The Evergreen Triathlon is a Sprint and Olympic distance event held just north of Bloomington/Normal Illinois. It is hosted by McLean County Parks and the Bloomington/Normal Sports Commission and put on by TriMom Events and the Tri-Sharks Triathlon Club. It is at Evergreen lake/Comlara park, about 25 miles north of Bloomington/Normal.
I decided early on this year that I wanted to spread my wings a bit and look for events in the region that were new to me or at least a bit less visited by the club. It’s always fun to try new events and see how other people do things, so when I spotted this event on Active.com, I sent out a post to our club inquiring if anyone had done it. I only got a couple of responses but they were very positive, so I decided to give it a go.
Let me just start by saying this is a very well run race. Everything is organized, the people are nice and the race crew knows what they are doing. If you are looking for a great race, put this one on your list. This year (I’m not sure if it always is) the race was hosting a collegiate regional championship (or something like that) so the officials were extra particular which, honestly, I really like. I hate races where they let people use iPods, set up on the ends of racks, ride together and stuff like that. I may not be a threat to the podium, but I take my races seriously. It bugs me when other people don’t. They just get in the way.
The course is a lake swim, open road ride, closed road run. It is very well marked and supported. I will admit I had no idea where I was going because I forgot my maps and didn’t pre ride the course, but I never felt lost or uncomfortable. The transition area is well set up. It’s wide and organized by age group/race. It is in a parking lot and is a bit long, but not too bad. The Olympic distance athletes are closer to bike in/out than the Sprint racers are. When I went out of transition on the bike, I was in a herd, but we all had plenty of room. From the swim, you run up a short (less than 50 yards) slope and actually come into the middle of transition. Sprint racers go left and Oly’s go right. Bike in and bike out are through the same gate. Run out has everyone going back to the middle where the swim in is and then following a path out on to the course. My only complaint about the entire race is that the parking lot we were in was pretty rough in spots and it hurt to run on in bare feet. Nobody’s fault and a minor irritation really.
They allowed us to set up our bikes in transition the night before. They were very organized and took down my bike information, my phone number and even a description of the bike. There was security in transition all night so I felt safe setting up. My spot in transition really didn’t matter much with the way things were set up, so I just picked a spot on a rack with a tree at the end of it so I had a landmark to run to.
Temperature at the start was about 75 degrees and rapidly heated up to about 85-90 by 11am when I finished. There were NO clouds and the wind was out of the south at about 5-10. Humidity was not bad at the start but got worse as the day heated up.
The swim course is a counter clockwise square in Evergreen lake. The lake is big, but not too deep so the water temperature was 82 degrees. We went off in waves by age group and the race started only a couple of minutes late. We had about 15 minutes to warm up. There were plenty of lifeguards, kayaks, boats, etc. to watch the swim so it felt safe. The entry/exit to the lake was the only problem. It is a boatramp between two docks and it was SNOTTY and slick. I walked out to warm up and when I stopped, I just kept sliding like I was on ice. Kinda funny, but I was thinking “How the heck am I going to get back UP this coming out of the water…?” Luckily it wasn’t as bad on one side and had been walked on so much by the time I got out of the water, it was fine. No wetsuits and the water felt WARM.
The bike route was on open roads. Only a few spots of gravel and no hills to speak of. If you want a fast bike split, this is your course. Once you get out of the park there is not much scenery. Corn fields… LOTS of corn fields. Still pretty though. The course doubles back on itself in a couple of spots so you get to see other riders coming in. This race seemed to be abundant in bike porn. Loads of bikes that cost more than my car and weighed less than my running shoes. Amazing… Made my bike look like a Huffy…! The bike course was well supported, with traffic control at all the corners and good signage. I was only in my biggest rear cog twice and never came out of my big ring in the front, if that gives you any idea about the flatness of the course…! If you ride the hills of Columbia a lot, you will eat this course for breakfast.
The run course starts out in the park but quickly jumps out onto the roads. The course is closed to traffic so you can run down the middle of the road if you want. I seem to have this adolescent obsession with running down the middle of the street so I had fun with that. Once you get out on the roads there were lots of aid stations that were (for the most part) pretty well stocked with water, Gatorade and sponges. I would have liked ice, but that didn’t get there until I was heading back in. There was one thing missing from the majority of the course that was crippling, given the conditions… Shade. Once you got out onto the roads the shade disappeared and you ran out through corn fields and farms. There was just a slight breeze which helped, as long as you were running into it. It was oppressive if you were running with it…
I have to start my race report the night before because I decided to camp for the first time at this race. I got to the race site at about 3:30pm and once I got through packet pick up I headed across the parking lot to the camping area. It was just a grass field that had been mowed so that we could set up tents. I picked a spot on the highest ground I could find and nestled up next to a tree line. I didn’t notice until I had gotten almost all the way set up that I could see through the trees down to the lake. There was a nice breeze blowing up the hill through the trees. I set up my EZ up and then put up my Cot Tent. Everything went smoothly and I was resting and relaxing by 5:30. I had a great dinner of hummus, tzaziki, keftedes (sort of), Kalmata olives, feta cheese and crackers. Gotta love the Greeks! I wandered down to look at the lake and then went over to the showers about 7pm. The showers were nice but you couldn’t control the water temp so they started out cold and gradually got hotter. I wanted a COOL shower, but had to settle for what I could get. I went ahead and put on my tri-shorts and just slept in them.
Since I sleep with a CPAP, I have to bring my own power. It comes in the form of an emergency battery/charger for a car. It works great and I can get about 2 days worth of use out of a charge. Right about sundown I went ahead and got in the tent. It took some arranging but I got myself and my CPAP situated so that I could get comfortable. Since the footprint of the tent is the size of a cot, I kind of had to snuggle with the CPAP like a teddy bear, but it worked.
The Cot tent worked as advertised. It’s a bit narrow, but comfortable and does the job of keeping out the bugs, etc. just fine. It has adequate ventilation, but I would like to see a bit more mesh and less canvas. Otherwise I have no complaints. It will do.
I do need to make a mental note to myself though to bring better blankets. I set up a camping pad on top of the cot and then put a blanket on top of that and then just had a light blanket to cover myself with since it was so warm. However, it became clear at about 2am that the stadium blanket I used was NOT LONG ENOUGH… Lesson learned. I think I slept about as well as I would have in a hotel and it was great to roll out of bed in the morning and just wander across the parking lot to transition. Much more relaxed.
Even though there is a bit more planning involved, I will definitely camp as much as possible at races. It’s much more fun. The other people camping were nice and also pretty quiet. It was a good time.
Our wave went off about 7:10 and I remembered to start my watch this time. This time I went with the crowd and hung in as long as I could. I decided at the last minute to swim with my tri jersey on instead of tucking it into my shorts. I think it slowed me down a bit but I just didn’t feel like messing with it. I tried to relax and actually managed to do so. My breathing was regular and not labored and once we got going I had plenty of water to swim in. This was my first time to swim this far without a wetsuit so I took it easy. Since I am so slow I got passed by wave after wave of fast swimmers and just tried to stay out of their way. I drafted as much as I could and tried to sight every 8 strokes regardless.
The course seemed long. I got warm because the water was hotter than I’m used to, but not to the point of overheating. I really tried to focus on rotation and not pulling with my left arm too soon. I think this is why I’m tracking to the right so much. My left arm is pulling as I’m still rotating to breathe. I made sure to rotate back to the left fully before I finished my stroke. I tracked much straighter. Once I found open water I was actually able to sight every 20 strokes and was dead on.
My arms started getting tired about 1/2 way through. Then my hands started falling asleep. This has happened before but that doesn’t make it any more fun. I finally rounded the last buoy and spotted another green cap (my wave) and tried to chase him down to give myself something to do. I caught him as we got out of the water. My swim time for the mile was about 40 minutes. Not great, but for my first swim this distance without a wetsuit, it’s fine. I was not winded at all coming out of the water and my heart rate was barely elevated. I probably could have swam faster… If I knew how… 😉
My transition was slow, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be careful and think about what I was doing. I got set and ran my bike out to the mount line. Just as I was getting on my bike (flying mount) another rider accidentally cut me off. I stopped in time so I didn’t hit him but didn’t get all the way on the bike and hit my toe on the pavement. I got on the bike on the second try and got into my shoes faster than last race. I noticed that my toe was stinging but would only see at the end of the race that it was all swollen and purple… Pretty!
I noticed immediately once on the bike that everything felt really good. My legs felt great and I was not breathing hard. This was all a good sign since it was so warm. I REALLY focused on nutrition on this ride. I had Heed in my aero bottle and another bottle with just water. I got a small frame pouch to hold my Cliff Shots and two Hammer Gels. I really concentrated on getting on top of the nutrition and it worked! I had great power all the way through the ride and it carried over to the run. I started reeling people in and spent all 28 miles passing people. The only people who passed me were some of the really fast guys/gals that had bike issues. I was in my big ring the whole time and never felt like I needed to stand or drop to the small ring. When I got back to transition I had gone through both bottles, both Gels and about half of the Cliff Shots. I’m not sure exactly yet what my split was, but I know it was over 20 because that’s what my bike computer said and it stays on for a few minutes after you stop. My guess is 20.something. A great split for me and again, I was not tired or breathing hard. I probably could have gone harder.
Same as T1. I took my time and set up right. Still out pretty quick. No issues.
I KNEW it was hot. I KNEW I would wilt if I hadn’t fueled right. I KNEW I needed to take it easy… So. For once… I did.
The race started in the park and in the shade. I went out under control and my guess is I was running about a 9 minute pace. In the heat and humidity, that was all I wanted. My only goal was to RUN the whole thing. Once I got out onto the road and felt the heat I just kept telling myself to run in “Zone 2”. A talking pace. No more. I felt my breathing get labored a couple of times and my legs got a little weak, but I just backed off until it went away and then picked it up again. The only time I really got hot was on one (blessedly short) leg where we were running with the wind. I took water at every station but mostly just dumped it on myself. I took a few sips, but that was all. I loved the sponges. They felt great. By mile four, I knew I was going to make it just fine, if not blazing fast. I was passing dozens of people at this point. The heat was wilting everybody but me this time. Hah! Take that, heat…! I picked up the pace a bit for miles 5 and 6… but not much. I was really glad to get back into the shade of the park. There were quite a few people there cheering us on so that always makes me run faster. I had taken my jersey off to help beat the heat and put it back on to sport my CMC colors at the line. I crossed the line and felt really good. Like I could have kept going… That’s a good feeling! My watch said 3:06, which is pretty slow, but I’ll get faster later. For now it’s just good to run a complete race and not bonk.
My second Olympic distance race in the bag. I don’t have a race in August and my next race will probably be my last one this year. Kind of sad actually because now I feel like things are starting to come together. Need to develop an offseason plan to get me through the winter without going insane! I’m already not looking forward to that!!!