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

July 24, 2014

Lawrence, KS Sprint Tri - A Hilly Beast!

Wahooo!  My 2nd triathlon of the year is complete.  That is one more than I was able to do last year J  I’ve missed triathlon…..though I think I would have been ok to miss this one.  It was by far the hardest sprint tri I’ve ever done.  But it’s over…and I finished and I still had fun so that’s all that really matters.

My friend Michelle was doing the Lawrence 5150 on Sunday which was her  “A” race for the year.  If you aren’t familiar with the 5150 it’s actually owned by Ironman.  It’s an Olympic distance race that consists of a 1.5K  swim, a 40K bike and a 10K (so 51.5 “K”s…..get it).  Anyway, the top 5 finishers in each Age group qualify for the Hyvee Championship race in Des Moines, Iowa later in the year and Michelle’s goal was to qualify. Since it’s a qualifier, the race also brings in several pros, which is always fun to see.
They also have shorter sprint race so I decided to do that one. I could have done the longer bike and run, but I wasn’t ready for the nearly mile long swim.  My race was a 500 meter swim, a 13 mile bike and a 5k.

The race location is about an hour and 10 minutes from my home.  It’s kind of out of the way for packet pickup so Michelle and I opted to pick up our packets race morning – which meant trying to get there by around 5:15….which meant leaving home around 4:00 am.  The 3:15 wake up is not pleasant, but it always amazes me how awake and alert I can actually be on race day. So I was up and out the door by 4:00 and headed to pick up Michelle.
We did manage to get there about 5:15 which was perfect timing – transition/packet pickup started at 5:30 and there was quite a walk from your car to the race location – around a half mile.  We got our packets – they were out of my size shirt – I’m supposed to get one mailed – we’ll see.  We then got in line to pick up our chip timers.  It was just 5:30 and there was already a line. They had one person handing out timers.  This line would grow throughout the morning and was huge by around 6:15 or so. I would have been panicked if we had gotten there late.  The race organization for this race was not very good. I got to my transition area and set up all my stuff and then looked around trying to find someone that was doing body marking.  There was no one around.  Normally at a tri they practically knock you over trying to get you marked.  I finally asked someone and found out that there were only two people doing body marking and they were outside of transition.  Again, another long line….again lack of organization. I don’t know if they didn’t have enough volunteers or what.

The morning was actually beautiful.  It was only about 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. It would get hot later, but I would be done.  We’ve had some unseasonably cool weather in Kansas City the previous week which had dropped not only the air temperatures, but also the lake temperatures.  So this race was wetsuit legal, which is pretty unheard of for a tri in Kansas City in late July. The water temperature was 78.  Since I was only doing 500, I opted out of the wetsuit – assuming it takes me more time to get out of it than it saves me.
The Swim:

Transition closed and Michelle and I headed down to the lake.  I wished her luck and we went our separate ways.  My group was the very last to start.  The pros went first, then multiple waves of the 5150 then all the “sprint” men, and then finally all the “sprint” women.  This was the first race where I’ve ever done with a swimming start.  You basically walk down a boat ramp and enter the water which is very rocky!  You then swim over to a little area and tread water until the buzzer goes off.   You burn a little extra energy treading water for about 5 minutes – but I guess you could call it a warm up J
The race finally starts and as usual you find yourself in a jumble of bodies - Hands, arms and feet everywhere.  I finally got in a rhythm and found a spot that wasn’t too jammed with people.  All of a sudden though I feel a huge swoosh of water right in front of my goggles I look up to see two huge feet right in front of my face.  The girl ahead of me was doing the breast stroke and almost kicked me straight in the face.  That’s the closet I’ve ever come to being kicked in the head during a race.  I got out of her path quickly and kept on.  I finally reach the turn for the final stretch of the race and some of the faster Olympic distance swimmers have caught up with me.  All of a sudden what was fairly calm became a little hectic.  But before I knew it I was done with the swim and heading into transition.

The Bike:
Hardest Bike EVER for a sprint race!  Ok, just thought I’d start with that.  I run into transition and grab my bike….my tri bike (first actual race on the tri bike) and head out to the course.  You have to mount on a hill….yes on a hill. Now, I noticed this before the race thank goodness, so I had my bike in the easiest gear.  But many people did not.  People were struggling to get started, weaving, stopping, falling, it was quite a mess.  I was feeling pretty proud as I passed most of them and got up to speed quicker than many.  I was actually passing people – woot – I never pass people J  I actually veered outside of the cones to get around a big mass of people right at the start and then all of a sudden this guy was basically veering right into me…I yelled “woah” and headed toward the left where I ended up coming within about 2 inches of going off the road – which would have been disastrous, but luckily I managed to keep it on the road. My heart was racing of course, but I got myself back together and kept climbing…as we headed out of the park and onto the main course.  The course is HILLY.  No other way to describe it.  I have ridden tougher individual hills, but because this course was hill after hill it was just incredibly taxing on the legs. 
You get one little straight stretch across the dam, but you’ve got an incredible head wind there and I was holding on to my bike for dear life.  My front tire was shaking like crazy…so it wasn’t exactly an area where you could “relax”.  So, it’s finally time for the turnaround and what fun, the turnaround is at the bottom of a hill which causes multiple problems:  1) you have momentum going down the hill, but you actually have to brake to make the turnaround on the two lane road 2) People doing the Olympic distance race are NOT doing the turnaround and are flying by you while you are trying to slow down (dangerous) 3) You now have to go UP that big hill you just came down from basically a stop.  No momentum because you had to drop your speed to make the turnaround… about a leg burner.  I had been doing “ok” on the hills to this point, but this really took it out of me.  In the end you have 872 feet of elevation gain over 13 miles which in my book is a ton!  While the Olympic bike is more miles, I honestly think it would have been an easier bike because once they reach the turn around the course levels out and they have a nice long straight stretch for their legs to recover before doing those hills on the way back in – and they aren’t doing the toughest hill from basically a stop.  Anyway, I finally finish the bike – on a downhill… YEAH!  And head back into transition to get ready for my run (which of course will start on an uphill)…ugh!

The Run:
I quickly change out of my helmet and shoes and throw on my running shoes, visor and race belt and I’m out.  My transition times were actually pretty good during this race.  The bad news is, my legs are toast!  I mean toast.  I feel like I can’t run 3.1 feet, much less 3.1 miles!  So, I start on the run up the basically ½ mile climb.  And before I know it I’m walking!  I hate walking in a 5k!  Granted it’s up a hill and after a tough bike, but still I keep telling myself it’s only 3 miles you can do it…but my legs say NOPE sorry lady right now we need to rest.  I kind of walk/run until I reach the top of the hill and then I try to get going.  I’m still feeling pretty sluggish but at least I’m running and the hard part of the run is over.  Most of the run is pretty flat.  Of course running is not my strong suit, so I get passed by a lot of people….as in most people.  Anyway, the beauty of a ½ mile uphill start is a ½ mile downhill finish.  I run to the finish and mile 3 is my fastest mile of the course!  There is a little confusion at the finish.  I am running back toward the park and the volunteer said “Olympic distance turnaround here!” – I said “But I’m doing the Sprint” – he said “then go straight” which I did….and noticed I was heading back into transition – I looked over to my left – there was the finish line…ARGH……I had to then cross back across the parking lot to get back into the finish line area.  I finally cross the finish line…glad to be done. 
Me & Michelle pre-race

Overall, I still had fun.  That’s been my goal for racing this summer.  Enjoy it and have fun.  This was certainly not one of my favorite races ever.  As a matter of fact I would put it up there with least favorite. I don’t think I will do this one again, but still I can’t complain too much. I finished another triathlon and on my new tri bike for a change!
I grabbed my medal and a few refreshments at the finish line and then headed to get my results.  I was super excited when I saw I was 4th in my Age Group! That was my highest finish ever.  But then I found out there were only 4 people in my age group….of course.  I was bummed because I was that close to an age group award by default – if just one of those girls hadn’t shown up I would have won. LOL and I would have been thrilled to get it even if it was by default.  The other thing I noticed was my bike speed.  It listed me as 18.9 miles per hour! Say what?  My fastest bike ever was just under 17 mph….hey maybe that tri bike was magic?  But then I started really thinking that there was just no way on that course I just had my fastest bike ever.  I went to the results area and asked “does anyone else think their bike time is fast”.  My friend (who works for the timing company) said “it was a 16 mile bike right”?  No, I replied it was only 13….oh…the miles were entered wrong, suddenly my stellar 18.9 mph bike ride was 15.3 mph – that’s more like it.

After I got my “real” results I then headed to the finish line to cheer on other athletes and wait for Michelle to finish.  She didn’t feel like she had her best race ever, but she did finish 3rd in her Age Group (out of way more than 4) and she did qualify for the Hyvee Championship which was her goal.  So in the end it was a great day for both of us! 
Jack wearing my medal and trying to take all the credit again





  1. That darn Jack. Always trying to steal the credit!

    Way to finish another one! I have my first 70.3 in October so I have been reading tri reports like crazy!

  2. Doug takes credit for everything around here ... ridiculous!!!

  3. Sounds like a good race overall. I went to my first tri last weekend and it was also unorganized. Ugh. The bike started uphill and I was NOT ready. I ran it up the hill although I stopped and wasted time once trying to go and could see I couldn't do it so back to running. Hopefully I won't do that again. Nice job using your tri bike. I can't imagine.

  4. That Jack, what a character. Sounds like it was a challenging and frustrating race and glad in the end you enjoyed it. Super Kudos for being prepared for that hill right out of the gate!!!

  5. I learnt to always have a sharpie / marker in my tri bag so I can mark myself (and the members of my squad).

    Sounds like a really challenging race - WELL DONE!

  6. Nice job! That bike course sounds rough, but you did it!

  7. That was a fun report to read--I love how you tell it in the present tense. It sounds hard, though. The bike...ugh...Congratulations, though, and to your friend Michelle too.

  8. You are nominated - - Congrats!