Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Motor City Sprint Triathlon Race Report

My first triathlon of the season was Sunday and I'm happy to report that for once, I did NOT finish at the back of the pack!

The sprint distance for this race was a 500m swim, 20k bike, and 3.3 mile run and was held on Belle Isle, about 20 minutes across the border from home.  I'd heard great things about this race and course from friends who had raced it before so I was excited and nervous to try it out.  Excited to see how my training is translating into performance and nervous that all of this training wouldn't translate into an improved performance.

Packet pick-up on Saturday went really smoothly.  We were given a clear bag with our race number on it for T1 (there were two transition areas), a swim cap, and the race t-shirt.  The t-shirt isn't bad in that although it's cotton it isn't that horrible stiff, scratchy cotton you get alot of.  It's a soft cotton in a nice colour with a cool graphic.  My only complaint is size.  Aren't triathletes generally on the slimmer side?  Why is the women's small so huge?!  Despite that, I did appreciate that the bag wasn't loaded with useless papers and because Hammer was a sponsor you had the option of grabbing a gel from the bin.  People crack me up though.  The sign on the bin says, "To ensure that all athletes are able to get a gel please take only one" and people were grabbing fistfuls.  Really?  They're not THAT expensive.

On race day the alarm went off at 4:45 because we wanted to head out for 5:30 to ensure that we had ample time make it across the border and set up transitions.  I choked down a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and loaded up the car to head out.  Border crossing was a breeze and we arrived at the location to find loads of parking and alot of people already there.  Sydney got registered, we got our timing chips, and set up our run stuff at T2.  I got a great spot, second from the aisle, about halfway between between the bike in and run out.  We then had to get our swim and bike stuff down to the beach area where T1 and body marking was located.  It was little odd riding my bike in flip flops, with a bag containing me wetsuit and other gear but I managed the mile to T1 without falling so that was good!  It also gave me a chance to make sure that my bike was in the right gear before I racked it.  Again I scored a spot on that was second from the aisle and went about setting up my stuff.  I went to body marking where they wrote my number on each arm, on the top of each hand, and S on one calf, and my age on the other.  Overkill much?  

The race meeting and my wave start was still more than an hour away but I put my wetsuit on because it was FREEZING!  We chilled out (literally) on the beach and finally at 7:40 the race director held the meeting.  The Olympic waves began going off at 8:00 sharp and we got in to do a warm up.  I was worried about getting into the water but truthfully it ended up being warmer in the water than out of it.  I warmed up for about ten minutes and felt really good.  Finally, it was time to head back into the water and get ready to start.  

I was most nervous about the layout of this swim course.  For a 500m swim there were four buoys that we had to go around.  This coupled with all of the buoys meant for the Olympic distance made a little confusion when looking out at the course.  The horn went off and I started out feeling really strong.  I took the first turn a little wide and started to head to the second buoy.  The water was only about shoulder deep here so a good majority of the field was walking or running through the water.  I hate that!  It's frustrating to try to swim through a wall of people who are walking and not letting you swim by them.  Once you turned at the second buoy the water got too deep to stand up in so everyone started swimming.  The thrash fest began and I was just trying to separate from the group.  I finally got a good line and was sighting the next buoy perfectly.  Unfortunately the group was headed to the inside of the buoy when the lifeguard started yelling at them to go around the outside.  They all made a bee line towards me and that's when I got pulled under.  I came up choking and spitting water and lost about a minute trying to spit out all the water and get myself collected.  I was so pissed because I was having a good swim and with such a short swim a minute was big chunk of time.  The rest of the swim was awful as my hr was crazy high and I had a hard time getting my breathing down.  What I learned from this?  Learn to swim FASTER so I can get in front of all this mayhem.

Swim time - 12:22 (78/127 females) - BOOO

There was a fairly long run up to the transition area and I used this time to try to get my wetsuit sleeves off.  The sleeves of my 2XU wetsuit are really tight but normally don't give me any trouble.  I think because I was so worked up from the swim my coordination was the first to go.  Fortunately, I was out of the sleeves and collected before hitting my rack.  I stripped pretty quickly and got my shoes, glasses, and helmet on.  I lost a little time trying to stuff everything into the plastic bag - the bags would be collected and transported to the finish area - which then proceeded to tear around the top.  Finally, I grabbed my bike and ran for the mount line.

T1 - 2:24 - I normally way quicker in transition so this was disappointing

The bike course was two loops plus about a mile of the island.  Two car lanes plus the bike lane was closed to traffic for the race (there weren't enough participants to allow them to close it to all traffic).  Racers were instructed to stay to the right and pass on the left.  This did not happen.  The bike course was a complete gong show of people riding all over the place, sometimes two and three wide.  I resolved to not let this bother me and just try to pass as many people as possible.  The course is totally flat and in fairly good shape.  I was happy to see that I was only passed by Olympic distance athletes sporting University of Michigan or Michigan State racing kits and full disc rear wheels.  The oddest person I passed was guy on a tri bike wearing an aero helmet but wearing running shoes on flat pedals.  I felt really strong on the bike and kept a steady pace.  My only problem was trying to figure out how hard to push.  I felt like I could have pushed the bike more but was worried about burning out my legs for the run.  This is something I'm going to have to work on.  I also drank continuously throughout the ride as instructed by Coach Mary.  I had Hammer Heed in my aero bottle and was happy to see that I've become better at drinking with an elevated heart rate.  My stomach did start to revolt a little about 3/4 of the way through so I stopped drinking.  It was still pretty mild out so I wasn't worried about dehydrating but I was worried about puking up the Heed so I made the call.  It worked out well.  

Bike time - 38:07 for an average pace of 19 mph (24/127 females) -  I am VERY happy with this bike time.  

I dismounted with no problem and ran it into T2.  I quickly switched out the shoes (speedlaces worked great), tossed off the glasses and helmet and grabbed my hat and gel.  

T2 - 1:05

I sucked back the gel running out of T2 and gabbed a cup of water from the water station.  Right away I fell into a smooth pace and was happy to see that my legs felt great and although I could tell that my hr was high it felt like I could maintain it.  The run wound into a nature trail that was in pretty rough shape. The race team had taken the time to spray paint the areas that were heaving and potholed but you still had to be really careful.  I passed a couple of people (not in my age group) and was passed by ALOT of men in the 40-44 AG that had gone off after us.  I ran based on feel and concentrated on quick feet.  Unfortunately a woman in my age group went by me with less than a mile to go.  I tried really hard to stay on her heels to potentially sprint it out at the finish but it wasn't meant to be.  She ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of me.

Run time - 30:58 for an average pace of 9:07/mile (the course was a little longer than 3.2 miles).  I'm happy with this and it's a PR for 3.2 miles.

Total time - 1:25:54
30/127 Overall
5/18 Age Group

5th place!  I'm so excited by that.  Although I was disappointed with how the swim went, and wonder whether I could have pushed harder on the bike I'm really happy with the overall outcome.  I was on the first page of the race results for the first time ever!

Happy with the outcome

My next race is an Olympic distance in Otter Lake Michigan on July 17th.  I'm a little nervous about the swim but what else is new?!

Congrats to all those who raced this past weekend and good luck to anyone racing this weekend. 


  1. Wohoo! Great race! That swim just sounds crazy and you really killed it on the bike. I think we always wonder if we could have done more.


  2. Congrats Mary! YOu did AWESOME! All the hard winter and spring work is paying off! :)

  3. Way to go, Mary! That's an incredible race you just rocked. 19 on the bike? That's fast! Fifth place is awesome, and I bet you would have done even better if you hadn't been trampled in the swim. Nice work. You're gonna rock Steelhead! See ya in a couple months.

  4. WooHoo! Congrats Mary... you had a fabulous race! You should be super proud of that one!!!