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

June 23, 2014

2014 Topeka Tinman Review - Finally I did a Tri!

You would think with a blog titled "Slowly Tri-ing" that I would do triathlons frequently...well I should be, but as I mentioned in my last blog sometimes "life" happens.  Last spring I broke my wrist and so I was only able to do one tri and now with my Dad's illness, I've already missed two tris that I was registered for this year.
Me & Michelle pre-race
So I decided I wasn't going to sign up for any more races in advance for awhile.  I would just sign up if I thought I could do the distance and if I was in town.  I've done the Topeka Tinman tri a couple of times and it's always a fun, small, low key race.  I really like it.  My friend Michelle had already signed up, so I decided I would too.  They have two distances a "short course" and a "long course".  I signed up for the short, because I definitely wasn't ready for the long course.  The short is only a 400 meter swim, a 13 mile bike and a 3 mile run.  The long course is a 700 meter swim, a 25 mile bike and a 7.75 mile run.  Yes, they are kind of weird distances.  My biggest concern was the swim, but I knew a 400 would only be 10 or 11 minutes in the water and I thought surely I could handle that.

Going in to the race I had still been running several times a week, but over the last 6 to 8 weeks I had only biked and swam about 3 times and that was all in the prior I knew it wasn't going to be pretty.  I just decided the goal was to have fun and finish.  Nothing more.  I don't know how many opportunities I'll have to race this I wanted to just enjoy the day.

Topeka is about an hour and a half from Kansas City.  It is certainly drivable on race day, but my friend Michelle was planning to stay the night Fri night before the race so I decided I would do that too.  That way I was able to "sleep in" until 4:30 on race morning, instead of getting up about 3 am.

We drove up Friday afternoon, checked in to the hotel and then headed to packet pickup and registration.  I was registered in about 5 minutes.  Easy!  We decided we'd test out the water and swim for a few minutes.  The water was surprisingly warm.  We've had a ton of rain lately, so I expected it to be much cooler, but it was warm.  Not hot and uncomfortable yet, but not exactly cool and refreshing either.  I had brought my wetsuit just in case, but I decided even if it was wetsuit legal I wasn't going to wear it.  I would probably lose more time getting it off than I would save in a short 400 meter swim.

I got up the next morning just a few minutes before my alarm went off and got ready for my race.  We were out the door about 5:30 am and off to the start.  I was surprised, but I didn't feel nervous at all considering this was my first triathlon in almost a year.
My transition area

I had my timing chip and transition area set up in a few minutes and then it was just time to wait.  I saw a couple of people I knew and struck up conversations with a few other racers on my row.  There are no pros at this race, so for the most part it really is low key.  There are definitely still some competitive athletes here, but just not a lot of egos which is really nice.

Before I knew it - it was time to race.  Michelle and I headed to the start and went our separate ways.  I wished her luck. She would be doing the long course and would start a few minutes after me. That's the one thing I really don't understand about this race; the long course always starts after the short course and always has, even though they will be out longer.

It was already a hot morning.  It was close to 80 degrees at race start and very humid.  The only saving grace was some pretty good cloud cover.  But I think we all knew it was going to get hot pretty fast.  I knew those people doing the long course were going to have to finish in some pretty hot temperatures.
The swim start before the race
It was finally the 40+ women's turn to start.  This was also my first tri as a "40+"...ugh.  There is no actual timing mat for the swim start, so everyone that starts in a group has the same start time.  So I did something I rarely do - I started right in the front.  My swim time wasn't going to be great anyway, so no reason to add 15 or 20 seconds to it by being one of the last to enter the water.  This ended up making for a little more brutal swim.  I was kicked and smacked several times.  One woman hit me right in the middle of the back, not once, not twice, but three times....I mean seriously...I'm obviously right in your about you move.  Since it was only a 400, the pack never really broke up.  It was just kind of a jumble of bodies fighting for position the entire time.  The turns were the worst.  You literally had to dog paddle around the buoys because you couldn't actually swim.  Anyway, I felt pretty good throughout the swim.  It wasn't my normal stroke and breathing rhythm, but I never felt totally out of breath or like I needed a break.  I finally saw the shore and pushed myself to the end.  You have a little incline to run up out of the swim and most people were walking.  I was pretty proud of myself as I ran up the hill and kept running to the transition area.  I was a little surprised to learn that you had to run completely around the entire transition area (which you hadn't had to do in previous years) so it was quite a run and really added to your transition time.

I finally reached my bike, put on my shoes and helmet and took off.    You have to go out of the bike area single file which can slow you down a little bit until you reach the main street.  Once I got there I took off and actually passed a few people - go me :)  You have a little straight shot and then make a hard left only about a mile or less into the course.  As soon as I made that left there was a woman who had crashed her bike.  She was moaning in pain and two cyclists had stopped to assist her.  They were calling for the medic.  I heard later someone had broken their was probably her.  I tried to put the image out of my head and focus on my own bike. I knew she was being taken care of.  I actually felt great on the bike.  I felt strong and like I was riding really well.  I had totally messed my Garmin up so I had no idea about my pace, but I felt good.  When I'd get my time later I would find out I just did very "average" but oh well, at least I felt good.  I felt confident and I have been experiencing a lot of bike anxiety lately so it was a really good thing.  I was feeling really great until we had about 3 miles left to go.  You've been over a couple pretty good size hills and you have one last hill that's of any significance.  I see a lady passing me up the  hill.  No big deal, hills aren't my strong point and this frequently happens.  Then I happened to glance at her calf (because they put your age on your calf in triathlon).  74 it said.  I looked again.  Yes, THERE IT WAS 74.  Here was a 74 year old woman passing me up the hill like it was nothing.  Wow!  Another woman passed me about that time and I said "she just passed me and she's 74 - I want to be her when I grow up".  Amazing.  Truly amazing.  I was a little embarrassed, but more impressed by her ability.  I did look up her times later and she did beat my overall time on the bike, but I beat her on the run and the swim and take that!  LOL.

I finished the bike and quickly transitioned to the run.  It's just a quick 1.5 mile out and problem right.  Well it was getting hot and I was definitely getting tired.  When I first started I just really couldn't find my legs.  I had to stop and walk a few seconds to get my breathing under control. It had been a really long time since I'd done a bike/run.  By mile 2 I had kind of found a rhythm and by mile 3 I was really feeling pretty good.  I still had to walk a few times up some of the bigger hills, but I ran the majority of it, and was actually surprised that my run time was faster than expected.

I pushed to the finish where Michelle's Mum was there cheering me on. It was nice to have someone cheering. I don't get that in races too often.  I crossed the finish line and received nothing...well some water and sports drink.  You don't get a medal for this race.  You actually get a glass, but they gave that to you during packet pickup.  It's kind of weird just finishing a race and not getting something...oh well I guess it's like a 5K right?  You did get a nice shirt and the mug as race swag, so I can't complain.

I went to find my results and grab a slice of pizza.  When I got my results I was super disappointed with my swim time.  I couldn't believe it was so slow, then I realized they had me in the Males 40-44 category....yes this happens often.  So once they changed that I did much better. 
Enjoying the finish line

Swim - 400 Meter:  10:37; Bike 13 Miles - 49:10 (15.9 mph); 3 mile run 33:55 (10:57 pace).  That was 9th in my AG out of 13.  It certainly wasn't my fastest tri, but again, the goal was to finish and have fun which I did.  My overall time including transitions was 1:37:41. 

Race shirt & mug

I then waited for my friend Michelle to finish.  I expected to her be near the top.  When she didn't come in for awhile I started getting nervous.  We soon found out she had gotten dehydrated and passed out on the course.  It was really scary.  She is an amazing athlete and you just don't expect things like this to happen.  But like I said it was a really hot, humid day and I guess things can happen to anyone.  She doesn't really remember much.  Someone driving by the course who just happened to be a nurse saw her staggering and then fall and came to her aid.  Of course a couple other participants did as well by calling for the medic.  She is totally fine, but it was scary. She just needed some IV fluids and was as good as new in a few hours.  Just a reminder to all of us to be careful out there, especially when it gets hot and humid and we don't sweat like we are supposed to.

It wasn't the ideal ending for sure, but both of us still had a good weekend.  And I was just happy to have been able to do a triathlon again.  I'm hopeful to do another one in a few weeks, but we shall see.

In other news, please send some good vibes to my buddy Jack, aka Doug.  He has a small tumor on his hip that has to be removed on Friday.  It's displaying "malignant tendencies".  We will know more after it's removed and sent to the lab.  I love this dog with all my heart. 


  1. Good luck with your dog! I hope he is okay.
    Nice job on the tri. Scary about your friend.
    Hope your dad is feeling okay and not in a lot of pain.

  2. Oh no - hope Jack's okay. He's my third favourite dog in the world. I hope his surgeon manages to get all the bad cells and he recovers quickly.

  3. Great job with the tri, I want to be like that when I am 74 too, what a kickass grandma!

    Hope everything goes well with Jack aka Doug.

  4. Glad your friend is okay and that your dog is healthy! I just became a dog mom in April and am completely in love with her and all other dogs now.

    congrats on a great tri-- be proud that you felt great going at an average speed, like you said, you haven't had the chance to do too many Tri's lately! Also, way to wrock a 10'57 pace AFTER swimming and biking!

  5. Oh no! I hope Jack is okay - keep us posted.

    I'm glad your friend is okay and I'm glad you're back out there racing. Keep it up!

  6. Awww I hope Jack's okay now, is he? I hope the surgeon got all the tumor out. Congrats on your triathlon. You'll do better. Just learn from the mistakes you made and come out stronger the next time. Best of luck to both of you!