Race Report: Federal Escape Olympic Triathlon 2012

Date: 28 July 2012


Location: Five Mile Lake Park, Federal Way, WA

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  First off, let me say that I really enjoy the Federal Escape. This was my second Sprint distance race back in '08 and my first Olympic distance in '10 so I was very glad to see this race fit into my race/vacation schedule. This race was to serve as my "ramp up" to the half-iron distance in September, the Grand Columbian Super Tri.

Race Morning

Race time was set for 6:30 am with a pre-race meeting at 6:20 am. That means I had pick up my packet, set up my transition area, do a warm up swim, and be ready to race by 6:20. Did I mention Five Mile Lake Park is 45 minutes from my house? That put my departure time at 4:30. Ugg. So I was up at 4am (not my favorite hour of the day). One of my wife's favorite sayings came to mind: "Just because the time exists doesn't mean I have to witness it." I woke up my son (Boy #1, who asked to do the kids tri), cooked up some sausage, eggs, and toast, and off we went.

A note about breakfast: I usuall only eat oatmeal and yogurt with applesauce for breakfast but with a 45-minute drive ahead of us I needed some extra food to tide me over until the start, hence the bigger than normal breakfast.

We arrived with at the park plenty of time, even getting one of the prime parking sports in the park. The weather was perfect for tri racing: overcast and cool. For some reason this swim course always seems bigger than it actually is. When you look at my swim times I pretty much nailed my 1500m time.




The water was pretty warm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70F. It was so comfortable that I almost took off my wet suit for the race. Boy #1, always the scientist, asked me why I would still wear my wet suit if the water temp was warm. I then demonstrated the buoyancy enhancements provided by my suit: I am at almost zero-buoyancy when wearing my suit.

So, after setting up my transition area, it was off to the lake!


Lee headed toward the water for a warm-up swim before the Federal Escape Olympic Tri.

The reddish-brown water color of Five Mile Lake always amazes me. You can barely see 4 feet. When you come up on a swimmer in front of you it is really hard to see them, especially if they are wearing a black wet suit. Imagine seeing a pair of disembodied feet flailing about in front of you: it can be quite disturbing.

As I walked into the swim area I saw what appeared to be something floating just under the surface of the water. It looked like a small, delicate piece of lace. As I touched it it became obvious what I really was: a piece of galvanized steel pole securely anchored in the lake bed. It had been cut off just below the water line. A guy next to me got the attention of the race director and he put a big buoy on top of it. Apparently the King County Parks folks were supposed to remove it before the race but it didn't happen. To give you an idea of the strength of this pole, this is the same kind of steel pole used in chain link fences.


I found a steel pole as I was wading into the water.

The Goal

For this race I set quite a lofty goal for myself: to finish the swim in 45 minutes and the entire race in under 3 hours. It worked out like this:

Swim: 45:00, T1: 2:30, Bike: 1:10:00, T2: 1:00, Run: 54:00, Total: 2:52:30


The Swim

The swim start was a water start (up to our waists) with 2 waves, self-selected. I opted for the second wave. The swim was 2-laps around Five Mile Lake, which encompassed almost the entire lake.

One of my favorite pictures from the race, courtesy of Boy #1-

Start of the Olympic Distance Race.

About 8 strokes into the swim something was off. "Why are my eyes so wet? Oh, it helps to put down my goggles." Yes, I started off the swim with my goggles UP on my forehead. Oops. Luckily I was in the back of the pack and was able to easily tread water and put them on the right way.

You know it's going to be a rough day when you get leg cramps in the first 200m of a 1500m swim. That was 1/4 of the way into the first lap. I use a freestyle method where you do a minimal flutter-kick to save your legs for the bike/run so getting leg cramps this early in the race was disconcerting.

The leader of the swim was going at a pretty fast pace, especially compared to me. He and several others passed me about 100m before the end of lap #1.


At the end of the first lap (750m) we had to get out of the water, go around a sign, and back in for another lap. At this point the cramps were gone and I was "in the groove."


About 200m into the second lap, the same place I had cramps earlier, I started getting some serious heartburn and nauseousness. I was able to control it but that really slowed me down for a few minutes. A few more people from my wave passed me. At this point I was swimming essentially alone.

In the last 200m I was able to increase my pace significantly but as I exited the water I still felt a bit nauseous with some lingering leg cramps.

Swim result: 1:00:03, OA: 90/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)



It was easy/boring, just the way I like it. Boy #1 was there to take a few pictures and cheer me on.

T1 Result: 3:44, OA: 76/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39) 


The Bike

My nutrition plan for the bike leg was simple: drink 24oz of Accelerade, my race drink of choice, before the end of the bike. This was easily accomplished throughout the bike leg.

The bike course is 4 laps around a 6-mile loop of rolling hills that go around Five Mile Lake. The rollers are interesting: you climb up one hill (max grade on one hill was 8%, according to my Garmin) and then zip down the other side. I was able to stay in my aero position for most of the bike course.

The first lap was very strong/fast. I even played tag with a couple of people. These opportunities waned as the race went on. Due to my slow swim the 3rd and 4th laps were a bit lonely. 

On the 3rd lap I was feeling a little slower and by the 4th lap I felt like I was out of gas. I seriously considered calling it after 3 laps but I sucked it up and finished.


Bike Result: 1:23:15, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)



I felt a little slow in T2 but kept moving.

T2 Result: 1:25, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)

The Run

The run course was 2 x 5K loops around the outside of the lake with rolling hills just like the bike course.

As I exited the park I realized I forgot my gels. There went my nutrition plan (what little I had) for the run.

"Run" is such a strong word: what I did was more like a speed-shuffle. This run ended up being one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.

I did a lot of walking in each mile. My typical pace of 9:30 miles was very optimistic and my goal of 9:00 miles was a pipe dream.

At random points throughout the run I had leg cramps, back spasms, stomach cramps, headaches, a stiff neck, nausea, bicep spasms... I was a wreck!

*Who has bicep spasms during a run?*

One my wife's favorite lines from 101 Dalmatians kept going through my head- "And my nose is cold, and my feet are cold, and my tail is cold..." Yeah, I was complaining a lot to myself.

The first (and only) aid station on the run was at mile 1.5. I picked up some electrolytes and a  Hammer Gels. Talk about a life saver...

Almost called it again after the first lap of the run. Somehow I kept moving and did the second lap.

I eagerly found the aid station again and gulped down 2 cups of electrolytes and another gel.

I finally was able to raise Boy #1 on the radio with 1/2 mile to go and he was there to get my picture as I finished.


Run Result: 1:11:44, OA: 86/90, AG: 13/14 (M30-39)

Total Time: 3:40:09, OA: 88/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)


Post Race

I am not sure I have EVER been this tired after a race. I was absolutely wiped out. My post-race recovery involved a lot of sitting while we waited for the the kids tri to start. I wasn't that sore so much as physically and mentally drained.

Lessons learned:

  1. Yet another Rerun: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. I need to pick up my training to 4-5x per week for at least 1 hour at a shot. I am well below that right now.
  2. Warm up swim was very beneficial but remember to put on your goggles at the start.
  3. Speaking of goggles, wear the non-tinted goggles next time.
  4. T1 continues to be too slow. Longest time suckers: putting on bike jersey and bike shoes/socks. Might be able to shorten it by buying a tri suit or shirt and finally using those tri shoes I have in the garage.
  5. Need to find a pair of shoes I can run in without socks.

Kids Triathlon

Earlier this year I made a deal with Boy #1: if he did a race with a real swim (i.e. in deep water) i would help him train for a real triathlon next year such as the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon. That would be a big step up to 400m from the splash-n-dash type races he has been doing. His first one was around 70m in Ocean Shores 2 weeks before but this one was supposed to be 100m.

The kids swim turned out to be more like 75m but only half of it was in deep water. So what did Boy #1 do? He waded out until the water was up to him shoulders and then swam the rest of the way and then did the opposite on the way back.



The rest of this is easy for him: a 1 bike and 1/4 mile run, which he did without really breaking a sweat.


The Run

The post-race food was his absolute favorite...




With a low heart rate and very slow times my muscles really didn't put in the workout I anticipated. Without the workout muscle recovery was very fast: I never really developed muscle soreness. The real problem was the mental and physical fatigue which lasted throughout the day on Saturday. I even went to bed early.

The day after the race was a Sunday. I was so wiped out that day that i almost didn't go to church. With the extreme fatigue and moderate nausea I'm not sure I got much out of church at all.

Now here's the weird part: by Monday morning I was fine but my wife had similar symptoms.

My family doctor said that my difficulties were probably a food-borne bacteria but we were unable to pin-point something that would have been eaten only by me and the wife but not the kids.


What's next?

This race made me seriously reconsider my plans for the rest of the season. My only other race this year is a biggie: the Grand Columbian half-iron distance tri. Will I be ready? Not a chance. I need a good 3 months of solid training with 12-15 hours per week in order to be ready for such a distance. i think I can be ready for another Olympic distance event but that would also require me to step up my training a bit. I'll post again in a couple of weeks with my decision.