I raced the 10th annual Tugaloo Olympic distance triathlon September 16. Fantastic weather on a hilly course in Lavonia, Ga. just across the SC state line. This race is run extremely well and very popular with the gazillion triathletes from Atlanta and all over Georgia. The race operates out of the Tugaloo State Park just a few miles off I-85 on the Georgia side of Lake Hartwell so it's just a short drive from Greenville on race morning. But don't let that proximity to civilization fool you. This ain't a city race! North Georgia country roads are dark at 6:00 am, and I even had to travel a dirt road - I didn't know they still had those! - but finally found the long line of cars entering the park. After you park, you still have to hike a little trail through the woods, over a stream to the transition area. Hilarious.
This year the race was full at 500. I did this race in 2002 when I was just starting to race and it only had a few hundred back then. Triathlons are definitely getting popular. The swim was non-wetsuit with a time trial start, 3 athletes every 10 seconds based on estimated swim finish times you provide at registration. Since my shoulder surgery (broken clavicle) in March, my swimming has been slow to recover so I estimated a swim time about 5 minutes slower than what I would do. That put me starting in 215th place! Time trial and wave starts make it hard to gage your place as the race develops, so I just go all-out all-the-time since I never know where I stand. It's a fun way to race! Besides I'm an Ironman racer so these short course races (sprint and Olympic) seem so short that I go all out start to finish. I don't have the top end sprinter speed for these races but they are great for speed work.
I finished the swim about 2 minutes faster than my estimate so I was pleased with that. The run to transition was about 100 yards. Speedy transitions are more in important in short races than Ironman, but I always have to take a little longer to check my blood sugar (I'm type 1 diabetic). T1 was 2:37. Very slow. But the bike is my favorite and I was really looking forward to this one. Tugaloo is hilly. Really hilly for such a short bike - 26 miles. A few long 1/2 mile climbs and a dozen short quad burners. I loved it. My goal was to break 1:10 which I figured would put me a the top of my 35-39 age group but still save a little for the run. I biked 1:09:50 (made it by by 10 seconds!) which was good for 3rd out of 74 in my age group. On to the run.
Checked my blood sugar again in T2 (I prick my finger and put a drop of blood on my One Touch blood sugar meter.) I was troubled to find it very high, over 250 mg/dl, which is almost 3 times what it should be (normal is 80 to 120). This is less of a problem in short races because its over before I begin to really feel the effects. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) causes sluggishness, fatigue, nausea and eventually dehydration - feels like you ate a giant meal with the flu and a tequila hangover (not that I would know what that feels like). Now go race. I could have injected myself with insulin but that was risky and could lead to a sudden blood sugar drop and dangerous low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), besides I would be finished this 10k run before the insulin really would take effect. Blood sugar extremes are more of a challenge in Ironman because I can't eat when it's too high (will make it go higher) but eating is necessary to avoid the dreaded "bonk." Low blood sugar makes you disoriented, weak, shaky and numerous other progressively worse symptoms. Pulling out a syringe and taking an injection in transition is not what you normally see in a triathlon, but I've done it in Ironman. But who cares, this is why we race, to prove that we can, right?
I took off on the run and tried to hold 7 minute miles. My run fitness has been slow to come around since I could not run for 4 months while my arm was in a sling and I raced RAAM in June. Tugaloo's run is up and down, up and down through the park on asphalt roads. I was pleased to able to hold that pace fairly comfortably, finishing in 44:13 for a 7:08 pace. I finished in 2:26 which was 9th out of 74 in my age group and 49th out of 500 overall. Not my best but I was happy with it. Best was that I could have gone another few hours at that pace so my training is coming around for Ironman Florida on November 4th and the Long Course Worlds in Australia November 19th. Next for me is the South Carolina Half Ironman October 1. See you then!