Monday, August 9, 2010

Timberman: The scouting mission

I've been participating in organized races for almost 3 years now. During that time, I've seen race directors and organizations that are all over the map in terms of quality, preparation, and skill in running a race. Timberman is put on by World Triathlon Corporation, the big name (The official Ironman brand) in triathlon race organizations. That tells me that the race will be well organized and well executed. That leaves us with one less thing to worry about, but still plenty of others.

Saturday, Rachelle and I finally drove up to New Hampshire to scout the triathlon course and get familiar with the area.  We learned a bunch of different things while we were up there:
  • New Hampshire is beautiful. While it's becoming sort of expected as we explore the more rural areas of New England, driving only 2 hours from home to see mountains, trees, and lakes in a resort area is just something I haven't gotten used to yet. Gilford, the town where the race is held, as well as the surrounding areas are truly beautiful. I'm excited to be staying in such a nice area. 
  • We couldn't have picked a better hotel location. We're only a couple miles from the start location. We didn't actually visit the hotel, but we saw the sign for it on our bike ride, so it's just off the bike course. I'm looking forward to having such a good location with nice amenities.
  • Lake Winnipesaukee is HUGE and beautiful. It reminds me a lot of the lakes in the Irish Hills area of Michigan where I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the summers of my youth. This lake is easily one of the bigger lakes I've seen up here and it's a nice reminder that ocean beaches aren't the only place to relax and enjoy the water. The water was fairly warm (probably low 70's), and while there's a chance we'll have some chop from the wind or boats, it seems like it'll be a pretty nice swim as it's mostly in parallel to the beach. Plus, there are no sharks, so that's a nice bonus. (The evening news is constantly reporting shark sightings along ocean beaches these days).
Most importantly though, we learned that the bike course for Timberman was obviously designed by a a professional terrorist. Either that or maybe the guy from "Tomorrow Never Dies" who is a professional marksman, but whose hobby is torture.
If you see this man designing a bike course, run FAR away
Seriously though, the first 10 miles of this bike course is, to use a Bostonian expression, wicked hard. Even the first very short climb is super steep, like a signal to let you know you're about to spend a significant amount of time going up. Sure there are some little drops along the way, but basically you spend the first 10 miles going sharply up hill. In particular, there are two climbs in the first 11 miles where you climb at least 250 over just a couple of miles. The worst of these is a hill that rises around 300 feet in just a little over a mile. This is the spot were I'm most likely going to have to walk my bike up hill.

If any of these hills were singularities on an otherwise flat long ride, I'd simply curse under my breath and push myself to tackle the hill as best I could before resting a while at the summit before resuming my ride. But as simply one of many hills, I have to go through the process of climbing, descending, and then climbing again multiple times throughout the ride. Thankfully theres a good long stretch in the middle of about 11 miles where you slowly go downhill before turning around to begin the process of spending 11 miles slowly going uphill. Climbing 200 feet over 10 miles doesnt scare me nearly so much as climbing 300 feet in 3 miles.

There were two really big pieces of good news to come along as part of the scouting weekend that really give me cause to be seriously optimistic, even in the face of these huge hills:

  • The descents. We only rode part of the course because Rach had us take the wrong way out of the park, and by the time we got on the course we already had about 11 miles in our legs, much of it spent climbing, and so we figured it was best not to try to tackle the whole course. But we did a majority of the climbs on the way out. And I can say for certain that as hard as they are on the way up, they're SUPER fun on the way back down. There were points in the ride back where I reached 45 MPH on my bike, and at one point I didn't pedal for about 3 miles and maintained an average speed of about 20 MPH over that time. The last 6 miles of the ride should be REALLY easy.
  • I had misunderstood the time requirements for the race. The maximum time I've been living by and training against (8:30) is from the start of the last swim wave. So long as I am not in the last swim wave, I will have additional time on the course in order to finish. I verified this by looking at other Ironman 70.3 races from 2009-2010, and most all of them have finishers who have official times over 8:30 minutes. That time is when the course closes. So if I manage not to be in the last wave, I will have more time to get through the race. I can't count on it, but it sure would be nice to have a cushion to work with.
Regardless of the rules, or the fact that the bike course designer belongs on the FBI's 10 most wanted list, I know now for certain that I can finish. I have put in the hours, I can handle suffering for a long time, and worst case I'll get off my bike and walk up the worst parts of those hills. Yesterday, I even pounded the nail in the wall where my finishers medal will hang. Because I know I'm going to do this.

I WILL finish Timberman. 


  1. I LOVE your last 3 sentences. Live it. Do it. You know you can! Appreciate the work you have put into your goal and make it happen!

  2. Thanks. I'm super excited about this race because it gives me a chance to do something Ive never done before, and also because it isn't just some "easy" 70.3 it'll be a real challenge. Sure I would love to be in a wave that allows me extra time, but even if I dont I know I can do this!