I signed up for Rev3 Quassy as a “practice race” for my upcoming Ironman in Lake Placid, NY in July. With undulating terrain totaling 3,500 feet of climbing on the bike and a relentless half marathon, I knew Quassy would be the perfect race to test myself before tackling the hills of Whiteface Mountain come July. So, on June 1st I ventured up to Middlebury, CT to race Rev3 Quassy 70.3. Before I get into details of the race, I want to state that Rev3 is an AMAZING organization. Their packet pick up was incredibly organized and the location was beautiful. The volunteers and race staff were phenomenal from start to finish. And for people that like swag, they gave out awesome finisher medals and finisher shirts! If anyone wants a challenging course that’s both spectator and family friendly, Rev3 Quassy is a race to put on your to do list!
The day before the race, I did the usual pre-race bike check and packet pick up. Temperatures were reaching the high 80’s and the humidity was well over 60%. Not the most ideal race conditions, but nothing is comparable the inferno of Eagleman last year. I was able to wait around to listen to the pro forum, which is always exciting. Afterwards, I got some dinner at a local italian restaurant, put on my race tattoo numbers, got my gear together, and jumped in bed.
Race morning started with a 4:30am wake up call and little sleep. I got my gear, ate my usual toast with peanut butter and water with HEED and headed to Quassy. With an awesome parking spot right by transition, I got my area set up and then sat in the car before transition closed. At 7:00am, I went down to the swim start to watch the Pro’s go off. My wave didn’t start until 7:40, so I had a bit of downtime to try and relax and go through the race in my head. I hadn’t pre-ridden the course, so I was pretty anxious about the climbing that was before me. But as they say, ignorance is bliss, right?
The Swim (0:31.18 / 0:31.18)
At 7:40, my wave (men under 30, clydesdales, relays) were lined up on the beach for our start. This is the first race with a beach entry start, with all my others being deep water starts, so I felt a little out of my element. I lined up behind the pack to avoid getting run over. With butterflies in my stomach, there was a 3, 2, 1, BOOM. I ran in the water, did a couple dolphin dives, and tried to find a rhythm. The swim course of Quassy is a triangle, with a short out section, a long section going across the lake, and final back section to the boat ramp. With the chaos of the start, it was hard to get into a rhythm, although I did find some feet to hang onto. Sighting during the out section was pretty good, and I was able to stay on a good line to the first turn buoy. After the turn, you sight directly into the sun. Also, my goggles fogged up. This portion of the swim was a disaster. I went way off course and swam into the paddle boarder, who noted that I was way off course. I un-fogged my goggles and tried to get back into a rhythm. I finally hit some feet, so I knew I was at least somewhat on course. I stayed on these feet for what felt like forever, until we finally hit the final turn buoy. The final section of the swim is pretty short. I just swam buoy to buoy and un-fogged my goggles at each one. My arms were tired and the wave behind me caught up to me. ‘This is my worst swim, ever’ I thought to myself. Finally, I reached the final buoy and made it to the boat ramp. Crawling out of the water, I walked to get my land legs back and to avoid falling (I’m usually a bit dizzy after the swim). I wasn’t sure what my swim split was, but I figured it couldn’t have been great. After looking at my splits, I was pretty shocked to see my swim split.
T1 (0:2.43 / 0:34.01)
Coming into T1, I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel dizzy and I didn’t have any cramping in my legs like I did at Eagleman last year. I got my wetsuit down to my waist and ran to my bike. Well, I thought it was my bike. I had trouble finding my row and ran one row too far. I found another Felt B12, but it wasn’t mine. I looked at my race number, saw I wasn’t at the right rack, and had to do some counting to get back to my row. Finally, I got my bike, got on my helmet, glasses, and Garmin, got my wet suit off and shoes on (sans socks) and was off to the bike.
The Bike (3:00.57 / 3:34.01)
My bike is my weakest leg of the race. Knowing that, and with the knowledge of the hills ahead, my race strategy was to just take the bike easy and use it as a warm up for the run and to get as much nutrition in as possible. As they say, the bike is really just a buffet on wheels. The course is very hilly and has some technical descents. None of the hills are extremely steep, but they’re long hills that I don’t really see in Harford County. Coming out of T1, I ate a sleeve of Cliff Shot Blocks and a Hammer gel (300 calories). I got in some water and was feeling good. The first 1.5 miles of the course are mostly down hill and gives you a chance to get in some food before the climbing begins. The first major climb is from mile 7.5 to about mile 13 with about 500 feet of climbing. I got into a moderately small gear and just spun up this first hill trying to warm up my legs. Being a lighter guy with a good amount of power I was able to save my energy uphill, get in some water and nutrition, and then really work the downhill. After the first climb, the next 10 miles are pretty fast and mostly downhill. It also goes through an awesome state park with rock outcroppings, open fields, and lakes. It’s an absolutely beautiful course, which helps take your mind off the suffering that’s occurring at the same time. During these 10 miles, I was able to get some decent speed (22 mph+) without having to put in much effort. This free speed is nice, because from miles 23-30, you give it all back. This 7 mile stretch takes you from a low elevation of 300 feet to a maximum elevation of 1200 feet. As I did with the first hill, I got into a small gear and just spun up the hill. I got in some more nutrition, exchanged my water bottles at the aid station, and tried to change saddle position as much as possible to recruit different muscles. My average pace was around 15 mph at this point, with a low of 8 mph. It was brutal, but again, the beauty of this course! At the top of the climb, you get rewarded with a short, but long overdue downhill. From this point on, the course is mostly rolling with no major climbs until the last few miles. There is an out and back section that is pretty fast and one downhill at mile 43, where I hit my max speed of 49 mph. At the last aid station, I exchanged more bottles, got in some gatorade, and kicked up my calorie intake for to prepare of the run. Overall, I took in about 800 calories on the bike between fluids and gels and took in 6 Hammer Endurolyte tabs. Coming back to Quassy, you climb the same descent that the loop started with. Not a major climb, but after 4500 feet of climbing, it hurts! After dismounting, my legs felt tired, but solid. I looked at my Garmin and saw 3 hours, which is right where I wanted to be, and where I felt I could get a good runs split.
T2 (0:01.24 / 3:35.25)
T2 was pretty uneventful. I got off my bike and racked it in the proper spot. I slipped my bike shoes off as I took my helmet off, put on my Brooks ST5’s (again, sans socks), got my nutrition and race belt, and was off. Counting the bikes, I figured there were 7-10 people in my AG ahead of me. Time to play catch up on the run!
The Run (1:35.39 / 5:12.01)
Running out of T1 I took in a gel and water and poured some ice down my top. It was hot! Mr. Garmin says it was around 88 degrees and sunny. My legs felt heavy, my stride felt short, but my pace was around a 6:30. A bit too fast. I scaled it back a bit to a 7:00 pace and just tried to find a groove. A mile out on the run, I saw Heather Wurtele, the eventual female champion, and 2nd place Heather Jackson running. One of my favorite parts about triathlon is that the amateurs race the pros on the same course, in the same conditions. And at Rev3, they truly make every athlete out there feel like a professional. After a mile, you make a right hand turn, where you are greeted with some shade and a minor climb. I caught up to the first person who had a calf in the same AG as myself. I get so much energy and pumped up passing people on the run. It drives me to catch the next. At this point, you’re on the same course as the bike course until you make a right onto White Deer Rock Road, aka gravel road from hell. Over the first 2 miles, you have a pretty significant climb with 200+ feet of elevation gain. Around mile 5, you make a right for a short out and back, and then you continue to climb. I was also beginning to regret not wearing socks. I could feel blisters on my feet and with every stride, my foot was burning. I also began getting awful cramps in both my quads. It felt like knives every time I put my foot would strike the ground. I took in some gels and more Endurolytes, which helped substantially. I was still averaging around a 7:00 pace, but I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I looked ahead and saw 2 more guys in my AG, so I popped another salt tab and pushed on. 2 more guys to go. After mile 7, it is mostly downhill with no major climb until the last mile. I kept up a good rhythm, and walked each aid station to get as many fluids in as I could and to get as much ice and water down my suit. The volunteers at each aid station were awesome. They read our names off our bibs and gave us encouragement and really helped us out there. After a quick thank you, I picked up my pace again, around a 7:30 mile by now. By mile 8, which puts you right by Quassy amusement park, you go out on a small 4 mile loop. With cramped legs, I saw another guy in my AG just up the road. I pushed it into gear to make the pass, exchanged “good job, nice pace” with each other, and on I went. Around mile 10, you run a 2nd out and back, which is a great spot to see where your competition is. As I was going out, I saw another person, number 1, in my AG. Only a half mile ahead, but he was walking. Within 10 minutes, I passed him. The last mile of the course is brutal. It’s all uphill to the finish, and it’s no easy hill. Close to 200 feet of climbing in a single mile. I walked half way up, then ran when I saw the top, dropping my average mile to 8:00. At the top, you have a final turn that takes you back to the park into the finish chute.
The Finish (5:12.01)
The finish line was glorious. Sunburnt, blistered, and exhausted, I got my finishers medal, a cold towel, a gatorade, and a finisher’s shirt. Swag! I got some water, got some food, and walked over to the timing tent to see how I fared out. I was amazed to see a personal best by 10 minutes on one of the hardest 70.3 courses out there, and also a first place finish in my AG.
Rev3 put on an amazing race. An awesome and deep pro field and some tough competition from the age groupers. The conditions were tough, and the course was tougher, and anyone who finishes that course truly deserves that finishers medal and shirt! Reflecting on my training, I couldn’t be happier. I really made an effort to improve my bike fitness so that I could have a solid run afterwards. I also really dialed in on my nutrition during training, and it worked out pretty well on race day. With only a month and half until Ironman Lake Placid, Quassy was that huge confidence boost I needed to get through these last 8 weeks. I know going into my last training block that I need to continue pushing my bike fitness. I have the endurance, now I just need to build up the speed. I also know that my run off the bike has greatly improved since last year and that my nutrition is right where it needs to be. A huge thank you to my family, to my training partners, and all my trainers/coaches at the Arena Club for all your help, encouragement, and support. Can’t wait for Lake Placid and can’t wait to return next year 🙂