2019 St. Elizabeth Triathlon – I Did It

2019 St. Elizabeth Triathlon – I Did It

I successfully completed the 2019 St. Elizabeth Triathlon! It was a very warm day which presented some challenges, but I was still able to meet my goal of trimming twenty minutes off my total time. What a day! Here’s how it went.

St. Elizabeth Triathlon Medal 2019
St. Elizabeth Triathlon Medal 2019

Drop Off

Since this triathlon has two transition areas, arriving early is key. Depositing your race gear consists of multiple steps that seems initially confusing. First, you park at a church and ride your bike a mile to Transition 1 (T1), find a spot to put your bike and rack it properly. Then you ride a small shuttle bus back to your car, drive your vehicle back into town, park and set up your Transition 2 (T2). Then you ride a school bus back to T2 to start the race and that’s the end of it. Simple right?

I wracked my bike at T1 at 6:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the swim portion started, and was told I was running late and needed to hurry. Eventually I caught the last bus back from T2 (when I arrived I was told the area was closed but I setup anyway) and got ready to swim. Honestly, I felt hurried the entire time and this stressed me out. It seems you have to get there at least 2.5 hours before the start of the race so you don’t feel rushed. That just seems like a huge, unnecessary window and hopefully this remedies itself in the future.

At T1 I left my regular duffel bag with my bike/running clothing and a small cooler with my bike drinks in it. At T2 I left a larger cooler with several ice cold 32 ounce water bottles. These would play important parts in the day’s race because of the heat.

Swim

Overall I trimmed almost 20% off my time, which was much more than what I expected. This year you self seeded your entry into the lake, and at first I chose the 25-30 minute rank but moved myself up into the 20-25 minute section. I did this because I ultimately didn’t want to get stuck behind inexperienced swimmers. I hoped to solve the issue of accidentally swimming over slower people and getting kicked in the face and losing my goggles. Fortunately, this strategy worked out well. Next year I’ll probably move myself into the 15-20 minute seed. The early morning workouts (swimming at 5:30 a.m.) paid off.

As I waited to enter the lake, my adrenaline kept pumping and pushing my heart rate into the low 110’s, which made me sweat profusely. I knew the day would be really hot (the forecast was in the mid nineties) and I didn’t want to dehydrate myself before I even started. I tried relaxing, deep breathing, and closing my eyes but nothing really helped. Eventually I got into the water, but that immediately sent my heart rate up into the 160s and the temperature was not refreshing at all.

My strategy of alternating between freestyle and backstroke worked well, but it wasn’t until I started hammering the freestyle that I really started moving. For whatever reason it took me about 100 meters to finally relax enough to start swimming right. Because the water is so dark (which freaks me out), every time I looked down I’d lose my breath and take in a little water. The backstroke helped calm me down enough to get into my groove.

The only complaint I had was that my goggles, which I had bought as a replacement for others that leaked, did just that, and leaked into my right eye. Eventually I just closed that eye and powered through the last 100 meters. I am disappointed because they were supposed to be “premium” goggles. Oh well.

Transition 1

My plan of using a surfer’s poncho to change out of my swimming tights and into my running clothes worked well. Once changed, I used the poncho as a mat to stand on and slip into my shoes. They had just mowed the grass the day before and it obviously needed it, so there were clippings everywhere. I liked knowing I wouldn’t have a bunch of loose grass in my socks that I’d have to deal with later.

Although I was totally gassed after the swim (my heart rate stayed in the 160s as I exited the water and made my way up the steep hill from the lake), I was able to trim a good amount of time off T1. Most triathletes don’t do a full change but given that I spend so much time on the bike and run I do so for comfort. It’s the small things!

Bike Ride

I spent a lot of my training time learning how to shift my bike properly and stay on the big chain (3rd gear) as long as possible. I also found a loop near my house with a dedicated bike lane that was roughly 10 KM in length so I could piece together a full ride. I wish I could have done more practice but given the rainy spring I was not able to find a ton of time to do so, but what training I did get helped. Also the spinning classes helped my hill climbing tremendously.

As a takeaway, I am glad I got my bike serviced before the race as the gears were crisp and the bike felt faster. I tried servicing it myself a month prior but messed the bike up (still not sure how I screwed it up that bad), so I had to take it to the shop. They did an awesome job getting it race ready. Thanks Montgomery Cyclery!

One regret I had was not using insulated water bottles as my drinks warmed up halfway through the ride. For anyone who knows, drinking warm Gatorade is terrible. Also, I left my sunglasses in my duffel bag. Not a big deal but the sun was blasting down and it would have been nice to have them.

Transition 2

I racked my bike again and found my ice cold 32 ounce water bottles, which were amazingly refreshing. I chugged one and poured the other down my back. It felt so good as temperatures were now in the 90s and the humidity was creeping up.

Run

I’ll be honest, the run was absolutely miserable. I dedicated a chunk of my morning training to running but it didn’t really pay off because of the heat. The first kilometer or so I cramped but I kept my running form and worked my legs out. I finally felt my pace return and then hit the first sun drenched hill. When I got to the top of it my heart rate was in the 170s, so I decided to find shade (the little there was) and try to get it down to at least the 140s. I was soaked with sweat and my breath was noticeably warm. I was honestly getting a little worried about overdoing it and trying not to get dizzy.

After a God given breeze that lasted a refreshingly three minutes, I cooled down enough to start a slow run to the next water station. There I drenched myself in cold water both on top of my head and down my back. I can’t describe how amazing that felt. My brain jump started itself, and I just made it a goal to get to the next station and finish the race.

Overall I gave time back and ate into my earlier gains, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t make my overall goal. Although it was a terrible experience, getting it done just feels amazingly rewarding. It fits into the motto of “embrace the suck.”

Will I do it again next year?

Yes! And this time I plan on trimming off another twenty minutes. I used the experience as a motivator to improve my fitness, which has clicked off other much needed changes in my lifestyle as well, both in how I eat and manage stress. I am thankful that this race is so close to home and plan on supporting it in the future. The people are also awesome, and the volunteers and other racers are very encouraging. It’s just a great, positive event.

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