a German on Team USA

Timberman > Swim – Hills – Jog

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Timberman > Swim – Hills – Jog

July 11, 2015 – Timberman Olympic Triathlon, Grand Rapids, MN

I had never raced Timberman Triathlon before, so I was looking forward to a new experience.  I had test-ridden the bike course, and I knew that it was a fun ride with more and longer hills than what I can find in the Bemidji area, but also with some really fun and fast descends. In addition, there were quite a few other Headwaters Tri friends racing either the Olympic or the Sprint race, which is always fun.

Unfortunately, my glutes and lower back decided to tighten up and give me some problems leading up to the race. I just did not seem to be able to get rid of this tightness, which seems to bother me primarily during my running.  As a consequence, going into the race I felt fine about my swim and bike, but I was worried about the run.

msl-kitchen-spaghetti-0131-md110059_vertNormally, I do not like to drive 1.5 hours to get to a race on race morning, especially not by myself.  I am afraid I might fall asleep behind the wheel this early in the morning.  Been there, almost done that, and it is scary!  Since I could not find an affordable room in the Grand Rapids area at this time of the year, Craig and Lisa Peterson agreed to stay at my place the night before and drive with me to Grand Rapids on triathlon morning instead of coming from Walker.  Thanks so much guys!  In the absence of a ‘Noodles & Co’ (I know, I know … What kind of college town is Bemidji without a Noodles & Co?), I decided to make one of my favorite simple pasta dishes ‘One Pot Pasta with Tomato & Basil’ (recipe) and added some roasted chicken for some protein.

Craig’s Trials and Tribulations

On Saturday morning, Craig and I left for Grand Rapids, MN at 4:30 a.m.; Lisa was to follow later.  By the time we left, Craig already had overcome his first obstacle of trying to find a lost contact lens this early in the morning (while still half asleep).  After arriving in Grand Rapids, we proceeded in getting our bikes out of my car and into transition.  Because Craig’s bike only fit into my car by removing the seat, he had to put his saddle back into the seat tube.  Unfortunately, he overtightened the bolt and it broke off.  I only heard some exploitative, him saying something like “Don’t even say anything … ” as I turned towards him, and then he stormed off with his bike in hand.  After realizing that nothing could be done to get it fixed here and then, he tried to reach his parents (who had planned to come to watch the race anyhow) at their cabin in Walker hoping that they could bring his old bike still in time for the race.  But, as if it was not meant to be today, they missed a turn, had to backtrack their ways and came just a few minutes too late for him to still participate.  It seemed that on this day the world seemed to conspire against him.  I felt bad, because after all, I was the reason they were in Bemidji and it was because of my car that the saddle had to be removed.  Lisa and Craig tried to convince me later that I was a material cause and not the efficient cause.  But it all came down to that Craig had to DNS, a hard thing to do for any athlete, especially if it is due to equipment issues.

The Swim
Approximate swim course: image shows nicely the long shallow stretches.

Approximate swim course: image shows nicely the long shallow stretches.

But back to my race.  The one-mile swim was primarily an out-and-back course.  The beach stays shallow for a very long time, so it seemed like I could Dolphin Dive for ever, and very quickly I was out in front, leading the wave with just one more athlete – dolphin diving in shallow water is so much faster than swimming and especially walking.

Once I started swimming, my arms suddenly felt quite heavy and I remember thinking “This will be a long swim.”  But I eventually found my rhythm and to my surprise rather quickly started catching up with swimmers of the previous waves.  One woman of my wave stayed with me the whole time.  I never could get into an optimal drafting position – she had some problems with sighting, or was that me, no it most definitely must have been her 🙂 – but we still got the benefits of swimming close together and pulling each other (4 Tips for Drafting on the Swim).  About halfway on the way back to the beach, it seemed like she was falling back, but then we were suddenly in the middle of the sprint waves and we had to zip-zag around a lot of slower swimmers which separated us, and in addition cost us some time.  The exit is also very shallow, but it was rather rocky at that point which did not allow for dolphin diving, it was even difficult to run without stubbing your toes on rocks.  I decided to swim until I pretty much could not kick anymore.  Everybody who knows me, knows that I do not really kick anyhow, so my stomach was pretty much scraping the rocks before I got up.  I was gracious enough to give my fellow swimmer the right of way to the timing mat 😉 – actually, she must have been quicker in getting up and out of the water and she beat me to the mat by 4.5 sec.  Arrgh!  But hey, she is half my age, don’t I deserve some kind of an age handicap?  We ended up swimming the two fastest times overall, YES, we did not only beat all the women out of the water, but also ALL the guys!!!

The Bike

The transition went rather smoothly, and for some time, I actually was the leading woman.  However, it was just a matter of time until Suzie Fox would come blasting by from behind – I think she did exactly that between miles six and seven of the 25.2 mile bike course.

Bike course

Bike course

Around mile 2.5, Neil King had already passed me.  I had gone on the bike course with a 14 sec head start, after making up more than 3 minute head start his wave had over mine during the swim.  He rode by me with the words “Nice swim, Christel!”  To my surprise, I actually could keep up with Neil for several miles, even passing him again once or twice.  He started to pull away once we got to the steeper sections of the course along Sugar Lake Trail.  Well, this should be expected, all those winter months spent biking in and around Sedona, AZ have to be good for something 😉  But I just loved those descends, I reached speeds of over 40 mph on some of them!

Around mile 18 (mile 3 of the second, smaller loop), two women – team mates according to their uniforms – sped past me.   They were cycling within inches of each other, and for as far as I could see them they were stuck on each others wheel; they were so obviously drafting off each other.  Have you ever been in a situation were a car passes you in a ‘no passing zone’ at a ridiculously high speed, and you just wish high way patrol is waiting around the next corner?  Well, at that moment, I have to confess, I wished the race official on the motor cycle would come up behind us.  However, at that time I also was fighting with my own problems, my left gluteus maximus was starting to cramp up.  Pretty soon it was starting to affect my lower back forcing me to stretch out my lower back from time to time and probably slowing me down more than I would have like to.  I certainly was glad when I took the last turn towards T2 and I was hoping that I would be able to complete the run despite the stiffness and spasms in my hip area.

I never before encountered a traffic jam at the dismount line to T2, but there has to be a first time for everything, right?  A 92-year old (which is amazing by itself) sprint competitor and a relay team cyclist had arrived at the dismount line just ahead of me.  Not being able to swing his leg over the seat, the 92-year old was standing at the dismount line, spread-eagle fashion, lowering his bike to the ground, so he could climb over it, blocking about 2/3 of the dismount line.  The other cyclist, having a handicapped lower leg, stood next to him, straddling his bike, so he could swing his handicapped leg over the seat, taking up the remainder of the dismount line.  And here I was, approaching at a relatively high speed, while balancing on top of one shoe ready to jump off the bike.  All that went through my head at this moment was “Where do I go?  Where do I go? …”  and “Please don’t move.  Please don’t move. …”  I wish I had a photo of this moment, and of my face, it must have been quite a sight (Or like we say in Germany: Das war ein Bild für die Götter! – It was a picture for the Gods!)  Luckily, I could squeeze by just to the left of both of them.

The Run
The run course.

The run course.

Once again, transition was swift and easy, but running was everything else but.  It took me about 2 miles to find somewhat a rhythm, the whole time I was just trotting behind a guy who happened to leave T2 just ahead of me.  I passed him around mile 2 when I finally felt my feet moving properly again.  However, this was also the point at which we moved from an asphalt road to a dirt road, which did not make the run any easier.  Neil had warned about the deer flies on this stretch of the run.  They did not seem to bother me too much, except that I swallowed one – not the kind of race nutrition or protein I wanted or needed at that point in time.  The humidity really caught up with me during the run, and water was more welcome than a deer fly :-).  Overall, the run felt more like a jog and the time underscores this.  At about 2/3 of the run, another woman passed me.  Relative to my slow jog, she seemed to be flying.  Even on a good running day, I would have not been able to keep up with her, but on a good running day she probably would not have been able to catch up with me.

A volunteer with a garden hose shower was waiting at the finish line.  Oh my goodness, this hose-down was the best post-race reward ever!

Post Race

A dip back into the lake was the best remedy to cool down, wash off the sweat, and get refreshed for the awards ceremony.  I ended up 5th woman overall, 2nd Master, and 1st in my age group.  Almost every Headwaters Tri participant took home some award, not bad for our small club.

We all ended up at Otis’ Bar and Grill devouring our burgers with fries, enjoying our company before heading back home in different directions.

We all had a good time!  Let’s do this again next year!

I am now looking forward to my massage therapy and chiropractor appointment this coming week 🙂


Author: seecktri

an Exercise Science professor at Bemidji State University who spends most of her time working, swimming, cycling, and running; a German on Team USA Triathlon who nevertheless cheers for Team Germany for anything sport

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