Sorry for the lack of posty love lately. Just haven’t been inspired.
However, that all changed today as I finally got back on the triathlon trail at the Kansas 50 at Hillsdale Lake, south of Olathe Kansas.
First and foremost, let me just say that I will never go to a triathlon again that is more than one hour from my house without getting a hotel room (if possible). IMHO, this should just be included in the cost of your triathlon experience. I felt so much better and more rested (even though I didn’t sleep much… kinda excited…!), was able to get up and go eat (no dashboard dining!) and got to see the race site, drive the bike course, etc. All WAY more important than I realized. Especially since this race was out in the middle of NOWHERE and the directions were… umm… kryptic, at best. It took me an hour just to find the site after I got there.
I went down to the site with the full intention of helping them set up but unfortunately didn’t get there in time to do much more than put up a few bike racks and load up the leftovers in the truck. It gave me the opportunity to find the site and look around a bit. Nice site, decent lake and a pretty good setup for a triathlon.
I competed in the Octomax distance which is a sprint triathlon. It has a 500 yard swim, 18 mile bike and a 3 mile run.
This course is mostly contained inside a Hillsdale Lake State Park. The roads are in GREAT condition inside the park and for the portion of the ride that goes outside the park the roads aren’t bad either! The lake is big enough to keep temperatures at a respectable level and though not “clear”, it was really nice. The run was on a pancake flat gravel trail that was as soft as a beach. My calves were SCREAMING for the first half mile. Nice, but took a little getting used to.
The swim was a counter clockwise route with a beach (a decent beach!) start and a shallow entry. Out around two buoys and then back to the beach. The bike was an out and back route. The run was also out and back.
Really freakin’ hot. The temperature at start time was around 85. Oddly enough, the Ultramax guys managed to find a cool enough current to declare the swim wetsuit legal (77 degrees). Winds were out of the south at 10-20mph and gusty. There wasn’t a cloud for 150 miles.
I got up at about 4am after not sleeping much. I was comfortable and the room was cool, I just tossed and turned a lot. I went to IHOP and had a good, solid breakfast and headed out to the race site. I was one of the first 5 or so to arrive at about 5am. I loaded up my gear bag, hopped on my bike and road the 1/4 mile to the site. I did manage to run straight into a bar gate that I tried to duck under (hey… it was dark) which caused a brief bit of panic (ok… it scared the crap out of me). No harm done and I got checked in without a problem. The Ultramax guys have these events down to a science so it’s always smooth and easy. Got my ink done and set up my bike in transition. I got REALLY close to bike out (one big advantage of arriving early) which is my favorite spot and got my stuff arranged without a hitch. It IS getting at least somewhat easier. Then I went back over and helped with body marking for most of the rest of the morning.
Even though this swim was wetsuit legal, I didn’t even bring mine. The air temperature was so hot I would have burst into flames just waiting to start. The water was beautiful and comfortable. The wind chop wasn’t that bad until you got out past the jetty and by then it didn’t matter. The hardest part of this swim was sighting the first leg because we were swimming right into the sun. The jetty went parallel to the swim route and there was a marker at the end of it so I just decided to swim between the marker and the sun (which was sitting right over the first buoy). At dead on 8am, they set us off.
To say that this swim felt aweful was an understatemet. Under nearly perfect conditions, I felt like I was sinking the entire way. I nearly panicked at the first buoy. People were passing my doing the side stroke and breast stroke. I just felt like I could never catch my breath. It was really bad. I really was worried about the rest of the race. If I felt this bad on the swim… I basically had no rhythm, let all of my training sink to the bottom, and managed to drop the lake level by a foot or two with all the water I drank. I only got bumped a couple of times so that absolutely was NOT the problem. I just wish I knew what the problem “was”? I managed to start feeling just a little bit better as I made the final turn and threw in a weak sprint. I hit bottom about 20 yards from shore and staggered the rest of the way out of the water in 13:30 (for the uninitiated, this SUX for only 500 yards). I even got passed by the faster women swimmers who started 4 minutes behind me.
After a jog up the beach and into the parking lot I hit the transition. I decided to try a couple of things I have wanted to do for a while. Since my transition spot was all the way at the other end of the transition area, I really pushed to get there as fast as possible. I set up my bike with my shoes clipped in for the first time. It made my time at my rack minimal. I grabbed my helmet and clipped it on, grabbed my bike and was out in just over a minute.
I purposefully ran PAST the bike mount, stepped on one of my pedal/shoes and took off. I pushed to get up to speed before futzing with my shoes, but it still was a little awkward. Once I got in, my extra bike training became immediately apparent.
This course is dead flat for the first 3 miles, then goes up 2 decent hills and then turns around and comes back up those same hills. I started passing people within a half mile and from then on it was a steady stream of reeling in the next rider. I got out of the water in about 80th position. I finished the ride in 50th (yes, I counted). I spent a lot of time cleaning my bike, especially the chain, the night before. The difference was noticable. The bike was so quiet. The only noise was the tires on the road. I really liked that.
The ride went out of the park and across a huge dam. It was really pretty. The wind was either with me or across me the entire way out (yes, I knew what this meant…) and the first hill was big, but easy. Those hill workouts definitely paid off. Same thing on the second hill. I noticed that I wasn’t really working that hard and actually picked up the pace on the way back. By now the heat and wind were taking their toll on most of the riders (and me, to a lesser degree). Coming back across the dam, I tucked down in as much of an aero position as I could muster and fought a big cross/headwind for nearly a mile. This was one of the toughest parts of the course. Once I got back into the park, I forced myself to start thinking about my dismount and transition with just over 2 miles to go. I got out of my shoes with about a quarter mile to go and hopped off the bike at the line.
Out of the helmet, hat on, shoes on (a little wobbly) and race belt clipped. I got out of transition in an impressive 48 seconds! The two things I noticed were that my legs were not as miserable as usual and that it was REALLY frickin’ hot now.
As soon as I hit the trail I was worried. It was much softer than I am used to running on. Like a beach. I probably ran 4 miles or more just wandering back and forth across the trail looking for harder pack. The promised “shady” run never materialized though and I was really feeling the heat in less than a mile. However, my first mile was 7:27. I started passing people, which was encouraging. But I knew that I was wilting. The temperature was at least 90 by now and the wind, that had cooled me for most of the ride, seemed to disappear. By mile two I had faded to an 8:30. The only good news is that EVERYONE was running the same course with the same heat and same, soft trail and no wind. Which meant I was still passing people. I even did something rare for me on a 3 mile run. I took water. And gleefully spent it equally between my dry throat and my boiling head. Mile three was a mental battle. I wanted to just walk. I was so hot. I felt like I had stopped sweating (I hadn’t… I was fine). My last mile was 9:03… Not exactly the negative splits I wanted to run…!
My time was 1:34:56. That put me in 40th position overall (out of 130 or so) and 5th out of 11 in my age group. I was hoping for something under 1:30 until I got to the site and realized how hot it was going to be. The fact that I made it and didn’t stop, especially after the swim, and managed a decent effort out of the race is fine with me. I came home happy.
One of the big things this race did for me was it recharged my batteries. I WANT to train now and know what I need to do. I need speed work in the pool and on the run and I need to just keep on biking. I have about 1 1/2 months until nationals and I want to make sure I get there in as good a shape as I can. Looking forward to the experience and really glad I did this great race.