On Saturday, Emily and I finished our first triathlon. The Elkhart Lake Sprint distance race was a great introduction to the sport.
Friday night, we needed to head out for packet pick up. Luckily the race venue is only about 20 minutes from our house. We were promised an expo, and they had a few vendors there, including Smartmount. Smartmount has a really cool product that you can use to attach a race number to your bike rather than using adhesive. The number that the race gave us to use with the mount is great too.
Other than Smartmount, not a lot to say about the Expo.
We spent some time walking around the resort looking for transition, swim start, bike start, etc. The map we had was a bit confusing, but a friend at work had told me about how it is set up and I think we got the majority of it figured out Friday night. This is when we decided to get lost walking around Elkhart Lake (population 961). We weren’t necessarily lost, but we couldn’t get to where we wanted to be from where we were. And where we wanted to be was at the briefing from the race director.
It took a few minutes, but we did find our way around back to the hotel and made it to the briefing with time to spare. We actually caught the end of a nutrition talk.
Race morning, at 4:10, my alarm sounded. I wanted to be able to get up and have some coffee before we left at 5:30 to rack bikes. This was a perfect plan, but for some reason, I forgot to eat breakfast. It was much later in the day before I figured that out. Back to our morning, we started getting the car packed up, we each finished our morning routines. But we ran into a problem. We hadn’t tried to use the Yakima bike transporter with the new tri bikes, and wouldn’t you know that is what created our issue. My bike barely fit, and Emily’s bike wouldn’t go on if I had a hammer to force it on. We quickly reacted, took the bike carrier off the truck and put the bikes in the back of the truck.
We were glad that to have a vehicle large enough to fit both bikes. We were off to Elkhart Lake.
We arrived at 5:45 and made our way towards transition. When we rolled up on transition, there was a very excited group of people ready with permanent markers ready to write relevant information on each athlete’s body. It was great that they were so happy and cheery, it makes for a more fun morning. With age marked on our right legs and bib numbers marked on our left legs, both arms and apparently both hands (in case it couldn’t bee seen elsewhere?) we made our way into transition.
Bikes get racked. Then towels come out, helmets, shoes (bike and run), wetsuit, goggles, socks, water bottles . . . transitions bags seem like magic. I kept pulling more and more out and it never seemed to be empty! We had our transition set up within about 10 minutes of getting into the transition area. Then it was time to wait. Each of us dealt with the wait slightly differently. Emily stood still and re-checked everything. I walked around. With about 20 minutes to go until the first start time, we both put on wet suits. I took a quick swim in the lake, hoping that it would make me more confident. I don’t know if it had that effect.
With 5 minutes left, we lined up. Luckily we were pretty close to each other, with Emily’s group starting about 5 minutes before mine. She left when her group was called and I kept waiting. Then my group was called. The race organizers didn’t do a wave start, they allowed 3 seconds between swimmers heading into the water. As I approached the start line, this process seemed to take forever. I just kept waiting, talking to people and taking another step forward every 3 seconds. So it went for a seeming eternity, that is until it was my turn . . .
3, 2, 1 GO!
And I went. The water is pretty shallow so I kept running as long as I could, diving in when the water was at my waist. I passed several people on the first 100 meters of the swim and felt really confident. But as I rounded the first buoy, I got winded. I was gasping for air when my face was out of the water and when my face was in the water I was almost trying to breath. Around 200 meters, I kept my face out of the water for a while and tried to relax my breathing. It didn’t work. With 75 meters to go before I could run out, I put my head down and started swimming normally. Finally, I stood up and started running towards transition. I dropped the top of my wetsuit, ran up a hill and around the corner to my bike.
Swim Time – 9:20 (2:20/100 meters)
In transition, I moved pretty quickly. Helmet on, shoes on, jacket on (it was pretty cool out). I ran out of transition. Just over 1/10 of a mile run and I was finally on my bike (sort of).
T1 Time – 4:14
I jumped on the bike and pressed my feet down to get in the pedals. NOTHING! I tried again. NOTHING! I scraped the ball of my foot on the ground and then tried again. NOTHING! I was in trouble, my shoes wouldn’t clip into my pedals. This was it for me. I stopped, got off the bike and pulled my feet up, I had left the cleat covers on my shoes. I pulled them off as quick and I could, shoved them down the back of my shorts and got going.
The course starts off a bit uphill, nothing terrible, but I was certainly slower than I had anticipated at the start. Miles slipped by and I started coming into the turns that I knew were coming. Gracious volunteers warned us on sharp turns.
At this point, I saw Emily on the side of the road with another rider. From a distance I tried to figure out if something had gone wrong for her, or if she had pulled off to help someone. As I got closer, I saw that she had stopped to help him, I asked if all was ok as I went by, but I can’t say I heard a response.
I hit the turn around and was on my way back, about 5 miles left. This was great, we finally had some rolling hills. I struggled up the hills, but was rewarded just after with a great downhill moment. Just before mile 11 was a very large downhill, I hit 36 MPH on it and then noticed riders ahead of me turning. I decided I would hold off on braking because the volunteers weren’t warning me. This turned out to be a bad choice. By the time I hit my rear break, I had to pull hard. My bike started to skid out from underneath me. I let go of the brake and was able to correct myself. I had gone from 36 MPH to 11 MPH very quickly.
This was to be the final hill up before hitting a downward slope through transition. I dismounted my bike and ran for transition.
Bike Time – 48:38 (16 MPH)
I was a little annoyed by the way transition looked at this point. One of my neighbors had thrown crap everywhere. My towel was overturned, shoes weren’t together, my hat was missing. It was a bit frustrating. I kept my composure (sort of) and found everything. I pulled socks on my sweaty feet, pulled my shoes on and left.
T2 Time – 2:30
My run was nothing out of the ordinary for me. I left transition at a 10 minute pace and slowed down around the end of the first mile. This is where the hills started. Up the hill I kept running, I could see the top and everyone talked about this one bad hill. I knew that I just had to make it up the hill, make the turn and I was home free. Nope. I turned the corner and there was another hill. I wasn’t expecting this.
I kept running to the top of the hill, slowly and a little defeated. At the top of the hill all seemed to come into place. Residents were in their driveways cheering us on.
“It’s all down hill from here”
It was very encouraging as I made my way through the final mile. There were supporters all over and I could finally see the finish line. I ran hard, getting myself to a 7:30 pace for the final quarter mile. I crossed the finish line and was immediately excited that I had finished my first triathlon.
Run Time – 34:54 (10:56/mile)
Final Time – 1:39:40
I wasn’t sure how far behind me Emily was, so I took my water and made my way to transition to change into a more comfortable pair of shorts and a sweatshirt. From my bike, I heard in the distance, “Emily Frerman from Sheboygan” as the announcer let everyone know she had completed her race. I ran over and whistled and cheered.
I appreciate the group that puts on this great race and how well organized it is. It seems almost every detail is well thought out and for a first time triathlon racer, I needed that. Emily and I loaded the car and then spent some time walking around the race grounds while the Olympic distance was still going on. Emily won a gift card for something, and we had a little something to eat.
This was such a great time and I am glad that we have decided to move up from running and include swimming and cycling. I am really looking forward to our race in August, but I know I have some work to do before then.