Mountain Madness Half Iron Race Report

The Mountain Madness Half Iron Triathlon is a Zone5Events production. The name of the race company is all you need to know. They push things to the extreme. One of the race directors told me this via Twitter before the event —  “if we could find a way to put a hill in the swim, we would.

With the race-day temperature in the low 50s and a driving rain storm soaking the Atlanta area (and most of the Southeast U.S.) for several days leading up to the race, this was destined to be an epic event. Unfortunately, the rain stopped briefly before the race, producing a think fog on the lake. In the true spirit of the event, one of the race directors actually said — “it might seem weird saying this, but it would be better if it started to rain again.”

This was the lake the night before… peaceful.
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The 7 am start time came and went. After two 30-minute delays it was clear that the fog wasn’t going to go anywhere and the swim was canceled for safety reasons. This was the correct call as the first buoy, less than 100 yards from shore, wasn’t visible.

In addition, due to the amount of rain in the area, the 56-mile bike leg had to be shortened to 48 miles, eliminating the 6-mile Fort Mountain “King of the Mountain” climb that attracts many athletes to the event. Again, this was the correct call for safety reasons. While most competitors who had done the race in the past said the descent wasn’t very technical, a lot of others were expressing concerns.

Instead of the swim, the race began with a time-trail bike start. I had never been involved with a time-trial start before. It was pretty cool. I felt like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador or Frank Schleck… oh wait, forget that part. Looking at the picture of me in my helmet, I look more like Marvin the Martian from Bugs Bunny.
Marvin_the_Martian

Riders took turns going off in five-second intervals. A volunteer held you up by the back of your seat and the starter counted down… 5,4,3,2,1 GO!

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PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Without the 6-mile climb up Ft. Mountain, I wasn’t expecting the bike leg to be too difficult.

Here’s a video of the climb and descent up Fort Mountain, complete with some mighty fine banjo pickin’.

Mother Nature and my bike had different ideas though. Soon after I pedaled away from North Georgia’s version of a Tour de France time-trial starting chute, the rain began to come down… it never stopped. Then I hit Mile 22 and my rear derailleur shifter decided to break. Awesome. Oh, and I was stuck in the smallest cog. Sweet! Oh, and there’s a 3-mile climb near the finish. Super-fantastic!

I pulled over several times and tried to get it to move up just one precious little gear. No such luck. It kept slipping back down. I’m not a bike mechanic, so fixing this was not really an option. I had to gut it out. As others cruised by, spinning a fast cadence in an easy gear, I was out of the saddle slowly churning my way up the hills. Eventually, as the hills got steeper, I had to dismount and push the bike on several occasions.

HONESTY ALERT: If  a race official had approached me at this point — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me — and asked if I wanted a lift, I would have jumped at it and called it a day. I’m happy to say, that never happened.

At one point, an older competitor passed me — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me.  (Oh, had I already mention that whiny part of the story?)  Moments later, the slope decreased ever-so-slightly and I was able to mount up again. About 1/2 mile later I passed the guy who had cruised past me. I quietly celebrated this small victory with a smile only I knew existed.  

Slowly, I made my way back to T2.

MMT2PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

As soon as I saw the lead runner –#SuperGeorge Darden — run past me in the other direction, it hit me: “Oh crap, I have to run now!” And just for more fun, the first 1/4 mile of the run goes straight up a really steep hill. In fact, there’s hardly a single flat section over the entire 13.1 miles of the run course.   

As you can see, it was a lot of “fun” running up the hill at the start. (Note the rarely seen and hard-to-duplicate uphill “floater” pic.)
MMuphillPHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Thanks to my 2:29 bike/walk split, I was out of contention in the overall standings and figured my only saving grace would be to dig deep and have a decent run. Maybe, just maybe, I could claw my way back to a respectable finish. I somehow managed the trudge my way up and down the hills for a 1:36 run, putting me atop the 40-44 Old Guy podium. (It was a small field.)

MMpodium

This race was my first-ever Zone5Events race. And although it wasn’t pretty, the race directors made some tough decisions with difficult course conditions and managed to stage a pretty good day of racing. Kudos to Beau Bearden and his crew for a job well done! I will be back next year.

1 Comment

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One response to “Mountain Madness Half Iron Race Report

  1. Nice work, man. That race was hard enough WITHOUT mechanical issues. It’s enough for me that you didn’t just sit on the side of the road and wait for a car–any car–to come pick you up. Let’s hope for nicer weather next year!

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