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5 Ideas for Staying Young – A Conversation with Tony Schiller

5 Ideas for Staying Young – A Conversation with Tony Schiller
Tony Schiller exiting the Olympic distance swim at the 2019 USAT National Championship.

“People give up their youth too quickly”.

Tony Schiller’s words resonated, to the point of making me feel guilty. That is precisely what I was doing – giving up my youth with only a little resistance.

So, how do we avoid becoming old too quickly? By staying active. Day-in, day-out activity reduces, and sometimes reverses, aging. Science supports this.

Related post: Six Principles of Triathlon Training for Seniors

I hope that this post will give you some ideas to remain active and compete in triathlon events even when the drive to do so wanes.

But, first, a bit about Tony. You will see why his perspective is worth listening to.

Meet Tony Schiller, Fitness Champion on Many Levels

I am embarrassed to say that I was not acquainted with Tony Schiller until I skimmed the Fall 2019 issue of USA Triathlon magazine. Tony was listed as the winner of the 60-64 age group in both the Sprint and Olympic distances at the 2019 USA Triathlon National Championships.

Since the article listed Tony’s home as Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb a few miles from my home, I contacted him. He graciously agreed to speak to me.

Why the embarrassment? I learned during our conversation that Tony has been involved in the sport of triathlon since its earliest days, even racing professionally. Running and later triathlon turned out to be his sports.

During a career that is far from being over, Tony has achieved seven world championships. He is also one of only two men to be named USA Triathlon’s Male Amateur Triathlete of the Year (1995) and Masters Triathlete of the Year (2002 and 2015).

A Disturbing Trend

In speaking with children of all ages about the benefits of endurance sports, Tony observed that each year, the children appeared to be less fit than the previous year.

Deciding to do more than just speak about fitness, Tony introduced the MiracleKids Triathlon. The mission of the triathlon was “to build a world-class race to motivate kids and inspire fundraising for families of kids fighting cancer.” Over the next ten years, 12,500 kids, including two of my grandchildren, raced in the event. They also raised $4.5 million to help kids with cancer. 

In 2014, Tony co-founded CycleHealth as a Minnesota 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to kid wellness. CycleHealth merged with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities in 2017. Today, they work together to sponsor endurance events around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Tony Schiller with four-time finisher of the CycleHealth Resilinator.  This time, the young man finished the 2.4 mile course using crutches,
Tony Schiller with a four-time finisher of the CycleHealthTM ResilinatorTM. This time, the young man finished the 2.4 mile course using crutches, Talk about inspiring! (Picture courtesy of Tony Schiller.)

Another small-world-story was born when Tony told me of one of their events, a race at Fish Lake Park in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Ironically, I have watched this event twice, once from our living room window. The second time, I was so curious about what was happening at the park that I walked over to check it out from the ground.

Besides problems with youth fitness, Tony also recognized that adults became less active with age, often out of lack of interest or motivation. This has not been Tony’s experience, however. He has maintained an enjoyment for swimming, biking, and running making him an ideal champion for triathlon and other fitness activities.

Five Ways to Keep the Passion for Fitness Alive

The challenge of keeping the passion to train alive is real. 2019 was the first season within the decade of the 2010s in which I did not complete a triathlon. Why? No excuses; just a matter of priority. I did not train as I needed to race competitively so took the year off.

But I cannot quit. I have nine more states in which to complete triathlons after which Joy and I will have been in every USA state for a triathlon. This is what we call the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure.

“You aren’t old until age becomes your excuse.”

Joe Friel

During our conversation, Tony shared the importance of staying active. He also described ways he has seen work, some he has applied, and some he is planning to use. I added a couple to round out the list.

I am sure you have other ideas or experiences so please share your comments below.

#1 Set goals

My goal of completing a triathlon is each state will run-out, Lord willing, within the next two or three years. Then what do I do?

Set a new goal.

Tony’s advice: “It’s best to set goals that don’t run out”. However, if you do, think ahead for goals that will not run-out.

One of Tony’s ideas is to set a goal of “Eight triathlons in my 80s, nine triathlons in my 90s, etc.”. Or, if you are like Tony, you set a goal of winning a world championship in your age group in each decade.

#2 Sign up for a race

Over the last few years, my wife and I sit down around the first of a new year to decide on a road trip/triathlon schedule for the coming year. What area would we like to explore? Who would we like to visit?

We are grateful that we have used travel to triathlons to visit many friends and family members. Some of these are no longer with us.

Tired of racing alone? What about racing with a friend, spouse, child, or even a grandchild? My oldest grandson and I are planning to complete the California triathlon in the 50-state goal together.

for Tony Schiller post - family celebration at the 2014 Maple Grove Triathlon
Completing a triathlon with family members can be a great motivator.

Related post: The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story

Wow, I just realized that I have another goal, to beat my grandson in the triathlon we do together. The challenge is that he is both a competitive swimmer and distance runner in high school. And he has access to a great road bike. Better get serious!

“Age is a matter of mind over matter—if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Jack Benny

#3 Work at moving younger

What does it mean to move younger? Tony Schiller describes it like this.

“When I first see someone running along a road on which I am driving or running, I guess their age based on how they are moving – their posture, stride, foot bounce, etc. As I get closer, I adjust the guess. Finally, when I am beside them, I look at their face. Are they moving younger or older than their age? If their form makes them look younger than I guessed, they are moving younger.”

Today, Tony’s training includes a focus on moving younger. For example, “If I am swimming, I will focus on proper form, such as extending my reach”.

#4 Get ‘really’ good at swimming, biking, and running

In his latest book Master of One1, Jordan Raynor concludes “It is only when we get insanely good at what we do that we don’t just fall in love with our work but stay in love with it over a long period of time”. Having read the book, I am sure that Jordan would agree that this applies to non-work activities to which we have committed ourselves.

#5 Join a triathlon club

I follow the Facebook page of The Villages Triathlon Club. This triathlon club provides encouragement and training opportunities for newbie sprint triathletes; accomplished iron-men and -women in their 60s, 70s, and beyond; and everyone in between. The Club is there for everyone interested in getting and staying fit.

Check the related posts that include interviews with two of the members of the club.

Related post: “My First Sprint Triathlon was in 19 Days” – Pat Johnson’s Story

Related post: ‘Gotta Tri’ – Triathlon in The Villages, Florida

How Do You Keep the Passion Alive?

The five ideas presented here are not the only ones. If you have found other ways to stay active despite the challenges of age, please share them with the Senior Triathletes community.

  1. Jordan Raynor, “Master of One – Find and Focus on the Work You Were Created to Do”, p. 192, Penguin Random House LLC.
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Lessons in Ironman Triathlon Racing – Another Senior Triathlete’s Experience

Lessons in Ironman Triathlon Racing – Another Senior Triathlete’s Experience
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son before Ironman Nice. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Laurent Labbe recently finished Ironman Nice, a long course triathlon that boasts swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, biking in the Alps, and running along the French Riviera in Nice’s historic waterfront. While the beautiful venue made the race enjoyable, Nice was even more special for Laurent. It confirmed an Ironman triathlon hydration and nutrition plan he had been working to develop.

Disappointment at Ironman Vietnam

Before diving into the story from Nice, let’s go back a little less than two months to Vietnam. It was here that Laurent competed in Ironman 70.3 Vietnam, his 10th long course triathlon.

Following a disappointing race at Ironman Vietnam, Laurent determined to come up with a better approach to nutrition and hydration for an ironman triathlon. Regarding Ironman Vietnam, Laurent said:

“The bike part was a little bit slower than I had planned, but the running was the worst leg. It was very hot. The temperature at the start of the swim was 29⁰C (84⁰F) and 35⁰C (95⁰F) during the run. I didn’t manage it well. I was overheated and the only way I found to complete the run was to put water on me every 2 km (1.25 mile) to cool down.” 

Laurent had anticipated the heat. He had prepared an adequate amount of water to carry on the bike. He also carried a cereal-based energy bar to eat about halfway through the bike course.

However, he had not included any sports drink with electrolytes. This was his first mistake. He also forgot to eat the cereal bar during the bike leg until much later than planned.

The consequence of not consuming a sports drink with its electrolytes on the bike became especially evident when he got to the run. While his body craved the electrolytes, he found the sports drinks provided by the race organizers to be “disgusting”.

And, when he tried to make up for not eating early enough on the bike by consuming bananas and gels during the run, his stomach revolted.

An Incentive for a New Ironman Triathlon Hydration and Nutrition Plan

Laurent is not alone in forgetting to eat on the bike during an Ironman triathlon. I have lost count of the number of stories of triathletes who were so caught up in the excitement of a race that they forgot to eat or drink until it was too late. As a result, they “bonked” or at least hurt their performance on the run. Maybe it’s happened to you.

With this not-so-pleasant experience in Vietnam, Laurent was determined to finding a better approach to hydration and nutrition for his next race in Nice, France. The challenge was that he had less than two months.

Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Ironman Nice

With the memory of Vietnam fresh in his mind, Laurent stayed focused on developing his race plan for Ironman Nice. He reflected on his experience in training and racing, spoke with other triathletes, scoured the internet, and tested various nutrition and hydration products.

In looking back on the Nice triathlon, he was able to say with a smile, “It seems that all the preparation and, this time, the race management was right”.

So, what was the race plan that made such a big difference?

Let’s start by looking in on Laurent a few days before the Nice triathlon while he was putting the final touches on his plan.

A Pre-Race Test of the Plan

During the week before the race, Laurent rented a bike and he and his son road to the top of Le Mont Ventoux, one of the most famous portions of the Tour de France.

He used this ride to test a bike computer having a screen large enough for him to continuously monitor his heart rate and to watch the time so that he would eat and drink at precise intervals.

It became clear to Laurent during this ride that without a clock his perception of time was wildly inaccurate. However, by maintaining a heart rate within the aerobic zone and drinking a little every 10 minutes, Laurent was able to ride the 40 km (25 km) distance to its 1,909 m (6,260 ft) elevation without stopping.

Laurent felt prepared for Nice.

Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the bike ride to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the climb to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Racing Ironman Nice

The temperature on race day in Nice was also high, 27⁰C (80⁰F) at the start of the swim. The day’s high of 34⁰C (93⁰F) occurred during the bike leg. Anticipating these temperatures, race organizers reduced the distance of the race a bit to 150 km (93 miles) for the bike and 30 km (18.6 miles) for the run.

Racing with a Heart Rate Monitor

Laurent used the heart rate monitor to control his effort on both the bike and run to maintain a heart rate within the endurance range.

For the bike leg, this meant maintaining an average rate of 144 beats per minute (bpm); his heart rate never went above 161 bpm. “I could have probably gone faster (on the bike) without any problem. However, the target for this race was to finish within the time limit.”

For the run, Laurent’s target was an average heart rate of 139 bpm, his endurance training rate. The highest rate came in the last 500 m during his sprint to the finish line.

“I saw many people on the bike and run forcing themselves and having difficulty breathing. In contrast, I was able to ride and carry on conversations with other racers including a Chinese guy, a Moroccan lady, and a man from Dubai. 

Hydration and Nutrition for Ironman Nice Triathlon

Laurent’s nutrition and hydration plan reflected his experience in previous hot weather Ironman races and with the week earlier ride to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux.

Specifically, the plan was as follows.

  • On each of the three days leading up to the triathlon, he took a serving of Overstim Malto. Admittedly, this was based solely on the recommendation of a friend and not on any personal experience.
  • On the bike:
    • Alternated drinking from one of the two bottles of sports drink, one bottle each of Overstim Long Distance Hydrixir and Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy, every 10 minutes throughout the bike leg. Laurent also carried extra packages of the powders. These would be used to refill the bottles if he happened to run out before the end of the bike leg.
    • Ate one packet of a fruit-based energy gel, such as those from Overstim, every hour. Since the gels come either with or without added salt, he took one of the salted versions at the mid-point and near the end of the bike.
    • Stopped eating any solid food around one hour before the end of the bike. This provided time for the food consumed during the bike to be digested before beginning the run. Running with undigested food can cause stomach problems. 
  • On the run:
    • Drank some water with a little added salt provided by race organizers at each aid station.
    • Ate a salted biscuit or a salted gel at each of the aid stations.
    • Used showers provided by race organizers to help cool down.
  • On the day after the race, he took a recovery drink; Hammer Nutrition Recoverite is an example.
Laurent Labbe on the run at Ironman Nice.
Laurent Labbe on the run at Ironman Nice. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Will This Plan Work Next Time?

Laurent completed the race feeling strong, healthy, and with little to no pain during and after the race. Racing with a heart rate monitor, staying hydrated, and consuming calories at the right times appeared to be the key.

Laurent found this approach to be effective, at least for one long bike ride and one long course triathlon. However, he is quick to acknowledge that he has no training in sports medicine or nutrition.

It will be interesting to hear what happens when he uses this approach in the next triathlon.

Please Share Your Questions and Comments

What do you think about Laurent’s racing plan?

Have questions about hydration and nutrition for ironman triathlon?

What are the most important lessons you have learned from training and competing in a triathlon?

Share your thoughts and questions in the Comments section below. 

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The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story

The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story
Biking in the land of Genghis Khan.

At age 57, senior triathlete Laurent Labbe continues to prove both to himself and others that he is young in heart and body by competing in Ironman triathlons.

But there is more to his story than a personal enjoyment of endurance sports. Laurent has found a way to engage his family, using triathlon to build relationships with his children by training and participating in races with them. See Reason 3 of “15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons”.

It Started With Swimming and Biking In The Alps

As a child growing up in France, Laurent Labbe developed a love for the outdoors and for swimming through holidays and vacations with his family in the Alps and central mountains of his home country.

In his early 20’s, he was introduced to mountain biking. His attraction to mountain biking led to rides in many countries throughout Europe, including France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Belgium.

Then in his 30’s, Laurent began running. In addition to enjoying endurance sports, he found it easier to run than bike while traveling around the world for work. This led to him completing the Paris marathon twice.

“The best run of my life” came as part of a work-related team building exercise in the Gobi desert. One of the activities involved walking more than 30 km (18.6 mile) each day during three days. On the last day, Laurent decided to run, instead of walk, in the desert. Starting at 5 am, he completed a 22 km (13.7 mile) run with a GPS and headlight to guide him in the pre-dawn.

“Running across the dunes in the fresh air and with the sun rising was magic, so beautiful”. 

Transition to Endurance Multisport

During this time, he also connected with a group at work who competed in races involving biking, running, and kayaking; one form of triathlon today.

In 2011, Laurent and a friend participated in the King of Grassland race in Inner Mongolia. This three-day endurance race was across grassy hills and fields populated with herds of sheep and horses and consisted of:

  • Day 1: 60 km (37.3 mile) mountain bike,
  • Day 2: Full running marathon (42 km/26.2 miles) in the morning and 45 km (28 mile) mountain bike in the afternoon,
  • Day 3: 100 km (62 mile) mountain bike.

Laurent described this race as an “exhausting but amazing experience”. In fact, they completed this race two more times in the following years. However, when King of Grassland was canceled during years of drought, Laurent and his friend decided to look for another race.

Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the beach in front of the swim course at the Strongman All Japan Triathlon.
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the beach in front of the swim course at the Strongman All Japan Triathlon. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Discovering Ironman

His friend finally convinced him to register for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Taiwan half Ironman held in March. It was time for another bike – a carbon fiber road bike.

Training for the race, especially for the bike leg, was a challenge. During this period, he was living and working in Shenzhen, China, a city of 13 million. He used the commute to bike to and from the office ‘rain or shine’, somehow managing to survive the horrendous traffic, heat, and pollution.

“You cannot imagine how dangerous it can be biking 22 km per day in a city like Shenzhen.”

His training for this triathlon proved to be effective, remembering that the bike ride went well. Sadly, however, during the run he mistakenly forgot one of the three loops that made up the run. The DNF (did not finish) was frustrating, especially after the months of training.

“I was so upset that I missed the last 4 km of the run and received the DNF. I decided to run the final 4 km in the rain, just to be able to say I had completed the distance.”

Laurent Labbe on the bike at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen, China
Laurent Labbe at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

“Overall, I like the challenge [of long course triathlon]. Doing Ironman is magic and it was a new experience. I’m not young anymore but I like to try to do new things.”

Laurent Labbe

A Family Affair

With this experience in long course triathlon, Laurent was hooked.

To illustrate just how much he was smitten by this new challenge, Laurent completed Ironman 70.3 Bintan in Indonesia (August 2017), Ironman 70.3 Thailand (November 2017), Ironman Colombo in Sri Lanka (February 2018), and The Strongman All Japan Triathlon in Miyako-jima (April 2018) – four Ironman distance races within a year.

It was also during this period that Laurent involved two of his sons. His then seven-year-old son competed in the IronKid event that was part of the Colombo, Sri Lanka half Ironman. Then, his oldest son, age 30 at the time, joined him in the Japan race.

To top it off, his daughter was in Japan to cheer on her father and brother. She also caught the ‘triathlon bug’ and shortly thereafter began to train for her first triathlon.

Laurent acknowledges that he is “very lucky to have a wife who supports all of this travel, cheering me on and helping wherever possible”.

Favorite Ironman Triathlons

The races involving his sons have been his favorite so far.

Of the Strongman All Japan Triathlon held on a small island called Miyako-Jima, Laurent noted “I never saw a race with so many people along the road encouraging racers. I think every inhabitant of the island – young kids, school-age kids, old people, disabled people, hospital people, everyone – was on the road from the first competitor to the last one. The course was beautiful and challenging, especially for the bike. And, the organization and volunteers were exceptional.”

Ironman 70.3 Bintan was second favorite, again because of the venue – biking around the island and a beautiful run around the lake – and his younger son taking part in the kid’s race.

Laurent Labbe and son on the final dash to the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Bintan, Indonesia
Laurent Labbe and son on the final dash to the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Bintan. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

“Sport is good, for the body and also for the family.”

Laurent Labbe

Lessons for Ironman Triathlon

Laurent has learned some valuable lessons for others in our age group who may be interested in long course triathlon.

Training

  • Sign up for a race. There is nothing like it to motivate you to train.
  • Train seriously. Laurent trains as much as possible, using many opportunities (going to work; family outings; skipping lunch breaks) and always, ALWAYS with a heart rate monitor. Laurent says “The heart is our motor. I believe we need to listen to its rate, not staying too long in the ‘red zone’ (high rate) and train to make it stronger and more efficient in the endurance zone”. (Look for a future article on triathlon training, including with a heart rate monitor, especially for those age 50+.)
  • Do not force yourself or train beyond your limits.

“We need to take care of our body after age 50. I want to continue for at least another 15 years.”

Laurent Labbe
  • Train – and race – with a friend. Friends will push and give advice to each other.
  • Restart training almost immediately after, even the day after, the race. “If we stop training, we go backward. It also helps to have another race in sight.”

Triathlon Gear

  • Find the right shoes, the right ones for your body and running mechanics.
  • Properly fitting bike – any road bike can be used but aerobars can really help by making the ride more comfortable. Most important is to have the right bike ‘fit’ (settings of the seat, handlebars, aerobars, etc.) to avoid back or knee pain.

Racing

  • During the race, find a balance between pleasure, effort, and pain. Laurent recalls several times during the swim looking at the fish in the water and thinking how fortunate he is to be able to do such things. Enjoy each moment. Feel free to take time to shoot some pictures.
  • Race to finish. “There is no shame in stopping and walking during the run or even the bike if it becomes too hard. Remember that our goal is to finish a race, which is far more than 90% (or more) of people in our age range are able to do.
  • Be prepared to repair a flat tire. “Flat tires happen sometimes. On one race, it’s happened twice to me. Twice, because in the hurry, I replaced the bad one with a bad one. Fortunately, I had a good one in my pocket.”
  • Don’t rush the transitions (this is especially relevant to Ironman triathlons). “Keep cool during the transition. There is no need to rush. The effort on the legs during the swim and bike is so great that the legs can easily cramp. The best way I found to avoid cramps is to go slowly. Remove the wetsuit smoothly and put on the running shoes smoothly. And, be sure there is not a single stone in the socks.” 

Eating and Drinking During the Triathlon

  • Avoid drinking or eating food you don’t know during the race. Focus on water and your own food. Laurent indicated that he has become sick from bad drink or food before and during races.
  • “I learned from Chinese people to avoid drinking cold or ice-cold liquids, instead taking drinks at ambient (or ‘room’) temperature. These are better assimilated than ice cold drinks. For example, during a race in Dubai it was impossible to get ambient temperature water and I had a lot of stomach pain from drinking only cold water.”

After the Race

  • Always spend time after the race to think about the race. Identify the good, bad, and how to improve next time.

One More Thing

  • A healthy lifestyle is key. Laurent does not smoke or drink alcohol. With the help of his wife, he is also careful about the food he eats. “My Chinese wife is very picky on the balance of vegetable, fish, amount of oil. And, we never eat fast food.”

Just Getting Started

This year, Laurent will compete in Ironman Vietnam and the Ironman Championship in Nice, France with his oldest son. Before his first race, Laurent will be training with a younger son (8) for a kid’s triathlon in Hong Kong. And, during this time, Laurent’s oldest daughter (28) will finish her first triathlon in France.

He is also looking for a way to better connect with other senior triathletes in Hong Kong (where he is currently living) and the surrounding region to share experiences and maybe even train together.

Watch for Laurent to be competing in triathlon for many years to come, including ones in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, also be on the lookout for his children to appear in more races as the next generation builds on their father’s passion for triathlon. In fact, Laurent is looking forward to completing a triathlon together with all five of his children.

Questions? Comments?

Include your questions or comments below or send them to seniortriathletes@gmail.com.

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #26 – Washington

Triathlon Across the USA: State #26 – Washington

Bremerton, Washington, September 13, 2015 – Tri Turtle Tri, Wildcat Lake County Park

With yesterday’s race in Oregon, I had completed triathlons in half of the states of the USA.  Today, I would start the second half with the triathlon in the state of Washington.

A Short Trip to the Washington Triathlon

After the awards ceremony for the Best in the West Triathlon, Joy and I pointed our van to Wildcat Lake Park, a county park outside Bremerton, Washington.  Our goal was to reach the park in time for packet pickup for the next day’s race.

We reached the park, which is located within 10 miles of the eastern edge of the Olympic National Park, with time to spare and collected the race packet. 

Meet the Race Director

There is no doubt in my mind that Lisa Ballou is the reason for the longevity of Tri Turtle Tri.  She is organized and among the most enthusiastic of race directors I have met.  Lisa’s email signature – ‘Lisa B, your Tri Turtle’ – gives you a sense of her fun-loving personality. 

Her frequent communications before and after the race encouraged both experienced and first-time triathletes.  For example, take a look at her description of the swim course from an email sent a few days before the event: 

“The ½ mile SWIM will travel in a clockwise triangle. Volunteers will be positioned on surfboards about every 100 yards along the course. Swimmers can stop and rest at these markers, if necessary. In addition, there will be swim volunteers in the water with flotation noodles to aid swimmers needing personal assistance.”

After a single sentence description of the race course, Lisa dedicated the remaining space to encouraging those less-than-confident swimmers. I know that if I were concerned about the swim, I would feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing that the water was filled with people ready, willing, and able to help me complete this first leg of the triathlon.

Another Triathlon Doubling as a Fundraiser

2015 was also the 10th year that Tri Turtle Tri donated part of its proceeds to local fitness and wellness programs, which included a free community wide “Family Fun Run” to encourage families to greater fitness.

This was the also the third year that Tri Turtle Tri, through Tri Turtle Wellness, had awarded a college scholarship to a Klahowya secondary school graduate.  The scholarship was based on the student’s essay describing how the Kitsap Tri Babe motto, “The miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I began,” was relevant to their life.  

Race director Lisa Ballou with two of the members of the Klahowya Secondary School cross country team she had coached. The young man on Lisa’s left completed the triathlon while the one on the right served as a race volunteer.  The picture is courtesy of Lisa Ballou.

10th Annual Tri Turtle Tri SprintPlus Triathlon

About 400 participants gathered on this drizzly morning at Wildcat Park to swim, bike, and run in and around Wildcat Lake.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned triathlon were slightly longer than those of the typical sprint triathlon, hence the name ‘SprintPlus’:

  • Swim: 0.5 mile (800 m)
  • Bike: 15.6 mile (25.1 km)
  • Run: 3.4 mile (5.5 km)

Swim

The temperature of the water in Wildcat Lake today was below 78⁰F meaning that according to USA Triathlon rules wetsuits could be worn for the swim.  The cool drizzle made the wetsuit even more desirable.

The half mile (800 m) swim followed a clockwise triangular path with two right turns before exiting the lake.

I made two mistakes on race morning that caused me to waste time on the swim, even if only a few seconds.  First, I had not identified the swim exit on the race course map.  I also missed the portion of the pre-race meeting during which Lisa pointed out where swimmers were to exit

As a result, during the final leg of the triangular-shaped course, I set a trajectory toward the area where we had entered the lake, instead of toward the actual exit which was 10 to 20 yards left of the start.

Triathlon tip: Take time before the race to learn the course as much as possible.  This should involve learning where to exit the swim typically by identifying a marker near the exit.

From the exit of the water, we climbed a steep hill on our way to the transition area.  Upon reaching flatter ground, the remaining jog to the transition area involved dodging, and occasionally stepping on, sharp rocks protruding from the ground.

Bike

The 15.6 mile (25.1 km), out-and-back bike course took us on local roads, initially west of Wildcat County Park.  At about half way toward the turnaround, the course shifted to a southwesterly direction.  Sparse traffic allowed us to enjoy the evergreen trees, deciduous shrubs, and ground cover that was only occasionally interrupted by an access for a home or small business. 

A short distance before turning around, we exited the main road onto one that looped around to rejoin it about a half-mile southwest of where we had left it.  While the scenery still included stands of tall, straight pines, this area reminded me a lot of the northern part of my home state of Minnesota with its splotches of bogs and wetlands within the forests.

We then rejoined the main road for our return to the transition area.  At this point, we were within 3 miles of Hood Canal, a fjord that makes up part of Puget Sound.

A Hilly Ride

Even though the course featured an elevation gain of between 750 and just under 900 feet (230 to 275 m), depending upon the map used, I really did not recall it being that hilly.

There were two, actually three, reasons for the hilliness going unnoticed.  First, except for the sizeable hill at the beginning and end of the course, most of the course consisted of modest rolling hills.

Secondly, while we were riding on major traffic ways for the area, there was so little vehicle traffic on this Sunday morning, that we could enjoy the forests and wetlands along the course.

Finally, and most importantly, I was distracted by concern about my tires going flat.  As the drizzle continued throughout the race, more water collected on the road.  Hearing a hissing sound brought back the unpleasant memories of a similar sound, the one I heard during the Rhode Island triathlon in the minutes before I crashed as a result of a flat tire. 

Focused on the sound and remembering the pain of the crash, I became increasingly convinced that one of my tires was losing air.  With mist collecting on my glasses, it was impossible to get even a quick, clear glance at the tires to see if they were becoming flat.

When I could no longer stand not knowing if a crash was imminent, I stopped along the edge of the road.  After dismounting, I inspected each tire by pressing them firmly between my index finger and thumb.  Thankfully, I learned that all of my suspicions had been wrong.  Both tires were fully inflated, even if dripping wet.

I relaxed and finished the bike leg.

Run

The 3.4 mile (5.5 km) run left the transition area toward the entrance to the park for a counterclockwise run along roads which had been cut through the woods surrounding Wildcat Lake.  The tree-lined run course followed the left side of the local road, traveling against the negligible Sunday morning traffic. The course included a continuous series of hills, most gradual but several quite challenging.  At the top of the last hill, the course made a left turn for a final sprint to the finish line.

Race T-Shirt

For most triathlons, the t-shirt is provided during packet pickup either the day before or day of the race.  Tri Turtle Tri was different in that the t-shirt was presented only to finishers after they crossed the finish line.

Another unique feature of the t-shirt was that it included the participant’s names.  My name was the top one printed on the iconic turtle’s right flipper.

collage showing logo on t-shirt for Tri Turtle Tri and closeup of area with individual participant names
Logo from the 2015 Tri Turtle Tri finishers t-shirt (left) and the portion around the right flipper containing the names of some of the finishers, of which mine was listed at the top (right).

After the Race

Following the race, Joy and I went back to the hotel for a quick shower and to finish packing for the next leg of our trip.  The first stop was at Anthony’s HomePort and Oyster Bar in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines for a scrumptious seafood lunch with Joy’s cousin Karyn and her son.

We finished lunch around mid-afternoon and made a short trek to nearby Kent where we would stay the night before resuming our journey home the next day. 

The return included stops in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Bismarck, North Dakota; Watson, Minnesota to visit Joy’s cousin Tom; and Hector, Minnesota to visit our eldest granddaughter.

Race First’s

  • First time for three races in one week.
  • This was the first time that my name was printed on the race shirt.
  • First race for which the T-shirt was presented after crossing the finish line only to those who completed the race.

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