Echo Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

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GETTING REGISTERED

I started training with BAM (Balanced Art Multisport) about six weeks ago. BAM is an individualized coached triathlon team based out of Salt Lake City. Jen Johnson (my coach) writes my workouts and is getting me ready for Ironman Arizona. She encouraged me to do at least 1-2 olympic distance triathlons before my full ironman. I knew a lot of BAM and SLTC (Salt Lake Tri Club) members were going to be participating in the Echo Triathlon put on by TriUtah so I registered a couple of weeks before the event. Shortly after I registered I realized the last triathlon I had done was in the summer of 2012, over 2 years ago! I had taken 2013 off to have baby #2 and I started to stress out a bit after realizing it had been so long. Jen assured me that this was just going to be a step to help me get me to the full ironman.

RACE PREVIEW

I met up with some of the BAM members and coaches in Park City the afternoon before the race to grab some grub. I was coming from Bear Lake and my friend/teammate Scott was nice enough to pick up my packed gear and bring it to me. Thank you so much Scott! After we ate we headed up to Coalville to check into our hotel rooms and to preview the course. We went for a 20 minute bike ride on the course. I was drafting behind Wesley (BAM coach) and we hit a small downhill. I looked down at watch and we were going 37 mph. It was SO fun! Wesley is ridiculously tall (6’7”). I’ve never drafted behind someone with such a high seat post! I barely had to pedal.

After the biking we got out our wetsuits for some open water swimming. I was dumb and hadn’t put on my wetsuit since my last tri (remember, over 2 years ago!). I’m still carrying an extra 10 pounds of baby weight and the suit reached maximum capacity when I tried to get it on. Rip, rip, and another rip. Yes, I ripped my wetsuit in 3 different places getting it on. I felt like a fat kid who had just broken a chair they’d sat on.

Wes and Jen gave me some sound advice about swimming in open water. I’m so glad we went for the open water swim the night before the race. It allowed me to solidify my swimming plan for the race and I was able to establish a good breathing pattern.  We then went and picked up our packets which were right there at the reservoir.

Me turning myself into a human sausage.

Me turning myself into a human sausage. Haley and Scott in the background.

GETTING SETTLED

We headed back to the hotel and I met the SLTC member that I was staying with. I’d never met her before that night but we instantly became good friends. Suz and I spent a couple of hours smiling and chatting about each other’s triathlon experiences. We hit the sack around 10:30 PM – 11 PM. The night was filled with race dreams as usual. I dreamt I was doing an ironman instead of the olympic distance and couldn’t find my bike, then I couldn’t find any water bottles, and then I got lost on the course, etc. I woke up at 4:50 AM and was so sleepy. I hurried up and got ready. Wes and Jen were nice enough to loan me a BAM kit until mine came in. This would be my very first race sporting their kit. I set out all of my gear the night before so I wouldn’t forget anything. Although, I did forget to pack my heart rate monitor strap. D’oh!

Gear is ready!

Gear is ready!

PRE-RACE

I met Wes, Kade, Hunter and Suz in the hotel lobby at 5:30 AM and we rode our bikes 2 miles to the start of the race. The sky was barely starting to turn to morning and it was a bit chilly. We got to the start without any issues and started setting up our transition areas. The transition area was setup so all the racks were assigned based on your race number. I’d never been to a race where this has been the case. It was nice because you didn’t have to worry about showing up right when transition opens in order to get a spot. Unfortunately, my race number put me at the opposite end from the bike out side. I got body marked and then put on my wetsuit (much more successful this time around) to go do a warm up. The suit was still tight but it would get me through this race.

Transition setup.

Transition setup

As I was doing my warm up the race started the first wave, which was the Push to the Finish athletes. There were 5-6 athletes who had volunteered to complete the course all the while pushing children with disabilities. Everyone was clapping as the athletes who were pulling the rafts finished the swim. I was really touched. I admire those who were getting those kids through the race so much. One of the kids had a huge smile on his face and was trying to clap along with everyone else. I almost lost it right then and there.

SWIM PORTION

My swim start was the first wave after the Push to the Finish athletes and started shortly after 7 AM. People wearing yellow and gray swim caps gathered around a small yellow buoy and prepared for the start. Someone on shore started the countdown and we were off! I remember hanging back for a couple of seconds to let the fast people get out front then put myself in the middle of the pack and ended up staying near the middle/end of that swim wave.

The first 30 seconds I started to panic a bit but I quickly reined in the crazy chatter in my head and reminded myself to just relax and do my own thing. The swim for the olympic distance was 2 laps around a triangle shaped swim route marked with large red buoys. I broke down the swim portion into 6 sections. Each length between each buoy was a section. I worked on one section at a time and didn’t pay attention to my watch at all. I would breathe 5 breaths on each side, site, and then switch sides. The second lap went much smoother and I got into a good rhythm.

As soon as I got to where I could touch the bottom of the reservoir I started to run and had my wetsuit stripped to my waist by the time I was out of the water. I remember looking down at my watch at my swim was 34 minutes and some change! Say what?! My previous swim for this distance was 43:08. Swimming is my worst triathlon discipline and I was THRILLED by such an improvement! I definitely owe my improvement to Coach Wes. In just a couple of masters swim classes with him my swim times have dropped dramatically.  As I was running up to the transition area I decided to get my wetsuit all the way off before I slipped my flip flops on. The run to the transition area was rocky so the race company encouraged people to wear something to run in to get to T1. TriUtah did put down a long green carpet part of the way which was greatly appreciated. Since I decided to strip my suit before I entered T1 my final swim time was 37:41. I swam a bit over the 1500 yds with a swim total of 1.06 mile. PR for the swim! Wahoo!

Me coming out of the water. PR baby!

Me coming out of the water. PR swim time baby!

BIKE PORTION

My T1 time ended up being the fastest in my age group, 1:43, but by less than a second. I decided to put on my bike shoes instead of having them clipped on my bike because the ground was rough and rocky. I got on my good ol’ Shiv and headed out on the bike course. The course is an out and back course that included some false flats and some rolling hills. Going out I hit a small downhill and put all I could into getting my speed up as much as possible. I maxed out at 37+ mph! I LOVE hitting those speeds. I passed a lot of people on the way to the turnaround point and was happy I was making up some ground from my less than stellar swim time. I was going 15-17mph during the false flats and it was a bit frustrating. When I hit the turnaround point I booked it back. I averaged 24-28 mph on the way back since the false flats were now working in my favor. A couple of miles before the turnaround I spotted Coach Wes with a lead on the bike. He flew by so fast he didn’t have the time to respond to my shout of encouragement. I got passed by a lot of fellow male BAM members that I hadn’t met yet. Every time I encountered another member they’d yell, “BAM!”, or some other form of encouragement, which was awesome.

I slipped my feet out of my shoes while I was coming into T2 and jumped off my bike barefoot. I almost immediately regretted it. How could I forget the rocky ground! Ouch! I finished the bike portion in 1:13:23, just shy of 19 mph. I was happy with that considering the course.

RUN PORTION

I took longer than I should have in T2. I decided to wear socks because I haven’t done enough non-sock runs. My shoes didn’t want to cooperate with me even though I had stretchy shoes laces on them. I tend to sunburn easily so I took 2 seconds to apply another layer of sunscreen. I have gotten lobster-red fried during previous sprint tris so that is my justification of having a 1:53 T1 time.

I headed out on the run course which was again an out and back course but this was on a dirt trail instead of the road. The first 3 miles went by without a hitch. My pace was between 8:30-8:40 min/mile which was right on track with my goal. Once I hit the turnaround point my energy started to drain. I started to think about all that I’d done already and how hot it was outside so I decided at the next aid station that I’d pour some water on my head to cool down. TriUtah had an aid station at every mile which was great! Once I hit the mile 4 aid station I grabbed a cup filled with clear liquid and asked if it was water. The water boy assured me that it was. Nope, wrong. It was an electrolyte drink. I was suddenly very slimy. It still served the purpose of cooling me down. Ha! The last 3 miles I tried to play some mind games with myself so I wouldn’t think about how much longer I had left. My last 5K was not very good and I ended up with a total run time of 56:53. It was one was one of my worst 10k times. Oh well, you can’t always get a PR.

FINISH LINE

Once I saw the big red finish line arch I picked up my pace and crossed the finish line. My friend Jordan was waiting there with a finisher’s medal in his hand for me. It was nice to have a friend place the medal around my neck. Jen was also at the finish line and got me some water and put an ice cold wash cloth over my face which was glorious. It felt SO GOOD. My final time ended up being 2:51:35. My precious olympic distance best was 2:54:48. Over a 3 minute improvement! Hooray!

I saw a lot of Utah’s best triathletes at the finish line area. It’s pretty awesome that an amateur like me gets to share the race experience with the pros. What other sport lets you do that?!

Oh finish line, how I love you.

Oh finish line, how I love you.

AWARDS

After I got some food and water in me I went to check my race results. I thought it would take a miracle in order for me to make it to the podium, especially with my run time. Also, this race was a sold out event that was capped at 500 people. Low and behold, miracles do exist! I managed to get 3rd in my age group! I tip my hat to the two women who took 1st and 2nd in my age group. They killed it!

Nearly every BAM athlete made it to the podium. I realized then that I’m probably one of the slowest athletes on the team. It was both a humbling and very motivating experience to be a part of such an incredible team. Wes took 3rd overall for the olympic distance. His swim time was 18:27, which is just mind blowing! Haley took 3rd overall for the sprint. Kade, Jeff, and Andrew won the olympic relay. Suz won her age group for the sprint. This is her race review. There are just too many to list!

Winners!

Winners!

WRAP-UP

This was my 1st TriUtah race that I’ve participated in. I knew they had a good reputation and they lived up to it. They did an amazing job. No complaints, which says a lot! That’s how a good race should go. No major issues to deal with and no disappointments for me. Some of the things I really appreciated were the green carpet that was part of the swim exit, aid stations at every mile during the run, ice cold wash clothes at the finish, good recovery food at the finish, and great volunteers.

I’m so glad I signed up and participated in this event. During every portion of the race I kept thinking, “This is fun!” I’ve been doing running and cycling events recently but there’s nothing quite like a well supported triathlon. Loved it!

Awesome race t-shirt, finisher's medal and age group award.

Awesome race t-shirt, finisher’s medal and age group award.

STATS

Swim – 37:41

T1 – 1:43

Bike – 1:13:23

T2 – 1:53

Run – 56:53

Total – 2:51:35

Placed 3rd in age group

Placed 32nd out of 60 females

 

About Rachel