In 2012 this race was cancelled due to effects from an Atlantic coast hurricane. The race director rolled over race entries to the next year. To be honest, many of us had forgotten that we even had this race as a possibility. Two Reapers decided to take the Great Illini up on their challenge and wish we had stayed home in the air-conditioning.
People often attempt to look at race results from previous years to get an idea of how the course plays. The times for this race were traditionally slow and that typically means two things, either a hard course or bad conditions. This year the athletes faced both.
Tim Auth and Coach Rankin decided to take on the Olympic distance race and let the others fend for themselves in the half iron distance. This would become the best decision they made all day. This race was simply miserable due to the weather conditions and quickly became more about survival and less about racing.
Getting in the water is often a great feeling at most races. The race director was allowing wetsuits with the water temperature hovering at 81F and the outside temp sitting at 92 when the race began. The water offered no relief and the sun was doing it best to blind all of the racers. Both Tim and Coach Rankin had decent swims in a small crowd on a course that was a bit long (150yds over per Garmin) but pretty well marked.
The athletes popped out of the water and ran up a hill into T1, the racks provided plenty of room and made maneuvering through transition simple. Tim had a solid T1 and Coach Rankin posted the fastest T1 in the OLY group.
The bike course was good in some places and miserable in others. The first 6 miles were deceptively fast until you hit a 180 turn around, which can be mentally challenging, and from that point the wind was mostly in your face or cutting across. It was difficult to judge the wind because the course had so many turns. There were a number of sections of the road that could have been marked as being dangerous. Both Tim and Coach Rankin had very solid bikes and rolled into T2 well placed, but at the door step to hell!
One can only imagine that running in hell must be similar to what our athletes experienced. It was 104 with the heat index by the time they hit the run and the race director said the tallest things on the race course were the corn stalks and Tim. In other words, there was absolutely no shade. The tar was ripping with every step you took. The course was well supported but it didn’t matter. The water was warm and as soon as the ice was poured in the racing suit it had melted. It was a matter of running aid station to aid station to get something cool. As Coach Rankin crossed Tim on the back part of the run course and Tim said something about cursing the day they had ever met. Both athletes finished the race and lived to tell the tale. Coach Rankin ran through the finish and didn’t stop, running directly back in the lake, shoes and all!
Coach Rankin took 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39 AG with his worst time of the year and 12 minutes slower than his outcome at USAT Age Group Nationals 2 weeks earlier. Some days you are the bug, somedays you are the windshield. The results still weren’t too shabby considering the conditions. Tim did well collecting 3rd in his AG and 29th overall.
Coming up, Rev 3 Cedar Point, Tri-the-Illini, Oak Run, and the We Care Half Marathon. The offseason is right around the corner, how do you plan to get stronger?