Sunday, July 12, 2015

Race Report: HITS Kingston Half

Woke up early enough to get to Kingston right at 5am, a solid breakfast that I use through hard training days that keeps my stomach in check but provides a nice boost through the morning. Started to get an idea of how screwed up the logistics were going to be right from the get go; run gear is at one area a mile away from T1, with volunteers transporting your T1 stuff via marked trash bag. T2 stuff is also in a bag, there are no assigned slots there, you can't set anything up. What? When I asked where my dry bag should go, a volunteer had to ask on the walkie talkie, and didn't get a solid answer...just tie it to the trash bag in T2 "I guess". Nice. One sweet pickles bus transported all athletes - for all distances - back to T2 with bikes in the back. ONE BUS. I'm surprised if everyone made it on time. In T2 - a total of 4 toilets. Four. Again, I'd be surprised if everyone made it to the starting gun.

Once in the water, life improves slightly - the water is a perfect temperature and not at all noxious or weird as the Hudson can be. Sighting markers are easy to pick off, looks good! Countdown...race time!

Took off on the feet of the lead pack and settled in swimming powerfully and sighting like a boss, confirmed later on the watch...1:15/100yds for the first leg on a straight out and back, straight as an arrow. Took the turn with my foot on the gas and started to realize there was a current in my face...we were all slowing down accordingly, as the buoys just didn't seem to get as close as fast as they should be...and we were drifting right. Later confirmed the current took us WAY down to 2:30s and did indeed push right. All of us equally punished, but a good swim. Felt great coming into T1.

T1 smooth-ish, not fast, but better than usual. Had to futz with my helmet visor unfortunately for 30 seconds, socks wouldn't go on quite right for another 5, and bikes were WAY too close together in rows, so had to wiggle out of the row to get out...poor organization/logistics again. Once on the bike...hammer time.

The good: rode like a boss, held 230 NP/20.6 mph over 3500 feet of climbing, a great split, managed nutrition perfectly and had a great confirmation of my iron distance plan and training. Felt strong, heart rate in check, and managed the heat (85 by the time we got to T2) well. The bad: the course was on a highway shoulder for the first ~20 miles. A Highway. That meant riding over shoulder crud, riding across exit ramps with cars going full speed, honking traffic, clover leaf entrance and exit ramps....just ludicrous. About as far from a safe, closed course as you could possibly get. The saving grace was the return trip through/on the south side of the Ashokan Reservoir, which was beautiful, great riding, and fun as hell. Coming back on the highway again, I and another dude literally took the wrong exit ramp (no markings!!! WTF?!) and had to get back on the highway for a couple minutes loss. Still came in 6th off the bike from a rack count and feeling fine, although the heat was getting heavy.

The run SUCKED. Getting into the lower 90s with no shade relief, the run starts on a riverwalk of cobble and brick, hits a hot stretch of rolling hills, then a brutal 1.5 mile climb - all under the sun. Aid stations were spotty - some had ice, some did not. They did have sponges and flat coke, though. Can't blame them, it was rough conditions. After coming down the first lap of the hill, we run by the finish line, then down a stretch of smelly asphalt along the railroad tracks to complete the first loop, and again by the finish line...a very tough way to go. Then back on the brutal cobbles, the hill...ugh. By the time I got to the second climb, I was way overheated and started to wobble. I stopped to cool off and drink for a minute before doing a walk/run up for the second lap. At the top I felt cooler again, but the pause had brought in some early cramping, so I ran down with a shuffle instead of stride. Started getting a headache - a bad sign - so I again stopped at the aid station at the bottom of the hill for ice. I only had 2 miles to go, but I was in rough shape in the head, tasted salt on my lips, wobbly and woozy. I gutted through the train tracks turnaround one last time to finish, drank ice water as quick as it would go down, and sat down for a good 20 minutes.

There was NO food waiting for us at the finish line, save for whatever was left from pre-race, which nobody would have consumed since we aren't at the race head (remember, T2/finish is a mile up the road from T1)...hot orange slices and donuts. Really? I asked, apparently there were pizzas coming (?) but he wasn't sure. I asked for a leader board and was told it would come maybe in an hour. I decided to leave.

Went to collect my bike and was asked by a race director-ish guy how it went...so I told him I was pretty disappointed in the post race. No medic, no massage, no food. He said, wait there is a full kitchen there, we wouldn't do that...ok. I must have missed it. I put my gear in the car, changed and walked over to check. Nope, nothing. Just 8 (only 8) pizzas supposedly on their way to feed 300+ athletes. Riiiight. I asked again about the leader board and was rebuffed sharply, apparently asking for your official results and standings is a no-no. Fine. Saw the sheet come out of the printer 5 minutes later....NICE! I won my age group, 11th overall. It was a partial sheet, I had no idea how many were in it overall, but still a nice result. I asked if I could take my plaque and scoot, got a little attitude for it, but ultimately got it and headed home to finish the day hanging with my brother's family by the pool for the rest of the day. SOLID. Very happy with the day!

I won't do this race again despite the proximity and cost. The bike course was awful, the T1/T2 logistics a joke, and the post race support an insult. If you get what you pay for, then *maybe* you can argue that no post race med or massage or food is acceptable, but it's really not under any circumstances, especially in heat like that. I get that this is an inaugural event for HITS, but they have a lot more experience than this particular execution would make you think. I would be surprised if half the entrants return for next year, if they even have it. Hunter 2014 was executed so much more effectively under much harsher conditions, it makes me think this was just the effect of Mark Wilson resigning as the RD. Last year at this time he said he expected to RD for HITS for 17 more years, and while I understand he had a very rough personal year, something must have gone down with HITS for him to resign. I'm wondering if it was the corners they so obviously cut. A sad demise.