Just a couple weeks ago I decided to add one final triathlon to my schedule, the local tri in our area, Lakeside. It is held just a few minutes out of town, so it is nice and close, and mid-September is usually a beautiful time of year to be running races. Usually.
Yes, that's an umbrella in the picture, because it was raining all night and all morning. What you can't really see in the picture is the steam rising off the lake as it was so bloody cold out there. The measured lake temperature was 19°C (66°F), but the air temperature was only 10° (50°F), so it made for a very cold morning of racing.
I got there nice and early and secured a good parking spot and the second spot on the bike rack in transition…super close to the bike in/out. I grabbed my bib and stripped down for body marking, then just tried to stay warm and loose before the race started at 10:00. I ran in to a few people I knew and was able to catch up a bit so the time passed pretty quickly. Before I knew it I was in transition getting my wetsuit on and they were calling us down to the beach.
This was the shortest race I had on my calendar this year as it was the Sprint distance. That means a 750 metre swim, 20K bike and 5K run…which is half the distance of the Olympic Triathlon. I did this race a couple years ago and finished in 1:23 (albeit in much better conditions), and I was curious to see how much quicker I could go.
The Swim - 750m
The race started right at 10:00 and I was in the first wave with the elites and all men under 40, so there was a good crowd at the open-water start line. Despite the cool temperatures and falling rain, the swim went pretty well. I settled into a nice rhythm and moved quickly through the pack. The swim seemed so short compared to what I have become used to, and I was popping up on shore in no time at all.
Swim Time - 13:16, 1:47/100m, 5th AG
I ran into T1 and stripped off the wetsuit really quick…then came the tough part. I had decided before the race that I would wear a long-sleeved cycling jersey that I had since it was so cold out. I knew that the cold weather on the bike, coupled with being wet from the swim, would make me miserable. I wasn't really racing this race competitively (or at least as much as I normally would), so I wanted it to be enjoyable. I struggled like crazy getting that damn jersey on, it seemed like 3 minutes or more. Turns out that T1 was "only" 2:18, but it was a little deflating seeing all those people I worked hard to pass on the swim go running by me with their bikes (in their sleeves tri tops).
The Bike - 20K
I eventually did get out of transition and onto the bike, which was 20K of easy rolling country road. The first 5K (and therefore the last 5K as well) were on pretty rough asphalt with some hilly bits thrown in, but the middle stretch was smooth and relatively flat. I didn't really push too hard as that's a mistake I had been making in my races this season. I would push it on the bike (not my strongest discipline) and pay for it on the run (my strongest discipline), where I should be picking off people but instead just fight to finish.
I put up some good speed through the flatter middle stretch, but took it easy on the hills over the last 5K using the small ring to spin easy and save my running legs. It may have cost me a little bit of time but I was hoping it would be worth it come the run.
Bike Time - 37:46, 31.8kph, 10th AG
By the time I got back to T2, transition had turned into a mud pit. I racked my bike and whipped off my long-sleeve jersey, then tried to get my shoes on. I couldn't feel my feet at all, and my fingers weren't much better either. My calves cramped a bit trying to put my shoes on while standing up, so I actually had to plop down on my butt. It took a while, but I did get my shoes on and made it out to the run course…T2 took a piss-poor 1:38, but it was over.
The Run - 5K
Okay, on to the run…time to see if the bike strategy would pay off. Other than the first (and last) 800m, the run is entirely on dirt roads. Did I mention that it rained at all? So do the math…dirt roads plus lots of rain equals muddy slip n' slide. The road was full of water-filled potholes (like EVERYWHERE) and slippery mud. Not great running conditions by any stretch. Add in the fact that I honestly couldn't feel my feet…and I'm not talking the typical triathlon jello-legs that you normally experience, I mean my feet were so numb from the cold and wet that I literally could not feel them. Once some feeling did start to (slowly) come back, it felt like there was something shoved in my shoe (besides my feet, obviously). It felt like I had left an extra sock in there or something, which I knew I hadn't…just a really weird feeling.
I didn't let any of that stop me though..I was flying and getting a big boost by passing people. The road was slippery but I just tried to stay up on my feet and glide over the mess as quickly as I could. My first two kilometres went by quickly at 3:54 and 3:57 (6:15ish miles) and I knew I was killing the run. I hit the turnaround and headed back towards the finish line. Whenever I saw someone ahead I made it my goal to catch them and pass them…heading into the last kilometre there was a guy quite a ways up that I set as my final target. I didn't think I would get him, but he kept looking back over his shoulder like he knew I was coming. Eventually I was right on his heels and moved up beside him…we ran side by side for a few seconds and I gave my kick. I finished the run with a 3:48 km and he couldn't hold the pace. Across the finish line I went!
Run Time - 20:07, 4:02/km (6:27/mile), 3rd AG (15th OA)
My bike strategy worked as I felt great on the run and really killed it…first really good run I've had off the bike this season. I ended up with a final time of 1:15:03, which gave me 5th in my AG. My transitions were garbage, but I was happy with the rest of my race, especially given the conditions. I'm already excited about next year! My swimming has jumped leaps and bounds from where it was…last year I had actually resigned myself to only racing duathlons…and my goal for next year will be to put up strong bike splits without killing my legs for the run (I'm guessing there are a few triathletes out there saying the same thing!).
The next day was sunny and beautiful of course, which was nice because I had to get outside to clean up the bike…check this mess out
Everything cleaned up nice though so I'll look good for the next race, whenever that is!
Anyone else race this weekend?
What are the worst race conditions you've had to deal with?