Effingham, IL is a town that feels like home. Its 5 hours from my current home, just north of Ft Wayne, IN. Three hours from the south Chicago burbs. It’s a frequent stop when I travel alone or with friends. I’ve spent more time in Effingham hotels than anywhere else so it felt right to head there for the first TRI of the season, the Cutting Edge Half Classic 70.3 on the shores of Lake Sara.
Pretty much my only concern about the weekend was the heat. I knew I could cover the distance. I still don’t feel 100% recovered from the 6 marathons I’ve already ran this year. Make that 12 since last June. But I’m getting there or at least I tried to really focus on resting last week. Wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be but I was in a good place with it. The forecasted temps though, had me concerned. The “feels like temp” was predicted to be 105 by 2pm when I anticipated finishing. I was hoping they would be wrong. They weren’t. Possibly the first forecast I’ve ever know to be exactly right. Oh well!
Packet pick-up was easy and quick at the race site, inside, with real bathrooms. About 100 yds from the beach. Next to the finish line. Option of race day packet pick-up. Lake Sara was calm, clean and warm. 80 degrees, which means that wetsuits were not allowed according to USAT rules.
Transition was small. It probably would have accommodated 100-150 racers. Wooden transition “racks” that let our back tire slide into a slot. Kinda cool and one I hadn’t seen before this event. Enough space to put my transition bag behind the bike and out of the way without taking it back to the car. Sweet!! Speaking of the car. If you are an iron fan, you may park a mile or further from transition. And don’t forget your cash, cuz you’ll pay to park in that spot! But at Cutting Edge, parking was about 100 yds from transition. Easy. No fuss. Free parking.
Quick selfie with my bike.
The swim. One wave. Two loops. Each loop 0.60 miles. Must stop swimming between loops, stand up and shout out your race number so they could keep track of everyone. I thought this was a great thing for them to do and a smart way to watch the swimmers closely. Also, I’d like to make a note about the swim setup. They had the buoys out, parallel to the beach, going both to the left and the right. The swim did not look crazy intimidating like some I’ve seen. It was nice. The water was nice. I was planning for a good swim, even without my wetsuit!! Gun goes off, I was a bit nervous but was confident I could do it. But alas I could not get a seal on my goggles. I was a bit surprised because they had never failed me previous. Then I realized I had both sunscreen on my face & an under eye moisturizer (cuz my allergies are leaving me with bags beneath my eyes every morning!!!). Yeah, something “new” on race day. Ugh, I couldn’t see anything. My goggles were full of lake water. The first loop was definitely easier than the second cuz I was around more swimmers. It was harder for me, and my blurry vision, to see and stay on course the second loop! I did attempt to dump the water and reseal my goggles at the half way point since I had to stop swimming and stand up to report my number. Didn’t work. So I just tried to swim on even though my eyes were irritated and I couldn’t see. “Fast” swim for me, even with my stupid goggles & blurred vision. 40:05 for the distance. But my watch only called it 1851 yards instead of the 2200 yds that I was expecting. It was the theme for the race, my watch not equaling the specified distance and I’m pretty sure the race officials were right. I think my watch was just as overheated as I was from the very beginning.
Bike. 2 loops. Windy. Hot. My bike computer did not pick up my sensors. I can’t read my watch in aero. Yeah, I was flying blind but felt so slow. Verified by looking at my watch a couple times, yep super slow but I felt powerless to change that. Roads were decent. Mostly tar & chip. Aid stations every 10 miles. 3 turns each loop, around a cone in the road. Course was well marked. Course officials and/or police were at key intersections/turns to help. Traffic on course but the drivers were courteous. Wind was head on or a cross wind 90% of the course. There were a few short places with it at our back & I was flying but yeah, otherwise, it was kinda miserable. Not because of the course but because of the wind and heat. 56 miles, my watch read 55.4. Time – 3:25:19. My last half IM had a bike time under 3 hours so I was slightly disappointed but I did it.
Run. 2 loops. Hot as Hell. Where did that stupid wind go? Aid stations every mile. Glorious volunteers giving out cold sponges, soaking our nasty dirty, sweaty sponges in cold bowls of ice water. Helping to put ice down the back of our tri suits. Offering water, ice, gatorade, shade from their tent, electrolyte tabs, orange slices, bananas, gels, cheers and support. The further we got away from the lake, the hotter it got. So that “feels like” temp of 105 had to be so much higher out on those country roads. I’m not sure I would have made it thru without the volunteers and aid stations. The middle aid station even had a sprinkler. Passed that sprinkler 4x and utilized it each time. We’ve all had hot races. Some people manage it better than others. I’m big and soak in a lot of heat and sun and it just melts me. But with the aid stations close together and knowing they had ice ahead, I was able to keep moving a little better than I normally would with a heat like this. Many races in conditions like this will have hot water & gatorade. No ice. This race went above and beyond, I can’t even imagine the amount of ice they went thru and it was a saving grace for so many people, myself included. 13.1 miles. Time 2:37:52. My watch said 11.8 miles and a time of 2:19. Not accurate at all on my end.
Overall, great race. I’d go back. I thought the course was very manageable. It was fun to see the people I had met along the way and pass them on the loops. Kinda made things go by faster. I’d definitely recommend this event to newbies and seasoned triathletes alike. And guess what, when I finished they had food. I’ve been to a couple of those iron events where I didn’t get food because they ran out (or were waiting on more) or because the line was so long that I didn’t have the energy to wait. Not the case at Cutting Edge. Plenty of food and COLD drinks at the end.
I won the Athena division with a total time of 6:48. Only one other Athena finished. It was such a hot day and there were a lot of DNFs. Only 67 age groupers finished. 2 Athenas. 1 Clydesdale. My trophy & Heed were my division award. Gender specific tee & finisher medal below.
That’s a wrap for the first 70.3 of 2016. It wasn’t pretty but I’m hoping I can only go up from this point. Know that there are days where a DNF is not wimp out but a necessity. But also know that when you look inside yourself, the answer will be there, its always easier to quit but if you can continue, do it. The finish line is a sweet reward.
** Happy TRIing, All ** Amanda – TooTallFritz