Saturday, August 5th was my first sprint triathlon of the season. I did the Shermanator Triathlon in 2015 and knew I wanted to do it again sometime. I didn’t feel very good the first time I did the race, and even got sick after it was over. A recap of that race is posted here. I was looking forward to doing the race when I could enjoy the experience more.
The race takes place at the beautiful Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI, which is outside of Battle Creek. It also happens to be about 10-15 minutes from where Matt’s parents live. We drove out Friday night and it was nice to have such a short drive to the race in the morning. I parked in the designated field around 6:30 and made the short walk to the rec center to check in. From there, it was a longer walk along the paved trails through the woods to get to the beach.
It was a bit cool – around 60 degrees. Good weather for racing though! I had plenty of time to set up in the transition area and do a short jog before the race meeting started at 7:30. A couple waves of sprint men started the swim first, and my wave of women age 49 and under went third. Waves were spaced out by four minutes so congestion in the water was not an issue. Since the swim was only 500 yards, some of the men finished their swim while we were waiting to start. They said the water was around 78 degrees, but it sure didn’t feel that warm! On a cool morning like we had, the water usually feels better than the air. I didn’t wear a wetsuit because it was a short swim and I’d probably waste more time getting out of it in transition than I would have gained by wearing it. Although I shivered as I waited to start, I felt fine once I got moving. Too bad one side of my goggles leaked right from the start. That annoyed me for most of the swim. I snagged a little bit of seaweed on the way out, but that didn’t bother me as much as the leaky goggles. I’ve been feeling really good about my swimming in the pool lately, but it didn’t seem to translate to the open water. I never felt like I got into a comfortable rhythm. It was a short swim though, and I hit the timing mat off the beach in 10:48.
Matt and his parents came to spectate, so it was fun to see them rooting for me when I came out of the water. I thought my first transition would go a little more smoothly than my recent races since I wouldn’t have to struggle out of my wetsuit. Well, this time I managed to waste a bunch of time on my sunglasses. They were totally fogged up, so I wiped them off twice. I thought they should be fine by then, but I still couldn’t see anything and had to wipe them a third time before they were good enough to get moving. I had that happen at one other race and wonder if I ought to keep them in the case rather than sitting out in the cool morning air. My T1 time was 1:39.
The out and back bike route started uphill on the YMCA trails before getting out to the main roads. I was a little winded for the first mile but sped up after that. My other races this season have had the Olympic distance as an option, and that has spread the bikers out a bit more along the course. I noticed a lot more bike traffic for this race and I always had other people around. It’s a good thing there was very little vehicle traffic since we took up most of the road on both sides. I was glad I didn’t have to worry about the speedy men zooming around me since they had a head start. It was a bit of a rolling course, but nothing too difficult aside from one hill on the way back. I chose to get out of the saddle to grind up that one. It left me pretty winded for a bit, but also helped me gain some distance from a couple women. We’d gotten stuck in a routine where they’d go faster and pass me, then I’d catch them and pass them. I got a little frustrated by the back and forth, so I was relieved that the hill actually helped me gain some personal space. I finished the 10-mile ride in 34:28 – close to 17.5 mph.
Again, it was fun to have Matt and his parents rooting for me on my way in from the bike and on my way out for the run. I could have been a little faster in transition, but 47 seconds for T2 wasn’t awful. I probably ought to train for my transition times like I do for the rest of the race considering how much time I lose there! Like the bike, the run started uphill. It was a challenging start but it wasn’t too long before it flattened out. The main roads rolled enough to keep it interesting but not too hard. The volunteers were great and I never had to question where to go. They also provided some great encouragement. I didn’t look at my watch at all during the run and didn’t know what kind of pace I was running. I naturally settled into a pace that had me breathing heavily but was sustainable. My Garmin shows that I was pretty steady around a 7:33-7:34 pace for the first couple miles, then I picked up after that. Running along a rocky path by the parking area on the way out and back was my least favorite part, so I jumped onto the grass for most of that section on the way back. Right after that area we got back onto the paved YMCA trails. That’s where I really picked up the pace – especially since the difficult uphill start turns into a speedy downhill finish. I finished with a smile when I saw Matt and his parents. I ended up running 22:22 for the 5K and finished with a final time of 1:10:02.
This race was much more enjoyable compared to 2015 when my stomach ached the whole time. However, I’m nearing the end of a sinus thing that has messed with me for nearly two weeks, and that caught up with me in the form of a coughing fit soon after I finished. It was bad for a few minutes, but when it cleared up I found Matt and his parents.
Post-race treats included chocolate milk, water, Gatorade, bananas, bagels, and granola bars. I really liked the Kashi bars and will definitely be looking for those at the store.
Since I finished the race around 9:00 and awards weren’t until 10:30, there was quite a bit of time to kill. I needed to stick around because I had placed first in my age group! This is where I especially appreciated the support from Matt and his parents. I know there’s a lot of downtime as a spectator, so I was very thankful for them getting up early and being willing to be there for so long.
When I was picking up my race shirt at the registration area first thing in the morning, I heard the man next to me say that his name was David Willey. I knew both the name and the voice from listening to David’s Runner’s World podcast. However, I tend to be stupidly shy at times and didn’t say anything. Of course it kept bothering me that I hadn’t said anything. With all of the downtime before the awards, I decided that I should try to find him and actually talk to him. It turned out he was standing right near us so I didn’t have to hunt too hard.
David was the editor-in-chief of Runner’s World until recently, and I loved listening to his segments about his “moonshot marathon.” When Nike announced the Breaking2 project in which three athletes would try to break two hours in the marathon, David announced his own “moonshot” of trying to qualify for Boston. He was able to work with experts from Nike to try to achieve his goal, and he documented his journey on the podcast. He was aiming for (and got!) his BQ at the Bayshore Marathon this past May, a race that I ran last year. He went through lots of ups and downs between injury, self-doubt, and many of the things most marathoners deal with during the long training process. His journey was very inspirational and relatable, and I found myself really rooting for him as I was drawn into his story. I had a great conversation with him, and he and his family members cleaned up pretty well with some age group awards!
Here’s the breakdown of my results:
I received first place in my age group because the overall female winner was in my group, so she received the overall award and it bumped me up. I was pretty excited to see that I was the fourth woman overall! I seem to place better in the shorter races. More specifically, the shorter the bike portion, the better I do. I was especially happy to see that I ran 22:22 for the 5K. I haven’t run a time like that in nearly two years. Since I did this race once before, I couldn’t help but compare the results. I finished 11 seconds faster this year. That’s not very significant, but at least it’s something. My swim was six seconds faster this time, my run was around 30 seconds faster, and somehow my bike time was exactly the same. How does that happen?! My transitions weren’t great this time around and I lost a bunch of time there.
This is a really nice race and one I’d like to continue to come back to. After doing a couple of Olympic-distance races this season, it was nice to do a sprint again and be done so much sooner! Between the great weather, having family there, placing well, and getting to chat with David Willey, I had a great time.
Now I have to figure out what’s next. I signed up for the Crim 10-mile run at the end of August. That will be my first running-only race since November. I’m kind of hoping to squeeze another triathlon or two in before the season wraps up. I’ve been having a lot of fun doing tris and wish I could do them more than a few months of the year!