a German on Team USA

Tri Go Far … or … The Need To Feel Some Speed

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Tri Go Far … or … The Need To Feel Some Speed

June 23, 2018 – Inaugural Tri Go Far Sprint Triathlon, West Fargo, ND
500 m / 11 mi / 5 km

Liberty Olympic was my first triathlon of the 2018 season. Overall, I was OK with my performance, even though I felt sluggish on the run. My next triathlon was not scheduled until July 14, five weeks later.

I had been toying with the idea of fitting another triathlon into this five week span, but now after Liberty I suddenly had the need to feel some speed while racing. Looking at the race calendar I considered two sprint triathlons: Tri Go Far in West Fargo, ND on June 23 or Average Joe in Perham, MN on June 30.

Well, I decided on Tri Go Far, organized by the same race director as the Fargo Marathon events. It just fit better into my training schedule. The 23rd was at the end of an easy training week, and so I approached the race as a “glorified brick work out” without really tapering for the race.

It was the Inaugural Tri Go Far, and so it was also a way of supporting a new triathlon.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 25: Katie Ledecky of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal during the Women's 1500m Freestyle final on day twelve of the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships on July 25, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Now, you might wonder where in the Fargo area will they have the swim? The Red River? Well, no. The swim was a 10 lane snake swim at the 50-meter pool at the Hulbert Aquatic Center in West Fargo. If you have not heard about the Hulbert Aquatic Center, it is the permanent home of the swimming pool that was installed inside the Omaha Convention Center for the 2016 Olympic Trials. At the welcome they talked about swimming in the same pool as Michael Phelps. But for me it is way more interesting to think of swimming in the same pool as Katie Ledecky!

Diving In: Hulbert Aquatic Center opens (West Fargo Pioneer)

Swim > 8:21; 1:32 / 100 yds; 6th overall, 2nd women; 1st age group

Garmin: 1:29 / 100 yds

Waiting for the start (by Lindsay Kaye Photography)

This was the first time I did a pool snake swim for a triathlon. I was not sure what to expect and if I still would be able to do flip turns to duck underneath the lane line, considering the possibility of congested turns. But I really did not have to worry about all of this. Using a time trial start, and having the faster swimmers (according to estimated finishing time) go first, worked quite well in avoiding congestion at the turns, at least for the early starters like me.

I was assigned starting position #12, and was the 3rd women being sent into the water (both starting position #1 and #2 were women). I tapped my left foot with the timing chip against the timing plate, heard the beep, and off I went. At the end of lane 1, I hugged the lane line to lane 2, did a flip turn, pushed off underneath the lane line, and continued back in lane 2. As I approached the next turn, I hugged again the lane line to lane 3 in preparation for the flip turn, when the swimmer ahead of me pushed off right underneath me.  Oooops, I did not see that coming, and it made me flinch. But he was deep enough and I was horizontal enough that we did not even touch. Well, I have to be prepared and look out for that at the next turns.

I (in circle) just passed three swimmers and my goggles flooded. (by Lindsay Kaye Photography)

Swimming down lane 5, I got closer and closer to two swimmers who started ahead of me. They were swimming next to each other, as one was trying to pass the other. As we approached the next turn they were still swimming next to each other. I had to make a move to avoid all three of us arriving at the turn at the same time. I increased my speed, squeezed through between them, hit the turn just ahead of them, pushed off deep to duck underneath the swimmer to my left plus the lane line to continue in lane 6.

In all of this action, my left goggle came undone and flooded. I now had only one clear goggle and that on my weaker eye, but worse the left goggle was flopping back and forth. This really started bothering me, I finally just pulled the goggles down so they hung around my neck. Lane markers under water looked really fuzzy now but I started competing without goggle (they were not allowed in swimming competition in Germany when I started as a child) and so it did not really bother me that much.

When I checked my watch after the race, it indicated that I had a 1:24 per 100 yds pace for the swim. Yeah!
But then I realized that the watch had registered one extra length for a total of 550 m for the race, probably due to the goggle business. This brought my pace down to a 1:29 per 100 yds. “Oh, merde!” as the French would say. I can do better than that!

I ended up comparing my pace to the fastest swimmer of the day, Taylor Beynon. Taylor is a MSU Moorhead swimmer and holds the Dragon’s team record for the 1650 free in 17:50.59, i.e. a 1:05 per 100 yds. Her Tri Go Far Swim time including the maybe 15-20 yds. run to the timing mat was 7:20 (1:21 per 100 yds) compared to my 8:21 (1:32 per 100 yds). I do not know how hard Taylor pushed the swim but it still made my time look much better 🙂 .

T1 > 0:43; 3rd overall, 1st women; 1st age group
Bike > 29:44; 22.2 mph; 8th overall, 1st women; 1st age group

Garmin: 22.4 mph

The bike course was two 5.5-mile loops for a total of 11 miles. MapMyRide recorded a total elevation gain of 78 ft for the 2-loop course (39 ft per loop). Well, it’s West Fargo you can see all the way to the horizon, where would you find hills other than parking garage ramps? 😉

Many people think, oh, a flat course, that’s easy. Not quite. A flat course really does not give you time to rest and cruise, you are in the areo position and pushing the whole time. That’s not easy either.

In addition this course had nine 90-degree turns per loop (18 turns in total). The longest stretch without a turn was about 1.5 miles long. That meant 18 times slowing down going into the turn and 18 times accelerating coming out of the turn. But at least it gave you a chance to get out of the saddle to accelerate.

(by Ten Little Chickens Photography)

Most of the bike course went right through a residential area in West Fargo with lots of side streets and driveways. Each intersection and residential block was secured by volunteers and/or police, and all did an extremely good job in keeping us all safe. ‘Chapeau’ to all of them.

But back to my race. I pushed hard from the beginning and I felt good. Within the first 1.5 miles I had made up the 1 min head start plus 1 min swim advantage Taylor Beynon had had on me. I could tell that she was a swimmer and not yet a cyclist, the bike was not yet an extension of her. She later on told me that she was riding on a borrowed bike.

As I was approaching the second loop I was starting to wonder how busy the bike course might become with the slower swimmers now joining us on the course. But it never was an issue.

Despite all those turns, I was able to push the speed up to 27 mph on some of the straight shots, and that felt really good.

T2 > 0:47; 10th overall, 3rd women; 1st age group

Only 10th overall? Only 3rd women?
But really there were only 9 seconds between the overall first and me, and only 4 seconds between the fastest woman and me. I blame it on my hat not wanting to stay on my head 😉 .

Run > 23:36; 7:39 min/mi; 17th overall, 3rd women; 2nd age group

Garmin: 7:37 min/mi

(by Ten Little Chickens Photography)

The run still is my problem child. Even though my pace was better than in my other races this year, I still would like to feel more speed. Anthony Howe came flying by me and I felt like I’m standing still. OK, he ran a 5:46 min/mi pace and even in my best running days I would have felt like a tortoise when he would have come by. But it also does not help to encourage me to push harder, since it is quite obvious that I will not be able to stick with him in any shape or form. For most parts I was just running by myself, also not the most helpful in pushing the speed.

The run course was interesting to say the least. We were lead on so many twist and turns that I fully expected to cross paths with my former self who just started on the run course. 😉

At about one mile to go, a lead cyclist joined me. It was the first time in my racing career that I was accompanied by a lead cyclist. 🙂 The cyclist suddenly asked, “Are you the leading women?” In my mind I was going, How am I supposed to know? You are the lead cyclist, aren’t you supposed to know? You are in a much better position to look for the first women. I know I was the third women to start the race. I know I passed one on the first bike loop, but what about the second women? I passed so many women on my second loop, did I also pass her? Finally I just answered under my breath “I don’t know!”

BTW, I’m kind of bumped that I was not the fastest runner in my age group, even if it was by only 1 second. 😉

Overall > 1:03:11; 7th overall, 1st women; 1st age group

So, was I the first women at the finish line?

(by Lindsay Kaye Photography)

I indeed was the first woman to cross the finish line, but, because of the time trial start, I couldn’t be sure quite yet, if I also was the first woman overall. I had to wait to check if women starting after me possibly had made up their time handicap.

I grabbed a water and one of Sandy’s donuts for the wait. I was told Sandy’s donuts are quite famous around here. The longer I waited without another woman crossing the finish line the surer I got that I might be the overall winner. And, I was pretty sure that I had won my age group. It was very low key around the finish area. There were volunteers handing out water but getting donuts and returning the timing chips was help yourself. There was a DJ playing music but there was no announcer. It made me realize and appreciate what a Jerry McNeil adds to a triathlon.

Triathletes that had already crossed the finish line were just milling around looking like they did not quite know what is coming next. Nobody seemed to know whether there would be an awards ceremony or not.

So, did I end up being the overall women’s winner?

I finally decided to get my stuff out of the transition area and go back into the Hulbert Aquatics Center to take a shower. When I got back, all cleaned up, unofficial results were posted and I could confirm my overall win, but still nobody knew whether or not there would be an awards ceremony. It did not quite feel like a triathlon finish line where people tend to stick around, chat, and wait for the awards ceremony. It felt more like what I was used from running road races. Already athletes were starting to take off and leave. I felt sorry for the many first timers, especially the ones that had won their age groups. I felt like they had nothing to show for their achievements than a bib number and the online results that Pickle Events, the timing company, eventually will post.

So, did I feel some speed?

I did in the swim and on the bike. The run was faster than in my other races, road races and triathlon, so, yes I felt some speed, but not as much as I would have liked to. And Anthony Howe leaving me in the dust did not help much. 😉

So, what did I think about the Inaugural Tri Go Far?

Overall I think that the triathlon itself was a great inaugural race, and it only can get better from here. The course was well laid out, marked, and secured by tons of volunteers. I always felt safe and always knew which way to turn. But there was an anticlimactic end to an otherwise fun race. The organizers do a great job with their road races, like the Fargo Marathon, and to me Tri Go Far still felt a little bit more like a road race and less like a triathlon. But, if my schedule allows, I definitely will do it again next year. And hopefully more athletes will join in.


What’s coming up next?

On July 14, I’m scheduled to race the Timberman Olympic Triathlon in Grand Rapids, MN

Update – July 11, 2018

Received my finisher medal per USPS today. Seems somebody forgot that they had a box of finisher medals to hand out on race day 😉

Photo Gallery

(click on photo to enlarge)

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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