Monday, June 11, 2012

Crazy Ol' Quassy!

Last weekend, my wife Kacie, our friend Sparkles, and I all went to Middlebury, CT, to compete in Rev 3 Quassy.  There was an Olympic distance triathlon on Saturday and a half-iron distance triathlon on Sunday.  Kacie and Sparkles would be reprising their roles as 2/3 of a relay on each day.  As was the case in Knoxville, our friend Jill would be swimming at each event.  With Ironman Coeur d'Alene looming only three weeks away, I opted to compete solely in the half-iron aquabike event.  The weekend was quite an adventure!

Last year, Kacie and I made this same trip.  It's a fun way to start the summer, and it's good to see many of Kacie's teammates.  Like last year, we stopped in Raleigh, NC, on the first night to hang out with and sleep at the house of my Aunt Georgia.  She was hospitable as usual, and it was great to see her.  We then traveled the rest of the way up.

There were two big changes in the drive this year.  First, we had Sparkles with us!  This is always a bonus for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is her willingness to take pictures while in transit:

(I probably should have had my eyes on the road.  We were going about 75 mph at the time of this shot.)

Second, we took a much different route that avoided the large cities.  Thus, rather than getting stuck in massive traffic in Richmond, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, we got stuck in a little traffic in Maiden Creek and Kutztown, PA.  Overall, it was a better route, until we were STOPPED by traffic in the LAST TEN MILES OF THE DRIVE.  The last ten miles, all in Connecticut, took us over an hour.  That sucked.  With a bit of creative navigating, though, we ultimately arrived at the race site:

The Quassy Amusement Park is a small, family-owned, old school amusement park with wooden roller coasters, a merry-go-round, and the most immodest bathrooms on the planet.  It's not a place that you would initially say, "Oh, yeah, this is a good place for a race."  It is a great place for a race, though; there's a big lake, and it's situated amongst medium-sized roads in a hilly area.  We've had good experiences there both years.  

The word of the day on Saturday was rain.  Rain, rain, rain.  Happily, I was only a spectator that day; it was miserable.  In twenty years, I have only seen a race held in weather that bad once before: the 1995 NCAA District IV Cross-Country meet at Furman University.  That day, my coach looked at me about five minutes before the start, and said, "You know, cross-country is a fucked up sport."  He was right.  Evidently, triathlon is, too.  Here was the scene at the start of Saturday's race:

The weather was so bad as to be ridiculous, and this overall feeling can be summed up by Jill's struggle with her wetsuit:    

    (Note: Jill wore her jacket in order to stay DRY, while putting on her WETsuit.  This was at least ten minutes and a full can of Tri-Slide into the process.)

Jill eventually got her wetsuit on, and the Tri-anosaurus Rex was ready to give it another go:

(Grrrrrr!!!!  We're cold!!!!)

Kacie was understandably nervous about riding in the rain given the Darden family history of cycling mishaps in the rain.  As I stood with her in the transition area, the ambulance lit up and drove out of the parking lot, and the DJ said, "That's never a good sign." Kacie nearly bagged it right there.  But she didn't, and she ended up riding well.  Sparkles ran well, and the team took home second place in the relay division:

    (Go, Tri-anasaurus Rex! Rawr!!)

On Sunday, the weather was better, although there were still plenty of puddles.  When we arrived on site, we were directed by a volunteer to park on a baseball field.  I hesitated a bit, and then drove directly into the mud:

The volunteer saw that we were stuck, and then took off in the other direction.  She was gone like a flash.  In retrospect, her rapid escape is kinda hilarious.  I presume she thought I was going to yell at her.  There was no moving this car, though, so we left it in the mud and went to race.  The car's predicament strangely presaged the mechanical issues to come.  

Jill and I started together, since relays and aquabikes started together.  (This meant that for the second race in a row, Jill had to babysit me as I stood there in my new wetsuit getting nervous.  It's not an enviable position.  Thanks, Jill!)  We swam almost exactly the same split; Jill told me later that she intentionally moved away from me as soon as the gun went off so that we wouldn't be kicking and punching each other the entire time.  My time put me right in the middle of the pack, which is what I seem to be no matter what the event, the wave, the distance, or the effort I put forth.  Jill passed off to Kacie, and I changed into my cycling gear.  I then found that my front tire was completely flat.  I quickly changed it, pumped up the new one, and I started to make my way out of transition.  Before I made it 100 feet, though, the new tire also went flat.  I was at a loss as to what to do, and I stood around for a minute or two before I realized I could take it to the mechanic at the edge of transition.  He changed the tire very methodically, and he lectured me throughout about how triathletes need to learn to change tires.  I was in no position to rush him or to explain that I did know how to change a tire (and in fact, had just done it).  So I listened quietly, thanked him when he was done, and bolted out of transition with a 15:23 transition time.  Since I was in the last wave of the day, the transition area was virtually empty.  Mine was probably one of the last five bikes to leave, which meant that about 1100 people were in front of me.  

I probably caught 900 of them.  No joke.  I had a brilliant ride on my newly-tubed tire.  My bike split was the fastest in the aquabike division by about 10:00.  It was faster than any relay or age-grouper, it was faster than nine of the twenty pro men, and it was faster than all of the pro women.  Yes, of course, I did not have to run afterwards and most other folks did, but nonetheless, 2:25:00 on the super-hilly Quassy bike course is smoking.  And even though I intended to give it everything I had, I still felt like I had a bit in reserve at the finish.  This was a fantastic confidence-builder for CdA.  

While Sparkles was running, Kacie and I were able to get the car unstuck thanks to a teen-aged park employee and a good samaritan that got super-muddy in the process:

  (Notice the beer in the good samaritan's hand. He said afterwards, "Oh, man, I was just drunk enough to agree to this.")

For the remainder of the ride home, this was our view out the front windshield:

(It's been eleven days, and we still haven't gone to a car wash.)

The three of us headed out of Middlebury, had dinner with friends in NYC, and then drove through Sunday night and into the next morning in order to get home without stopping.  In all, we went about 2200 miles, roundtrip, in five days.  We slept the rest of the day on Monday, and then I went out for a 20+ mile run on Tuesday to kick off my last two big weeks of training.  (It felt terrible.  Undoubtedly, we ate way too many cookies at Dottie's Diner before we left!)

My next blog post will be my last one before Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  In it, I'll disclose my goals and share my tracking information.  My next blog post after that will be my race report.  (Saying that makes it feel really close!)  Even though it was intense and draining, Rev 3 Quassy was both a great way to start the summer and a really good last benchmark ahead of Coeur d'Alene!   


  1. It did not take me that long to get in my wetsuit!!! :D

  2. Oh and I was trying to stay WARM which was even sillier, since my wetsuit was quite toasty once it was on

  3. :) I was laughing so hard at the whole muddy car thing. The drunk guy was awesome! And I also heard that the car ride had some Amish hunting and Snookie hunting. I need to take a road trip with you guys.

    Awesome ride George... as usual!