Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fat Tire Triathlon-Lory State Park

Fat Tire Triathlon-Lory State Park-Fort Collins, Colorado
750 m/648 yard swim, 12 mile mountain bike, 4.8 mile trail run

In short, had a great race. Knee was fine and though I was slow I didn't have to walk any of the run course.

Weather was perfect for racing-high 50's and cloudy (I'm guessing. Thermometer on a bank in a town at the bottom of Lory read 59 degrees on my way home at 12:30). Weather was not great for standing around in a wetsuit for 45 minutes on the shore of a windy lake at 8 a.m. I was in the very last wave and they kicked us out of transition around 45 minutes before my wave so I couldn't stay bundled up in my toasty down vest and fleecy hat. I was so cold I was starting to shiver so I tried running back and forth along the beach but it was too rocky and I was hurting my feet. So I tried running in place and this helped a wee bit but still by the time I got in the water to warm up my left index finger was white and had lost feeling. Water almost felt warmer than the air and once I started swimming to warm up I felt better.

Even my bike looks cold.

Eltuck Bay-swim out to the last orange buoy, turn the corner, head back and you're done.

Eltuck Bay and transition area

My wave was the last and very small and spread out so I had plenty of room. I found a pair of feet to draft off of for a bit but the woman was swimming a crazy line and finally went so far off course that I had to let her go. I felt good through the whole swim and for once the turn-around came much sooner than I thought it would. I turned tightly around the buoy while a woman on my outside swam wide and I couldn't believe how much space I gained on her with that one turn. Up until today I never thought it made all that much difference. Swim was over before I knew it with no drowning or panicking. 13:45 for 648 yards/750 meters (advertised distance, race morning they claimed 1/2 mile or 880 yards but I seriously doubt it was that far based on my time).

T1 (1st transition) was 3:52 and this included an uphill run of maybe 75-100 yards from the lake to the transition area. I took my wetsuit off while still in the water and it took 48 seconds which was disappointing since it had taken me 37 secs at masters the other morning. The timing chip that I had to wear on my ankle was so huge-are they timing my splits or putting me under house arrest? I wanted to take the suit off while it was wet in the water since I thought it would be easier to get over the chip. I always have such a problem getting my wetsuit off as it is once I'm out of the water even with copious amounts of body glide. The run plus wetsuit removal took 2:11, the time in actual transition was 1:41.

The bike course was 2 loops and for the first loop there were plenty of people to chase and I found myself pushing myself to try to keep up with and pass people. By the second loop the course had thinned and I had a scant few people to pace off of. I found myself losing focus and slowing down for the last 1/4 or so of the final lap as I'd lost sight of anybody in front of or behind me. I passed a few very slow people at the end but coming up on someone significantly slower than you and having someone going close to your pace just up ahead of you to chase are not the same.

The course was nice smooth single track with lots of twists and turns and switchbacks. A little bit of climbing but nothing too crazy. Lots of little ups and downs. Beautiful scenery and a lot of fun. I love off-road tri's. Passing is a bit of a nuisance on the single track but except for a very few instances people were polite and it was no problem.

I didn't see anybody crash or fall in front of me, something that usually happens a few times in front of me at an off-road tri but I did see a guy sit down on the side of the trail with his bike. Some people ahead of me passed him so I assumed he was o.k. but asked him anyway just to be sure. He replied, 'Uh, sort of. Yeah, I'm o.k.' and smiled and waved me on. I didn't see any blood or obvious sign of impending heart attack but I felt a bit bad leaving him there. I could easily have summoned help for him if he needed it, he was right near a place where the trail crossed a road.

By the end of the first bike loop I was ready for the race to be over. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of another loop and then a 4.8 mile trail run. I realized I wasn't even near 1/2 way done. Had one of those 'why did I sign up for this, now?' moments then started the second lap and had a great ride. By the end of the second lap I was dreaming of my nice warm jacket in transition as it was misty and a few little rain droplets and I was getting cold. Then I forgot to put it on in transition. Turned out the rain never amounted to anything and I didn't need it but still, doh.

Lots of people jealous of my handlebar streamers. Except for maybe the guys I passed. Bad enough to be passed by a gimpy old lady with jiggly thighs who started maybe 18 minutes after you; the streamers are just a final indignity.

Bike time was 1 hour, 22 minutes for 12 miles (advertised, my bike computer was on the fritz as per usual during a race so I couldn't measure it for myself).

T2 Time was 1:12. Stupid socks cost me a sub 1:00 but for such a long run I thought it was worth the extra seconds and it was.

This was the big unknown. Would I have to walk? Would my knee hold up? Haven't run more than 3 miles since foot surgery a year ago last February and now I have to run 4.8 miles on a singletrack trail up a mountain? After all that swimming and biking? I've not been timing my training runs so I have no idea what pace I'm currently running at. Doesn't matter anyway because the trail is so steep for so long that normal pace doesn't apply.

The start of the run goes right past the finish area, you can hear all the cheering as people come in. It makes me want to cry. 4.8 miles. It seems an impossibility.

The first 2 1/2 miles or so are up a steep trail. You switchback your way up the mountain and just when you think you've reached the top you turn a corner and see not only more hill but the other racers way up high above you and you realize you are nowhere near the top and you want to cry all over again. This happens at least a half dozen times. But it's a beautiful trail, gorgeous views from up high of Lory State park and the red cliffs surrounding Eltuck Bay. Last gasps of colorful wildflowers lining both sides of the trail. I'm not moving quickly but my knee is good and I'm able to run the whole uphill. There's a guy in a white shirt who I passed on the bike then who repassed me on the start of the run and who's walking now so I try to catch up. Eventually I pass him then set my sights on a guy in black who's walking. He's way up ahead of me though and he pulls me up to almost the very top before I manage to pass him. I figure he'll go sailing by me on the downhill because here is where I need to be super careful of my knee. But as it happens when we hit the steepy downhill bits I go sailing down myself and put some distance between us. With each switchback I'm further ahead. I'm taking teensy steps and controlling them with my quads so I don't pound my knees and somehow this propels me down the hill faster than I thought it would. No time to enjoy the views now or I risk plunging ass over tea kettle down the mountain.

Soon the road at the bottom seems to be within reach and I can start to hear the cheering from the finish line. I hit the 4 mile mark and I'm surprised to find some strength still left in my legs. I go a few more minutes then pick up the pace a bit more because I so want to be done than to try to improve my time. I pass one more person but then there's no one in sight for the last 1/2 mile or so and no one anywhere near coming up behind me. Still I try to finish as strong as I can and when I hit the finish area I pick up the pace a bit more. I don't feel like pushing my knee to a sprint and there's no one to race to the finish anyway.

As I cross the finish line I hear them announcing the age group winners at the awards ceremony. How depressing is that? I've barely caught my breath and they announce the winner for my age group. But it's weird, they only announce first place and for the other age groups they give out awards to third. I get some food and cool down some more. I see someone I know who was in the relay and chat with her while she waits for her awards to be announced. Her team wins of course. She's a former Xterra pro triathlete, ranked 4th in the country at one point, and the swimmer on the team is some phenom of a 14 year old boy. Did a relay at another tri and got beat by just a couple of pro's.

I'm getting chills sitting around so I check the posted results before I head back to transition to pick up my bike but my name's not there. It's cold so I don't want to spend too much time getting to the bottom of it but I take a quick look around to see if I can see someone official looking. Next thing I know they're announcing that they have some more age group winners and I'm shocked to hear them reading my name off for 2nd place! They read off a 3rd place name too so no there were not just the 2 of us. When I get home and see the final results it turns out there was 1 more. I don't care all that much but the award seems a little more special if I don't get it for merely showing up. The first place woman was 2nd woman overall and came in 45 minutes ahead of me. Third place came in 7 1/2 minutes later and 4th came in 15 1/2 minutes later.

Swim: 13.45 mins./secs
T1: 3.52
Bike: 1:22 hours/mins. (9.0 mph)
T2: 1.23
Run: 1:04 hours/mins. (13.19 mins/mile)
Overall: 2:44 hours/mins.

Run Splits:
mile 1: 14.23
mile 2: 15.29
mile 3: 12.50
mile 4: 10.29
"mile" 5: 10:32
Gives you an idea of the impact of the steepness of the hill. Course changed from uphill to downhill about midway through mile 3.

2/4 age group
33/53 women
155/184 overall

For the individual events my swim place was highest, next was the bike, run was third. No surprises there.

View of Lory State Park

Pretty glassware award for the gimp.


  1. Congrats! Sounded fun. I have done a couple of off road triathlons myself years ago and they were tough.

  2. Congratulations - I was so excited reading about how your race went and then to see you made the podium - icing on the cake! :)

  3. Hey a big congrats to you!!! And you met all your goals too, lol. Diana

  4. Thanks to all. Ha, I guess I did meet all my goals. There was a bit of tripping on the trail run but no falling which is the important thing.

  5. Wow, that's wonderful! Congratulations on sticking with it and not coming in DFL and actually being quite a bit better than that! Especially congratulations on not drowning. That would have been a downer.

    Do they tell you what the elevation gain is on the race? I read on the web about people running up the glacier point trail that we hiked the other weekend; I can't imagine. Of course I can barely jog maybe a quarter mile if I'm determined and don't push too hard. Our first 2 and a half miles probably took us 2.5 hours. Of course we stopped a lot, but still.

    I'm impressed with your achievements and determination.

  6. Way to go! I'm exhausted just reading about all that exercise. Congrats on your successful race.

  7. The elevation gain for the run portion looks like around 1400 ft, going from approx. 5600 ft to 7000 ft. in 2 1/2 miles. That's based on the fuzzy topo maps for the park.

    The bike elevation gain is too hard to calculate, lots of ups and downs rather than one big steep continuous climb.

  8. This is not that bad compared to some of the crazy things people around here run. Some of the runs I used to do were so steep I had to walk/hike parts but the trail for the race was gradual enough that I could run the whole thing, albeit slowly. I think the guys who were walking were doing so because of issues (cramps or fatigue or whatever) rather than the steepness being too hard to run.