With clear skies and moderate temperatures, Saturday saw perfect weather for the Skinnyman Triathlon, a sprint-distance race held in Skaneateles, NY.
In true type-A fashion, I woke up at 3 a.m., left my house at 4:45 a.m., and arrived in Skaneateles at 5:20 a.m., 10 whole minutes before Clift Park—the transition hub—officially opened. Since I took care of prerace logistics—registering online and getting my packet at Syracuse Bicycle—my race-day checklist was short and sweet: set up my transition area, get body marked, and pick up my timing chip.
Even though I was excited for the triathlon anyway, I was pumped Amanda, one of my friends from college, was doing the race, too.
HWS represent! Amanda swims for the Herons, so she doesn’t need a wetsuit; it’s only fair for those of us who don’t have gills.
It was so nice to hangout with her; I love seeing familiar faces on race-day. Donna, who teaches spinning at the Colleges, was there and one of my former AAU basketball teammate’s dad. Even though she wasn’t racing—she’s training for the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Vegas, no big deal—MB sent me some good luck texts. It felt like she knew I was beginning to get nervous because she timed the messages perfectly; I’m very lucky and grateful to have her for support and last-minute words of wisdom.
Swim – 800 yards (16:50)
The triathlon began at 7:30 a.m., and my purple swim cap signified a fourth-wave, 7:45 a.m. start for women 39 and younger.
I’m somewhere in the purple pack.
While standing in my corral, I was surprised to see so many women comprised the wave; I knew it would be larger than the Cazenovia Triathlon novice swim, and even at CNY Triathlon Club training, each wave caps at 30-50 people. After the first group took off, our wave entered the water and waited 15 minutes for our starting horn. Within my wave, I positioned myself closer to the front (than to the back), but in hindsight, I didn’t select a strategic spot; boxed in from the get-go, I had a difficult time finding open space. (I should’ve positioned myself as far right or far left as possible; that way, I would’ve had no one next to me on one side, or at the very least, a little more space.) Here’s what the opening 300 yards were like.
Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Well, sort of—lots of pulling, grabbing, and jabbing. In related news, I experienced a triathlon rite of passage: I received my first kick to the face. If I learned one lesson from playing basketball, it’s to embrace contact. In a weird way, it felt like I was on an underwater court, and my athleticism took over; I found myself jockeying for positioning, too.
Because this opening surge was crowded and slow moving, I relied on the breaststroke; it was easier and required less energy than sighting every stroke. After turning right at the first buoy, the swimmers dispersed and the pace picked up. It was frustrating that it took at least 300 yards for me to get going, but that’s the nature of the OWS. And, it’s also my own fault for not selecting a smarter starting spot. Lesson learned.
Luckily, the swim exit went much smoother than it did during the Cazenovia Triathlon. Even with a slippery, algae-covered concrete ramp, there was a handrail and plenty of volunteers to help with the first few precarious steps. After cautiously walking up the ramp and stairs, it was game on.
Transition 1 (1:27)
Goggles off, cap off, unzip wetsuit, stay standing; sunglasses on, clip on helmet, put on socks, slide into cycling shoes, grab bike, go. (This T1 time was an improvement from Caz, too; it’s all about progress.)
Bike – 11 miles (39:55)
Because I rode the updated course Thursday, I knew which sections contained climbs and which areas had straightaways. Even though I stumbled a bit when it came time to clip in, I recovered quickly and found a pace bunny; I maintained contact for four or five miles before she dropped me. (Hey, she had one of those aerodynamic and super speedy tribikes.) Overall, I did a good job of executing my race plan—refraining from attacking the inclines, capitalizing on downhills, and hydrating accordingly—and for the final two miles or so, I backed off the pace, downshifted, let my legs “spin out,” and started thinking about the run.
Transition 2 (1:11)
Another triathlon rite of passage: Sprinting to your transition spot and finding another bike there. I was in disbelief; did someone really take my spot? I had a word-vomit moment (Mean Girls, anyone?) and yelled, “Wait, what is going on?” The outburst seemed to help; I quickly placed my bike in between two others and prepped for the run. Even with this frazzle, I improved my T2 time. Again, progress.
Run – 3 miles (26:48)
Not going to sugarcoat it—the run was rough. The “jello-leg feeling” hit hard, so I shortened my stride and increased my turnover with the hope of alleviating lactic acid build-up. As I climbed the first hill, I located a pace bunny and refused to let her drop me. There was a short plateau before another incline, so I coasted a bit, and when it came time to tackle the second hill, I reminded myself I had been here before—remember the Sullivan Street climb during the Cazenovia Triathlon?—and I had run through it. The route then took a right-hand turn, a flat straight shot to the turnaround spot. During this segment, I ran with a woman who had just given birth, like, six weeks ago—crazy, right? (That will probably be me one day.) Since my legs felt OK, I pushed the pace, knowing there was a downhill coming. A left-hand turn took the course through a cul-de-sac, which contained another decline and then a climb. The downhill was great, and as I approached the final hill, I shortened my stride and backed off the gas. (In hindsight, probably a bit too much.) Get to the top of the hill, I told myself. And then it’s time to lay down the hammer. Back on the main drag, I cruised down the first hill, but realized my calves weren’t too happy. (On the bright side, it was the only time I thought about them during the entire race; guess the compression sleeves worked.) At the plateau, I began to make my move and was ready to leave it all on the course. (Or, as MB advised via text, don’t get passed during the last 100m, ha!) Somehow, I found another gear, silenced the voice that said I was tired, and ran. I picked off a few runners, and as soon as I saw the blowup arc, my finishing kick—well—kicked in. Surging ahead and passing more people, I wound up in a sprint-off to the finish a la Nicola Spirig/Lisa Norden.
She boxed me out!
So peeved, but still finishing strong.
Because the Skinnyman distances were shorter than those of Caz, it’s no surprise I set a new sprint triathlon PR—1:26:11. It’s always rewarding to set new personal bests—even though I’m looking at this race as a “super sprint,” so it will have an asterisk in my mind—but I’m even more satisfied with how natural everything felt. Well, as natural as doing a triathlon can be. Granted it’s still far from being second nature, but I made a race plan, established my goals, and executed everything OK. I’m not ready for the season to end, and I still want to improve my time from the Cazenovia Triathlon. I’ll have to do something about this …