Hill Hell (Ripon Medical Center Tri) – (7/22/18)

Last year, the timing between when I did a Triathlon and vacation just happened to work out so that I did the former right before the latter. As doing so made me feel less guilty about a week full of beer last year, I wanted to try for the same this year. So this year, Ripon fit in nicely.

Going in, I knew that this was going to be a challenging course. Dave made it very clear that there were a lot of hills. But that didn’t phase me for a couple reasons — one being that hill work makes you stronger and the other being that if you can succeed in a hilly course, you can crush the normal ones. So I was up for and excited to race Ripon.

The race is held around this amazing conference center in Ripon. You swim in the on-site lake, and are on parts of the compound for some of the bike and entire run. There’s an amazing view during the run — but I’ll get to that later.

After setting up transition and making sure that my electronics were protected from the rain, we got ready to race. A week or two prior, one of my friends had told me about a draining workout that they had had to do. It was essentially that the person in front was trying to break away and they were trying to keep in their draft. That essentially happened throughout most of the swim for me from a couple of people that were behind me. I’m still waiting for the Thank You basket from them for the free ‘tow’ at times…

It had been raining throughout the night and was misting/raining through the morning/race. Knowing that, and knowing the hill layout, we made the decision pre-race to go a little slower on the bike. While I would have liked to keep the 20mph I’ve gotten to, I realized that that wasn’t reasonable given the conditions and took Dave’s advice. So after a few minutes in T1, we headed out on the bike. And he wasn’t wrong about the hills… I would estimate about 6 1/2 miles of hills (up/down) and maybe 2.8 miles total of flats. The worst was the initial 1 mile uphill, where it went up for about 1/2 mile and then leveled out. At this point, I thought we were out of the first hill; instead, it went up again for about another 1/2 mile. There was a spot during the bike portion where the hills were so bad that I said ‘down one more’ and Dave’s response was ‘we’re in the lowest gear’. I am glad that we only had to do one loop on that course.

Just like the bike, the run started with a ‘nice’ uphill. This one was a 1/2 mile up instead of a full mile. After an hour of hills on the bike in the hills, I didn’t have the legs to do that much uphill running. So I did have to walk a big chunk of that first 1/2 mile. But once we got over the hump, I was able to run more and the first mile wasn’t too bad given that. As we approached the first aid station, the volunteers mentioned that they had Heed. There’s a good reason Heed has been in my bottles for the past two seasons, and I was extremely grateful to see this lifeline at the stations. After recharging there, we had… you guessed it… more hills. But because of being able to continually recharge (4x – 1, ~1.4, ~1.75, 2), I was able to make it through a VERY hilly run. And even with that first 1/2 mile challenge, the 5K time was only about 45s-1m off from where it usually is.

Remember the view I mentioned to you early on? On the run, that first 1/2 mile is up (or down) a hill/bridge. There’s an amazing scenic overlook about halfway up the hill. It’s a great extra push as you’re making that final push to the finish line.

Even though the bike was longer than normal and the overall time was the longest this season, I still felt really good post race. I know that I couldn’t have completed Ripon last season and that all the work I’ve done since the beginning of the year helped me to have a successful race. And I’m grateful that Dave was there to guide for me.

Two final notes:

1) Post-race as we were loading the bike, this older gentleman came up with one of his daughters (who had raced) and started asking me about how I race and all the normal PT stuff. As we spoke, he shared some amazing stories with us about his family. I hope to run into Tim and his family in 2019 and have a chance to talk more with him.

2) Ripon has been added to my parmanent Tri schedule. It’s a fun, challenging race; and it will only make me stronger in the long run. When I’m able to hit 1:30 times there, I know I’ll be able to hit the benchmarks I need to on ‘normal’ courses.