The 2022 American Triple-T, hosted by HFP Racing at Salt Fork State Park, was billed as “3-DAY, 4-TRIATHLONS, 1-EPIC EVENT”. It lived up to that reputation and more! I was excited to participate in this demanding weekend of races.
The bike and run courses for the American Triple-T are infamously challenging, filled with curves and steep hills. Almost all of the roads used are freshly paved, making for a smooth bike ride.
I would consider the trail from the lodge down to the transition area to be an unofficial part of the event. Driving on the road down to reach transition was highly discouraged. This meant that many participants hauled all their gear (bike included) up and down that trail every day!
The swims in Salt Fork Lake were straightforward, with easy-to-sight buoys in a simple layout. There were powerful thunderstorms in the afternoon on day two and again in the morning on day three. This made for a slightly chillier swim on the last day, but overall the water temperature was great.
The fun began with a huge climb right out of transition. Make sure you’ve got your bike in 1st gear at the start! More than one rider had their chain jump while trying to shift up that first hill. The course continued left into the park, with a series of steep climbs and speedy descents, before turning around and heading back to the transition area. The Sprint-distance races made one loop, Olympic-distance races made two loops, and the half-Ironman 70.3 on Sunday took four loops of this beautiful (and challenging) course!
Coming out of transition, runners would climb the incline again before turning right towards the lodge for yet another hill. After circling the car lot there, runners followed the road back down into the park along the same road as the bike course. After turning around in the park, athletes ran back towards the start. This meant making it back down the steep hill towards the lake – watch your step! – before finally crossing the finish line.
For those unfamiliar with the format of the American Triple-T, the event consists of four triathlons taking place over a three day period. I competed in the ST version, consisting of: a super sprint on Friday, two sprints on Saturday, and an Olympic-distance finale on Sunday. All four races were sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
Friday Evening Super Sprint
After arriving on Friday afternoon, scoping out the transition area, and figuring out how I was going to get my gear down there from the lodge parking lot, the 2022 American Triple-T officially kicked off with a super sprint triathlon!
There was some technical difficulty with the sound system before the start, and they couldn’t get the national anthem to play. It was an awesome moment when the athletes assembled on the dock began to sing instead!
This short race was a great way to get everyone warmed up. It also gave me a chance to see the course, since the bike course for this was basically the same as the run course for the races on Saturday.
Saturday Morning Sprint
Saturday morning marked the true beginning of the weekend’s challenge! Participants in the ST event completed two sprint triathlons, of which this was the first.
This was my first real taste of the hills on the bike. I can say without a doubt that Salt Fork State Park has the most challenging hills I have ever ridden on! After the epic climb out of transition, the course becomes a series of curving roads over hills. The curves make taking advantage of the steep descents more difficult, since you have to consider your path through the turn and control your speed on the way down.
I won’t lie, I felt like I was flying on the run leg here.
Of all the weekend’s races, this one felt the best!
Saturday Afternoon Sprint
This one hurt! The format was a bit different for race #3, going bike-swim-run, and I definitely underestimated how big of an impact this change would have. As it turns out, swimming after the bike can introduce some major opportunities for cramps! These became impossible to ignore by the time I reached the run, leading to me making it about .25mi up the big hill from transition and then having to stop and stretch out.
Thankfully, a fellow athlete who passed me sitting there took a moment to help get me going again! I love how, even at a big event like this, triathletes are always looking out for each other.
Sunday Morning Olympic
This was it – the grand finale to the 2022 American Triple-T! After two days and three races, there was a palpable exhaustion during transition setup – but also the grim determination and humor that only comes from coming so far, and knowing that the most difficult part of the journey is yet to come.
The lake was just a little chillier on Sunday morning after the thunderstorms, but it was barely even noticed as we jumped in.
The bike was two laps around the course instead of one, and was extended to include a section that had rougher pavement. My legs were on fire! The storm had left the pavement soaked, so I was a little more careful with my speed on the descents. Returning down the steep hill to the transition area knowing that I would have to climb right back up again was definitely an intimidating prospect.
The run was a hot and humid march through the hills. There were still a lot of cyclists out there, which added to the challenge since runners and cyclists share the road for most of the course. By this point in the weekend, people were rooting for each other mid-race. It seemed like every person on the run course was handing out high-fives and pushing each other onward.
Crossing the finish line after all of that was an incredible feeling!
After two years of cancellations, there was a lot riding (no pun intended!) on the success of the 2022 American Triple-T. HFP Racing put on a great series of races. There were multiple running simultaneously, but it was all simple enough that the athletes could just race. The course was incredibly challenging, both technically and physically. The unique quirks of the event, like all participants being required to wear the official singlet, made it a fun experience with a lot of camaraderie among all the participants. I had a phenomenal experience!