This morning I did my third sprint triathlon, about a month after my second one. The Village Triathlon (and Duathlon) was held in Clarkston, Michigan, and put on by 3 Disciplines. Every third week of my marathon training plan cuts down the long run, and this was one of those weeks. Since I “only” had 10 miles for my long run this week, I figured I could run that mid-week and fit the triathlon into my schedule.
Aside from fitting into my marathon plan, this race appealed to me because it was fairly close to home. In addition, this was my first triathlon that didn’t specifically say that it was non-competitive or geared towards beginners. With two beginner-friendly races under my belt, I was curious to try an even bigger challenge and a slightly longer distance. This race had an 800-meter swim, a 16-mile bike, and 4.4-mile run. The farthest open water swim I’d done up to this point was 300 yards. The bike ride was a few miles longer than I’d done in a race, and the run was a tad bit longer as well.
The night before the race, I decided to ride my bike up a hill behind us to get into a comfortable gear. A pre-race email said the bike portion would start up a hill, so I figured I’d get the bike ready for that. Aside from my chain popping off when I shifted to one gear, I also had an issue with the front brakes. I noticed squealing when I stopped. I didn’t worry too much about that, figuring I’d get it taken care of after the race. Later in the night when I went to put my bike on the rack on my car, I spun the front wheel and realized it seemed to hang up in certain spots. It wouldn’t rotate more than a couple revolutions without coming to a stop. It seemed like the brakes were too tight and causing resistance when I wasn’t even braking. Of course I came to this realization around 9pm, when I should have been heading to bed. Matt and I don’t know much about fixing bikes, so we pulled up some You Tube videos to try to figure out what to do. Matt tinkered with it a bit and made it a little better at least. After screwing around with that, I was only able to get about 6 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I regularly get only 6-7 hours of sleep, so I figured I was no worse off than usual.
These race mornings roll around awfully early, and I was out the door around 5:45. The transition area was due to close by 7:20, so I got there about an hour before that. The transition area was in Depot Park in downtown Clarkston, and I had no problem finding parking in the lot right by the park. I checked in then took my gear to the transition area. Along the way, I stopped at a tent where there was a guy from Fraser Bicycle. He was helping people with their bikes, so I had him look at my brakes. He tweaked a thing or two and said I should be fine. It’s so cool of them to help people like that.
When I got to the transition area, a few racks were completely empty, so I was happy that I could set up with room to spare. As the transition area closed, everyone started the trek to the beach at Deer Lake. The race people had warned us ahead of time that it was a good 600 meters to the beach and we might want to bring shoes. I opted to wear some cheap water shoes, which I was able to leave in an area where we entered and exited the beach. Then, it was time to stand around and wait. It was cloudy and in the 50s, so it wasn’t long before I started to shiver. As I waited, I was pleasantly surprised that Matt showed up! He didn’t come with me to this race, but he did surprise me by coming a little bit later. I’m extremely lucky that he’s so supportive, and equally lucky that he takes some great photos! He gets credit for all of the nice race photos here.
The race meeting happened about 10 minutes before the start of the race, and all of the women went in the first wave at 7:45. Although it was a bit on the cold side standing around in my tri suit, it really was good weather for the race. The water was 76 degrees, which meant people could wear wet suits. However, after standing around in the cold air, the water felt pretty warm when I got in.
We swam in a rectangular pattern with the orange buoys on our right side on the way out, around the yellow buoys at the end, then back around the second set of orange buoys. The surface was kind of rocky as I got farther out in the water before the start, which slowed me down as I hopped amongst the rocks to get to the starting point in the water. I was a little ways back at the start, and out to the left side. There was a moment or two when a couple of us were pretty close, but I didn’t have any problems with that for the rest of the race. The water was a greenish-brown and I couldn’t see much of anything. I didn’t feel like I had to lift my head to sight too often during this swim. However, I realized after a while that I was probably a bit too far to the left of the buoys. I tried to work my way back in, and got right by the buoys at the turn around point. Yet after that, somehow I strayed again.
I kept my Garmin on my wrist, so the map of the swim is a little funky. I’m guessing that I probably added quite a bit of distance to my swim due to swimming so far out of the way. I may not have run into anyone, but that’s because everyone else was smart enough to stay by the buoys! Oh well. It was only the second time I’d done an open water swim, and I clearly have room for improvement. My time was decent enough considering my extra distance. They had a timing mat not far from the edge of the water, and my split was 18:24 for the 800 meters, or whatever I actually did.
I got my water shoes on and did a jog back to the transition area. I think it took me a little over 3 minutes, then I spent a couple minutes actually in transition as I got my shoes, socks, helmet, and sunglasses on. Then I was off to bike 16 miles! This was my first race with my new bike. I definitely think it’s an improvement over my mountain bike, but biking is certainly still my weakness. As I biked up a few of the hills very slowly, I kept telling myself how much I suck on the bike. There were a few gradual climbs that kind of got me. This course was out and back, two loops. It went through some nice neighborhood areas and on a busier road.
It was an open course, meaning we still had to watch out for cars. Police and volunteers were out though, and they were great. At the turnaround point, I couldn’t believe what I witnessed. A woman waiting in her car rolled her window down, cigarette dangling out of her hand. She said to the volunteer, who was a kid from an area cross-country team, “Hey dude, I’ve gotta get to work!” Poor kid. He was good about it, but it was so obnoxious.
My confidence was not boosted any during my bike ride as person after person flew past me. I felt like I had somehow snuck onto the course of a REAL bike race. I know there were all different kinds of skill levels out there, but man did I feel slow. I know I have a lot of work to do if I want to change that though. I’ve only been biking a couple times a week lately, and it’s just not enough to improve. It’s enough to get by, but I shouldn’t expect more than a subpar performance if I don’t devote more time to it. I saw one guy in the parking lot before the race who had set up a trainer and was actually riding right there behind his car. That kind of devotion seems to be a bit extreme, but there’s no way I’m competing with that!
My Garmin said I actually rode around 15.5 miles and put me just under 17mph. I ran my bike in through the transition, excited that I’d finally gotten to the run portion of the race. I spent a minute in the transition as I racked my bike and swapped my helmet for my hat and took off.
I had my usual funky feeling in my legs following the bike, but my starting pace was better than usual. The run took us around a paved path and through the park for two loops. It was a little bit rolling, but nothing too dramatic.
The run definitely boosted my confidence as I finally started to catch the people who had passed me on the bike. I felt like I had a really solid run, and my pace was just a bit above my 10k pace. According to my Garmin, I ran 4.5 miles in 34 minutes, for a pace of 7:33. I was really happy with that, and it’s an improvement over my run pace at my other triathlons.
I finished the race in 1:54:33. I felt pretty wiped out at the end, and the soreness kicked in pretty quickly.
The post-race food was great. They had a grill set up and had hotdogs, hamburgers, and chips available. Awesome! I found Matt, who stuck around for a little bit. However, the awards ceremony was over an hour away, so he headed out before that. Especially because it began to rain for a little bit. I got pretty cold hanging out in my wet tri suit, and was anxious for the transition area to open so I could get to some warmer clothes.
My first glance at the results made me think that I wasn’t going to get an award, but I hung out anyway. They had a raffle, and I actually won a $15 gift card from RoadID! I already have a RoadID bracelet that I wear all the time, and I highly recommend that anyone who runs, bikes, swims, works out at the gym, etc. should wear one too. Matt might look into a second bracelet with the gift card money.
As they announced the winners of the race, I was shocked by some of the times. I could have sworn they gave a few times that were under one hour, and some that were just over. It made me feel really slow with my 1:54! Later on, I thought that it was not humanly possible to complete the race that fast, even if the people were really good. I was tired at the end of the race and may not remember the times clearly, but it seemed like some of them were crazy fast. When I got home later and checked the results online, I was surprised to find that I was supposedly 3rd in my age group. The awards went three deep, and they didn’t announce my name for an award. The times that I found online were all 1:20 or slower. I’m not really sure what happened. Maybe they had a list of times that only had the swim and bike factored in? I may have to try emailing them just to ask. I don’t really care if I get an award or not, but I’m still curious.
Overall, this was a great experience. I felt better about the open water swim, even though I clearly need to work on staying on course. I’m still slow on the bike, but I did like riding my new bike a lot more than the mountain bike. The run was a solid one for me and remains my strength by far. 3 Disciplines does a really nice job with their races. One thing I have noticed with them is that I haven’t had to pay the USAT membership fee. When I did my first triathlon, I opted to pay a one-day required fee of $12 rather than the $85 yearly membership fee. I didn’t know if I’d do enough races to justify that. Good thing I didn’t pay since it wasn’t required for my last two races!
Marathon training is going to get pretty challenging coming up, so this may be my last triathlon this summer. I could still change my mind and attempt another one, but it probably isn’t a great idea. I’ve definitely had fun venturing into triathlons, and I plan on NOT training for a fall marathon next year so I can devote more time to doing triathlons next summer.