Recon Off Road Triathlon Race Report

July 4th, 2009
400 Meter Swim
12 mile mountain bike
3 mile trail run

Who would have thought that in my attempt to merely fill a hole in my race calendar would turn out to be one of the most fun races I’ve done all year.  Back in January when putting together my race calendar, which obviously had an XTERRA focus, I came up with a hole in July.  Last year, I had the benefit to be able to do XTERRA Vashon Island out in Seattle since a business trip put me in the area at the time.  However, this year, when looking for a July race, there wasn’t one that I could attend.  So I put a few road triathlons in there as “maybes”. 

In May, I stumbled across the Recon Off Road Triathlon that was scheduled for July 4th right in my back yard.  The race was being held at one of my regular training trails.  How could I turn that down?  Even better, the race was being put on by Recon Fitness Adventures, an outfit ran by a retired Marine, Duke Speed.  As a veteran myself, I was truly intrigued.  I shot Duke an email to let him know I’d love to help out by volunteering my time.  I didn’t care what, but it turned out that Duke and Jim (his partner) would take me up on my offer.  Over the next few weeks, I helped design the course, transition area, determine logistical issues, pull in sponsors, you name it.  The more I helped, the more I wanted to help.  I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of helping to put together the race.  The best part was working with two guys who were adamant and fired up about putting on a great race.

So back to the race report.

The weeks leading up to the race were fairly hectic with getting my training accomplished in addition to helping out with race.  Probably the most conflicting part was course marking.  I’ve raced courses that were both very well marked and some that were down right disastrous.  So it was very important to me that the course was marked well.  The only way you can mark it well, is to ride the course as a racer.  With that said, the most disastrous race I’ve raced in used a road triathlete with no off road racing experience as the course marker.  Need I say more?

So marking the bike course 2 days before the race and the run course the day before didn’t exactly fit into my training schedule.  The week leading up to a race is normally reserved for tapering so that muscle recovery can take place.  However, I didn’t have that luxury.  I didn’t want to short-change the other racers by doing a half-way job.  The day before the race, I had a foot injury I had been fighting off and on over the past two weeks flare back up during the run course marking.  Mike and I were running the course with arrows and staple gun in hand when about mile 1, it started hurting.  By the time we finished up the three miles, I was limping.  How frustrating.  I helped out wherever I could for the day and went home to an ice pack.

At 4:15 AM, the alarm went off.  The race wasn’t scheduled to start until 8:30 and even though it’s only 20 minutes from home, I had to be there early to help continue with race prep.  On my way to transition, I had to make a stop off to a trail intersection to throw some tape around a few trees to prevent riders from going in the wrong direction.  I didn’t want to do it the day before as there were quite a few people out riding the trails, and I didn’t want to interfere.  After taping up the intersection I headed to transition.

I met up with Duke and Kim (wife) at the gate and while they started setting up the check-in table, registration, and other amenities, I went down to the transition area to help set up the fencing and bike racks.  We had planned on doing most of the setup the day before, but couldn’t since there was a wedding reception held at the same pavilion we were to use.  With the help of the other volunteers that started showing up, we managed to get the transition area setup and running at the scheduled 6:30 opening time.  Racers began filing in and before you knew it, the transition area was full.


There were numerous other tasks to be completed before the race could start, including my own race preparations.  I managed to get them all done just in time for the pre-race briefing, which I had to conduct.  With the race briefing complete, I could then turn my focus onto continuing my own race preparations. 


Anyone that knows me, knows that I can be forgetful at times.  For those that were there race day probably thought I was nutso.  In my attempt to get down to the water for a warm-up swim, I ran back and forth between the transition area and my truck about 4 times.  Wait, need to get my goggles from transition.  Look, I forgot my water bottle.  Back to the truck.  Ok.  Let’s swim.  Wait got to go back to the truck to get my Roctane.  Ok let’s swim.  FINALLY, I made it down to the water about 15 minutes before race start.

I was greeted by a racer who was coming out of the water from his warm up swim and he brought to my attention a sunken tree limb that was right in the path of the final swim leg.  When we were planning out the course, I had swam the lake in search of such items.  There were two visible trees sticking up, but they were not issues during the race.  However, the swim course that I had swam was changed just slightly once it was measured.  The final buoy was moved about 20-30 feet to keep it at the advertised distance.  This movement  was just enough to move the final leg right in the path of a hidden, sunken tree limb.  Not wanting to include tree climbing skills into the repertoire of the racers, I swam out to find it and position a kayaker over it.


After a quick briefing to the racers about our new buoy/kayaker addition, and a quick countdown from the RMS Sports crew, the race was off.

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The water was a bit warm, since the lake is small and not very deep.  But one advantage is it was like glass, well, with the exception of us.  The 400 meter swim was over before I knew it.  As I was about halfway between the last buoy and the shore, I sighted the shore, during which I saw Donny Forsyth getting out of the water.  “Oh boy, he has a bit of a lead on me,” I thought.  Jon Topham was right in front of me and got out just before I did.

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I passed Jon going into transition.  I asked one of the volunteers how many were out already.  They replied that one individual and one relay team members were already out on the bike course.  T1 went fairly smooth.  Jon and I had very similar transition times and we left transition around the same time.  As we raced up the gravel road, through the creek and continuing on to the dairy barn, we came across six or seven horses.  Doing the proper thing, the two of us stopped trailside to allow them to pass.  The whole time I was thinking about the lead the two other riders already had on us and how it was extending.


Jon and I continued up the gravel road side-by-side conversing.  Upon crossing Old Nation road and diving into the trailhead, I proceeded to try to put some distance between Jon and I, all the while trying to decrease the distance to the two in front of us.

At about mile two, I came upon the relay team rider and let him know I intended to pass.  As soon as the trail opened a little, he pulled over and directed me to take the pass.  I thanked him and moved on to my next target.  I rode the entire bike course hard, asking each water stop how much of a lead Donny had over me, and each time they said approximately the same thing: he has a BIG lead.

I came into transition almost 5 minutes down from Donny.  Although no one could give me an accurate time, just the mere fact that they were saying “several minutes” was enough to know that I had my work cut out for me on the short, three mile run leg.  This meant that the only way I would be able to catch Donny is that he’d have to be a lot slower than me.  I had no idea and the only thing I could do was to run as hard as I could to catch him.  Even if I didn’t, at least I could try and extend the lead I had on Jon (or anyone else close to catching me).

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The first mile of the run is the worst part of this great course.  It’s a horse trail that not only has some really technical areas where you dodge horse trampled mud holes, but it also has a pretty decent climb.  The second mile is a very fun, technical hiking trail.  The last mile or so takes you around Lake Haigler and is very scenic.  Throughout my run, I thought of my hurting/swollen foot.  However, that was the extent of it.  It didn’t bother me at all during the run (although I am icing it as I write this).

As I rounded the dam at the end of the lake, I attempted to pick up my pace in a continued effort to catch Donny.  As I turned off the dam, I looked back and didn’t see anyone.  I took a quick glance across the lake where I could see the trail I had already put behind me.  Still, I saw no one, so I turned my focus on still increasing my pace.  Making the turn out of the trail and the final sprint to the finish, I could see no one in front of me.  I finished strong and came across the finish line where Donny greeted and congratulated me. 

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I finished second overall and first in my age group.

Place: 2nd
Swim: 7:22 (3rd)
Bike: 1:07:27 (3rd) (includes T1 & T2
Bike Cumulative: 1:14:49 (2nd) (includes swim, bike, T1 & T2)
Run: 24:58 (3rd)
Total: 1:39:47

As you can see, my placement in this race was all about transition.  I had the third fastest swim, the third fastest bike and the third fastest run.  So what does that tell you about having a speedy transition?


Special thanks goes out to two of my sponsors, TrySports and GUTrySports hooked up the winners (overall and divisional) with big gift certificates and a misting tent for cool down.  GU provided plenty of GU gels and GU Brew for the water stops.