Knowing that this was my last triathlon of the season AND that my work and personal schedules made the last month of training difficult, I had pretty low expectations for myself in this race. In fact, I would rate this entire season as a disappointment. The ONLY goal I achieved was to do an Olympic distance race. My other goals, to lose weight, do a half ironman, go under 7:30/mi. in the run (olympic), go over 21mph average on the bike (olympic), improve my swim times… and a host of other lost goals… all fell by the wayside. In a way, I was actually glad it was going to be over. Nonetheless, I always try my best on race day. But I knew I was undertrained and it would be dangerous to push it too much. Old visions of doing this race under 2 hours and my only goals were now to relax, have fun and finish. Thousand Hills State park turned out to be a beautiful place to race. We camped with friends (thanks Jeff and Lisa!) and had a great time. It’s kid friendly and there is good fishing too!
This race has been going on for 26 years (I think) and is actually a real gem. It is small, with about 150 individuals and another 100 in teams, but don’t let that fool you. This race is well organized, well thought out and loaded with food and goodies. No vendor fairs or bands, just bagpipes and a cannon to start you, good food and beer at the end and a fun, challenging race in between. My tips for this race would be to know the course well (sometimes you are alone), train hills for the run and practice sighting on the swim (it’s a point to point swim). The volunteers were great and very helpful.
This was my first point to point swim (.75 mi.). We set up our transition area and then they bussed us over to the swim start. It is in a really pretty lake and, although the water is far from clear, it was comfortable (72 degrees) once we got going. Very little chop, big orange buoys, kayaks and boats for safety and an easy to spot finish chute. We swam away from the sun so it was never an issue and there was plenty of room once we got past the first minute chaos that happens at every race. The run up the hill to transition was average to maybe a little longer than usual and was on grass or a mat they put down. There were lots of shivering people (thank you!) in the water to help you out since there was a ramp you had to step up on to get out. Be patient here. The ramp out is one person wide when you are wobbly coming out of the water.
An out and back course of 18 miles on park roads and rural, open roads. You start out of transition and hit the biggest hill on the course. A decent hill with a sharp curve in it, then it’s up more and out of the park. The roads in the park are smooth and well maintained. The roads OUT of the park are not! I nearly lost some teeth on some of the seams on the highway (6?) and other road we were on. They had tried to mark all the holes, potholes, cracks, seams and other hazards with white paint. I think they ran out. Air your tires up or prepare for pinch flats. In all, potholes aside… the ride wasn’t bad though. You get about 6 miles total in or near the park, which is beautiful. The rest of it is rural farmland, which is pretty in its own way. All corners were clearly marked and manned. There is one left turn off of HWY 6 to Industrial. Watch for car traffic here as the road is open. This was really the only sketchy spot. Everything else was pretty lightly traveled. As you come back to the bike finish, you get to go down that big hill with the sharp turn. Remember it? They line it with hay bales but that doesn’t stop people from crashing into it anyway (yes, it’s that sharp/steep). As I was coming in I heard screeching bike tires behind me. The rider didn’t hit it, but got a REAL good look at the hay bales… 😉
The transition area is small and you rack your bike by race number. There are no bad spots and lots of volunteers to make sure only athletes are in transition and at the dismount lines. I was in and out of both transitions pretty casually. The transition area was clean and well marked.
This was my favorite part. What a pretty course! Yes, there are hills. A couple of pretty tough ones. Deal with it. Train for it. You come out of transition and run around the lake on well marked, well maintained roads. Past the marina and a restaurant (I smelled ham…) and then up a pretty long hill. You are in sight of the lake here too and then you go up towards the campgrounds. You get out of the sun here and into some great, shady, well maintained campgrounds which you wind your way through. Water stations are strategically placed where you can hit them going into the campground and then again coming out. Once up the big hill and into the campgrounds the terrain rolls but you gradually go up a bit more. My campsite was at the very end of the run course and my family just stayed there and waited. Once you get to the end of the campsites, all of those ups you were suffering through turn into DOWNS!!! The second half of the course is either flat or downhill and it was FUN. I actually felt fast! On the way back you fly down the big hill then past the marina and celebrate gravity the whole way. After the marina there is a short up and then around a corner to the finish.
They like their race to start on time, which I appreciated since the air temperature was in the sixties and the water was cool as well. I had planned on wearing my wetsuit so I was ready. Many people did not and were miserable. The cannon sounded about 2 minutes after 8am and we were off. I managed to get kicked a few times and did some kicking of my own, but it was only for a minute or two and then we all had clean water to swim in. The men all went off at the same time, then the women, then the teams. There was about 3 minutes between them. My only goals for the swim were to swim relaxed and not get passed by a team swimmer… 😎 I settled in to a relaxed pace and really tried to use the wetsuit to help me stay level in the water. I remember thinking, “This really feels good!”, several times and truly enjoying the swim. I breathed every 2 or 3 strokes and looked around a lot. I caught some people and didn’t get caught a lot. About 3/4 of the way through I saw my first pink cap (woman) fly by me and I wondered what it must be like to swim that fast and easy… As I came out of the water I looked back and saw that there was a team swimmer right on my tail, but he didn’t get me! I have to pat myself on the back for this swim because I tracked really straight. I would spot the next buoy and nailed every one of them within a yard or two with very little sighting. I was out of the water in just over 28 minutes which, for me, is pretty fast.
I was determined to take all of my transitions easy. I got to my spot without a hitch, got out of my wetsuit easily and focused on trying to settle my heart rate and breathing. I ran my bike to the mount line but due to the close proximity of the first hill, didn’t feel like fighting to get into my shoes on the bike so I stepped into them as I rolled out.
I set my bike in the small chainring in front because that first hill came quick and before you can really warm up. I spun up it pretty easy and slowly started to work my way to the big chainring. By the time we made the turn on to the main park road (about a mile) I was in the big one and ready to roll. I noticed my shoulders were cramping a bit. Something I attribute to the undertraining I have done. I ignored it and kept going. Because I was worried about being undertrained, I also tried to run a bit easier gearing and spin more so I wouldn’t blow out on the run. There was very little wind for the first half of the ride, but it started to pick up as I came back in. I slowly gathered people in and definitely passed more than I WAS passed, but I didn’t care. About 3 miles in I NAILED a clearly marked pothole (note to self: LOOK. THE. HELL. UP!) and spent the next 5 miles or so counting my teeth to make sure I had them all. I bit my tongue so hard it was bleeding. I definitely stare at my front tire too much… bad habit. Other than that, the ride was uneventful. As we came down the final hill a couple of people around me got a little racy. I remembered the big turn at the bottom and set myself up on the inside. I got through without a problem and then let them go by. Why race to the transition line? Anyway, I averaged just over 20 mph for the ride (I adjusted this up from 19.5 because my computer stays on and keeps recording for 5 minutes after you stop!).
Got off the bike easy and trotted to my rack. Having everything laid out in advance makes things much easier. Got everything on in under a minute and was out. Those people who passed me coming in? They were still in transition when I left and I never saw them again.
By the time I hit the run, the temps had warmed into the 70s. There was a nice breeze and since the course is pretty winding, it didn’t really ever turn into that “dreaded headwind”. It was such a pretty course that I had to make myself focus on what I was doing. My first mile was the usual heavy legs. A bit worse than the last race, probably due to undertraining. I knew it would go away and just ignored it. Again, I passed a few people but only got passed once. Once I got to the top of the big hill I eased into a pace and just tried to focus on turnover. My breathing was decent and I never felt like I was going to bonk, so I kept pushing. because the course winds out and back through the campgrounds, you get to see people coming and going a lot. This was fun because you could shout encouragement as you went. Seeing my family at the halfway point was a big boost for me and gave me the charge I needed to get out of the campground (a deceptive little hill). Once back on the main road down the hill I picked up the pace with help of my friend gravity, and was pretty much flying by the time I got to the bottom. Seeing the lake again let me know that I was headed home and the rest was a blur. My run average for 5.5 mi was 8:10. Not great, but not bad considering my level of (under) training.
You get a medal and food at a nice post race lunch for your troubles as well as a pretty well stocked swag bag. I got a hat, water bottle and a long sleeved wicking t-shirt. I finished 5th in my age group (I have no idea what my overall placing was) with a time of 2:02:51.
This was a great way to end the season. No more triathlons for me this year. My next race will be a 7 mile trail run called Rock Bridge Revenge on October 10. Until then I’m going to relax, run, ride and swim for fun ONLY.
Next year… This will probably be my longest race (yes, I will do it again). Sprint triathlons, duathlons, maybe an off road triathlon or adventure race… and the off season this year needs more stationary bike, weightlifting and stretching. My big goal for next year is weight loss… Only. No race goals other than using racing and training to achieve my real goal. I want to be at this race next year 30 pounds lighter than I am now.