The HITS Sterling Triathlon was my "A" race this year, and it wound up being much different than I originally anticipated. Back in January, I decided to register for HITS after its original location had changed from Galena, Illinois to Fort Collins, Colorado. The course promised to be difficult given the mountainous terrain, but I was excited for the challenge. However, the course changed again after one of the largest forest fires in Colorado devastated the mountains west of Fort Collins. The new location in Sterling promised a flat, fast course, even if it might be a little hot.
|Getting to and from this race required 500 miles of travel!|
|My triathlon checklist: Note the last item under "Other"|
|The Packing Begins|
|Little Transition Area on the Prairie|
|Waiting for the start of the Race Meeting|
The four of us grabbed dinner at a local restaurant called Gallagher's River City Grill. They had a wide-ranging menu and I settled on a pasta with chicken, pesto, and fresh vegetables. To top it off, Melisa and I shared a very delicious Apple crisp a la mode. Then it was back to the hotel for final preparations and a good night's sleep (hopefully).
|Considering Race Nutrition options at the local WalMart|
Sunday, July 29th, 2012: A little before five a.m., I awoke and began to get ready for the race. Overall, I had a decent night's sleep. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible either. For breakfast I had a banana and about half a bottle of Starbucks Frappucino, along with a bagel smothered with peanut butter and a touch of honey. Conventional wisdom says that it isn't the best idea to consume much solid food before a race, but I didn't want to be distracted by hunger pangs coming from an empty stomach. At any rate, this is pretty much my typical pre-race meal, so I figured I'd go with it.
Paul and I left for the race venue around 5:30 as the sun was rising and we reached the event with plenty of time to set up in the transition area. HITS has a beautiful transition area that includes plenty of room for each athlete with pre-marked spaces, a storage bin, and even a stool to sit on. Since this was such a small race, we had no trouble finding our location and setting up with enough time to spare. Before I knew it, we were standing on the beach in our wet suits, and getting ready to start the day.
The Swim Portion of this event was done in a counter-clockwise direction, and it was an average swim for me. I felt pretty comfortable, but it is easy to get disrupted in open water, and I'm always challenged to find and maintain a rhythm. As we started out, I had to pause for a moment and remove the timing chip from my ankle as it was poised to fall off. I stuffed it in the front of my wetsuit and moved on. Perhaps the distance of the swim was a little longer than anticipated as I emerged from the water after about 38 minutes, which is a slower swim time for me. At any rate, I decided not to become too concerned about it, and moved onto the bike.
The first 10 miles: The course was "rolling hills" for this portion of the race, and I felt comfortable throughout. I managed a steady clip above 20mph for a lot of this section of the race.
Miles 11-28: Although most of this section involved a very, very gradual uphill ride, I was in a rhythm, and I felt very strong through this section. The culmination of this portion involved a steep hill at Pawnee Pass just before the turnaround. I took the hill as best I could, seeking a balance between a steady effort, and not wanting to ruin my legs on a hill only halfway through the course.
|Heading into Transition|
The final stretch: I didn't get a lot faster, but my pace did pick up in places, and I concentrated on enjoying the ride as much as possible. This was, after all, my "A" race, and I reminded myself that I was out here to have fun and enjoy the race. This helped my attitude a great deal, and while I didn't crack three hours on the bike, I wasn't way off of the pace. Besides, I still had my strongest portion to go, the run.
|Out for a run in the 90 degree heat!|
If you asked one of the participants what was the most difficult part of this triathlon, I would guess that nearly all of them would say that it was The Run. In my opinion, 13.1 miles is no small task after the swim and bike portions. They can certainly deplete you and impact your performance. But for this event, the heat definitely had the biggest effect on the racers. I would estimate that when I started the run around 11 a.m., the temperatures were in the low 90's and that slowly crept up to the mid to upper 90's within a couple of hours. I felt pretty good for much of the run, because I was doing everything I could to keep cool. In addition to drinking fluids, I doused myself with cold water
|Staying Cool was key to a successful run|
|Just a few more steps to the finish line!|
|My brother, Paul at the finish, with Rob Archuleta|
The third goal was to complete the run portion in under two hours. I didn't meet this goal based on the reasons I've outlined above. Still, two out of the three isn't bad, and it was definitely an experience I can learn from.
|No dinner until you clean up that transition area!|
|Feeling good after a long day in the sun!|