Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Belews Lake International Triathlon Race Report

When I left you last, I was hoping I would recover from my recent battle with exhaustion (at least that’s what my publicist says to call it Warning NSFW) in order to put on a masterful race and start my season off with a bang. I woke up Saturday feeling just as I had the prior days; a feeling of being very physically tired sets in about an hour after I wake up and other than occasional fleeting bursts of energy, stays with me throughout the day. Nevertheless, I decided that after all the work I’d done, I was going to see this thing through and race whatever race I had in me.

The race course at Belews Lake is pretty idyllic. The swim comes out of a boat launch into a clean lake surrounded by trees and cabins, then after forcing you to ascend The Toughest Driveway Climb in The World ™, you’re treated to two loops of a 13 mile course that gives you the chance to test your climbing legs (hint: my legs will be taking remedial climbing next semester) and descending balls (not descending testicles, that’s very different) equally for the majority of the course. The race ends with a run that “consists of no major hills” according to the race website (more on that later).

Swim: If there was one thing I felt like I’d be alright doing, it was the swim. Even with my energy levels down, and not feeling right, my swim was the one thing that had mostly been consistent, and that I felt like I had a shot at having a good split in. I started strong, checking my watch as I sighted to the first turn 200 yards in. 5:00 straight on just past the buoy, and I felt strong. 200 yards later as I made the first turn that flash of energy was gone, and so were my chances at a good split, as I was now averaging 3 mins/100. So, I did the best thing I could do; I stopped looking at my watch, and just swam as hard as I could sustain for the duration. 1500 meters later, I got out of the water, and as I walked up the ramp I looked behind me to see I wasn’t the last one out of the water. I knew that didn’t mean much, as this was a time trial, so I’d been passed already by quite a few folks who started behind me. With a very short walk up to transition, I probably only dealt with about 1 minute of out of water time, to get into transition.

Rev 3 Anderson: 44:16

Belews Lake Goal: 41:00

Belews Lake Actual:  46:50

T1: Transition was nicely organized on a slightly sloped uphill from the boat ramp and my rack wasn’t far from the swim exit. The racks were a bit tight but being so late out of the water, the only people I had to worry about were front of race folks coming in from their bikes. I didn’t have any mistakes in T1, and I got in and out pretty quickly considering how tired I was. Plus, I’m definitely considering going to no socks for riding as sitting down to put them on adds at least a minute to transition.

Rev 3 Anderson: 8:16

Belews Lake Goal: 4:00

Belews Lake Actual: 5:21

Bike: I said I wanted to start my season with a bang, and I did just that with the sound of my left quad muscles exploding as I was climbing the first couple miles of the bike. There just wasn’t anything in my legs for climbing sadly, and it showed when I got to about mile 5 where the downhill section started; I was 4 minutes off my race pace by that point. Not having time the night before to survey the course, I didn’t want to go flat out in the downhills, but I definitely put as much effort into getting aero, taking advantage of downhills going into little uphills, and getting as much rest as I could for the 2nd loop. By the time I got to the beginning of the second loop, I’d made up most of the time I’d lost to pace in the first loop, and was thinking I might have a shot at some revenge on loop 2. It wasn’t to be; as soon as the road went up, my legs and cardio went away and there I was sucking wind in the granny gear. The pain in my left quad was excruciating, and when I say I was sucking wind I don’t just mean out of breath, because the wind by this point was brutal and acting as a straight on headwind during most of the climb. Near the end of the uphill section on the second loop, I actually had to walk a small hill to get my heart rate under control. I’ve walked 2 other hills since 1/1/12; both far more difficult than this one. To say I was upset is a dramatic understatement, so as I was now familiar with the downhill section I like to think that I looked like I was screaming down a Tour de France descent. I know I averaged 25 MPH for a couple of consecutive miles, but on the last hill I suffered again and found that I simply had lost too much time on the second set of climbs to make up.

Rev 3 Anderson (25 miles, with a little more climbing): 1:50:21

Belews Lake Goal: 1:47

Belews Lake Actual: 1:55:15

T2: Because I was close to the water exit, that meant I had a long jog/walk in from the bike exit to my rack, and with the small space I lost at least 30 seconds fighting to get my bike back on the rack with everyone’s junk from around me in the way. Once I got done fighting with that, I was actually pretty quickly up and out. I still need to be better, and being able to jog/run at that point in the race would have made a difference.

Rev 3 Anderson: 2:58

Belews Lake Goal: 2:30

Belews Lake Actual: 2:55

Run: Walking out of transition and knowing that I know had about an hour until the course was expected to close, I looked for visual clues for where I’d need to stop if the finish line was no longer there when I got back. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I’d be finishing beyond 4 hours stop me from finishing, even if my time wasn’t going to be official. My quads in my left leg were still screaming at me, so running for the moment was out of the question.  I hoped that they’d calm down once I got a chance to stretch them a bit walking the first mile, and that I might be able to into my planned 1/4 mile intervals. I attempted jogging the few flats in the course, but by the time my leg stopped hurting, there just wasn’t any gas left in the tank. The course had more shade than I’d been led to believe, and the sky was overcast for my entire second lap, so my sunburn wasn’t too bad (forgetting sunscreen was my one actual mistake this race). But unless there’s some new thing that says 1/4 mile of 5%+ grade isn’t a “major hill” then I think they need to revise the course handbook.

Rev 3 Anderson: 1:36:19

Belews Lake Goal: 1:24

Belews Lake Actual: 1:41:20

Overall: Starting my second lap of the run I learned that I wouldn’t be DNFing; though they were picking up the volunteers from the aide stations, they let me know they left me plenty of filled cups at both stations and that they’d be keeping transition open for me. this made the last 3 miles a lot easier to bear, knowing that the organizers would be making my finish official even though I would be going well beyond the 4 hour limit. My second lap was even slower, but it didn’t feel as bad, and shuffling through the finish line while biting my lip to stop from crying was somewhat of an unusual feeling. It wasn’t the first time the finishing chute has been held open for me, and it wasn’t even close to my last DFL. But as disappointed as I was in my body for betraying me, and for having put all the effort into training only to not have it materialize on race day, I was really proud of myself for finishing. I learned my lesson that day at Patriot, even if the race directors had said they were DNFing me, I was going to finish. Besides, I was parked only 100 yards from the finish line so I would have had to walk all the way back anyways.

Rev 3 Anderson: 4:22

Belews Lake Goal: 3:59:59

Belews Lake Actual: 4:31:38

7 thoughts on “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Belews Lake International Triathlon Race Report”

  1. Glad you were able to finish.

    As for the hills, I think that’s just pretty standard in the triad and foothill area’s of NC.

    1. Derek – Whats great is that I recognized they weren’t that hard, I simply didn’t have the right health to tackle them the way I had the weeks before. I’ve got 30 mile rides in me with far more climbing and felt good after so I’m comfortable with the fact that my health was the issue

  2. Good Job, Chief! Your attitude and dedication are an inspiration. I’m looking forward to reading about the rebound in your energy level once your body acclimates to it’s new surroundings/lack thereof….

  3. Wow, that’s some serious determination! Very inspiring. I hope you are feeling better soon so you can see the results you are expecting to see from your training!

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