On Sunday, March 25th, I participated in the AquaDash at the Sherman Lake YMCA in Augusta, MI. I have done the Shermanator triathlon there a couple times and really enjoyed it, so I knew I could count on this being another great event. When I first came across this race, it definitely stood out as one I wanted to do. It combined 20 minutes in the pool with 20 minutes on the treadmill. It would give me a little taste of multi-sport action a few months before it gets warm enough for tri season. It would also allow me to enjoy my two strengths in the triathlon while skipping my weakness – the bike. It fell during a “down” weekend for my marathon training, so I could get away with squeezing it into my schedule. Instead of running six miles on Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday as scheduled, I did my long run on Saturday and decided to call it good with whatever distance I’d run during the race on Sunday.
We had a nice visit with Matt’s family the day before the race and celebrated his dad’s birthday. We stayed with Matt’s parents and I only had a 10-minute drive to the Y in the morning. There were multiple waves and my start time was 8:45. I got there around 8:00, picked up my race shirt, then scoped out the pool and treadmill areas. The pool has a nice observation deck above it, so I sat there for a little bit and watched one of the earlier waves. People were doing different strokes and there was a variety of skill levels. I was especially impressed to see a younger girl. Several kids did the race and I think that’s awesome.
Eventually I went to the locker room to get ready. I noticed that other women had laid their stuff out on the benches, so I did the same. Seeing as how our swim-to-run transition time was only five minutes, I didn’t want to waste any time fumbling with the combination on my locker.
I went out to the pool as the previous wave finished. They had big benches along the wall where I could leave my towel, and I gave a sheet to a volunteer who would count my laps. The pool had six lanes and my wave was full. One major perk that got me to sign up for this race was that each person had his or her own lane. Some races place two people in a lane and I would much rather have my own space.
When I saw that I had been assigned to the first lane, I was a little wary of being stuck by the wall. I was happy when I saw the lane though. It was actually wider than the middle lanes. Plus, the pool had really nice gutters so there was no splash-back. That’s a luxury I don’t have in my regular lap pool. My pool does not have gutters and it can seem like a wave pool at times, especially when swimming by the wall.
We had a few minutes to get in the pool to warm up once the other swimmers finished. I had just enough time to swim a lap and hear the pre-race instructions before it was time to start. It seemed like everyone blasted off much faster than I did, and I told myself that I just happened to be the slowest one in my wave. Something funny happened though. Within a few laps, at least half the people had switched from freestyle to breaststroke! Since I swam free the whole time, I started to catch up and pass some of the people. It didn’t really matter what everyone else was doing anyway since I had to swim my own race.
One thing that threw me off was the water temperature. It was really warm. Within a couple laps I could feel my face burning. It felt nice when I got into the pool, but not as nice once I got moving. I’m not sure how accurately my watch measures the temperature, but it says that my gym’s pool is usually around 77 degrees and this pool was 84 degrees. It made me appreciate the cooler temperature of my normal pool, even if it’s a little cold when I first hop in.
I don’t have much of a race mode when I swim, so I settled into my usual slow and steady rhythm. I’m used to swimming in a 25-meter pool, so the 25-yard pool made me adjust my rhythm slightly. Each length was only a couple strokes shorter for me. I knew that I should be able to swim a minimum of 45 lengths. I counted in my head as I swam and gave an extra push once I hit 35 lengths or so. That extra “push” meant maybe a second faster per length. I may have picked up the pace by a couple seconds for the last couple laps. Since I couldn’t hear any of the time warnings they yelled out, I snuck a glance at my watch a couple times. I saw 19:13 after pushing off the wall when I had completed 44 lengths, and I hoped I could squeeze two more in. I stopped when I came back to the wall and saw that I had three seconds left. Perfect! I waited for time to run out and got out of the pool. I was thankful that I wasn’t at the other end of the pool when the time expired. With only five minutes to transition to the run, I didn’t want to waste a minute.
The volunteer who logged my laps must have miscounted because my sheet said I swam 48 lengths and I counted 46. It was entirely possible that I could have counted wrong, so I didn’t question it at the time. When I looked at my watch’s splits the next day, it confirmed that I had done 46 lengths. I didn’t get too hung up on it though. When I saw the final results, I knew the 50 extra yards wouldn’t have affected my placing one way or the other.
When I got into the locker room, I dried off quickly, threw a t-shirt and tri shorts on over my swimsuit, got my socks and shoes on, then struggled to get my pool-soaked ponytail through the hole of my hat. I grabbed my iPod and water bottle and headed to the treadmill. I think they were a little lenient about the 5-minute transition because they seemed to wait an extra minute until we were all ready.
When it was time to start, I was frustrated that I had to crank the speed up from zero. I’m used to treadmills that give a few quick-start options, so I’ll typically start at a 10:00 pace and speed up from there. If there were any quick-start options on these treadmills, I didn’t know it. It was a long, slow drag getting up to speed. I was anxious to kick it right into gear! Eventually I made it to 6:58 pace and held that for about 13 minutes. Although I could feel that I was working really hard, I think I needed a mental break from the speed more than a physical one. I slowed down to the 8:20s for a minute, then decided I was ready to speed up again.
It was all good until I managed to completely blow it by accidentally hitting the emergency stop button. The treadmill had a tray area where I had set a towel. I wiped my hands on it and the emergency stop was at the edge where my towel was sitting. It only required a slight nudge down to set it off. That cleared my time, distance…everything. A volunteer came by and I explained what had happened. I told her I’d just have to use the info from my watch. I had to crank the speed up from zero again, which took forever. I only had a couple minutes left, so I went as fast as 6:40 at that point. Soon enough, the 20 minutes were up.
Of course I was annoyed that I’d been such a klutz, but there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was thankful that at least I had my watch. I don’t always trust its accuracy on the treadmill, but I think it was somewhat on track during this race based on when the alerts went off for the first two miles. It claimed that I had run 2.74 miles, so the volunteer wrote that down on my sheet. I thought I’d been capable of peaking around 2.9 miles, so it was probably pretty accurate when you factor in my two slow ramp-ups from zero.
There was a pancake breakfast afterward, so I enjoyed some pancakes and a bowl of fruit when I was done. I saw that I was the top female so far, but some people were still racing. I had about an hour to kill between the end of my race and the end of the last wave. With only 31 participants, I figured I should stick around for the results.
Distances for the swim and run were combined and counted as a total distance in yards. Between 48 lengths and 2.74 miles, my total was 6,022.40 yards. That was good enough for me to place as the second woman overall. The fastest woman was in the final wave and swam 61 lengths and ran 2.85 miles (6,541 yards). As much as I wish I had won the top prize (a free entry to the Shermanator triathlon in August), I didn’t stand a chance against her! At least my mishap on the treadmill didn’t cost me anything. I placed first in my age group and received this award:
It’s too bad I can’t really put it to use since I’m not from the area. All participants received a 10% discount on the Shermanator, so at least I can use that since I plan on doing the race again.
I really enjoyed this race and it was nice to put both my swim and run training to use. August was my last triathlon and I probably won’t do another until June, so I was happy to do some kind of multi-sport event in the meantime. I performed pretty much along the lines of what I expected from myself, aside from the part where I totally screwed up on the treadmill. It’s not the first time I’ve screwed up during a race and it probably won’t be the last. I guess now I have another thing to add to my growing list of race mistakes to learn from! Hopefully I’ll do this race again next year and try to redeem myself.