Race Report: Issaquah Triathlon 2010

This was my 4th time finishing the Issaquah Xterra...

…I mean Issaquah Tri.

It sure felt like an Exterra or Cyclocross event. I have never seen Lake Sammamish State Park with so much water in the grassy areas. The mud was ankle deep in some of the transition areas. The deeper puddles (i.e. small lakes) were roped off and nearly knee deep. The usual run course was completely re-routed onto more solid surfaces both inside and outside the park.

The water temp really slowed me down on both the swim and bike. At the end of the race I recovered much faster than I anticipated which usually means I left a lot of fuel in the tank (i.e. I could have gone faster on the course).

My son was constantly checking the Lake Sammamish water temperature leading up to the race. The temps started out around 60F the weekend before and then dropped down to 56F the night before race day thanks to a very cold and heavy rain storm.

I walked down to the water to warm up about 30 minutes before my start time. BRRRR! Did I mention the water was cold? I think I saw some ice float by...

Biggest surprise: the number of people who didn’t have wetsuits. This was my first race in a wetsuit. I usually count the number of people without suits: the number is usually 3-5 for the entire race but this time it was 3-8 per age group. While I was setting up my transition area I met a guy doing his first race in an old pastel-colored O’Neil waterskiing wetsuit. Well, to each his own.

Swim: 12:10 748/839

As the horn sounded first wave of men started off a bald eagle was started out of a nearby tree, flew a circle around the swim area, and returned to his perch, most likely to sleep off his headache from the air horn. A few minutes later I was shivering in the water waiting for my heat to begin. When my heat finally began my body went into shock. The water was incredibly cold away from shore and seriously prevented me from getting into any kind of freestyle rhythm: I ended up doing the breast stroke for more than half the course. After what seemed like an eternity I staggered out of the water and into T1 nearly 2 minutes slower than last year. The cold water really threw me for a loop and negatively impacted me for the rest of the race.

T1: 4:09

The run into transition was easier than I thought. The muddy ground was quite soft and squishy between the toes. I took the extra time with a water bottle to rinse my feet a bit before putting into my socks which turned out to be unnecessary. As I exited transition in my bike shoes they filled with water and mud.

Bike 48:22 391/839

The bike is typically where I shine, thanks to my bike commute schedule, but not this year. My legs took a VERY long time to warm up from that cold water. The other impacting problem was the very long and narrow exit out and then approach into the park which did not allow for passing. This created about a mile in each direction where everyone was at the mercy of the riders in front of them. In a race staggered start and a duathlon it made for some frustrating minutes lost. I was shooting for 40 minutes or under and was quite shocked at my time.

T2: 2:19

I traded my muddy bike shoes for an old pair of running shoes that I had remembered to bring (i.e. not my nice, newer shoes).

Run: 25:52 612/839Muddy shoes after the run

The run was almost enjoyable. The sun came out and started to warm things up. I even ended up with a bit of a sun burn. The new run course was an out and back loop on sidewalks through the park. I didn't have my GPS running but I swear it was under 5K. I was very happy to be at the end of that race.

Total: 1:32:53 OA: 539/839 AG: 88/113

Once again, it was a fun day. The weather, mud, and cold water made for a very interesting and educational experience.

Lessons learned:

  1. Old running shoes are great for short races if you don't want to get your new shoes muddy.
  2. If the water temp is less than 62F, go for the LONG SLEEVED wet suit.
  3. Do more warm up in the cold water before the race to better acclimate to the frigid temps.

Looking forward to next time!

Race Report: Issaquah Triathlon 2007

I was digging around some old docs and found my old race report for the 2007 Issaquah Tri. This one is important to me because it was my first Triathlon of any distance and a great turning point for me personally.

Report, as written on June 3, 2007-

Wow, I actually did it and achieved my goal (finish in less than 2 hours). I arrived just in time to sit in traffic as the over 1000 participants waited to get into the parking lot at Lake Sammamish State Park at Issaquah, Washington, just east of Seattle. There was plenty of time for me to set up my bike and other things in the transition area and meander over to the starting area. While waiting in the line for the restroom I found a friend of mine from church who was participating in the Tri with his wife. It was nice to know someone else who did the race. They both beat me by at least 10 minutes (way to go!).

The swim start for my heat was at 7:18 am sharp. I stayed in the back of the pack and then did the breast stroke for just about the entire 400m swim. The water temp was perfect (for me anyway) at around 70F.  This was my weakest of the three events by far. My time coming out of the water was about 18 minutes (more on that below). The first transition went well considering I didn’t have a wet suit to fool with. I put on my shirt, cleaned my feet, donned my shoes, and off I went.

As I was just starting my bike run I saw the race leader coming back from his bike run. He won with a time of 58:35, almost 1 hour faster than me. To put that into perspective, I did the bike portion of the race in just over 55 minutes. The next closest competitor to him was almost 5 minutes behind. I did pretty well on the bike. I noticed that a lot of people around me didn’t use their downhill gears: I passed a lot of folks on the downhills with minimal effort. The one hill we had to go over and back on was a slow rise up about 300 feet. Lots of people looked at me funny as I sang Christmas songs to pass the time (i.e. "Walking in a Winter Wonderland", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Have yourself a merry little Christmas"). I was feeling really good coming out of the second transition.

The run felt really good except for one thing: of the entire course, only 1/4 of it was paved. The remaining was over grassy fields, dirt roads, or sports fields. My ankles were really bothering me as I approached the finish. Most of the course was shaded which turned out to be a blessing as the sun came out near the end. As I broke out of the trees for the final time I saw Wendy and the boys there to cheer me on. I sped up and somehow found the energy to sprint across the finish line.

Here are my official results:

Swim 00:18:23.6  T1 00:06:27.9  Bike 00:55:05.8  T2 00:04:37.9  Run 00:27:49.1  Finish 01:52:24.3 

Overall I am very happy with the entire experience and my performance in this, my rookie race. The 5K time is less than the 5K I ran last month (29:37). The only thing that went wrong for me on race day was that I forgot my shoes. I had to turn around and drive home about 3 miles from home. Good thing I remembered. I can race without a shirt; I can race without socks; but I certainly cannot race without shoes.

Recovery Day 1 – Sunday June 3
Today went pretty well. Muscle soreness is much less than I expected. Took some ibuprofen before church to make sure I could make it through 3 hours without much misery. The biggest issue so far is the recurring muscle spasm in my shoulder that has been acting up for some time: it got a lot worse starting last night but nothing serious. I am continuing the elevated calorie diet which should return to normal on Tuesday.
Recovery Day 2 – Monday, June 4
Feeling much better even though the heat at night kept me awake (no one in Seattle has A/C). Shoulder spasms are almost gone.

Race Report: Beaver Lake Sprint Tri 2010

Date: Aug. 21, 2010

Location: Beaver Lake Park, Sammamish, WA

Photo Gallery: Flickr.com set

Total time: 1:59:56, OA: 309/362, AG: 17/19 (Clydesdale)

Swim: 9:15 262/383

T1: 3:28

Bike: 1:00:00 337/383

T2: 2:12

Run: 45:01 323/381

This is my second time. I love this race because it is so close to our house and has excellent scenery to distract me from the pains of racing. This time the wife and boys came along to volunteer at the race. They were in charge of setting up the food area and making sure all the food items were well stocked. Boy #1 had a part-time job as my personal photographer as well.
The morning of the race was kind of cold (about 47 degrees) but the lake was around 75! That made for a great scene on the lake with the mist hanging over the water. The boys helped me set up my transition area with my bike, jersey, and shoes.
The swim was a lot of fun, actually. The water was warm enough that I really didn't need my wetsuit, although I did wear it for added buoyancy. I had my best 400 meter swim time ever (9:12). I got out of the water in a very good mood and set out on the bike course.
The bike route took us out of Beaver Lake Park, DOWN Duthie Hill Rd (dropping about 420 feet in 1 mile), along Fall City Rd (Highway 202), and then back up Issaquah-Fall City Rd. That big hill is a long and hard staircase climb back up the 400+ feet back to the lake. I have done this particular climb several times before, most recently about 6 weeks earlier during the Flying Wheels Century, so I know how high it is and when the hill stops. There is a section near the top that drops down quite a ways before climbing back up even higher as you get back to Duthie Hill Rd. This is where my problems began. I was going waaaaay too fast coming into a turn (I missed the 20 MPH turn warning sign) and completely misjudged a turn. I came into it too fast and in the wrong position. I hit my brakes as hard as I could, skidded off the road, hit a rock retaining wall and flipped over into the gravel, landing on my head and then my bottom.
Immediately another rider was next to me checking me out, asking questions, and helping. After about 15 minutes of “collecting myself” I got up, dusted myself off, adjusted my bent front brake, pulled some rocks out of my helmet, and got back on my bike. That other racer stayed with me the entire time. I wish I had looked at his race number so I could have thanked him later but I didn't and never saw him again. Since I was already at the top of the big hill I rode slowly back to the transition area at the park.
As I entered the park, one of the race officials said, “You must be the guy that flipped over. Are you OK?” I said yes and then continued on to my spot. Without even thinking I took off my bike shoes and helmet, put on my running shoes, stretched my neck a bit, and then went out on the run. The thought of not finishing the race didn’t even cross my mind.
The first mile of the run was very painful and slow (12+ minute pace). Just after the 1 mile mark I was passed by a barefoot guy that was pushing 80. I found out later that he was indeed 80 and finished the race. He passed me and gave words of encouragement. A few minutes later something inexplicable happened: my cramps went away, my neck loosened up, and I was able to increase my pace to 9 minute miles. As I passed Mr. Barefoot he cheered me on. Unbelievably I finished the 4.3 mile run only 2 minutes slower than the last time I ran it. Considering how sore I was that night I have no idea how I even ran 1 mile, let alone over 4.
Aftermath: I didn’t go to the ER but my doctor did check me out. The next day I had spine, neck, and head x-rays which came out clean (i.e no broken bones). I had no concussion, no broken bones, no cuts, only bruises and sore muscles. Since I finished the race it was hard to tell which muscles were sore from normal racing and which ones were sore from the crash. My right knee had a huge bruise swollen to about the size of a grapefruit on the left side of my knee cap. Based on the impact marks and my estimated speed (about 25-30 MPH) the doctor said that my helmet had definitely saved my life and had at least saved me from a fractured skull.
Recovery: The night after the crash it was very hard to sleep. I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. The events of the crash played back in my mind over and over and over. Why did I think I could make that tight turn going so fast? How did I miss that 20MPH sign? Did I use my brakes the right way? Could I have missed that rock? The words of my Red Cross CPR/First Aid instructor kept coming to mind, “If you come across a person who you suspect has a spinal injury, do not let them get up. Have them remain still on the ground while you stabilize their head and neck until paramedics arrive.” I didn’t do that. I got up and finished my race. I should have stayed there and waited for help to arrive but I was too stubborn. I risked my life for a stupid race without thinking about the impact on my family. Eventually I got to sleep but I didn’t rest well until after my x-ray results came back. I got that call on the morning of August, 26th, my birthday. And what a fabulous birthday present it was, too! (negative for spinal fractures)
So my racing season for 2010 was over. With a couple of weeks I was doing much better and even completed a couple of short runs (20-25 minutes each). I did physical therapy with a great doctor to make sure that my neck muscles healed properly and quickly. My bike only needed minor repairs and was back in service within a week. Will I race again? Yes. Will I be more careful from now on when it comes to turns? ABSOLUTELY.

Race Report: Federal Escape Olympic Tri 2010

On Saturday, July 31st, I participated in my first ever Olympic distance Tri, the Federal Escape. This was my first Olympic distance event ever and I must say that it was a stretch. I feel about like I did the first time I did after my first sprint distance in ’07: quite sore and very satisfied that I left everything out on the course. My race style is best described as “freight barge”: I am very slow and deliberate but once I get up to speed I will finish the race.


I woke up at 4am race day which is very unusual for me. I’m usually sleeping like a rock and my wife has to almost push me out of bed to make it on time but not today. For some reason I woke up before my alarm and had butterflies in my stomach (also very uncharacteristic). Breakfast was a simple course of oatmeal (no milk) and soy nuts. I picked up some muffins the day before to eat in transit but for some reason I just wasn’t hungry. I arrived at 5-Mile Lake Park with time to spare so I liesurely set up my transition area.

At the pre-race meeting the race organizer with the bull horn caused a lot of confusion as he was describing the course: he kept getting the number of laps wrong for each leg of the race. I’m surprised he didn’t tell us to go through T1 twice before going out on the bike.

Swim – 52:09

Water temp: approx. 75F. I almost didn’t wear my wetsuit. Overall I don’t think it was necessary at all. The air temp was quite cool (55F) with a bit of wind so, if anything, it helped keep me warm waiting for the race to begin. The water was so much warmer than the air that it caused a lot of fog with wisps of steam coming off the lake. This created a quiet, almost serene environment as the race started.

The swim area had some rocks but the best part was the plastic toy speed boat filled with pebbles.

One of the guys I warmed up with grew up in that area. They used to call 5-Mile Lake the “Root Beer Lake” because the water is so cloudy and red/orange in color. Underwater visibility was very poor, limited to about 3 feet. It was weird to look out underwater and see your skin colored red. As a result of the limited visibility there were a LOT of collisions at the start and until the pack thinned out around the first buoy. I think I kicked someone in the face but that’s the extent of incidents where I was involved. One other recommendation: don’t wear tinted goggles unless the sun is really, really bright. My slightly tinted goggles decreased underwater visibility quite a bit due to the water color.

In my training I never did work up to 1500m so this was the furthest I have ever swam since I was a teenager. Several of us were about the same speed and swam as a small group at the back of the pack but really thinned out on the second lap. There was one guy who paced me about 20-50m behind for the entire race. With about 300m to go he turned on the jets and came up to pass me. I used this as an incentive to also turn up my speed but he was just too fast. At 50m left he passed me and kept up his speed right up until he got out of the water where he walked the 50m or so into T1. Since I was so close behind him it was very easy to pass him by jogging into transition. Sorry dude, you passed me on the swim but I got the faster swim time. }B^)

I do vividly remember being passed by Chris Tremonte: I estimated that he was doing more than twice my speed which makes sense when you look at the race results (actually 2.35x faster).

My slower swim time put me squarely in the back of the pack which led to some lonely times out on the course later on...

T1 – 2:59

Lots of people standing around. It was weird to dodge and duck people getting set for the sprint race. Some of the folks were slowly stripping off their wetsuits so they must have been in the Oly. This was one of my better T1 splits even though I forgot my body glide.

Bike – 1:18:27

Avg. speed: 17.82 MPH

Lots and lots of turns and rollers! The course was easy and best classified as an urban road race. The rollers and frequent turns (4 laps on the Oly) made it hard to get into a rhythm but I was still able to average almost 18 MPH. This was greatly improved over 2 years ago where I averaged 15.5 MPH during my 3rd sprint tri.

The temp at the beginning of the bike was still in the high 50’s so the first couple of miles were a little chilly as I dried out.

I’ve never seen so many drafters in a triathlon! On 3 of the 4 laps there was someone close enough behind me as I finished the lap that a race official would scream, “NO DRAFTING!” I didn’t see anyone handing out penalties: did anyone actually get one?

As usual I found myself in a group of 3-4 riders who ride the same pace and play tag for 20 miles. It was fun to “reel them in” on the down-hills (my weight allows me to go a little faster on the down side) and then try to keep them behind you on the short climbs. They all went into T2 after 3 of my laps since they no doubt swam 15-20 minutes faster than I did, which left me pedaling my last lap virtually alone. It was weird to be biking along at race pace with no one in sight behind or in front of you.

My only complaint: who the @#$! was running the high-frequency noise generator at around mile 4 on the bike course? Other than being very annoying it did serve to get me out of my seat and sprinting to get away from the ear splitting tone. I’m sure some senior citizen installed it to keep away those meddlin’ kids.

T2 – 1:11

No crash this time. In ’08, while doing the sprint tri, I crashed during my dismount when my failed to unclip as I stopped. I ended up sliding on the rough pavement. Both gloves were shredded and my left leg and arm had a bit of road rash. Nothing of note this time. I changed my shoes, ditched my helmet and gloves, and off I went on the run course.

Run – 59:33

The run wasn’t bad. The rolling hills were tolerable and my legs held my expected pace. I had to walk a couple of times to get my heart rate under control (up in the 160-165 BPM range) but other than that the run was almost enjoyable. Several people who passed me (sprint runners) gave me encouraging words. The 22-year-old who won the sprint gave me a hearty pat on the back when he passed (I was walking at the time) and I could have sworn that someone said my name when they passed. Of course it doesn’t help to have a suffix for a name.

The second lap was somewhat easier with more folks on the course from the Sprint race. My stomach started to rebel with about 2 miles left but, thankfully, nothing came up. I can usually gauge the amount of energy I have expended during a race by the amount of speed I have left in the last 200 yards: if I can sprint in the last part of the race I know that I left some gas in the tank. Not this time. I was able to hold my speed through the finish but in the end my tank was empty.

Total time: 3:14:16 AG: 12/14, OA: 83/88


SWAG celebration! Started with the bread with jelly, fresh fruit (plums, bananas, and oranges), protein and lara bars, and top it off with soap and shampoo. Too much stuff.

Overall it was a great experience. My first Oly went off without a hitch and almost exactly in line with my time estimates. I’ll probably do this race again in 2011.

Would I recommend this race? Yes: the course is relatively easy, race is well run, and not crowded at all.