Thursday, September 16, 2010

S.O.S. (Survival of the Shawangunks) – Race Report

By Jason Soules

Date: September 12, 2010

First a thank you and congrats to Regina. Regina is now a two-time Survivor. The thank you is for reminding us all of this cool little race and the congrats is for her 2nd place overall female finish!

So, are you getting tired of the swim, bike, run routine? Are you looking to run off road? Do you like running in wet shoes? Well, if yes to any of those, then SOS is a fun, different, and challenging event to look at for your Fall race schedule next year. This was the 25th year of this race and it is small and very well run; well supported, well marked, safe, and terrific food post-race.

The race is an eight stage event. I will quickly describe each section of the race and then give a few comments on my experience(s).

Stage 1: 30 mile road cycle - The bike starts in an age group, 1-minute interval, time-trial start. The course is mostly flat for the first 25 miles. Nice, pastoral country roads. Lots of corn. It is noted at the start that the distant tower, looming over the valley is the race finish. So, for the last 5 miles of the bike, you head straight up for a nearly 1,200 foot climb. Not too bad at any one point, but quite consistent. At the top you hand off your bike to a support crew (Carolyn was there with FLIP camera and a smile). The race is totally a point to point so Carolyn had set up my transition area – very neatly done I might add!

Stage 2: 4.5 mile run - At this point I should note that when you leave the transition area, you have to bring everything that you need for the rest of the race, except gels/fluid and you cannot get rid of anything from that point on (garbage is of fine). The run is mostly uphill for the first half and then flat to the start of the swim, stage 3. The terrain is dirt/gravel and in some places lumpy stones that you have to navigate through – pretty much the condition of all of the run stages.

Stage 3: 1.1 mile swim - So shoes in hand, or somewhere, you jump in the water and swim from one end of the first lake to the other end. Crystal clear, beautiful cool (~70degree F water). Instead of waiting on this topic, I will share my approach to the swim. The swim/shoe issue is a major component of “surviving.” I had a tip from Regina and my approach was the wear compression socks the whole race to have a very fitted sock on my foot for my wet shoes, in hopes of avoiding bad chaffing/blisters/etc.

I wore a one-piece tri suit and at each swim, rolled the suit down to my waist and put one shoe in my pants in the front and one in back (not to uncomfortable if you put the shoes the right way), then rolled the suit back up. Goggles and cap on (had been in by tri suit pockets). Off I went. At the swim exit, reversed the process at the water’s edge, put the shoes on in the water and trudged out and started running. I put the shoes on in the water to avoid getting lots of crap stuck to my wet socks – also worked quite well.

Stage 4: 5.5 mile run - More of the same, but mostly flat with a gentle down hill

Stage 5: .5 mile swim - Same as the other swim

Stage 6: 8 mile run - More of the same but the last 1.5 miles or so pitch back up a lot to the last swim

Stage 7: .5 mile swim - Same but with a beautiful view of Mohonk Mountain House near the swim exit – really a spectacular place

Stage 8: .7 mile scramble up a narrow trail with steps to the lookout point and the finish

Yes, done!

Personal observations:

I found the swimming technique worked very well. One last note, I had a great experience with a new brand of shoes. I used the K-Swiss K-Ona shoe for this race because it is a tri specific shoe, very light, with lots of mesh and holes in the sole. My feet felt dry after only a few minutes of running.

The combined 18 miles of running felt less difficult I think because it was broken up. That said, the trail running felt different than how I was trained.

The swimming was great but the second and third swims were harder than I thought – my arms felt heavy. I think that this had something to do with swimming after biking and running, which again, I was not really trained for.

Support crews were very friendly and all over the course. Unlike the Nubble Light Swim, I never really felt that I was all alone in the race (Nubble Light – that is a whole separate report).

Post event party was incredible. Biggest spread I have ever seen. The awards ceremony took about an hour longer than I thought necessary, but the tradition has been to wait to do awards until after the last person “survives.” At over 8 hours, that person survived a lot!

In summary, I would recommend this race. If you want to do, mark your calendar for the registration date and stay up until midnight because that is the only way you will get in. It sold out in 15 minutes this year.

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