Clark Lake Triathlon, July 16, 2006—½ mile swim, 13 mile bike; 4 mile run.
This was a sprint tri, even though my name and the word sprint do not belong in the same sentence. The only other time I did this event was 6 years ago, when I was in a younger age group and before what seems like a whole lifetime of issues occurred.
As I said, my Olympic distance tri back in June did not go as I would have liked, so this was a way of somewhat redeeming myself in my own eyes anyway and seeing how my training has been going since then.
The weather was predicted to be hot—temperatures in the mid 90s with heat indexes in the low 100s. Perfect weather for a triathlon, don’t you think?? Beats the alternative, that being darkness, cold, snow, and ice. At least you get to swim and bike OUTSIDE. I have decided I will take the heat ANYTIME over winter, and Sunday would put that attitude to a test. The last time I did this race, it was pouring rain and probably in the 60s, so this would be a direct contrast.
I arrived at the race site about 1 hour and 15 min. ahead. I was stressing about this some, wanting to get there 2 hours in advance, but as it was, it was the perfect amount of time. I would have been standing around getting hotter by the minute otherwise. This year they were predicting 700+ athletes, which was probably 3 times more than the time I did it in the rain. But the event has grown, just as triathlon has grown.
I love these sprint distances because this is the heart of triathlon, this is where it begins. There are people of all ages, sizes, and abilities, with all types of equipment, just trying to get through the day, again a sharp contrast to the longer distance tris where it seems like only the age groupers are competing with each other. And since most of the tri group from this area fit into that category now it seems, they don’t have or take the time to compete in these “short” events. So I only saw one person there I knew, and only a few familiar faces overall.
This year they were giving out wind shirts as the race shirt, again a contrast to the XL red shirt with the race logo on it we got last time. (I haven’t seen that shirt since!) Naturally though the had run out by the time I arrived, but they did guarantee mailing everyone their shirt. That was a nice touch, considering they could have said no shirts after a certain date, and I had signed up pretty much at the last minute.
There were to be 5 swim waves, with my wave being No. 4, and a men’s wave behind. I wasn’t particularly happy with this, but it turned out okay.
The lake water was 82 degrees, so of course, no wetsuits. For ½ mile swim, I don’t mind anyway. You could wear a wetsuit if you weren’t competing for age group awards, but even though I knew I would not come close to an award, I couldn’t face the thought of putting that thing on in the heat. Only 2 people opted to wear them.
My warmup swim told me I was going to have some trouble with sighting on the way back because of the sun—I have started wearing clear goggles because I can see so much better, but they really are not ideal when the sun is in your eyes. Maybe some yellow ones to help with the glare??
Swim: While I was concerned with a men’s group following my older women’s group, it wasn’t much of a factor, for me at least. I started toward the back of my group and pretty much just waded out until it got deep enough to swim once we started. I figured this way I could weed out the breaststrokers and avoid body contact with the sprinters. As it was, I was pretty much last to start, but once I got going, the swim was pretty uneventful. I just kept my eyes on the orange buoys—I had counted them ahead of time, so it was easy to pick them off. I pretty much swam a straight line to the one at the turn, and only had to get out of two congested spots up to that point. Everyone seemed very well mannered for a change! Once I got to the turn, however, the first males started catching us—each wave started 4 min. apart. I held my ground on the turn but then WHAM! the sun was fully in my eyes and I was blinded momentarily. A guy came swimming by me and crossed over, so I decided to use him as my guide to the turn buoy. That worked pretty well, and I avoided most body contact as well. Turning again, however, I was still partially blinded so it took a moment or two to make sure I was on course for the next buoy and the swim to the finish. I could see the shore so just headed pretty straight on course. There were a couple of spots on the way back where there were massive clumps of seaweed, either floating or still attached, and this actually made it difficult to see a couple of times. Ick. I’m not that bothered by the stuff usually, but this was exceptionally thick. And I usually swim in as far as possible before wading the rest of the way, but this time it seemed like it got shallow really fast, so the wade was longer than I would have liked, especially with all the rocks near shore. Ouch! Swim time: 20:48.
T1: I actually ran to my bike, almost a first for me. I wasn’t tired. My legs felt fine. I got passed on the way to transition to be sure, but at least I was moving. As expected, most bikes were gone, so it was very easy for me to find my stuff. I bring a little camp stool to sit on to take off the wetsuit, but it also comes in handy for putting shoes on. And I put all my stuff in a backpack and set it on the stool, so everything stays pretty much untrampled by others. I was sitting there putting on my shoes (not bothering to dry off my feet—as long as the socks go on, who cares?) and a girl says, “Do you need help?” I say, “With what??” “Finding your bike?” Uh, duh, its right next to me! “No, its right here, but thanks!” She must be in a relay or something because she was lying on the ground “resting.” T1 time: 3:42 (I’m actually getting faster by minutes with these things!).
Bike: I head out of transition where you go through a gate and the mats and then mount the bike and immediately head uphill. I had a problem with my bike earlier in the week (broken derailleur), so was forced to stay in one chain ring the entire ride. I opted for the big ring, knowing it would give me more power on the flats and downhills, but also knew I would have to be strong on the uphills. I had my back gears, so would work with those. I had no idea what to expect of the course since it was changed from the last time. The description said “rolling to flat” and the announcer was saying as I was heading out “flat and fast.” Short was all I cared about. Its always amazing to me how adrenaline really pumps you up on these things. I was not feeling any rush or anything, just steady and strong pedaling. I feel better when I am working within my heart rate zone, and found myself there most of the bike course. Only one hill raised the heart rate, and that was basically my fault for getting caught on an uphill without being ready—gawking at someone I wasn’t sure had crashed or had a flat. I don’t remember passing only maybe 3 people, all on mountain bikes, and not in my age group. And after 2 or 3 miles was steadily getting passed by the men in wave 5, but all were calling out “Good job” “keep it up.” Was I that slow or did I look like I was struggling? I felt fine. I felt good in fact. My computer has been off since my last race (no one can seem to calibrate it correctly), but I am getting used to it and know it is 6 mph off. I was keeping a steady 16-20 mph pace, so that was good. I wasn’t sure on my time, however, because rolling the bike from the car to transition got the timer going and I hadn’t restarted it. I was hoping for 50 min., but toward the end saw it creep past 51 min. Oh well, I was doing the best I could. I was surprised then when I checked results on my final bike time: 48:51, 16.0 average.
T2: Okay, who took my stuff?? While I had counted bike racks from the swim and realized I was immediately in front of the announcers’ stand, I had not figured out where I was from the bike dismount. Someone had earlier put a big dollop of baby powder on the grass near my rack, but that had long since worn off. So there I was, running back and forth, looking for my bag and stool. I found a bag exactly like mine, but of course, not my stuff. I was starting to swear because I was sure someone had moved my stuff! :) One young guy, obviously done already, asked what my stuff looked like—just like that bag there, but its not mine! I finally decided to rack the bike and walked around looking for my stuff. So I was completely caught off guard by the fact I was in the right row, opposite side of my stuff, one-half rack away. Jeez, how lucky can I get, and how dumb can I be?? Get the shoes on, grab my water bottle, and start to head out. No race belt/number. Great. I questioned the volunteers: “Do I need my number?” "No" was the answer I wanted to hear, just so I didn’t have to run all the way back to the bike. (I never did find the race belt until today!) Total: 3:12. Seemed more like 5 min.
Run: I checked my watch as I headed over the mats and realized later the winning woman in my age group finished 2 min. after I started my run. I’ll never be that fast! It was hot, and I wanted to pace myself. My legs actually felt good, not heavy, and I wasn’t breathing hard. Unlike a woman coming up behind me whom I thought might keel over and fall on me any minute. She was right on my shoulder gasping for the first 5 min. I finally gave in and stopped to walk to get rid of her. I wanted to keep my breathing easy, so decided on a run walk—run until I was breathing hard, walk for a minute but not more. That worked most of the way, but it seemed like forever before the first mile marker. The heavy breather did not die and somehow managed to pull ahead and keep going. I hoped I didn’t see her lying along the road later. But walking always means you will get passed. I decided not to worry about this too much until I saw a women in my age group walking the whole way it turned out. I was not going to let her beat me. (As it was, she was in the du!) Mile 2 seemed to come faster, and before I knew it I was at mile 3. While they had run out of water and cups at the second water stop, the second part of the race goes through the neighborhood along the lake, so many people had their hoses out and offered water on their own. Very nice, especially on such a hot day. Since I always seem to have a problem with stomach issues, this was another reason for me to be careful about keeping myself within my ability to avoid this, and until shortly after mile 3, this worked. Then for some reason, the stomach distress started. I was feeling a little sick. Oh great, its getting hotter too, or at least I am. My frozen water bottle was now getting warm, and nothing bothers me more than warm water during an event. That was most likely part of the stomach issue. But I was still running and walking on a regular schedule, just not feeling as good as I had earlier. I was trying to not walk as much into the last mile, but just gave in to it once too many times, because a women in my age group finally passed me just before 4 miles (wasn’t this run supposed to be 4 miles??) while I was walking. I saw the age on her calf and dug into myself to start running again. My legs felt fine then—it was my stomach. I almost wished now that I had taken advantage of the beer the last water stop had offered to anyone old enough to drink. If my stomach had felt better, I would have! Sounds crazy, but one of our races here has an “unofficial (of course)” beer stop and having taken a glass a few times has made a huge difference at least for the next half hour or so. I actually thought I would pass her, but then I could start feeling the legs just deadening and although I stayed close, she stayed ahead to the finish. We finished 6 seconds apart. Six seconds. Could I have made it up? Obviously I didn’t. (I was thinking there were women behind me in my age group, but as I found out later, they were in the du.) Lesson learned: don’t assume anything again; if someone is in your age group, kill yourself to beat them! Total run: 49:53.
Total race time: 2:06:24. Since I don’t know what I did 6 years ago, and conditions and course were totally different, I was happy enough, other than letting the woman pass me at the end. I had no idea what to expect. My swim was about what I expected, my bike was better, and my run was just a little slower than I would have liked. Transitions were okay—T1 is improving immensely and part of that is either due to actually being more organized and calm or not having to get my old straightjacket of a wetsuit off.
So, last in the age group, but not last overall. That in itself is an improvement!