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

August 18, 2015

Matt Mason Sprint Triathlon Review

Matt Mason Triathlon
Smithville Lake, Mo
August  2, 2015
Swim:  500 Meter;  Bike:  11 miles; Run 5K

Better late than never.  I did a triathlon 2 ½ week ago.  I’ve struggled lately to find the time to keep my blog updated.  Work has been busy.  Life has been busy.  You know how it goes. I’m pretty active on Instagram though if you ever want to find out what’s up with me you can find me on there. My user name is @slowtrigirl or there is a link on my blog as well.

Anyway, back to my triathlon.  It was the Matt Mason Memorial Sprint Triathlon.  It was my first tri of the year, and also my first tri in almost a year.  I was really excited to be doing a tri again.  It had just been too long.  Unfortunately none of my friends were racing this one, so it was literally just me all by my lonesome.  That part kind of sucked.  I was hoping to be surprised and run into someone I knew, but nope….just me.

The race is held at Smithville Lake which is about an hour from where I live.   It’s a pretty remote lake and the race actually takes place in one of the camping areas.  There is nothing like driving dark, winding, curvy back country roads at 4am in the morning to get the heart pumping.  I had a death grip on the steering wheel waiting for that deer, fox, etc  to come darting across the street in front of me and have me land in a ditch somewhere.  Luckily, none of that happened.
I finally made it to the race and parked.  I was there very early.  Pretty much when transition opened at 5am so I got a nice close parking spot which was great.  They provided tri tats, so no need for body marking. I got into transition and you were assigned a rack, but not a spot so since I was there early I was able to get the 2nd spot on  the rack, which is awesome! I was also the 2nd rack after the swim exit, so I knew finding my bike would not be an issue. If you've done a triathlon before you know how import your transition spot can be.  I've seen lots of people searching for their bikes before.

I set up my transition area and chatted with a few other people around me.  A few were doing their first tri, some were veterans; it was a good mix of athletes.
Before I knew it they were telling us to exit transition and head for the swim start, but before the start there was a “surprise”.  There were two parachuters from one of the local military branches (I don’t know which one).  It was pretty awesome to watch them jump and land right in front of us. I was bummed I didn’t have my phone so I could take some pictures, but we had already exited transition and I thought it was best not to drown my phone.

Before the race started there was a prayer and a moment of silence for Matt Mason.  It was really very moving.  Matt Mason was a local triathlete who was also a Navy Seal.  He and his entire Seal Team were killed in action in Afghanistan. While the race is named after Matt, all along the run course are photos of every lost team member including their K-9.  It’s really very, very moving. They do a fantastic job of honoring his memory.  Plus all the proceeds from the race go to great charities like Wounded Warrior.  
Now, it was time to start the race.  I lined up in the swim line.  It was a time trial swim start, so one person started every 3 seconds based on your estimated swim time.  I got in line with the 11 minute swimmers.  I knew this might be a bit fast, but I just wanted to get going. All of a sudden I found myself incredibly nervous.  It had been awhile, and there’s always something about an open water swim that makes you a little uneasy.  What seemed like a very long line to start went very quickly and before I could calm my nerves it was time to swim.

The water was warm.  So warm. This time of year the water is not refreshing at all. It’s like bath water.  But other than the swimmers churning the water it was pretty calm.  It took me a bit to find a rhythm, but I finally did.  I had a guy working so hard to pass me.  He finally did, then just a few strokes later I saw him turned over floating on his back to catch his breath.  Ha, I had to laugh at this a little.  The swim seemed like it went on forever, but I finally rounded the final buoy and headed in.  Once I saw land I gave it that final push and headed into transition.  My swim time was 12:38…not too bad for me. Transition time was 1:38 which included a nice up hill run from the swim.
I quickly put on my helmet, etc and jumped on my bike.  They had told us to make sure we were in an easy gear because we would be starting uphill.  I had already made sure to make this adjustment at home so I was ready.  Some people did not listen or did not hear because several people were struggling to get out of transition and get started. Once you go up the incline you start heading out of the park and almost immediately start heading downhill.  I remember when I drove in that morning thinking, man that’s going to be tough at the end.  You aren’t 5 minutes into the the bike and it is a huge downhill.  I was going 35 mph and that is fast for me, but all I could think about was man that’s going to hurt on the way back in.

The bike course was a double loop with lots of turns.  The course was very well manned however.  At every single turn there were one or two volunteers pointing to the turn, reminding you to slow down, etc.  At the first sharp turn however, the guy in front of me took it too fast and down he went.  The volunteer immediately went over to him.  It was a good reminder to me to slow down on these curves, it wasn’t worth a wreck.  A few miles later that guy passed me again. He was ok, but had a lot of road rash on his shoulder.  The course ended up being much hillier than I expected. These weren’t huge hills, but constant rollers.  It just felt like you never really got a break.  The total elevation gain for 11 miles was 600 ft, so not the worst ever, but definitely hilly.  I ended up finishing the bike in 42:38 a 15.5 mph pace.  I was a little bit disappointed with my time as I felt like my “effort” was faster, but I guess slowing down for all the turns and the hills kept my pace down a bit.  My transition from bike to run was 1:10.  I was happy with my transition times.
I was finally on the last leg! The run!  My legs felt awful!  I had done a few brick workouts, but I still didn’t feel ready for this.  It was like I was carrying around 2 lead pipes for legs.  Anyway, I attempted to run.  It was hard. I was tired.  It was hot. Very, very hot and humid.   Luckily the run was on a mostly shaded trail and was fairly flat.  That helped.  Still I did what I almost always do in a tri.  I started the run, feeling awful , but realizing I’m doing a pace that’s not at all maintainable for me and then within the first 5 mins I stop and walk to catch my breath and figure out what “pace” I need to be running.  It’s an out and back, so I saw the leaders coming past me as I was just heading out.  I cheered for them and kept going.  I had passed several people on the bike, but I was getting passed by lots of people on the run.  I’m not a strong swimmer, biker or runner, but the running leg is definitely my weakest area.  I was just about done with the run portion and grabbed some water from the last water stop about half a mile from the finish.  I was already breathing really hard and somehow I sucked it in through the wrong pipe or something, but suddenly found myself choking on it.  I panicked for a minute. I had never done this in a race before and when you are already out of breath and then coughing it's not a good combination.  I imagined myself suddenly passing out because I couldn’t breathe.  I had to mentally tell myself I was going to be fine.  I was seriously panicked.  I knew it wouldn't result in anything major, but I just didn't want to pass out on the course and embarrass myself.  I stopped running and walked trying to clear my chest and catch my breath.  It wasn’t working.  I would cough and then take in a huge breath of air and then cough more.  A lady behind me clearly concerned stopped her run and asked me if I was ok.  I told I thought I would be in just a sec.  I continued to walk and cough and breath.  Finally with the last quarter mile or so I felt like I could run again.  I wasn’t running a great pace, but this certainly didn’t help my run time any.  I see the final turn and the uphill grassy finish.  I grabbed a flag from one of the volunteers and ran through the finish!  My official run time was 35:57 an 11:36 pace. 

My overall finish time was 1 hour and 33 minutes.  It wasn’t a great race for me, but it wasn’t bad either.  It had been challenging and hot and I hadn’t trained specifically for the race.  I had literally been doing just barely enough biking and swimming to be able to do the distances. But it was a fantastic race!  It was great to be racing again and I had forgotten just how much fun triathlon could be.  The race volunteers were outstanding.  By far the best in any triathlon I have ever done. This race was just so well organized and put together.  I can't say enough about it.  Matt would be proud.
I walked to transition to grab my bike and leave and found out we couldn’t go in until the last biker had come in off the course.  I thought this was awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever been to another race where they did this (or maybe I just wasn't done in time).  I don’t know how many times I’ve had races where I’ve had to fight the people leaving to just get into transition and start the run.  It can be a very disheartening feeling.  They are finished and you are just starting your last leg.  I thought that was really awesome. 

I have one more sprint tri in a few weeks and then hopefully next year I’ll get back to doing some more races and longer distances.  This year was just about having fun and doing a couple of tris.  I had hoped to do 3, but timing for a couple just didn't work out.  
Dog Tag Medal


  1. Congrats on this accomplishment , Michael! The water down the wrong pipe would have seriously scared me. I'm glad you were OK!

  2. Great job on the race! And I love that they donate all the proceeds to Wounded Warriors. Also, I really love your tri kit!

  3. Well done. Apart from breathing in the water and not being able to run cause it's hard to run without oxygen it sounds like it was a pretty good one.