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Downtown Temple,NH

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pinnacle Challenge - Solo Edition

Team acidotic RACING
The Pinnacle Challenge VII in Newport,NH is probably the biggest team event of the year for acidotic RACING (30+  this year!). The unique double duathlon event (5m road run, 5.4m mountain bike, 13.75m road bike, 3.65m trail run) offers something for everyone. For the past couple of years I was on a 4-person men's team, running the 5m road leg and 3.65m trail leg previously. Early on in 2011 (before I got injured surprisingly) I decided to do it solo.

Fast forward to September of this year. I hadn't run in nearly 3 months due to a nagging injury. Thankfully I kept busy with a ton of mountain biking and some tolerable road biking, but no running. So I had roughly one month to ease back into running just enough so I wouldn't embarrass myself at Pinnacle. I needed every day.

Teammate Jason Massa (who has done this race solo every year I believe) offered some advice - do each leg as hard as you can and hope to hang on at the end. Ok, I'm sure I'm paraphrasing a bit but I liked his advice. It is a race after all. My brain doesn't have a 'go easy' gear during a race. I guess the point was you'd probably over-think each leg too much if tried to pace yourself along the way. The other (more important) piece of advice was to make sure you eat and drink, primarily on the road bike. Noted.

I lined up with teammates Liz Hall and Austin Stonebreaker for the 5m leg. I think we all stayed within a few seconds of each other for the entire out/back run. Surprisingly, this was the leg I was most worried about and I was quite pleased with the results. I ran hard, finishing the run in 31:47 (6:21 pace). I quickly swapped shoes, threw on a helmet and headed out on the mountain bike for leg #2.
Finishing the 5m leg

Ok, a couple of things to note if you plan to do this solo. First, it's much harder going from running to biking then biking to running (like in a triathlon). Second, wear gloves. Finally, carrying a 30lb mountain bike up a gazillion stairs on the side of a ski jump (after running 5 miles) is tiring.You've been warned.
Evil stairs

Yes, both the mountain bike and the trail run legs go up these stairs, located about a 1/4 mile into the leg. My legs were burning when I made it to the top with my bike. And it doesn't get much easier, with nearly ALL the climbing located in the first half of the bike (and run for that matter). I could do no better than ride the entire climb in my granny gear but at least I was able to ride the entire thing. A few days of heavy rain had left the course very wet and very muddy. By itself it's probably a fun course. Throw in a 5m run for a warm up and the fun kind of goes away. No complaints. It was a nice course. Tough, fairly technical but rideable. Once over the summit I was pushed pretty hard by another rider and we flew on the way down, eventually teaming up with fellow aR teammates Mike Sallade and Amanda House on the screaming descent. We swapped positions a few times before reaching the transition in 42:49, completely covered in mud.
Heading out on the mt bike
The next transition was easy. All I had to do was swap bikes and go. This would be my least favorite leg. The course was a straight 6 mile shot out, followed by a fairly intimidating 1 mile hill and then back to the transition area. As instructed, I drank and ate as much as I could on the ride. I'm sure I went way easier than I should have on this leg. I never really pushed myself. By this point in the race I was looking at it more like a recovery ride. I battled aR teammate Robin Allen-Burke up the monster hill before she put the hammer down and crushed my on the way back. Overall it was a lackluster performance on my part as I finished up in 45:55, a fairly slow 18mph avg. Glad that's done...
Muddy me on the road bike
Generally I had been transitioning fairly well (although there are probably some improvements I could have made to speed things up a bit). I put my trail shoes on, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out on the run. I was tired but felt pretty good but did walk the evil stairs. Like the mountain bike course, the trail run course is all climbing in the first half. In fact, the run course was about 90% of the mountain bike course. I shuffled up the hills, running behind another runner most of the way up. Near the summit I passed and led for a while as we began the descent. Somewhere near the top I made an attempt to jump over a small tree that crossed the trail. As soon as I jumped my right hamstring cramped severely, stopping me in my tracks. The runner went by, asked if I was ok and then continued on. I tried several times to continue on and couldn't even take a single step. Darn it. I had about 2 miles of downhill to go and I couldn't move. I tried to stretch my hamstring as best I could (I do not stretch very well). After several minutes of stretching I was finally able to slowly walk. Eventually I managed to turn my walk into a slow jog and then into a fairly decent run. I was completely paranoid about my hamstring seizing up again, especially running downhill but it held up enough for me to finish the run in a somewhat painful 32:52.
At the finish line...finally!
My 2:35:51 finishing time was good enough for 8th overall in the solo division, 3rd in the masters division (behind Jason Massa in 2nd). I was more than happy with the results , all things considered. It was hard, it was mostly fun but next year I'm pretty sure I'm going back to team competition!

Photo credits - Gianina Lindsey