The Caseville Triathlon on Sunday, July 9 was going to be my second triathlon of the 2017 season. Actually, a couple weeks ago the Sanford Lake Triathlon was going to be my second of the year. However, bad flooding in the area led to cancellation the day before the race. That race was hosted by Tri to Finish, who also hosted the Caseville Triathlon. Luckily they made it possible to transfer my registration fee from Sanford to Caseville. I loved the Caseville Triathlon when I did it in 2015 (recap here) and knew I wanted to do it again. Not only because I enjoyed it so much the first time, but also because racing the Olympic distance on the same course would allow me to see if my fitness had improved.
While I stayed in a hotel half an hour away the last time I did the race, I opted to save the money this year. That meant a 2-hour drive the morning of the race. I worried about deer on the backroads before sunrise (I only saw one) but otherwise it was fine because traffic was so light. Like last time, I was intrigued by the fields of wind turbines as I approached Caseville.
I got to Caseville County Park around 6:30 for the sake of parking easily and taking my time getting ready. The transition area was open until 7:45, so I had plenty of time. When I got out of the car, I noticed that it was really windy. I wasn’t too excited about that! After I checked in and got marked up, I headed down to the beach.
The windy conditions meant that the water was pretty rough. I was a bit concerned about trying to swim amongst all of those whitecaps. I have trained almost exclusively in the pool. I’ve been in lakes twice this year, and the conditions were as calm as could be. I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with it.
It turns out I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Ten minutes before the transition area closed there was an announcement that the swim was cancelled. I was torn. I’ve been swimming so much lately that I was excited to see how I would do…but not in those conditions. The people in charge of the race didn’t feel like it would be safe, and I agreed. Between the cancellation in Sanford a couple weeks ago and now cancelling the swim at this race, the season hasn’t gone quite as planned. All you can do is adapt!
This race had sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and duathlon options. The new plan was for the 70.3 racers to run a mile first, come back, head out on their bikes, then the other races would start. The Olympic people would also take off to run a mile, then the sprint athletes. Finally, the duathlon would continue as planned. After announcing the new “modified” format with the mile run in place of the swim, it was also announced that people could switch to the duathlon if they’d like. I decided that sounded like a good option. That way I’d get to do a race that was a standard distance rather than a weird modified one. It would be a typical sprint duathlon with a 5K run, 20K bike, and 5K run. I wasn’t too excited to face the wind on the bike, so cutting my bike distance from 40K down to 20K would be kind of nice. Especially since the bike is my weakness!
We were given extra time to adjust for the changes, for people to get out of their wetsuits, etc.
The 70.3 athletes headed out for their run while the rest of us hung out and waited for them to return before starting our races.
I headed out for the first run with the duathletes without any specific goal. I put in a good effort but knew I had a second run coming later so I didn’t go nuts. Aside from one faster run last week, 8:00 miles have been about the fastest I’ve gone lately. I was pretty thrilled when I averaged a pace of 7:31 and 7:21 for the last two miles of the first run! Still not PR kind of speed for me, but faster than I’ve done in a year. I finished the first run in 24:10, which was a 7:48 average pace and a solid cutdown/negative split run. I think I actually ran a bit long, so my average pace was probably faster, but I messed up when I started my watch and all of the numbers were thrown off.
I realized that one major perk of a duathlon is fast transition times. Without the swim, I didn’t waste a ton of time struggling to get out of my wetsuit, drying my feet, getting shoes on, etc.
The bike was an out and back route along a main road with wide shoulders, so we didn’t really have to worry about traffic. The road follows the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” area with glimpses of Lake Huron at times.
I took in the scenery now and then, but mostly worried about what I was doing on the bike. After the turnaround, the wind was kind of frustrating. My speed dropped 1-3 mph on the way back versus what I had done on the way out. I ended up finishing the 20K (12.4 miles) in 43:05. That was an average of 17.3 mph – placing me right in the middle when it came to the bike results for everyone in the race. Not especially fast, which is pretty typical for me.
I had another quick transition after the bike, then headed out for the second 5K run. My legs didn’t feel too bad, but there was one hill to climb on the way out of the park that was more of a struggle the second time around. The rest of the run was flat and went pretty well. I didn’t pay much attention to my watch, but saw that my pace was in the 7:30s for a good chunk of it. It was a good effort and I was breathing heavily yet able to maintain it somehow. I came up to a guy when there was a little more than a mile left, and he commented that it was good for him to have someone to pace with. I noticed his calf said he was 15 years old and I was pretty impressed. Triathlons weren’t even on my radar when I was 15. He said he’d been doing them for several years. We chatted for a while and it was a good distraction. It’s fun to meet new people at races and hear some of their stories. I’m not sure how I kept up a conversation at that pace, but eventually I picked up the pace a bit more and concentrated on finishing strong. The hill that was a struggle on the way out was awfully nice to fly down on the way back. From that point on, maybe about a quarter mile, I hauled as fast as I could. I gave everything I had through the finish. I had another negative split, running 7:38, 7:34, 7:24, then sub-7 for the last little bit. My time was 23:43, with an average pace of 7:39. Like the first run, it looks like I ran a little long (3.18 mi) which made my actual pace closer to a 7:27 average…even better! I was proud of myself for running the second 5K faster, and pretty happy to see those kinds of paces. Without any real speedwork lately, I wasn’t sure I still had that speed in me. Especially after running and biking for an hour first!
Here’s the final breakdown:
5K Run #1 – 24:10 – 7:48 pace
T1 – 0:30
20K Bike – 43:05 – 17.3 mph
T2 – 0:24
5K Run #2 – 23:43 – 7:39 pace
Total – 1:31:50
After I received my medal and bottle of water, it took a few minutes of pacing around to settle down. They had bananas at the finish line, but I knew there should be some other food too. At first, this is all that I found:
A table with a few packages of assorted creme cookies. That was it?! I’m still really disappointed that nearly every triathlon I do lacks a variety of food at the finish. I went to my car to eat snacks I brought with me since I’ve learned to expect it. I saw someone with a paper plate a little bit later, so I asked if there was more food. At some point they put pizza out. Unfortunately, my stomach didn’t feel great and I didn’t think pizza would help, so I stuck with my food.
Because I had started my watch too early and ended it too late, I didn’t know what my final time actually was. When sheets with the initial results were posted, I didn’t see my name. I kept checking my age group and figured I should be listed based on the other times. I talked to the woman who was posting the results, and after a minute she called my name and told me that I was listed in the top three women! I just assumed I’d be listed in my age group and it didn’t even cross my mind that there were overall winner results that I should check. I was pretty excited that I had placed third overall for women in the duathlon!
Eventually they started the awards for the sprint and the duathlon, and this is what I received:
It’s a really nice stone award that came with a stand to prop it up on a shelf. I can also contact Tri to Finish next year for 25% off of my race!
Although I was bummed that the swim was cancelled and I didn’t end up doing the Olympic distance, Tri to Finish did a great job adjusting on the fly and creating a great race day experience. I think switching to the duathlon was a good move for me. Since the run is my strongest of the three events, the duathlon probably plays to my strengths the most. The more running there is, the better I do! Although the duathlon went so well, I enjoy swimming and I’m anxious to do another triathlon soon. I’m scoping out more races and hoping I can make an Olympic one work soon now that I’ve had two failed attempts!