Off Topic Thursday: Triathlon Season 2020

24 Sep

Well, there wasn’t much of a triathlon season to 2020 but it did happen. I was originally signed up for five triathlons this season along with two road races and two swim meets. Of all that, I did one triathlon.

The race that did happen is a favorite of mine. It’s in Northern Michigan near my parent’s lake house, so it feels like a hometown race while it’s in a destination setting. This is my fifth year participating in the event. It’s always the week after Labor Day which is the beginning of the slow season for Northern Michigan. The weather can be a bit unpredictable.

My husband and I spent the week before the race at the lake house which afforded me the opportunity to swim on the course on Thursday. It was the most ideal weather swim I can ever remember. Lake Huron can be unpredictable, though, and the glass-like water I experienced on Thursday was not the 3 foot waves I saw on Saturday morning. Fortunately, the water temperature stayed above 60. They’ve canceled the swim in past years because of cold water temperatures mixing with cold air temps. This year, they kept the swim but shortened it from 1500m to only 500m. I was crushed. The swim is my strongest discipline and I usually gain 5-8 minutes on my competitors in the water. With a shortened swim, I knew my chances of finishing on top of the podium again were slipping away.

There were a lot of COVID procedures for this race but they were well communicated and people were good about following them. One was that we wouldn’t have volunteers to write our race numbers on our arms and calves so we had to do it ourselves. This ended up with racer #6 trying to left-handed draw a six on his right bicep which was fun to watch and he was a good sport about how bad it looked. We also had more spacing in transition, wore masks, had our temperatures checked, and had no awards ceremony after the event. All perfectly reasonable and safe steps to bring us back to racing.

We were lined up in the order we registered which made me #3 because I signed up the first day. It seems the first 10 of us signed up that day. We were released three seconds apart and I easily overtook the first two swimmers before the first turn. The swim was a bit difficult because the waves made it hard to sight the buoys but I made it in pretty fast time. The KayaTri (kayak, bike, run) athletes got mixed up with us so the worst part was almost being hit by a kayak near the end of the swim.

The 24.8 mile bike went pretty well. I didn’t get as much bike training in this year as I did last year and I still averaged 17 mph which is good for me. I had two other woman in my race pass me on the bike but I kept pushing and I’m happy with how it went overall. It was colder air temperature than I’d hoped for so the day before I went and bought a quarter-zip pullover at WalMart that ended up being a saving grace on the bike course.

The run felt off from the beginning. I was passed early on by a woman who I knew from the previous year was an amazing runner. I ended up walking a little bit every mile because my body was exhausted. I had some men pass me but no more women. About 1.5 miles from the end, I saw an athlete in front of me. I asked a volunteer if it was a man or a woman and he looked at them as they were walking through a water station and said, “That’s a man.” I was relived that I didn’t need to feel pressured to pass! However, the volunteer must have thought I was asking about the people manning the water station because as I got closer, I realized the athlete was a woman and she was fading fast. It was one of the women who passed me on the bike! I was able to move ahead of her with about a mile to go and a kick in the pants not to stop again before crossing the finish line.

The end of the race was odd because we immediately picked up our bikes, gear, and finisher plaque and left. They were going to do drive-by awards where you told a volunteer your age, race, and number so they could hand you an award. I was surprised to see I’d finished in 3rd overall! One woman who beat me was the strong runner. I’d beat her last year only because of the longer swim. The woman who won was new to the race and had a fantastic finish. The woman I passed in the run was an amazing biker who came in 3rd last year.

I have no idea when I’ll race again but I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to do so this year. If nothing else, I hope to do this race next year as it’s a favorite course for me. I’ve just got to work on that bike speed.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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