What did you do last Saturday morning? I jumped off a paddleboat in the middle of the Alabama River and after swimming back to the dock, hopped on my bike for a ride in the country. Oh, yeah, then I ran around the Alabama State Capital. Read More
We often hear, and maybe even use, the phrase “It’s a small world!”. This triathlon, held near Elvis Presley’s birthplace, was testimony to this reality.
Stowe, Vermont, May 20, 2012 – Stowe Triathlon, The Swimming Hole
As I am updating this post for the November issue of the Senior Triathletes Highlights newsletter, Joy and I are watching “Always and Forever Christmas”, a movie on the Lifetime channel set in Stowe, Vermont. It brought back fond memories for Joy and me of this beautiful and warm (the people) part of the USA.
Planning the Vermont Triathlon
I registered for The Stowe Triathlon in Stowe, Vermont primarily because of its timing early in the season. To complete triathlons in the remaining New England states within 2012, I needed to find two or three races in the spring. My ‘go-to’ source for finding races, Running In the USA, showed that the Stowe event was scheduled for two weeks after the Polar Bear Triathlon in Brunswick, Maine.
Getting to the Stowe Triathlon
Joy and I left our house in Chicopee, Massachusetts on Saturday morning. The trip between Chicopee and Stowe, Vermont took a lot longer than the maps show. Why? There were so many places along the way to explore: Harpoon Brewery, Martins Hill Covered Bridge, King Arthur Flour, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, to name a few.
We eventually arrived in Stowe late afternoon. After a short tour of Stowe, we checked into the Town & Country Resort. The Town & Country was selected primarily because it was both economical and within walking distance (1/2 mile) of The Swimming Hole.
After checking in, we drove the bike course and ate an early dinner at O’Grady’s Pub. The rest of the evening involved inflating bike tires, preparing pre-race and race drinks, and setting out the gear to be used in the morning.
12th Stowe Triathlon
The Swimming Hole, a non-profit fitness center and pool, was headquarters for the 12th Annual Stowe Triathlon. Founded in 2001, the Swimming Hole serves the community in and around Stowe. According to the website “Small town life has its advantages, but a facility like this isn’t usually one of them.”
Having stayed within a half-mile of The Swimming Hole, I rode my bike to the race venue, arriving at the same time as the race event staff. Needless to say, I had my pick of the transition spots even though this would not be important for this small, pursuit-style triathlon.
Joy was also happy that she could sleep in and take her time getting ready for the day.
Distances for the individual legs of this sprint triathlon were:
- Swim: 500 m (0.3 miles)
- Bike: 14 mile (22.5 km)
- Run: 5 km (3.1 km)
I approached the race with two physical problems in the days before the race – lower back spasms and a sore left knee.
Each person swam the required ten laps in the 8-lane, 25-meter long pool inside The Swimming Hole. Swimmers started with others who shared the same estimated time for completing the 500 meters.
Just before the last length (after the eighteenth length), a volunteer put a bright orange “Last Lap” sign into the water to let us know that we had one more lap to go. At the end of the swim, the volunteer marked our swim time on our left hand.
Racers then prepared for the bike leg and waited in the transition area until all swimmers had finished.
Once all racers were ready, the race director started a large digital clock at the exit of the transition area. Each racer left the transition area on the bike course as the clock showed the swim time written on their hand.
The bike course followed public roads, initially toward the downtown area. The course headed through the southern end of the downtown area and southward out of town. Cars and bikes raced side-by-side through the town. I know this because this is the only triathlon in which a car driver has honked his horn at me because I cut him off after I passed him along the side of the road. (Disclosure: I may have been guilty of not following all the rules of the road.)
The course turned onto the much less congested Moscow Road that took us past small farms. We proceeded along this road until the pavement ended. At this point, we turned around and returned on the same road. Part of the way back, we turned left onto Barrows Road which eventually led us into the west end of Stowe and back to the transition area.
Except for a relatively steep hill on a section of Barrows Road, the course was flat and fast. I knew that the swim had been longer than expected because of my back pain. I also expected my sore knee to slow my run. As a result, I gave my all on the bike leg.
My bike split turned out to be the fastest in my masters triathlon age group (50-54) and ninth-fastest time among the 53 racers.
As anticipated, the run was difficult because of a sore knee. Fortunately, the injury healed before the next race two weeks later. The ‘out-and-back’ (run to a point, then turnaround and return along the original path to the finish line) run followed the Stowe recreation path.
Getting Back Home
After a quick shower and some stretching at the Town & Country, we headed back to our Chicopee, Massachusetts home.
We made the trip back directly, with no sightseeing stops. We dropped off the triathlon gear in Chicopee (we would be back for the Connecticut triathlon in two weeks) and headed to Bradley Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut for a flight to Minneapolis.
State #6 was, as they say, ‘in the books’.
- First triathlon without a timing chip for recording times of the three legs and two transitions. (For this race, there was only one transition.)
- First triathlon in which I raced while injured (lower back, right knee).
- First triathlon with a ‘pursuit style’ start. With this type of race, there is no T1 (transition from swim to bike) time.
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Brunswick, Maine, May 5, 2012–Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon, Bowdoin College
Planning the Maine Triathlon
The goal for 2012, the second year in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA‘ journey, was to complete triathlons in the remaining states of New England. Only one, the Massachusetts triathlon, had been completed in 2011.
Thanks to a lesson learned early on about registering early for popular races and to the support for the journey by more than one race director, I met this goal. Besides this race, I completed triathlons in Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire during 2012.
The Polar Bear Triathlon is one of many wildly popular races across the country. The slots for these races are snatched up soon after the opening of registration. The e-mail exchange between Race Director Will Thomas and me pictured below not only shows how quickly this race fills (‘in about an hour’), but also his eagerness to support my triathlon goal.
Travel to the Maine Triathlon
Joy and I traveled from our home in Chicopee, Massachusetts to the Maine Running Company in Brunswick for packet pickup on Friday afternoon. After this quick stop, we drove over to Bowdoin College to look over the parking options for the next morning and to drive the bike course, a regular pre-race ritual.
With these boxes checked, we headed north, settled into our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites north of Brunswick, and made our way to Bath.
We ate dinner at J. R. Maxwell & Co. on the world-famous Front Street in historic downtown Bath. After some encouragement, Joy selected the full lobster, complete with bib. Thanks to the waitress, Joy and I enjoyed the entire lobster.
10th Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon
Bowdoin College is a liberal arts college with a beautiful campus, including a huge pool and field house (inside track). Both the pool and field house were available for use during the triathlon. The Bowdoin mascot is the polar bear, hence the name for the race, the Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon.
This event, managed by Tri Maine, included both a sprint triathlon (240 participants) and a duathlon (run-bike-run) for the non-swimmers (or stronger runners). My age group of masters triathletes (55-59) included ten participants.
On Friday evening, amidst drizzling rain and a 50°F air temperature, the forecast for the beginning of the race was rain. Fortunately, the forecast was wrong. We woke to clear skies. By race time, the clouds had passed, the sun had appeared, and the roads were dry. It was a beautiful day for racing although still chilly.
Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
- Swim: 525 yards (0.3 miles or 0.5 km)
- Bike: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
- Run: 3 miles (4.8 km)
The swim took place in the sixteen (16) lane, 25-yard long LeRoy Greason Pool at Bowdoin College. Each lane included two triathletes who swam 21 lengths of the pool after which they exited at the opposite end of the pool and ran/walked to the transition area.
Swimmers started in waves according to their estimate of the time that it would take them to complete the 525 yards. This type of start assumes that all swimmers (32 in the 16 lanes) will complete the swim in more or less the same time.
The swim involved an ‘in-water start’. We held onto the wall until the start signal was sounded. After that, we stayed on our side of the lane for the entire swim leg.
Each lane had a volunteer counter at the start end to track the swimmer’s progress. Just before the last length (near the end of the twentieth length), the volunteer put a red panel into the water letting us know that we should exit the pool at the other end.
While the rain had stopped, it was still cold, especially given that I was wet from the swim. This triathlon was one of the few during which I have worn a biking jacket. It was too cold to ride without it. This experience is the main reason I include the jacket in the suitcase of triathlon gear I take to every race, ‘just in case it’s needed’.
By that end of the bike leg, the air temperature and I had both warmed up. Consequently, I removed the jacket after dropping my bike in transition and before beginning the run.
The mostly-flat course left the campus for the country roads and a few rolling hills south of Brunswick. While most of the roads were in good condition, one roughly half-mile section desperately needed repair.
Fortunately, the race organizers had prepared us for this portion of the course during their pre-race communications. An e-mail sent a few days before the race reported that “part of the course will be designated a ‘Non-Aero Zone’ which means that you cannot be in aero position on your bike. We make this designation for your safety.”
Having driven the course during the previous afternoon, I was ready to ride safely through this area.
The 3 mile (4.8 km) run course included both on- and off-road sections. The initial portion followed sidewalks along city streets leading away from the campus. After a few blocks, the course turned onto a dirt, a slightly muddy, trail complete with potholes and tree roots. The final stretch was across a grassy field leading to the finish line outside the south end of the field house.
Another New Experience—Volunteering At The Finish Line
Joy also volunteered at this triathlon. Her job was to remove the timing chip connected to a strap around one ankle, typically the left, of each triathlete.
Unfortunately, one racer came to the finish line with ‘stuff’ running down his leg. Clearly, he had suffered from gastrointestinal problems during the race. While this situation would be difficult for most volunteers, Joy has too sensitive a nose for this to be anything but a disaster.
I will bet real money that this will be her last time volunteering at the finish line.
It’s A Small World
We took the opportunity of passing through Portland, Maine on Saturday afternoon where we ate a seafood lunch and toured downtown Portland and the Allagash Brewing Company.
The experience at Allagash came in handy some years later while waiting for our friends, Jim and Kris, to join us for dinner at Manhattens Restaurant in the Chicago area. Recognizing the Allagash name on one of the taps at the bar, I told the server about our visit to the brewery in Portland. Interestingly, we learned that this restaurant owner’s wife had grown up in Maine.
It really is ‘a small world after all’.
- First triathlon held at a college.
- Our first time in Brunswick and Bath, Maine.
- First triathlon with most of the run on a trail through woods.
- Joy’s first experience eating a whole lobster.
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