Like every other endeavor, endurance sports have their own lexicons. Most people know what a triathlon is, but it’s a little unclear what to call a two-event competition. Turns out, it depends on which two events are involved: a bike/run combo is usually known as a duathlon, and a swim/run combo is apparently known as an aquathlon. I found this out more or less by accident; one of my TRI101 training teammates said he had signed up for Mountain Deux, an aquathlon here in Huntsville. It looked like fun so I signed up too, then ran it yesterday. The course was a hilly trail totaling just over 2 miles, followed by a 200m swim in a very nice, and nearly brand-new, saltwater pool. Sounds like fun, right? Turns out that it was!
Friday night I packed my gear: two towels (one to wrap my wet, muddy clothes in), swim cap and goggles, a change of clothes, and my race belt. Then, bright and early Saturday morning, I headed over to the race area, the Three Caves trail system. The race was small, so there wasn’t much in the way of check-in or registration; I found the transition area, staged my gear, and chatted with friends (including borrowing some bug spray and getting my race number inscribed on my arm) until it was time to start. We actually started from the Three Caves themselves, which means the first leg of the race was all uphill. This was not my favorite. After that initial climb, I settled into a slow and fairly steady pace, terrain permitting.
The race course
Thursday and Friday the whole Huntsville area got hammered with rain and thunderstorms, so I was expecting a wet trail, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised by how rocky the trail was. Big rocks, little rocks, flat rocks, pointy rocks: I didn’t feel like I was running so much as I was dodging, stepping over, or hurdling rocks. The last time I ran a trail race, in 2010, I turned an ankle while fording a creek when I stepped on a rock, so I’ve avoided trails since then.Where the trail was not rocky, it was slick and muddy. This definitely made it more challenging than my typical flat-surface runs. I ended up walking about a third of the trail overall, which hurt my time. The last leg of the race was all downhill, which was even more challenging because of the slippery ground. I nearly face planted a couple of times, but survived uninjured.
Transition was super easy: off came the long pants, shirt, shoes, and socks; on went the goggles and cap, and splash! Into the pool.
The swim was easy. I wasn’t trying to swim particularly fast, and I didn’t (although my watch mysteriously didn’t capture a time for the swim, and the event didn’t provide split times). I felt smooth in the water though, which is a big improvement. It was only 200m, so the short distance certainly helped make it feel easier.
My finishing time was 36:59, which more or less agrees with my watch time if you add in the missing swim. I didn’t have any particular expectations since this was so different than my normal race fare; I’m happy to have finished, uninjured, and I learned a few things: I can run just fine without music, it’s a bad idea to accidentally spray bug spray on your water bottle’s mouth unless you like numb lips, and trail running actually can be fun.