On Sunday, July 10 I did my second triathlon of the season – the Toledo Triathlon at Maumee Bay State Park. The race was presented by Zoom Multisport Racing and it appealed to me because they offered the 1/3 Iron distance which is pretty unique. I covered that distance at one of their races last September and it was a great challenge that’s longer than an Olympic triathlon but not quite a half Ironman. I’m still convinced I’ll do a half Ironman at some point but it probably won’t happen this year. In the meantime, I’m always looking to push the limits of my endurance and this was a good test.
The 1/3 Iron race I did last year was held in southwestern Ohio and it was a tough course. There were several steep hills during the bike ride which involved looping the course three times. There were some tough hills on the run course as well and I was pretty beat up by the end. When I saw that the Toledo course was FLAT it sounded wonderful! I had to wake up super early with an hour and 45-minute drive but I could do it without a hotel which was a bonus for saving money.
We really lucked out with a beautiful day that ranged from the 60s up to around 80° throughout the race. The first thing I did when I got to the park was stop to admire the sunrise over Maumee Bay/Lake Erie. I had an hour to spare so I didn’t feel rushed and I always love to catch a beautiful sunrise.
The race had a beginner triathlon, plus sprint, Olympic, and 1/3 Iron distances. People could also opt to do a duathlon for any of those distances, a swim/bike, swim/run, or even a couple of longer distance swims. There was an option for pretty much everything and plenty of participants across all of the events. Aside from the few who chose to swim 3,000 or 5,000 meters, my group of 1/3 Iron athletes was the smallest. Only 13 of us signed up to cover that distance – and there was only one other woman! We had a couple of bike racks which meant we each had plenty of space for our stuff.
The duathlon started first and I went down to the water for a couple of minutes before our 7am race meeting. We used a small inland lake for our swim segment and the water was 75° – wetsuit legal. I’ll take any extra buoyancy I can get. I saw a sign at packet pickup that said the course was changed and we’d cover four loops instead of three. I learned why once our meeting began.
The lake had so much seaweed they couldn’t send us on the course they had planned. The best bet was to keep us close to shore. We’d swim 250 meters out on the deeper side of the shoreline, round a buoy, then come back on the side closer to the beach. In order to cover 2,000 meters we’d go out and back four times.
There were some concerns with this approach. There was plenty of seaweed on the deeper side of the course marked by the orange buoys on our left so it was best to stay as close as possible to the yellow buoys on our right. However, after the first people rounded the far buoy and headed back we had to be on the lookout to avoid head-on collisions. Rather than the usual rectangular or triangular course that keeps people spaced out, we swam an out and back route. If everyone kept the yellow buoys on their right it shouldn’t be an issue but sometimes people cut as close as they can or veer off-path. We were told to sight often. I often lift my head every other breath to watch for people anyway and there was no way I’d skimp on that this time. Our group was small to start but eventually sprint and Olympic athletes would join us in the water and it would get a lot more crowded.
I’m pretty sure most of us who participate in these crazy things are used to being adaptable anyway. Seaweed, waves, wind, rain, dehydration…we often battle some kind of adversity during training or racing and just have to find a way to cope. It’s all a part of it!
I hung toward the back of the group as we started the swim. That was a smart move because it felt like everyone took off and left me behind! I reminded myself that I was there to do my own race, whatever pace it may be. The water was calm and felt great so that was one thing working in our favor. The first loop went pretty well with so few of us in the water. Once I had to worry about collisions it got a little more tricky. On the way back I wanted to stay as close to the buoys as I could because we were in pretty shallow territory. At the same time, I worried about people heading toward me. When I was extra cautious I swiped the sand at the bottom with each stroke as I swam closer to the beach. On the way out, I snagged my share of seaweed during some of the loops. At one point I needed to go around someone and didn’t want to get too close to oncoming swimmers so I went toward the deeper side. The seaweed was intense! It was practically up to the surface of the water and so thick I could hardly do a freestyle stroke through it. Watching out for people coming at me might be a better option than going through that seaweed.
At some point I lucked out and realized there was a guy just ahead of me who seemed to be swimming the same pace. I wasn’t quite close enough to draft off of him but if I stayed in the same path I didn’t have to worry as much about crashing into someone. He would be the buffer ahead of me which eased my worries a bit. Really, it all worked out just fine. Keeping my mind so active probably made the swim go by quickly because the 43+ minutes didn’t seem that long.
I headed into transition with an official swim time of 43:12.
I racked up a transition time of 3:04 as I went through my usual battle of trying to get the wetsuit off over my feet before getting the rest of my stuff together. I was kind of surprised to see a bunch of bikes still on the racks because I had been convinced I was one of the slowest in our group. I was actually seventh out of thirteen in the swim.
I took off on my bike for three loops of the rectangular course. At the beginning I worried that I’d make a wrong turn somewhere because I didn’t see any other cyclists out there to follow. We had been warned that the beginner race would make a left turn for a shorter course and we should NOT turn there. When I came to the first left turn I questioned the cop if everyone should turn there and he said yes. I hoped he was right! Later I saw the section where the beginners would turn and the signs made it clear that it was just for them. Phew, no more worrying about that.
When I made it to the southern stretch of the rectangular course I realized there was just enough wind to make it more difficult. I wasn’t looking forward to doing that several times. It wasn’t anything major but the stretch was somewhere around four miles long and I found that my speed dropped to 14-15 mph for a few of those miles while I’d been around 16-17 mph otherwise. I just told myself the wind would be at my back for the northern stretch. That was a good thing because when I turned onto that segment of the road the surface wasn’t quite as smooth. The pavement had a little more texture to it but it didn’t impact my speed. The first loop was just over 11 miles and then I knew what was ahead for the next two rounds.
I ate a Picky Bar soon after completing the first loop and did the same after the second loop. I seemed to hydrate well enough between a bottle of water and one with a Nuun electrolyte mix.
Eventually I saw a few more people scattered throughout the course. One of my biggest pet peeves is when cyclists don’t warn as they pass and most people did not. It happens all the time during training and racing to the point that I half-jokingly tell myself it’s a sign that I’m not a “real” cyclist because I seem to be too courteous compared to the speedy people! At least no one snuck up behind me at times when I’d swerve around loose stones in the road or some other hazard. I like to give people a heads-up and always thought that was kind of a rule of the road. I saw people out there as young as 11 and as old as 81 and I usually like to add a “good job!” when I let them know I’m passing. It’s always so inspiring to see the range of people out there.
I was thankful that the course was so flat and smooth. Aside from the area where the headwind slowed me down, the ride was pretty nice. Most of the area had farmland and the traffic was minimal. Police were stationed at intersections and did a great job of keeping us safe. After three loops I rode back through the park, finishing with a little over 32 miles and a time of 1:58:24. Tenth out of thirteen for the bike – no surprise to me since it’s always my weakest part of the race in comparison to others. I averaged 16.4 mph which is pretty solid for me though.
The second transition took 52 seconds then I went out for three loops of the run course. Again, I was pretty excited that it was FLAT! First we ran on a paved path around the inland lake where we swam.
Each time I had to get a little gruff with the geese who hung out on the path as they hissed at me.
At least they didn’t get aggressive. We passed a small marina then ran past the beach along Lake Erie.
We continued on a path that took us back to a rock-lined breakwall with a small lighthouse out in the distance.
I loved the scenery and thought about how beautiful the run course was. There was a turnaround point and we headed back toward the small lake to complete the 3-mile course.
I averaged just under an 8:00 pace and wondered if I would be able to keep that up for nine miles. While I wasn’t a fan of any wind on the bike, I was thankful for it during the run. The sky was clear and I’m sure I would have gotten pretty warm without the breeze. I felt like I found a good groove as I ran. While some people were visibly struggling, I felt strong. I kept drinking my bottle of Nuun in hopes of staying hydrated enough and ate a few Clif Bloks as well. My pace went just over 8:00 for a couple miles but I kept it just under otherwise. After 2,000 meters of swimming and 32 miles on the bike I was pretty happy to maintain my typical marathon pace. The looped course worked well for me because I knew what to expect and I knew how much I’d enjoy the scenery each time. Although it took some effort to maintain the pace by the end, I still felt pretty strong.
I finished the run in 1:11:55 which was good for the third best run time out of my fellow 1/3 Iron athletes.
As always, the run segment helped me compensate for my slower bike time! My final time was 3:57:27 – seventh overall.
This race was a few miles shorter than the other 1/3 Iron race I did so I can’t really compare my times. The flatness of this course versus the hills on the other course made a huge difference. I still felt pretty good when I was done and was happy with how it went.
I grabbed some Fritos, trail mix, and granola bars as I quickly downed a bottle of water. I had some additional snacks in my car as well. After I took all of my gear back to the car I wanted to enjoy the park a little longer. It was such a beautiful day and I loved the run course so much that I wanted to take pictures.
By the time I got home some of the fatigue, dehydration, and stiffness hit. It’s always deceiving when I feel fine after the race because it’s bound to catch up with me at some point. Even though this race took longer than my typical marathon, the variety of swimming, biking, and running kept me from feeling too beat up. I was back out there for a 10-mile run a couple days later!
I love doing this kind of stuff and I’m glad I had such a great experience with this race. I believe it’s the first time Zoom has held a race at that park and I would certainly do it again if they return. I don’t know yet if I’ll fit another triathlon into my schedule this summer but I enjoyed this one so much I’m anxious to do more. I have a swim/run race and a 5K swim coming up in August so at least I have a little variety left while the weather allows.