One has to wonder if the Emmett Triathlon is the only one where bicyclists need to deal with farmers on combines chasing them down. To be fair, he really did wait patiently for a spread-out-group of cyclists to go by before he made his turn onto the road; I just happened to be the last one and he was gradually gaining on me. At first, I just rode on, assuming he would turn into a field soon. Alas, the giant machine kept on coming, humming like a huge beetle ready to pounce. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I managed to pull ahead of the young lady originally a couple of hundred yards in front of me. As I did, I called out a, “There’s a combine on my tail!” while smiling apologetically… That was only one of the factors affecting my race results for Emmett’s Most Excellent 2012 Sprint Triathlon.
The sprint distance race begins with a 500 meter swim, moves on to a 12.8 mile bike ride (Greg checked it on Google Earth), and ends with a 3.1 mile run. It was very well organized, with oodles of friendly volunteers. I especially appreciated how there was a constant repetition of directions at the beginning of the race. My brain needed that. There were just over 200 sprint distance racers, if you want to make more sense of the stats I give.
The SWIM: I got in the water a mere 2.5 minutes before the starting cannon. Yes, cannon! I was one of the very few without a wetsuit, but I did have a swim shirt on. (not exactly this one, but close) The water temp was said to be 70 degrees, yet as I treaded water in a very relaxed manner, I was more comfortable than I thought I would be at that temperature. I had decided to experiment with placing myself near the front of the pack, on the very wide starting line.
Racers were congenial and encouraging, at least the ones that were chatting, but when it all began things changed. Within a few seconds, swimmers were literally crawling up my back, grabbing my feet and whacking me with their flying arms. I never felt panic, I suppose because I was swimming with ease and there was room to move out of the way. Which I did. It became clear very quickly that if they could tell I was there, they were not going to adjust to that fact. I am going to have to get some insight from my triathlon guru, Adam Haynes, of Rolling H Cycles. I do not understand why this is allowed.
I finally managed to get a little space to myself and swam along, concentrating on each stroke and occasionally lifting my head to keep the floating markers in sight. I was so pleased that I felt that I was minimally exerting myself and not suffering from any adrenaline rush, thanks to my lessons with Shannon at flowaquatics.com and applying things learned at swimsmooth.com.
There were a couple of sobering moments in the swim. At one point near the end, I passed a lone yellow cap close by my right side, which meant that an Olympic distance racer was way behind. He wasn’t swimming, but was just a head above the water. I checked my course, and continued on, only to find out later that that was likely the moment he was having a heart attack and dying. I have gone over in my head if I should have paid more attention, but the race directors had lifeguard kayaks lined up all along the course, ready to help anyone in distress. News reports say they were right there to help him, much more effectively that I could have done.
Soon after that, I lifted my head to get another sighting, and a rescue kayaker told me to wait. They needed to cut in front of me to help another swimmer. Time seemed to take on unmeasurable qualities as I waited for them to glide by without mowing down any active swimmers. Finally, I was back at it, soon trying to determine if I had reached a walking depth. At last I stood up, emerging from the water in all my 51 year old glory. The crowd was great about cheering as I crossed the swim timing mat, to begin jogging to the bikes and pulling off my swim shirt and new anti-fog goggles which worked SO well!
I was 69th of all the sprint swimmers with a time of 12:16 (12 minutes, 16 seconds)
The BIKE: Unlike for the swim portion, there are extremely strict rules for keeping a distance from other bicyclists. At first, I was nervous that I would feel confined, but it was never a problem. I was having fun on my new road bike, feeling lighter than I had during the Lake Cascade Tri on my mountain bike a year ago. It is still the weak link in the event for me, but I zoomed happily along, giving hurrahs to those who passed by. I was even able to give shifting advice to one young athlete, who accepted it quite gratefully, exclaiming “that makes the hill much easier!”
After the interaction with the farmer on the combine, the sprint course intersected with the Olympic distance racers. It was startling to have them pass. They were going so fast, they sounded like approaching vehicles. And when they passed, it was like they were in their own separate universe and I was stuck in slow motion. Very humbling and somewhat scary.
The writing on the legs comes in handy during the bike riding. I can use it to motivate or encourage myself regarding who passes me and who I would like to pass. There was one 63 year old woman ahead of me, and I couldn’t let it stay that way. She was not going to give in easily, though, and passed me again soon! I evaluated, then saw an opportunity to try again. We ended up visiting after the race and I thanked her for her “help.” 🙂
The volunteers were directing traffic, which there was not much of until we reached town. Here, there was some confusion at a corner, where a pick-up truck would probably have “taken me out” if I hadn’t been paying attention. The volunteer was frantically trying to communicate with him using her hand signals, but I could tell that I, mostly isolated from other bikers at this point, should hang back until it was worked out! Then, off I went again, to complete the bike course in a time of 44:51. This put me 128th out of all bike times, so you can see I was slow. That meant I was in 105th place. But, many good cyclists are not so good a the run. I was racing according to my training, and keeping a pace I knew I could handle. It was going to pay off in the run.
The RUN: Since I had been nursing a leg due to tree branch chipping work associated with putting in our swimming pool, my triathlon brick training had been limited over the last 6 weeks. (Brick training means practicing two of the parts of the triathlon consecutively during a training session so that the body gets used to going from one to the other.) If fact, I had only had two recent brick workouts, both the weekend prior, and they hadn’t been easy. So I knew the run was going to hurt.
To make it more fun, I had decided to try it bare foot, which I have been doing well with all summer. When I got to the bike-run transition, I peeled off my bike gear, including my socks. I already had my Moc3’s, just in case, conveniently folded inside the hip bag that I had been wearing for the bike ride. With a sock wadded in each hand, I set off on my quick, light pitter patter on the city street.
I felt SO SLOW, but found myself passing person after person. An occasional runner passed me, looking like Olympic distancers, but I seemed to be gliding by many of the other runners. I tried to concentrate on picking up my feet and watching the path. It was, however, much to my delight, nearly perfect for a bare foot run! When the young men made comments of awe, I had to smile. One lady commented on wishing she had an extra pair of shoes for me and was shocked when I adamantly replied that I wouldn’t want them.
The stats show that I was 58th fastest of all the runners, with a pace of 8:29/mile, covering the course in 26:20. Woohoo! That muscle memory did its thing! The mystery is – why I did get the beginnings of a toe end blister on each foot. I have been running up to 7.8 miles barefoot this summer, basically at this pace, without problem. I wonder if I was tired enough that I wasn’t lifting my feet as much as I thought I was. The good news is that I only barely noticed the blister sensation in the last couple hundred yard AND the blisters are still under some relatively tough skin, so nothing is open or very tender. I assure you, it was NOT because I was sprinting, because I wasn’t. Being bare foot was still wonderful!
The FINAL RESULTS: All of this made me —
- first in my gender age group out of 7 women
- 24th out of 88 women
- 5th of all women over 40 (Masters category)
- 88th out of 197 finishers
- with a total time of 1:27:45 (1 hour 27 minutes and 45 seconds), which includes time to transition
- very happy!!
I would like to note that the participants were 99% “normal” people. If you met them on the street, you probably wouldn’t guess they could race, and well, in a triathlon. There was a great deal of camaraderie at the finish line. The question now is: Do I want to just aim for a faster sprint time or do I want to attempt to train for an Olympics distance next year? I’ll get back to you on that.