Race Report: Sea to Summit Adventure Triathlon, by Tim Cronk

150 150 Rich Strauss


The Race –  Sea to Summit is an adventure triathlon.  It begins with a 1.5 mile swim in the Salmon Falls River in South Berwick Maine, continues with a 92 mile bike to Wildcat Ski Area NH, and ends with a  5 mile run to the top of Mt. Washington via the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail.  Totally self supported and you must provide your own sherpa for the day.  Qualification is at the race director’s discretion , it is recommended that you have completed a HIM in less than 6hrs or an IM in less than 13hrs.  Viewed as a good prep race for the Norseman in Norway this race is not for beginners.  While there were a couple of competitors that may have slipped through the cracks of the pre-qualification , for the most part you could feel the high level ability of the field this was very obvious to me on the bike , almost like KONA but with a laid back much friendlier tone.  The race was extremely well run and I would highly recommend this race.

There were 57 starters, 5 DNF’s and 52 finishers vs. last years 41 starters and 39 finishers so its obvious this race is growing in popularity.  Finishing times were between  6:53 and 11:37 and I placed 6th OA with a 7:29. Complete results here.

Prep and Pre-Race
While I call this a B race I considered it a race and not a training day so took it very seriously.  Since I did Eagleman HIM 2 weeks prior I had been focussing on race specificity , distance and  the pancake flat bike/run course that is Eagleman.  The two weeks between Eagleman and Sea to Summit were more hills oriented and did include 1 recon hike of Mt. Washington Tuckerman Ravine trail 9 days prior.  Thank god I did not do that hike any closer to the race because that hike (specifically the hike down) destroyed my legs for almost a week.  Also drove the bike course once the week before.  Nutrition the day before and day of was treated just like an Ironman with the exception of moving everything earlier due to the 5AM swim start.  Dinner was at 4:30pm , breakfast pre-race was at 3am.   Heather and I arrived mid afternoon on friday, drove the first 15 miles of the bike course again, check into the hotel in Dover 15 min from race start , packet pick up and athlete meeting done at 5-6pm.  Met up w/ Scott Dinhofer also doing the S2S with his sherpa Cary Blanco.  Back to the room for feet up, early lights out , alarm set for 2:45 for the 3am breakfast.  Left the room at 4am arrived at 4:15, easy parking, lots of room, transition set, up with 30 minutes to wait for the 5am start.

The Sherpa
Plays an integral part in your day, 100% of your support comes from your sherpa.  It helps if they know the course , or can at least read maps/GPS , have a knowledge of you and your needs so they may provide them in a timely manner, this covers estimating your splits to be in the right place at the right time to provide that needed support wether it be food, fluid, clothes, repair etc…  They are busy all day.  After the swim they pick up T1 gear , hop in the car to provide support  along the bike course at predetermined locations or dynamic ones as things can and do change, they need to make sure they arrive at T2 prior to you ,to set up for you, after T2 they pick up gear/bike and head to the top of Mt. Washington for the finish. Of course I had the best sherpa named Heather and my day was nice and smooth.

The swim was billed as a cold water swim usually between 60-65 degrees. For some reason water temps were in the low 70’s , with the air temps in the low 50’s I was one happy camper.  The 1.5 mile course had 1 buoy which was at the turn around , being in a pretty narrow river this was not an issue at all, pretty much just go down the river bank on the right then come back in the middle sighting on the big white house on the hill .  The water was a brackish mix of salt and fresh being not far from the ocean and was supposed to be at slack tide.   Like glass but felt like heading into a current both ways to me.  The swim times this year compared to last were about 5 minutes slower .  With a swim time of 43:54 I was out of the water in the top 7 , the fastest swim of the day was 41….  Very happy with my swim….

Didn’t wear a watch in the swim and T1 times get lumped into the bike times since they run it old school with no timing chips so I have no idea of the T1 time.  Running up the grass to transition I passed Heather and gave her a friendly pat on the butt 🙂 … bonus….   Stripped top of wetsuit while running, and the rest came off at the bike, shoes on, was quite warm from the swim but could tell air temps were still low to mid 50’s, its still before 6am so we weren’t going to see above 60 for another hour, put on a wind vest, arm warmers, helmet, glasses, gloves, turned on my front light and rear light (garmin Varia radar) … Gave Heather a kiss and was off.  Probably not very fast but definitely passed a few people.

The Bike
The course is open to traffic, there are stop signs, stop lights, road construction single road light, and several train tracks, all which could force a potential mandatory stop.  The road climbing out of T2 was the worst on the entire bike route, my glasses were fogged up, I hit some big bumps and lost my BTA bottle within the first 100yds (never happened before), stopped turned around and picked it up for my first delay of the day, then got on my way… I was running turn by turn directions on the pre-loaded map for the first time, even though I knew the course, it actually alerted me to most of the turns but not all of them.  I was so happy to hit one of the green lights I missed it was a left turn and just went straight, caught it and turned around for my second delay of the day.  Finally settled in to my targeted watts and went to work.  I had no idea what position I came out of the water in or left T1 in, but I was really surprised that I was getting passed on the bike, WTF this is new. I got passed by at least 3-4 guys with authority leaving no doubt I could never keep up with them.  Strong athletes.

When I was in T1 and Heather saw me putting on warm clothes she said I will be at an Irving station mile 26 for you to drop those off at, a perfect Sherpa decision knowing I would be warm in slightly over an hour, she drove by around mile 18, I gave her the thumbs up all is well signal.  Mile 26 bam there she is, quick stop to shed the clothes, another kiss, 3rd delay on the bike and off I go.  Our predetermined aid station was at Kingpine ski area at mile 58 which I knew I could get to with my first two bottles, she drove by for a check prior to that, again all was good so she set up at Kingpine as planned, quick stop, exchanged bottles, she gave me a dirty look since one of my bottles was still nearly full and I was 2:58 into my ride, I downed an 8oz redbull, kiss and after my 4th stop on the bike took off again.  All fueled up I could make it to the T2 at Wildcat but she scheduled one more check in between just to make sure.

Entering North Conway I caught 1 rider when I came to a red light full stop delay number 5, his Garmin was dying and was getting lost, he ended up following me at times a bit too close but I get it he didn’t wanna get lost.  We hit one more red light after that for delay number 6… My Garmin ran out of battery and froze at 4:38 into the ride at mile 89 a few miles short of T2.  This was due to running Garmin Varia bike light with radar which BTW was awesome alerting me every time a car approached from behind on those back roads with no bike lanes, and drained my battery much faster than normal. So finished the last few miles without data, no biggie.  The total mileage other riders got was just below 92, If I subtract my swim time and a transition from my swim/bike total it puts my bike split at around 4:45-4:50ish…Rolled into T2 at Wildcat, saw Heather with transition all set up but they direct you over to a tent for check in where I dismounted.  Below is my file, IF .77 , TSS probably around 280+ with the missing miles, average HR 141.

Tim’s ride on Strava here.

Gave my bike to Heather, they made me take my glasses off to check my eyes to see if I was ok to continue, I was laughing and said quit delaying me.  Ran to the truck where Heather had T2 set up,  helmet and glasses off, sat took bike shoes off,  got my socks and shoes on, stood, visor on, race belt on , my pack on , watch on as I left.  While I was doing this Heather said I was probably in 7th-8th place but there was a pretty big gap ahead of me.  I kissed her one last time and said a lot can happen in the next two hours.

My Pack
T2 people checked your gear to make sure you had what was required before starting up… Nathan Ultra pack had 32 oz of fluid, 1 flask of gel, 1 pair of tights, 1 long sleeve heavy shirt, 1 pocket windbreaker, 1 rain jacket, 1 hat, pair of gloves, 1 headlamp,  TP/plastic baggie, advil and aquafor… On my body was tri-suit, socks with saucony kinvera’s, and visor.

The Run
Well it starts as a run, then changes to a hike, and ends in a scramble.  Each mile is progressively harder, steeper, rockier, and slower.  Was a beautiful day and the trail was crowded.  This is cool , they know you are racing , moving out of your way while cheering, around halfway up I started to get unsolicited reports from hikers about the 2 guys ahead of me….I kept thinking that anyone ahead of me may have over biked and is hurting now… They were saying your catching them, they aren’t that far, your moving faster than they are, I just kept moving at my pace, finally within the last mile I catch sight of one of them, as I come up behind him I say I think we are 7 and 8, he says well your about to be 7th when you go by me unless I knock you down, we laughed, he was done, pass complete.

Within the last half mile a hiker says your catching him he is right there, I said where? and they point a hundred yards ahead that guy in black, oh no I have to race, so I’m trying to catch him stealthily while resting up before I announce myself, keep in mind your practically crawling up some of this stuff using your hands at this point, I finally catch him with about .25 miles to go. You can see the top and hear the people, he is sponsored by Maple Drink and I said hey Maple Guy, he goes oh shit, I said I think we are 6 and he says looks like I’m gonna have to race you for it. I said a minute ago you looked like a sight seer but I think I kicked you in the ass because your moving again, we climbed side by side for a few minutes and I slowly picked it up, shows quite clearly in the HR graph of my file, turns out he didn’t have the race in him after all but I never looked back and just kept going.

You crest the top of the trail, then on the auto-road go up to some stairs to the top, When on the pavement I started “running” with Heather next to me and asked her if anyone was behind me and she said NO…. Still pushed for the finish just under 7:30 for 6th place OA… Time on my Garmin 1:46 , official time given 1:50 (which includes the T2) which looks like 3rd or 4th fastest run of the day…Picture taken at the top, medal received, to the car for some clean clothes and to cheer on the finishers!  What a day.  No sense commenting on pace but average HR was 148.

Tim’s run on Strava here

Half a bottle gatorade and 1 gel pre-swim, 64oz skratch , 8oz redbull , 3/4 cliff bar, 4 gels on the bike, 32oz skratch and two gels on the run…

Post Race
Heather and I hung out at the top, beautiful sunshine, calm winds, met up with Cary Blanco – Scott Dinhofer’s sherpa , watched Scott and some other friends finish. Waited till around 2pm then headed down the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the Wildcat Ski Area for the food at 3pm. Nice turkey dinner, gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, rolls, cranberry sauce. Being the Vegan I am, I went into don’t ask mode and had everything except the turkey and gravy. Hung out at the lodge chatting for a few hours and then headed home at 4:30 (awards were at 5:30 and didn’t feel the need to stay). Scott and Cary came over to spend the night, dinner, a dip in the lake, we all actually swam a mile and biked 23 on Sunday together.

Next Year
Well its definitely worth doing again but I don’t think I’d ever get as good a conditions again. If Heather wants to do it, I will sherpa for her, if not I may off to sherpa for someone else interested in this race. Its well worth doing!

Thanks for reading, questions , comments always welcome!

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