By Wendell Scott
The Georgia MultiSportsRed Top Mountain Triathlon looked innocuous on paper, but I should have known that inclusion of the word “Mountain” was worthy of note (just as if you ever see the words Gap or Pass in a ride description, beware what you’re getting into).
To be fair, I never actually saw a mountain, but that was probably because of all the hills that were blocking my view.
The morning started off chilly and we had to wait for enough sunlight to begin the Time Trial swim start. Surely not as dramatic as a mass start, but safety always trumps drama in my book.
The water was much warmer than the air and it felt good to get in. With a two lap course configured to keep the swim within a cove area, the course was a little confusing and we ended up with a bit more than the 1.5k swim advertised. My Garmin 910 read 1.12 miles so my slow swim time was somewhat explained.
Coming out of the swim, the climbing starts immediately and I was prepared with my bike already in the small chain ring. I saw some people needing to downshift within sight of the mount line. The course starts with some steep rollers out to the main highway and then opens up to let the ride really start. After a very steep downhill riders hit the longest portion of the ride brushing the outskirts of Cartersville on Highway 41. The rollers continue on this segment as well and there are a couple long uphills where I break my aero position.
Reaching the bike turnaround, we were hoping for a break from the constant wind, but as is often the case, we simply found out the wind was from the side all along and we actually had a stronger wind on the return.
Throughout the ride, I’m catching the more gifted swimmers. I finally see a rider ahead of me in my age group just as we leave Cartersville to make the climb back over I-75. Apparently, he takes umbrage at me passing him and wants to race to the top of the hill. Every time I pass him, he immediately tries to pass me back, but I can tell he is expending a lot of energy playing this game. To counter this, I make sure I stay below my red zone as long as I can ride near him and pass him whenever I see a good opportunity. By the time we reach the crest of the hill, he’s done and falls back. Later, I find out that he dropped out after the bike.
The bike course offers nearly 2,600 feet of climbing over the roughly 27 mile course, so come prepared to grind it out on portions of this ride!
Bike elevation profile from Wendell’s Garmin
The run follows much the same course as the bike, but splits after a mile or so to wind around and down to the park areas. I’ve been doing triathlon for almost 30 years and I can’t remember a hillier run. At one point I was tacking back and forth across the road because it was so steep. I knew pacing was paramount on the day and I focused on managing my energy levels for the trip back up the hill on the return. With 900 feet of climbing in only 10k, keeping tabs on pacing and energy would play a big role in how the day turned out.
Run Elevation Profile from Wendell’s Garmin
I picked off a few people on the run and lost a few places, so probably ended up about neutral in placing, but lost no age group places. The finish line was a welcome site as I was happy to see some flat land!
Wendell after winning his age group
Overall, I was fortunate enough to win my age group, and I’d say this race is a real jewel. It’s tough on both the bike and the run (take a look at my elevation profiles) and this time of year can be sweltering.
I’d recommend Red Top Mountain for 2014. Jim Rainey and his crew will get the swim sorted out and the course will be challenging for any athlete. I think everyone will definitely go home knowing they really worked to earn their t-shirt at Red Top.