Mile High Magic

I started going to Broncos games in grade school.  I'm old enough to remember Floyd Little's last home game.  He ripped off a long run which would have been a touchdown earlier in his career, but he got chased down from behind.  I was lucky enough to witness plenty of John Elway highlights in the old stadium and the christening of the new stadium the night before 9/11.  Ed McCaffrey had his leg broken playing against the Giants on Monday Night football that night.

Series of cycling course turns ahead
As I entered my second triathlon season, the Denver Triathlon jumped out as a great first race finishing at Mile High...I mean Invesco...errr...Sports Authority Field (at Mile High Stadium.)  How could I resist a race where I had so many sports memories.  The course was a bit different in that there are two transition areas with T2 (transition two: bike to run) and the finish line on the steps of the infamous Mile High Stadium.

While I have tried a number of marathon training plans (including Higdon, FIRST, local running club coaches plan.)  I have never had a triathlon training plan per se.  The advantage I had building up to the race was that my last marathon was in May so I certainly had the run leg figured out.  Advantage number two was that I used a FIRST training plan for the may Colorado Marathon which included three cross-training days a week so I've been swimming the last four months.  That covers two of the three disciplines. 

Sloan's Lake
With a big birthday coming up in July that put me into a new age group, my early birthday present was a new bike.  Last summer I borrowed my brother-in-law's 25 yr. old bike which was good enough to deliver podium performances in my first three (ever) triathlons.  Logic told me, that a "real" bike could only enhance my game and the third discipline--the bike leg.  Only issue there was that the bike was bought within three weeks of the race so I had little time to adjust to the new Trek Speed Concept 7.0.  Race day would literally be the fourth or fifth time on the bike using clips which I've never used before.  Only good news there is there would be no tipping over at a stoplight, but transitions with rubbery legs would be interesting.  The day leading up to the race was uneventful except for the bib/timing chip pick-up at the expo.  There were also mandatory triathlete meetings to cover the slightly confusing course.

The briefing was "worthwhile" in that it helped clear up some of my confusion over the two transition areas.  The swim start was two miles away at Denver's Sloan's Lake.  Not exactly a white sand beach with crystal clear azul water.  More like my Grandpa Godwin's tobacco farm pond which was a dark brown muddy murky ordeal.  Think "french onion soup."  The sprint course had a 1/2 mile swim at Sloan's, 15 mile bike loop that would end at Mile High, and a 5K run.
Cooling off at the finish

Race day weather was perfect unlike the day before which was one hot mutha.  The water temp at Sloan's was around 72 degrees so the wetsuit was "optional."  I borrowed a wetsuit from my buddy Ted and figured the warmth and bouyancy would outweigh the fact that this would literally be my third time in a wetsuit.  Transition set-up for T1 (transition from swim to bike) was fairly straightforward as I set up my bike and prepared for the swim start.  As the Olympic athletes started taking off, I waded through the gravely sand complemented by broken glass (vs. seashells) for a warm-up swim.  My second warm-up with the first being the bike ride from Mile High where athlete parking and T2 was at.  The swim felt quite comfortable.

The start of a triathlon can be quite frantic.  Imagine "Black Friday" as Walmart opens the doors for people looking for a $40 dvd player the day after Thanksgiving except it's in water.  With my swim confidence fairly high, I didn't line up front and center, but not far from it.  Just like a run race where the small kids or parents with strollers think it would be fun to be in the front, you don't want to be a slow or average swimmer up front as you will get pummeled by faster and more experienced swimmers.  The half mile swim was fairly straightforward...swim beyond two orange buoys straight out and swim straight back to shore.  The first half went quite well although there were quite a few collisions and at least one guy who wanted to punch me.

On the swim back to shore, I clearly didn't look up enough as halfway there, I was WAY off course to the West (my left.)  Crap...was hoping this didn't kill what I thought was a strong start.  I picked up the pace to make up the lost time and was a bit gassed as I exited the water.  Goggles off, and I started to unzip the back of my suit and peel down to the waist as I made my way to the bike.  Swim time was 11:48.  I think that was short of 800 yards as advertised.

Hopping onto the bike and clipping in seemed smooth considering what little experience I had doing this.  As I took off, my Garmin screen was blank.  Dead battery.  Despite bringing both Garmin's, the one I put on the bike had no charge.  I would be guessing how well I was doing from that point on.  Naked as it were.  Transition 1 time was 2:13.  The course was relatively flat (If I had a Garmin working that day, I could tell you how flat.)  We took off going south, then east on 17th into the sun with three turns around Mile High to head south again on Zuni.  A "tricky" part of the course went over I-25 on the 8th avenue viaduct.  A bit of a climb with a u-turn at the bottom of the viaduct.Fundamentally, we reversed the course and wound up back where we started for a second loop. 

I had a good sized family cheering section along "lower Colfax."  I got into a groove on my new ride, but struggled a bit with my timing going into some of the corners where slower riders went even slower into the corner with much wider turns.  Fortunately, I watched some YouTube videos on cornering and applied what I'd learned.  Did I mention I'm new at this?  I passed quite a few cyclists, but got passed myself by those more experienced with even fancier bikes.  I felt good passing someone fifteen years younger than me that looked much faster.  After my second lap, I pulled into transition and dismounted without tipping over on the new clips.  Whew! Fifteen miles took 47:49...just under 20 mph I'd later find out.  My T2 transition time was understandedly quicker at 1:28.  Off I went on the last leg of the race.

My legs felt wobbly as they adjusted from swimming to cycling to running.  Without a Garmin, I felt slow, but I must have been "pushing it" as my typical measuring stick for a 5K is you're not running fast unless you feel like you have to throw up. 

The run course was kind of cool as it circled Mile High then hit the Platte River trail running by Elitches amusement park.  I could hear the roller coaster climbing as I grunted out the 3.1 mile out-and-back running leg.  The good news on the run was I passed a number of folks and never got passed (as far as I can recall) by anyone else.  The advantage of an out-and-back is you can potentially see someone ahead of you or right behind you as you both reverse course back to the finish.  As far as I could tell, no old guys.  That could be good or bad--"were they all ahead of me, or behind," I wondered.  I thought my run felt slow but my "vomit measuring stick" I mentioned above told me I was running fast.  As I approached the finish at Mile High, a Clydesdale was in front of me (category for "heavier" male.)  He was much younger than me, but true to form, I always try and pick off a runner(s) in the final kick.  Final 5K time was 20:09.  Was that really 5K...that seemed fast, but I'll trust the timing mat.
Not a runner's purple toenail, but a purple leg

After crossing the finish line and debating whether or not I was going to hurl, the ice towels squeezed atop my melon and smiling faces from my family were a welcome sign.  No Garmin, but my delirious mind figured I came in around an hour and twenty four minutes (1:23:24 to be exact as I'd later find out.)

After milling around and hitting the massage table, they finally started posting the sheets.  Athlete's swarmed to the white folding table as I wormed my way to the front.  Twenty second overall finisher and 1st place in my age group.  My first first in a triathlon.

"The Day After."  Not sure if it was in the swim fracas or  during transition, but I have a beauty of a bruise on my lower left leg.  If a purple toenail is a "badge of honor" for a runner, this must be the equivalent for a triathlete.  Ouchie Mama!

Overall, not exactly a "Mile High Miracle," but definitely some "Mile High Magic."


  1. Freaking awesome job on your AG win, and with a dead garmin too! And I love your analogy about the black friday sale, that's soooo true. :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts