I received this email from previous North Carolinian elite triathlete, Nat Swearingen. He took some time off from racing, travelled around, then moved to Boulder, Colorado. He came back to the east coast for a couple of races recently, here are his stories. Hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did…
In October of 2005 I finished off the season with a less than spectacular race in Pinehurst, NC. For the next year and a half my bike was in storage and the seal around my goggles deteriorated from lack of use. I did run occasionally, but not enough to say I was “training”. After getting past a few injuries, I finally decided to toss my hat into the mix one more time. So, I moved to Boulder, CO and began swimming, cycling, running, lifting, core focusing, yoga, pilates, foam rolling and anything else I could think of to put me back on track. At the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine they told me my cycling potential was high but that my running needed some work. My new coach, Craig Howie ( http://www.howieenduranceproject.com/ ), took the Lactate Threshold test numbers and devised a training regimen to prepare me for Ironman Wisconsin this September.
Even though many triathletes are well into their race season right now, my “season” will commence with the 5430 Sprint in June. As a way of testing where I am and how the training is going, I decided to race the Beast of the East Half Ironman distance event in Hiawassee, GA. My friend Sherri noted that the Clemson Sprint Tri is only 1 week before so my trip back East started with that one. SetUp Events ( www.setupevents.com ) is the premiere race production company in the Mid Atlantic. Probably the largest and best run organization of its kind anywhere in the US…anywhere in the world.
The Clemson Tri is just one of numerous events they put on that have over 500 participants. This year, Clemson was a Best of the US qualifier. They also added a Junior Elite Cup wave. The venue is excellent. The lake is clean. The roads are smooth. The hills are challenging. And with the level of competition, the race is fast. If there is any drawback at all it would be that the humidity is repressive; at least for those who do not live in it day to day. I consider myself a good swimmer, but from the shot of the gun I was several body lengths behind the leaders. Came out of the water over a minute behind in 6th place. Luckily, one guy stumbled a bit on the run to T1 so I crossed the timing mat in 5th.
I had ridden the bike course the day before and knew what to expect. By the 6-mile mark I was in first. Turned in the fastest bike split on the day! Unfortunately, Kevin Lisska stayed with me and ran the soles off his shoes enroute to 1st overall. By the way, Lisska also finished 9th overall in the St. Croix 70.3 two weeks earlier. Guess I can’t feel too bad about that. For the next few days I road/ran on the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as several bike routes near where I grew up. Was getting used to the humidity and feeling the never ending ache in my legs on the hills.
If you have not been to Western North Carolina you should try to get there someday. While the mountains are not as dramatic as the Rockies, they are unrelenting. I doubt there’s more than a 1-mile stretch of road that is flat. “The Beast of the East” ( http://www.thebeastoftheeast.net ) is a small, laid back event held in one of the most remote and beautiful locations you’ll ever see. Water temp was 73*F (23*C) while the air was in the low 40′s (4.5*C)! The 1.2-mile swim went clockwise around an island. I felt great and managed to pull away from the pack. Finished over 2 minutes ahead of 2nd place! I decided to forgo putting on warmer clothes since I knew it would warm up quickly…well…the air would warm up anyway. Probably should have put on some gloves because after mile 5 I could barely change gears. Good thing the main climbs are in the first half so I didn’t have to get out of my small chain ring. The second half of the bike is mostly rolling so I settled in and enjoyed passing miles of sceenic overlooks, farms, lakes, creeks, and the occasional car.
As I mentioned this is a rather laid back event. As such, I actually passed the water stations before they were ready. Didn’t feel any ill effects of going without water refills while on the bike, but I suffered majorly on the run. The only flat part of the run course was a 1/2-mile stretch across a dam. I walked most of the uphill sections and all the water stations. Even so, my swim and bike gave me a lead that the faster runners couldn’t overcome. I’ve raced 3 other Half Iron distance events, including one of the flattest courses you’ll ever see in White Lake, NC. Somehow, someway this weekend saw my personal best time of 4:30:?? I would highly recommend this race to anyone wanting to test themselves. Lots of fun, interesting people to chat with, too. I even met Henry Forrest; one of the original Ironman competitors from 1978. Check out his custom triathlon clothing at www.try-atri.com.
Thanx for reading, Nat Swearingen
Keep up the great work this season Nat!