to the beach start. Never quite sure (as a very average swimmer) where to start, especially on the beach. It’s a clockwise swim so I did choose the right side of the beach, but I stepped back into the 2nd tier of women. I was in the 1st wave after the Pros, so there wasn’t much time for me to fool around after coming out of transition.
It was a pretty uneventful swim. I did get kicked in the goggles early on, knocking them slightly askew and had to fix that. And after turning at the 1st buoy, the sun was brutal to buoy 2. You literally could not see anything but the swimmers just in front of you and you had to trust they were heading the right direction (they were I still have yet to manage the art of finding a swimmer of the right speed to draft off of…so although I’m excited by some of the swim improvements ‘Ive made recently, I’m still on my own in the water. But the remainder was calm and I set a PR on the 70.3 swim.
Swim Time: 42:11 (21/41 in my AG)
BIKE: As I said, a 1 loop course. Hilly. Hilly. Really hilly. The descents turned out to not be a worry, with traffic controlled. It was very hard – but very pretty and enjoyable (in a hilly way!) I’m reasonably happy with my bike time, but this is currently the area I want to improve on the most – I should be faster. I’m still on a road bike and this course would be fine for a tri bike. But I’m still working on the engine. Danny, on the other hand…wow, he is sick on the bike. My wave was 40 minutes before his. I knew he would make up 10 minutes or so on the swim. I was hoping to hold him off from passing me until the run. Nope…he rode a 2:51 and passed me at mile 55. Seriously??? Mile 55? He went by me and gave me a “Make Every Day Count, girlfriend” (I wear a “MEDC” on my calf on race day, as a tribute to my friend Mike, who lost a valiant fight with pancreatic cancer last year.) I have to say, my initial reaction was to hang my head and be discouraged (sorry Danny!!) Then I managed to step outside myself and realize he was having a kickass bike split, so I managed to yell out “Great job, Mooney”. (He says he didn’t hear me…he was by me too fast…but I swear, I yelled it
Bike Time: 3:26:19 (moved up 5 spots, to 16th AG)
Mike Lombardo was fantastic here…he greeted me, called me a rockstar, and said Danny was just ahead of me…”go get him”. Haha Mike – Danny is a great runner. He already got me on the bike, I have no chance to catch him on the run. Mike ran me outta T2, catching my handheld bottle I tossed so I didn’t have to run with it.
RUN: So I think I mentioned hills. They don’t get any better on the run. A guy was running next to me at mile 2 and asked if I minded if he ran alongside me. Not at all…as long as you don’t expect me to talk I’m not a talker in a race…wastes energy I don’t have. So then he wants to tell me about the really mean and long (1 mile) hill coming up at mile 3…I’d rather not know, thanks. But ok, so I asked if it was runnable…he said everything is runnable. So yes, I ran it (hmm, why didn’t he? Chicked perhaps, lol??) He failed to mention it’s a trail hill, with rocky and sandy terrain – even more challenge. It was at this point, up ahead, I saw Danny. His phenominal bike split was causing him some challenge on the run. We ran together for awhile, which was really nice. Way back in the day, we used to run part (if not all) of a race together. As we got more into this and got faster and more competitive in tri, we decided to “race our own race”. Which means 90% of the time, he’s at the finish line waiting for me to come in. But on this day, I had more legs left for the run, so he encouraged me to keep going.
Quassy is a 1 loop run, so no mean trail hill a 2nd time. Don’t worry…there’s plenty of hills to take its place. I typically do not have to walk in a 70.3, not even thru the rest stops. Not Quassy. There was not much choice; I was giving all I had but the hills were taking their toll. And I haven’t even mentioned the heat! You know why there was very little oppressive heat at Eagleman this year? Bc it was all at Quassy the week before (thanks Mitchells – I blame you!!) I approached mile 12….I have never had to walk there! That’s where you pick up the pace and finish strong. Not at Quassy. 12 to 13 is another hill, and I was actually walking again just before the 13 mile mark. It left very little time to sprint to the finish – I crossed the finish line before I realized it, very grateful to be done.
Run Time: 1:53:52 (ugh, but still moved me up 7 more spots, to 9th – shows how hard that run was.)
Overall time: 6:07:44
Good enough for 9th place AG finish. I really wanted sub 6 hours and a Top 5 finish…but there were some incredible age groupers at this race and I’m proud of Top 10.
My last weekend highlight…looking for Meredith Kessler, to congratulate her. I had met her at the Pro Q&A at Columbia, when I asked her a swim question. That led to a follow-up email, where I was just amazed when she replied in less than 12 hours, with more swim advice. We discussed Quassy…and as I walked across the field towards her, 1 of 2400 female athletes…I was greeted with a big hug, smile, and a “hi Deb, how was your race?” She made a huge impression on me and I continue to be amazed at the generosity of Pros and age groupers alike in our sport. We are since Facebook friends and have been in touch since her crash at Eagleman…from which she is recovering well and is incredibly positive about that whole experience.
Congrats to Danny (a blistering 5:27 on such a tough course) and all who raced Quassy (Bram, Jennifer, Shawn, Jim, Heather, and Mike (who I know you didn’t have the race and finish you wanted, but I’m in awe of your determination to finish despite all your mechanical issues on the bike). Thank you so much to Team Fight Reps Mike K & Mike L – you guys were everywhere and so enthusiastic. Supportive to all of us and as always, a welcome tent to hang out in pre and post race. Quassy is a great race…a huge challenge..and definitely a great training race for Placid. I’ll be back…and will PR you!