Four Seconds; My Greeley Triathlon Race Report

Four seconds.  Half the time required to score on a professional bull ride, the same length as Amanda Bynes career, and length of my first ever (ahem) romantic interlude.  It was also the gap between first and second place in my age group this last weekend at the Greeley Triathlon.  While the marathon race is in my blood, I have made triathlons a part of my annual routine now for the third season.  Sunday's race was my first outing "sandwiched" between Boston and my next true target race which is the Slacker Half Marathon in two weeks.  My training has been all about hitting certain goals in the upcoming half marathon, but my "off days" or cross training days have been on the bike and in the water, so why not "tri" it out in a race?

Only issue that caused consternation with my run coach was that she had three tough run workouts last week culminating in a simulated half marathon progressive run on Friday...a couple of days before my triathlon.  She strongly encouraged me to treat Sunday as a "just a solid effort. Don't kill yourself, just look at it as an hour of reasonably hard exercise but hold back if you can so as you recover quite quickly. Think of the Slacker Half and other races which are more important, and use this as some good aerobic training for them."  In other words, "coast" this one and don't "knock yourself out." Easier said than done for this type A runner/triathlete.
My new shoes rubber-band'ed to my Trek Speed Concept

Sunday was also part trois of the Father vs. Son battle that started last summer.  My youngest (14) was also racing on Sunday in his first open water swim.  We have been "jousting" back and forth prior to the first race we both entered last year as the younger "Seeking Boston Marathon" athlete was boasting about how he was going to "school" the old man.  He's already faster in the water as he is a natural swimmer turned triathlete swimming on his high school team and club team.  I'm the runner turned triathlete.  I'm honestly anxious for the day he eclipses me and guessing it will be sometime this summer if he works at it with his new triathlon team (Teens that Tri.)  Having said that, I told him he's gonna "have to earn it" as the old man is not giving up the podium without him working for it.

Back to the training.  While my conditioning and fitness is probably the best it's been this spring, I really didn't train for a triathlon.  No brick sessions (back-to-back intervals of swim/bike, or bike/run.)  No transition training (unless the two days before the race count,) and I threw in a few new race day items which is never a good idea; new wetsuit, new bike shoes, and the "flying squirrel" bicycle mount (more on that later.)

With the typical early morning start, we opted to drive up the hour and a half to Greeley the night before which gave us the chance to bike part of the course and check out the Promontory Park water.  Greeley is a smaller town north of Denver known as farm and cattle country and boasting the state's 3rd largest college, University of Northern Colorado.  After registration and picking up our race shirts ("thumbs up" on the quality--I may actually wear this one again,) we took in the BBQ with my son's triathlon team before settling into the hotel and organizing for the following morning.  Just like a marathon, there's a checklist, but there's literally three times as much stuff to lay out.  After some "choppy" sleep (one of the three in the room snored,) the alarm clock went off after what seemed like an hour of sleep.
My son on the bike course

The day turned out to be a gorgeous day for a race as the sun came up and the wind that howled the afternoon before (which is quite common on the northern plains of Colorado) had not woke up yet.  While the triathlon is my second sport, I can no longer play the "rookie card" as the Greeley Triathlon would be my eighth tri.  This lead to a pretty routine pre-race routine of picking out my bike rack spot, putting air in my tires, and laying out my gear for the two transitions (from swim to bike, and bike to run.)

One of the "new" things I was trying in my race was having my bike shoes pre-clipped to the bike with rubber bands securing them horizontal to the ground.  I have been intimidated by this process and without a (triathlon) coach, I've basically been learning how to do it from YouTube and talking with the local (Kompetitive Edge) triathlon shop where I bought my new Louis Garneau bike shoes.  I practiced this rubber band trick and flying mount a number of times in front of my house, and wondered how smart it was trying it in a race as I attached the Whole Foods produce (and deli) rubber bands to my shoes and bike.
Son finishing his run.

My first mistake of the morning was not getting a warm-up swim in.  By the time I wandered over to the swim entrance, they were pulling swimmers out of the water.  The first time my new Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit would get wet would be in a race.  That's wasn't entirely true.  With my full bottle of Generation UCAN in my system and the youth division, and Jr. Nationals going out first, my full bladder was ready to empty.  Yes folks, I pissed myself standing there in front of several hundred people.  The fun part was noone knew except me.  Liberating...and relieving at the same time.  My wetsuit was now wet and christened. #TMI

While my pool times in the calm serenity of the recreation center have improved, my open water experience is weak and it showed in the opening segment of my race.  Quesiness set in within the first 20 yards of the 500 yard swim.  "Great!," I'm thinking to myself..."Not again!" as this has happened before.  My strokes were not as smooth as they were in practice, my form was horrible, and I took the serpentine path around the four buoys out in the water.  I normally reserve, "why am I doing this" second-guessing to the last few miles of a marathon, but this self-doubt set in early.  The only thing that helped me was finally hitting the turnaround point and knowing it was half over.  Have you had nausea issues in the open water?  I definitely need more open water practice (here's more on what may be behind the issue.)

As I entering T1 (transition one from swim to bike,) I was a bit wobbly dealing with my sea sickness or whatever it was.  Knowing I was about to try the "flying squirrel," I wanted to be more methodical in this transition and not "rush it."  I seemed to resemble a drunk fraternity guy trying to get his pants off as I struggled a bit getting out of the wetsuit.  Again...lack of practice, and lack of open-water (and wetsuit) experience hampered transition one, but I got in and out in a min and 21 seconds (respectable, but room for improvement.)  With my shoes mounted on my bike, my only other nanosecond mistake was grabbing a running shoe (my mind told me I needed shoes to ride a bike.)  I would not need one left shoe for the bike portion of the race so I tossed it back down.

I wished I had videotape of the mounting of my bike as the mount itself went fine.  The only issue there was getting into the shoes and laying over the velcro strap took a bit longer than expected, but I avoided disaster and the rubber band experiment paid off...and I was off on the 9.5 mile bike ride.  Riding the course the day before provided some help, but perhaps still groggy from the water, the first couple turns didn't seem right and I yelled out to a volunteer "am I going the right way?"  My god...I am looking like a rookie here.  I was not off course and on my way.

With a staggered time trial start, and my slow swim it was hard to tell who was in front of me on the bike section, but I felt strong as took off on the fast course.  One thing I noticed was that I was peddling practically the whole course in a strong gear so it felt fast--my results would later reveal a 21 MPH average which is a PR for me on the bike portion of a triathlon.  The other new twist in this race was also slipping out of my shoes before hitting the dismount section.  I had also practiced this the couple of days before and knowing the course helped to understand when to slip out of the shoes.  When I hit the dismount line, I was then barefoot heading into T2 (transition two/bike to run.)
"More cowbell"  My first place prize.

With all the speed and hill training, I was heading confidently into the strongest section of my triathlon--the run.  With two strong transitions and what I felt was a strong bike section, I felt I was certainly within striking distance of getting a podium.  I had only been passed by a couple on the bike (younger cyclists with the faster Zipp wheels.)  Gotta get me some of those I muttered to myself.  Despite my coach's advice to take this one slow, I settled into a pace and chose to ignore my Garmin.  I was only passed by one runner (a 37 year old.  You know this in a triathlon as they mark your age on the back of your calf.)  The good news was that I passed a couple guys in my age group who were winded.  I felt pretty good, but tired from the week's training.  The last guy I passed looked like this was not his hobby sport.  I could hear him get slightly pissed as I passed him within the last mile of the 5K, but he and I both knew I passed him for good.

With a horrible swim and a staggered time trial start, I couldn't tell whether my 6:43 5K pace would be good enough.  As they finally posted the results sheets in the tents, I'd find out the last guy I passed came in second place in my age group...four seconds behind me.  My son would get 9th in his AG which is pretty darn good considering it was his first open water swim and he's just begun his run and bike training.  All in all, a good day up in the pasture country.  My reward for 1st place...a cowbell of course.

Author's Footnote:   In terms of the triathlon, I would highly recommend it.  It's a bit smaller (221 entrants in the Sprint) was well organized, and I enjoyed the course...other than wanting to throw up in their lake.


  1. Congrats on a great finish! I'm about at the point of considering the flying squirrel mount/dismount but terrified of it. I need to go practice!

  2. ha ha ha ha ha...AWESOME way to christen your new wetsuit...couldn't wait till you got in the water?? ha ha ha h. Nice work! I'm like you, I can't wait to get onto the run because I know that's where I'll make up ground.


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