Monday, June 14, 2010

Tri-Shark Race Report

Hey, remember me? The Tales From the Mid-Pack guy? Yeah, I'm back with an exciting new update on my 2010 racing "season" (which, so far, amounts to two races). I actually participated - and completed! - a triathlon on June 5, which I believe allows me to continue to describe myself as an "athletic person." At least for another few months.

The event in question is a long-standing sprint-distance triathlon in scenic Normal, Illinois, which is about 130 miles south of Chicago. The participants included Cath, Drew, our resident Ironman-in-training Ross, and myself. We drove down to Normal on Friday and arrived with plenty of time to register at the lake start. "Register" might be a little strong of a word, considering the whole process amounted to basically crossing our names off a list and handing us our swim caps and numbers. A nice thing about Tri-Shark is that they allow you the option of forgoing a t-shirt in exchange for bumping a few bucks off the registration fee. Considering that about 10 percent of all race shirts ever get worn in our household, this was a nice option. We all took a moment to gander at the lake, which would be the site of our 600-yard swim, and then head back to the 'ol Hampton Inn.

Now, honestly, I wasn't completely sure that this race was going to even get off the ground - the forecast called for a series of major thunderstorms to come crashing through the area all evening and deep into the following (i.e., race day) afternoon, and I know that race directors are typically quick to abort a race - or at least scrub the swim portion - when the dark clouds roll in. My fears were only compounded when the first storms rolled through at 3:00 a.m., and it was still raining and very dark at 6:30 a.m. Hmmm, not looking good.

But a confidently-written mass email from the organizers bolstered our hopes that we'd be racing, so we soldiered on to the race site. We had all gotten settled in the transition area when they told us that the start would be delayed "until further notice" because of the surrounding storm activity. Crapo. Is this going to happen today? But then, all of a sudden, the director is again on her bullhorn telling everyone that we're back on schedule, and looking at an on-time departure! Boo ya!

Drew, Ross and I take off in the same wave - sporting the mighty powder blue swim caps! - and I quickly remember that: 1. I haven't swam in open water since last September, 2. swimming with a wetsuit feels totally different that swimming without a wetsuit, and 3. triathlon swim starts are very. physical. affairs. These people were in it to win it, and swimming like they were in a bar fight. Yikes. Gotta say that the starts are probably my least favorite part of triathlon - it can be just brutal out there.

Luckily, I managed to survive the first 500 yards before I literally had the watch knocked right off my wrist as I made my way to the swim exit. Luckily, it was just my old Nike and not something I'd be losing tears over, but it was still a surreal experience realizing that some catfish would likely be eating my watch for breakfast. Oh, well. Moving on...Swim - 12:19.

Transition was smooth and easy (1:55), grabbed the bike and headed out - legs didn't exactly feel great, but I hoped that they'd warm up as I moved along. The course was super-smooth (gotta love the rural roads), with just a few short hills, but it still felt like a lot longer than 13 miles. I obviously didn't have my watch anymore, and I don't ride with a bike computer, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but I tried to keep up a pace that felt somewhere between good and just a little bit hurty. My bike fitness is admittedly pretty poor right now - longest ride is right around 35 miles, and not exactly a hard 35, either - but I came into T2 feeling fine, and saw Cath just as she was entering the transition area. Bike - 36:30 (21.4 mph); T2 - 1:37.

We started to run out together, and I actually had a hard time keeping up with her - I hadn't taken in any liquids on the bike, and I was feeling a bit dry. Stopped to grab a cup of water, and started to feel a little more normal. I just wanted to hunker down into a steady groove and stick with it until the end. The first half of the run felt like it was all uphill, so I was thrilled to see the turn-around point, but - of course - the way back wasn't exactly an express elevator down to the finish. But you've gotta love a 5k run - it can only hurt for so long, and then it's over. I even had a little sprint left in me at the end! Run - 22:17 (7:11/mile); Total - 1:14.40.

All-in-all, this was a really fun race - really well organized, good size, nice distance. I've never done a legitimate sprint distance triathlon (I've done the Galena tri a couple of times, and also one in Terre Haute, IN, but the bike and run legs were slightly longer for each), and it was a nice change of pace. Not my favorite distance, but it sure was nice to finish the race in time to get back and shower at the hotel before check-out time! I've still got a long way to go, training-wise, to be ready for the Racine 70.3 next month, but this was a really nice practice run.

Now, if I could just get in some serious riding...



  1. Great race, John! Ah, Racine looms... But who has time for serious riding with all this World Cup Action??

  2. Nice race! It's fun to be back after IMWI right? And glad to see you back here blogging :)