It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

June 19, 2012

Topeka Tinman

With my first Half Ironman just 4 short weeks away, I had decided it would be a good idea to work in a practice triathlon about a month out.  The Topeka Tinman had perfect timing.  I had done the sprint tri last year and really enjoyed it, but decided the “long” course tri would be a more challenging option and was closer to the kind of distances I need to be getting in during training right now.
The Topeka Tinman long course tri is an odd distance.  It is supposed to be a 1000 meter swim, a 19 mile bike, and a 7 mile run.  So it’s a shorter swim and bike than an Olympic distance race, but a longer run.  I wished the bike and swim were a little longer, but It still seemed like it would be a really good “brick” workout.
 Several of us “Team Racine” racers decided to do it.  Topeka is about an hour and a half West of Kansas City.  When my friend Michelle and I did the race last year we left at 3:45 am to head to the race, which meant getting up at like 2:30 am or something crazy like that.  This year, since there were 4 of us girls doing the tri, we decided to book a room in Topeka so we didn’t have to get up quite as early – although I was still up at 4:30 am, but that’s just a normal day for me anyway.
I am a super light sleeper, so the hotel ended up being a bad idea – for me anyway.  People were crazy loud in the hallways til almost midnight.  Things finally settled down about then, but I was WIDE awake.  I think I finally feel asleep sometime after 1 am, and woke up before my alarm at 4am. I think I would have ended up getting more sleep if I had just stayed at home…oh well….everyone else seemed to sleep just fine.
We headed over to the race and arrived about 5:45am and parked and walked the approx half mile from the parking area to transition.  We got body marked and got our transitions areas all set up and then do all the normal pre-race stuff:  eat, go to the bathroom multiple times, check out the swim course and water temp, etc.  This is a pretty small race – only about 600 total for the short and long course tris, so the environment seems a bit more relaxed which is nice.
The girls pre-race.  Check out my Turtle Jersey!  The cutest thing ever right??  And it's matches my blog.

Before long it was almost time to start the race and the announcer begins letting us all know that there is impending bad weather heading our way.  The forecast for our race was questionable.  It was calling for 15 mph winds, temps in the low 90s with high humidity and 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms.  Apparently there were severe thunderstorms less than an hour away and the storm cell looked like it was heading right toward us.  They told us they would continue to watch the radar, but they may be forced to change the race distances for our safety.  A call would be made at the start of the race.  The weather didn’t really look that bad, but you could see some dark skies moving in and the winds were really beginning to pick up.
Finally about 5 minutes before the race they made the call.  If they kept the distances as scheduled, the storm would likely hit while the majority of racers were on the bike course which was too dangerous.  They would reduce the swim and bike portions of the race to the short course distance, but would keep the 7 mile run.  So, I was now going to be doing a 400 meter swim, a 13 mile bike, and a 7 mile run.  I’m not particularly good at any of the 3 sports in triathlon, but the run is definitely my worst.  This particular tri would be heavily weighted toward my weakest sport – so I was not exactly excited by this announcement. 
With my neck injury I had really only swam about 3 or 4 times during the last month, so I knew my swim wouldn’t be strong.  My goal was to get through the swim, try to “sprint” on the bike, and then keep my run under a 12 min per mile pace.  I knew I would struggle on the run if it was hot, but I wanted to feel “ok” on the run at least.
The  Swim (400 Meters) – 11:06
Our group finally starts (long course goes last in this race).  All women in the long course and relay teams are in the same start group.  So even though it’s a pretty small race there are about 50 people that start together and on only a 400 meter swim….well that means we are on top of each other the entire swim.  I got kicked at least 10 times, probably more.  It seemed like no matter how hard you tried you really couldn’t get out of the cluster of people.  Before my shoulder injury last fall, the swim was actually my strongest event, now it’s one of my weakest.  My swim time was not very good at all.  I think I was one of the bottom 10 overall for the swim, but when I got out of the swim I was happy that I still had some energy and was able to run up the hill into transition.  My T1 transition was 2:16, which wasn’t fast, but it wasn’t too bad either.
The Bike (13 miles) – 47:41 (16.4 mph)
The bike course is really not too bad.  It’s relatively flat with a few rolling hills.  You do have a pretty good slow incline for the first few miles and of course and these first few miles were directly into the wind.  The good thing was it was an out and back course, so that meant that you would have a gradual decline with a tail wind at the end of the bike!  I had already decided I needed to “sprint” the bike as much as possible due to the shortened course.  Once again I am not strong on any of the 3 sports, so sprinting is a relative term.  I will say I passed a lot of people!  At the KC Tri in May all I heard was on your left – today it was me saying that – don’t get me wrong plenty of people passed me, but I passed a lot too.  The roads are in pretty terrible condition and there were a few giant potholes to navigate, but it seemed like it wasn’t too long and I was off the bike.  I quickly transitioned (1:09) and I was happy with my fast transition from the bike to the run.
I ended up averaging 16.4 mph on the bike.  Last year, since I did the short course we did the same course and I averaged 15.1 mph so I was really happy with the improvement.
The Run (7.75 miles) – 1:28:10 (11:23 min pace)
 I happened to head out of transition at the exact same time as my friend Kristi.  So we started the run together.  I started WAY too fast.  By a quarter of a mile in I was huffing and puffing and my breathing was totally out of control.  I told her to go on so I could catch my breath. I knew if I didn’t get my breathing under control early, my entire run would be awful.  I still can’t seem to figure out this bike to run transition.  My legs are ready to move faster, but my lungs are not.  I try to “slow” down at the beginning, but I always end up too fast and having to walk in the 1st mile.  It drives me crazy.  I walked for a few minutes until my breathing was under control and then I started running at a steady pace. 
It was starting to get really HOT out and the clouds had gone away.  There was no weather coming our way afterall.  I would have loved a little rain.  There was some shade as you ran along the lake, but there were some other spots with zero shade.  I felt pretty crappy the first couple of miles, but felt like I finally kind of got in a groove around mile 3.  Miles 3-5 kind of zoomed.  I finally reached mile 6 and was ready to kind of “sprint” to the finish, but as we’d been passing the mile markers my Garmin was farther and farther off.  I knew I was going to come in over 7 miles, but I still decided to push it that last mile (which pushing it at this point was an 11:14 min pace).  When my Garmin beeped mile 7, I couldn’t even see the finish line and I was still inside the park.  I knew I had at least a half mile to go.  How could the course be off this much.  By mile 7.5, I still couldn’t even see the finish line.  I was dying at this point.  I had sprinted and not left myself much at mile 7 and now I didn’t know where the heck the finish line was.   I finally see my friend Michelle and she was like the finish is just around the corner, not too far….well it still is pretty darn far. She yells “sprint to the finish” and I jus t shake my head and say “I can’t”.  I was dead….that extra mileage had done me in.  When I crossed the finish line I was at 7.75 – NOT 7 miles.  The run was almost 8 miles, not 7………not cool!!!  When you mentally prepare for 7, they can’t just throw 8 miles at you. 
Total Time:  2:30:20
Anyway, I finished and I was actually very happy with my bike and run pace in this race. My swim wasn’t great, but that’s ok.  I can’t say that it’s something I’ve worked on at all, so I shouldn’t expect much.
I met up with my friends after the race and everyone was feeling pretty good about how they did.  3 of us all finished within 5 minutes of each other, but my friend Michelle finished 30+ minutes faster than all of us, so we knew she had done really well.  She ended up placing first in her age group and 5th woman overall!!  She is an amazing athlete!  We were all so proud of her.  So we stayed around for the awards ceremony to let Michelle get her medal.

Post race - Michelle with her AG bling!
I had a little rest and recovery on Saturday evening after the race, but come Sunday morning it was time to train again.  And train I did.  I met my friend Kristi and a couple of our other Racine friends who didn’t do the race for a 50 mile bike ride (well 47.5 technically…but close enough to 50).  It was another HOT and HUMID day and I was exhausted, but somehow I made it through it.  There is truly no rest for the weary when training for a half ironman that’s for sure.  The awesome thing is I can do it.  No way would I have been able to ride 50 miles after a triathlon last summer…no way at all.  It’s great to see how far I’ve come!

Race shirt

Finisher glass


  1. Congrats on another successful race!! Great to hear about the improvements and its is NOT cool adding another mile to the run leg, thats too big of an error.

    my favorite part of this post was "It’s great to see how far I’ve come!"

  2. Congrats girl! I'm still working on my tri race report but the bike portion of my race added over a mile...again, not impossible but mentally, not cool! :)

  3. Great recap - CONGRATS!!! You should be so damn proud of all these race performances.. I agree with the above - my favorite part was "it's great to see how far I've come".. THAT is what it's all about!

  4. Congrats! It is a good to have a tune-up race so close to a big one.

  5. Love the race shirt but even more love the turtle top!!!!! How great is that!

    Great race. I would have been totally ticked about the run being so long! That's crazy. Your paces are looking great and you are going to do sooo great at the 1/2.

  6. Congrats! Well done! Another strong race! You are ready for the half!!!!!

  7. Great job, Michael! All of those changes right at the start and then the longer-than-expected run--that's a lot of mental stuff to overcome but you did and you did great! And then the huge ride the next day! You're on your way to that half-IM for sure.

  8. Nice race and I'm really impressed you rode ~50 miles the next day!

    Regarding your comment on my blog, I agree taking in enough calories while racing is tough. Have you calculated how many you should try to take in for a 70.3?

  9. Wow, that is so much fun to read about all the events and all your thoughts about each one of them. It almost makes me want to attempt this someday. But more than likely won't happen. It seems a person would need someone to show them the ropes to get started in tri's. You are doing a super job at what you're doing.

  10. You're right - the turtle shirt is really cute. Well done in really trying weather - the humidity of an impending storm (that never materialises) is always so sapping.

  11. Way to go! I know what you mean about going slow for the first mile. Sometimes it seems like it takes me about 1.5 to 2 miles to get settled down.

    A 50 miler after a race is great! You certainly have come long way.

  12. Great Job! Re the T2 transition into run issue - do you start slow? Maybe some short fast steps to get the circulation going? What do you do nutrition and hydration wise around this time?

    And great to hear you backed it up with a nice long ride!

  13. Of all the tri's you've done, I love the name and logo and stuff of this one! I still remember when you did it last year! You sound like you're ready for Racine! You're gonna do so well! I only wish that I were around for it! That's a solid race! :)

  14. I love a recovery bike ride the day after a race!

    Do you practice transition runs? I too find it really hard to reign in the running pace off the bike, but practicing it really does help.

  15. Well done! That's a great race for you. I can never sprint to the finish. I love that race shirt!