Devil’s Challenge Sprint Triathlon

This is what’s next. Triathlon is the next season of training and competitions for me. I spent the summer of 2018 training for a couple sprint triathlons for the end of the season and even though Belleville was canceled, Devil’s Lake delivered – I’m hooked.

I had plenty of conditioning even though I’m very new to swimming and biking in a competitive situation. I had the endurance to get through the event without any problem. I crossed the finish line in 1:33, good enough for 16th out of 35 in my age group. But let me be clear: this wasn’t about ‘competing.’ It was about an introduction to a new sport, a sport I have viewed recently as the future of my training, health and fitness. As a trainer I’m thinking a lot about multi-sport and triathlon as a training philosophy. I’ve posted on social media all summer that my goal is simply to train for the event and finish well. Sure, I’m a competitive guy but I am also approaching this experience as an opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate that even though this is an ‘event’ it doesn’t always have to be a race.

Training philosophy explanation done. Now for a Sunday recap.

I drove up to Baraboo with my client Phil who is an experienced triathlete. Phil gave me some great pointers over the last couple weeks and really put my mind at ease in my first triathlon in five years, only my second triathlon ever. We pulled into the park at 7:15 and the place was packed – juices immediately started flowing and I was very excited to compete.

Looking back it was strange to feel like a newbie again. Phil has all the experience and gear and with the multi-sport aspect of the event; I felt constantly a little unprepared, like if something went wrong I wouldn’t be ready to respond. My experience with running only required shorts, shirt, shoes and a race bib. But now I needed everything for the swim (wetsuit, goggles, cap), bike (shoes, socks, glasses, helmet, race bib, nutrition, oh and get that wetsuit off!), and then run (take that helmet off! and get those legs moving!). But that’s exact what exhilarates me about this sport right now – the transition from one leg to the next to the next.

I set up my transition pretty quickly and this helped put me at ease. I thought through swim-to-bike and then bike-to-run and felt good about my preparation. As Phil was finishing his set up I walked around and slowly started to warm up. We exited the transition with our wetsuits half on (too early to zip the tops) and we were ready! We were the 11th and final wave to go, 45 minutes later! So the warm-up was extended which actually felt good. We both ended up getting in the water and swimming about 200 meters.

As our wave entered the beach, I looked at the two orange buoys I had to swim around and didn’t even question my training. I had the conditioning. My concern was the pace – how hard should I go? The first 150 yards I went out pretty fast. I kept pace with Phil but soon he was gone. I was thankful there weren’t a lot of other bodies crowding my space. The next concern was the turn – would there be congestion at the corner? There wasn’t. Then it was smooth sailing. I got into a nicer rhythm and even though I started getting fatigued, the second half felt way better than the first. I passed at least a few athletes from the previous wave so that was a small victory. Getting back to the beach felt great. Easy jog to transition as I unzipped my wetsuit, avoid a near slip turning a corner and I was at my towel getting my bike gear set.

Phil already had his wetsuit off (but hey, who’s counting?) so he was at least a minute in front of me -not bad. I put half of a banana down in one bite, couple swigs of water, and the biggest struggle was to put dry socks on my wet feet. I remember the run to my towel and even my seat at T1 having tunnel vision – I’m not embracing it yet as a good thing. That’s my body so stressed that it’s funneling out everything on the periphery. I look forward to the time when I’m a little more relaxed.

Jogging out of transition I got to our orange line to mount – biking! Through the parking lot, clipped it. Right hand turn out of the entry and onto our first road. Right hand turn (as I remember it) and BAM…. hill. A very long hill. Welcome to Devil’s Challenge bike course. I will not take you through any more details of the bike except I was told it was hilly but I was figuring lots of medium hills, not 3-4 giant hills. Remember, this is all new and novel to me. The three weeks preceding this race I had identified, after a hilly ride with Phil, that I have a lot of training to do on hills. Well that came to smack me in the face on Sunday. I never walked but on the first hill four people were. Of course in Wisconsin what goes up usually comes down, so we topped out at 44mph at one point. A couple times at the bottom we had some pretty significant turns and that was disaster averted. Very challenging bike, tons of room for improvement. At one point there’s a turn around so I was able figure I was about 7 minutes behind Phil. “What?! Eight minutes?! How did that happen?” Humbling, but never got me down. Coming back into the park (the way we drove it) was pretty cool to finish the next leg. Lots of people at the bottom as we came screaming down the hill (slower bikers to the right please!) and easy dismount. Let’s get rid of this bike and run.

Second half of that banana in one bite again, so there’s my PR for the day. This transition I had to think through a little more – it seemed too simple. Running shoes, more water, bib is still on, and I still don’t remember if I as wearing sunglasses. Go! Some guy was yelling “go out fast” and I took his advice. In training bricks I had worked on a nice transition of 8:45/mile to 8:15 to about 8:00 within three-quarters of a mile. By the time I was out of the parking lot I was at 7:45, alright! But it sure didn’t feel like 7:45s. To my surprise the run course goes right through the campground so it was odd being the morning entertainment for campers enjoying coffee and breakfast – but it was great to have their support. Lots of fans in chairs pulled up cheering us on! The hills there felt like nothing but I wasn’t gaining any ground on Phil. We passed each other at the halfway point. Fatigue was certainly setting in but I was running strong. Phil finished and worked his way back to the start of the park, about 1/4 mile from the finish. “How about that guy?” (Pointing to the guy in red in front of me.) “Can you catch that guy?!” Great motivation from a teammate – and yes, I easily caught that guy but not sure I would have gone for it if it hadn’t’ been for Phil. Excellent finish at the Devil’s Challenge Triathlon.

You are capable of so much more than you think. I’m not sure what you make of triathlon but swimming, biking and running in a week is a fantastic way to stay in shape. Multi-sport can be recreational or competitive, we experienced it all on Sunday. I hope you consider joining me for some races next season. You can check out my Instagram Story for a few more live details.


Also published on Medium.

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