On Saturday, August 4th I participated in the Shermanator sprint triathlon for my third time. The race takes place at the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center in Augusta, MI. It’s a beautiful setting and I had enjoyed it the previous two times I had done it. Since it is just minutes away from Matt’s parents’ house, it’s a good chance to combine racing with a family visit. Plus, I had done the AquaDash race there in the spring and received a discount code for this race. I couldn’t turn that down, so I committed to this race pretty early.
I had done two Olympic-distance triathlons at the very beginning of the season, then suddenly had a 2-month gap between triathlons this summer. My plans to do a bunch of races this summer suddenly changed when someone rear-ended my car in June. My bike rack was on the car, so not only was my car a mess, but I had to replace my bike rack. Between waiting for a loaner car to become available at the shop and then waiting for the work to be completed, there was a big chunk of time when I had no way to transport my bike. That meant I had to skip one race I had signed up for, as well as some others I’d been thinking about doing. Thankfully I was ready to go by the time this race rolled around.
The race started a little before 8am and I got there nice and early around 6:30. There’s a little bit of a trek from the parking area to the registration area, then from there to the actual race site. I prefer to have plenty of time to spare rather than feeling rushed. There was no power at the YMCA, so they had some generators to provide just enough light in the gym where we went through registration.
Although it was going to be a hot and humid day, it was a really nice morning in the mid-60s to start.
I was able to find a good spot in the transition area on some pavement. I prefer that over the grass when it’s time to transition from the swim to the bike. I waste enough time in transition, so it helps if I can avoid getting extra grass on my wet feet when it’s time to put my socks and shoes on.
After getting things set up, I went for a quick half-mile jog up the path where the bike route starts. I love the wooded setting.
Eventually it was time for the pre-race meeting at the small beach area. A couple waves of men started first, with each wave spread out by four minutes. By the time my group of women started, some of the fastest men were already finishing. Watching the men was a good chance to make sure we knew how to do things correctly. For example, despite being told that the swim was a counterclockwise loop around the buoys, we watched several of the men swim to the wrong buoy as they headed clockwise. I think they finally realized it after reaching the first buoy, but of course they were way off track. As the men swam into the beach, they came in on the side of the dock where we were treading water and waiting to start. That made us realize that we were supposed to finish on the other side of the dock.
According to my watch, the water was around 77 degrees. It was perfect and I was fine without a wetsuit. For a 500-yard swim, I figured I’d waste too much time getting out of my wetsuit in transition so it wasn’t worth using it. I got bunched up with some other women to start, and got a little frustrated as I kept hitting feet with my hands and others hit my feet with their hands. I couldn’t get moving along how I’d hoped, but eventually things spread out and I got into a better rhythm. I had to remind myself to push since it was a short swim and I usually get a bit too relaxed. I have a much better feel for pacing myself in a pool than I do in the open water. I got a little caught up with people as I approached the end as well, but it was a pretty quick and smooth swim for the most part. I was breathing pretty heavily as I got out of the water, so I didn’t do much of a jog to the transition area. Between the swim and the trek up to transition, my time was 10:43.
I didn’t feel like I screwed around too much in transition, but I guess I’m always slow at putting on my socks and shoes, number belt, helmet, etc. Suddenly 1:46 had flown by.
The bike was up next. While already winded from the swim, it’s always a bit tough starting out uphill as we bike out of the YMCA property. I was pretty winded for the first mile or so. I struggled a little because I wanted to pass someone in front of me, but someone was lurking right behind me and I was sure they were going to come around, so I didn’t make a move because the path isn’t that wide. When we got out to the main road I was finally able to break free and start going my own pace.
The elevation changes aren’t too dramatic for the bike route, which is one reason I like this race. There are a couple of good climbs that left me out of breath, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ve pretty much only trained on flat routes this summer, so if I can handle the short hills, they must not be too bad. The riding surface is smooth, which is another bonus.
My main motivation during the 10-mile bike segment was to try to do better than last year. Believe it or not, my bike time was EXACTLY the same when I did the race in 2015 and 2017 – 34:28. How does that even happen?? I haven’t spent enough time training on the bike this year since I’ve been spending most of my time running. I wasn’t sure I could improve my time, but I kept pushing hard throughout the ride in hopes that maybe my bike time wouldn’t be the same for a third year. It wasn’t a significant improvement, but I did manage to finish about 21 seconds faster this time!
My bike-to-run transition took about 30 seconds, and I took off uphill once again and was huffing and puffing to start. It was in the low 70s and sunny by the time I started the run. I didn’t think about the heat or humidity while I ran. I’m not sure if it was warm enough to affect me, but I was surprised that my running pace was quite a bit slower than I had expected. I ran a 7:54 pace for the first couple miles and I’m usually faster than that during a sprint-distance race. Maybe the weather did affect me without me realizing it, or maybe I had pushed just enough on the bike to tire my legs out a bit. I spent most of the run thinking about the rolling hills and how they were getting to me more than I had remembered in the past. Aside from the first hill at the start, none of the hills are that significant. I guess tired legs and a faster pace are enough to amplify even the smallest hills.
Aside from the hills, I was also distracted by the running surface. As you can see in the pictures below, the roads were pretty beat up. I always had to pay attention to my footing.
Although I didn’t feel as strong as I had hoped during the run, it still went pretty well. When I hit the downhill stretch back toward the finish, I used the momentum and really flew. That explains how my pace dropped by quite a bit for the last mile!
1:10:04 was my official finish time…according to my Garmin. It’s a good thing I didn’t mess up my watch during the race this time, because I found out later that they had issues with the timing system during the bike segment. Apparently the cords got unplugged and it really screwed things up. I realized something was wrong when I checked the results and mine looked really screwy. I didn’t have a finishing time and I didn’t show up on the results where I should have been. I waited in a line with other people who had realized there was an issue, and thanks to my watch I was able to provide my finishing time.
One thing is for sure – I’m ridiculously consistent. My 2015 time was 1:10:13, and last year it was 1:10:02. Although I had a faster bike this time, my run was slower. A few seconds faster or slower throughout the different segments balanced me out so I was just two seconds slower than last year. Pretty funny!
Since I was first in my age group, I stuck around for the awards and received an extra medal.
Once again, I had a great experience at this race. I’m aware that hosting a race is a daunting process, and can only imagine all the logistical things a race director needs to think about. I wouldn’t think of dealing with a power outage and needing to use generators in order to get through registration. Dealing with the timing issues had to be a nightmare as well. Like I said, I’m thankful I didn’t fumble the buttons on my Garmin (like I’ve done at other races) so it all worked out.
After doing a couple of Olympic-distance races this season, it was fun to do a sprint. I enjoy the sprint distance, but when a longer distance is an option, I’m usually drawn to it. I know I’m up for the challenge and feel like it’s good to push myself with the longer races. Of course I can push myself during a sprint as well – it’s just a matter of going harder for a shorter period of time. It’s fun to change things up and do a variety of distances though, so I’m glad I got a sprint race in at the Shermanator.
I’m ready to get back to a longer distance this weekend, and will see how prepared I am to tackle the Olympic distance again in Ludington.