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Triathlon Across the USA: State #24 – Utah

Triathlon Across the USA: State #24 – Utah
Utah State Capitol
Bountiful, Utah, September 7, 2015 – South Davis Labor Day Triathlon, South Davis Recreation Center  
“A goal without a deadline is just a dream.”

Robert Herjavec, Canadian businessman

 

The Value of a Deadline

If you are like me, a deadline can be important for keeping your training on track.    We start with an admirable, and even achievable, goal, like improving our fitness or losing a few pounds. However, it is easy to lose momentum once we start making progress toward the goal and the ‘pain’ that motivated us initially is no longer as great. That’s where committing to a specific race can help to maintain the momentum.  An impending race is what many of us need to remain focused. I know that registering – and paying for – a race works because this is my story. This is also a reason many local fitness centers, community recreation centers, and even YMCAs sponsor triathlons, like the South Davis Labor Day Triathlon.   These races provide its members the much-needed deadline and focus for training. And, they usually come at a reasonable and affordable fee, especially when you consider the t-shirt and other swag that participants receive. Read on for my experience at the South Davis Recreation Center managed Labor Day Triathlon.  

Before the Utah Triathlon

The Bountiful, Utah triathlon was one stop on a roughly two-week road trip to complete triathlons in Utah, Oregon, and Washington, all within a seven-day period. Joy’s and my route to Bountiful (Salt Lake City) from our Minnesota home included an overnight stay in Omaha, Nebraska with our son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters.  From here, it was a comfortable, albeit long, day’s drive to the Salt Lake City area. We arrived two days before the Labor Day Triathlon so that we could take in some of the unique sights and activities of the area that included:
  • Touring the Latter-Day Saints Conference Center.
  • Listening to an organ recital at the Mormon Tabernacle.
  • Searching family records at the Family Search Center in the Joseph Smith Memorial. (I learned about my paternal grandmother.  Joy learned that she comes from French and English royalty; she always told me that she was a princess.)
  • Walking in and around the Great Salt Lake.
On Sunday afternoon, Joy and I drove the bike course for the triathlon, a typical pre-race ritual.  We were unable to drive the entire course since several miles of the course was on a combination bike and walking/running trail near the Legacy Nature Preserve.  

7th South Davis Labor Day Triathlon

Bountiful, Utah is a northern suburb of Salt Lake City that sits at around 4,300 feet elevation.  This is high enough for someone from the middle plains of the USA to feel the effects of the altitude, especially during biking and running. The Labor Day Triathlon is part of a series of races organized and managed by the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful.  The event included both sprint and novice triathlon distances with a sprint relay option.
logo-on-t-shirt-of-2015-Labor-Day-Triathlon

Logo on the t-shirt provided to participants of the 2015 South Davis Labor Day Triathlon.

  Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
  • Swim: 0.2 miles (350 yards)
  • Bike: 12 miles (19.3 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)
The novice race included distances approximately half those of the sprint triathlon:
  • Swim: 150 yards
  • Bike: 5 miles (8 km)
  • Run: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
The triathlon made use of the Center’s 14-lane pool.  The transition area for the triathlon made use of the parking area for the Bountiful City Park located immediately behind the fitness center.  

Swim

The 350-yard (320 m) swim followed a serpentine path across the 14 lanes of the 25-yard long pool. Before the start of the triathlon, swimmers lined up in order of the time in which they anticipated completing the swim.  Every few seconds, a swimmer would jump into the first lane and swim to the other end. At the end of the first length, we ducked under the lane divider and swam back to the starting end in the second lane.  It was then under the lane divider for a swim to the other end of lane 3.  For the sprint distance race, this process was repeated for each lane of the pool. After 14 lengths, we got out of the pool and walked or jogged out of the pool area onto the outdoor sidewalk leading to the transition area and our bikes.
South-Davis-Recreation-Center-pool-during-triathlon-swim

Just before the start of the triathlon, swimmers lined up according to their anticipated time for the swim leg. (Picture courtesy of South Davis Recreation Center.)

 

Bike

The initial and final portions of the relatively flat bike course were on the streets of Bountiful.  An intermediate section of the course followed the bike trail next to the Legacy Nature Preserve. While we had driven the road portion of the course the day before the race, we obviously could not drive on the bike trail portion.  Neither had I taken time to ride the trail portion.  

Did I Miss the Turn?

With swimmers starting one at a time, bikers were also spread out along the course.  In fact, there were times, especially on the portion along the Preserve, when I did not see another biker. At one point, I was sure that I had missed the turn-off and was on my own.  I knew that the course eventually turned onto a path leading back to the streets.  All of sudden, I realized that there were no other bikers around me and began to worry that I had already passed the turn. I decided to trust the race directors to have clearly marked the course or to provide a volunteer to keep racers on course. Sure enough, a few blocks ahead, I found the sought-after volunteer.  A quick turn, followed by a ride of about one block on a section of the trail, and I was in the parking lot heading back onto the city streets and toward the transition area.  
Triathlon Tip: Many athletes, including elite triathletes, have lost races by missing a turn on the race course.  This has occurred despite the best attempts of race directors to mark all turns.  Take advantage of race course maps and instructions provided before the race to become familiar with the course.  Ironically, being familiar with the course is more important for races with fewer participants, for which the spacing between racers is often greater.
 

Run

The run course left the transition area, heading west about a block to the street that passes in front of the South Davis Recreation Center.  With the first of five right turns complete, the run on this flat course continued along a rectangular path on the sidewalks of the streets north of the South Davis Recreation Center. It was during this leg that I felt the effect of the altitude.  Fortunately, there were many supporters shouting out their words of encouragement to a background of ringing cowbells.  Their music provided the much-needed distraction as I worked my way toward the finish line.  

After the Race

With the race complete and a long drive ahead of us, Joy and I headed back to the hotel for a quick shower.  We packed the rest of the luggage into the back of our van and headed to our next destination.  It turned out that this would be Bend, Oregon.  

Race First’s

  • First triathlon on a weekday.
  • Initial race on a national holiday.
  • First race in which part of the bike course was a biking/running/walking trail.
 

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #41 – Kentucky

Triathlon Across the USA: State #41 – Kentucky
Winchester, Kentucky, October 6, 2018 – WinSprint 2018, Winchester-Clark County Recreation Center. Does competing in a triathlon with several hundred or even thousands of participants intimidate you?  Don’t let that stop you.  There are many smaller, competitive, and well-run races from which to choose.  

A Road Trip to Celebrate our 45th Wedding Anniversary

I learned about the WinSprint Triathlon on a favorite website, Running in the USA, while searching for triathlons in the southeastern states.  In the end, Joy and I put together a string of five triathlons on five consecutive weekends during a road trip in the fall of 2018 to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary.  

Getting to the Kentucky Triathlon

After the North Carolina Triathlon on the previous Saturday, Joy and I took a leisurely path to Daniel Boone country in northeastern Kentucky.   Enroute, we toured portions of western North Carolina and communities around the Great Smoky National Park in eastern Tennessee. Actually, this was the second time in Kentucky during this road trip.  The first visit was between the Ohio and Tennessee triathlons in the second week of the trip. During the first trip, we were able to try our hand at tent camping.   This time, however, it was without the rain, in Big Bone Lick State Park in northwestern Kentucky.  

3rd WinSprint Triathlon

The WinSprint Triathlon is organized and managed by the staff of Winchester – Clark County Recreation Center (WCCRC), which is housed in the former site of Southeastern Christian College. The event doubles as a fundraiser for the purchase of bikes for the WCCRC annual Bicycle Rodeo.  According to the WCCRC website:

“Last year we purchased and gave away 26 bikes! We hope to give away even more during our 2018 event and appreciate your support in helping make this a reality!!”

The 2018 WinSprint Triathlon included six categories of race, all involving sprint triathlon distances:
  • Sprint triathlon with road biking
  • Sprint triathlon with stationary biking in the fitness center
  • Relay versions of the road and stationary bike events
  • Duathlon (bike and run; no swim) versions of the road and stationary bike events
  Distances for the individual legs of this sprint triathlon were:
  • Swim: 0.23 mile (400 yds)
  • Bike: 6.2 miles (10 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)
 

Filled to Capacity

According to April S. of WCCRC, the number of participants in the WinSprint Triathlon has grown each year.  Starting with 40 participants in 2016, the race’s first year, the number of racers jumped to 80 in 2017, its second year. In this, the third year, registration exceeded the initial cap of 100 participants set by recreation center management.  The cap was based on the capacity of the WCCRC facility and the number of participants that could complete the event within the half day allotted to it. While Clark County was well represented among the participants, about 60% of the participants came from outside the immediate area. The race had a family-friendly feel to it with lots of children visible on race morning.  A special feature of this race was the availability of free daycare.  Race organizers provided this for parents who needed their children watched while they raced.
pre-race-meeting-at-the-Kentucky-triathlon

A pre-race meeting for the Kentucky triathlon was held in the gymnasium of the Winchester – Clark County Recreation Center.

 

WinSprint Triathlon Transition Area

Another unique feature of this race, one that I like, was the lottery for the position (bike rack number) within the transition area.  During packet pickup on race morning, triathletes selected a colored piece of paper with a number. Mine had the number 12 on it. The number on the paper corresponded to the number on the rack on which we placed our bikes.  The lottery had two benefits. First, it controlled the number of bikes on a given rack.  This ensured that each racer had roughly the same space in which to set out their gear within the transition area. The second benefit was that it prevented a rush on race morning to get the best locations in the transition area.  Unlike most triathlons, the bike out/in and the run out locations were on the same end of the transition area.  With this arrangement, there was an advantage, albeit small, to having one’s transition space near the bike out/in end of the transition area.
transition-area-of-WinSprint-triathlon

The transition area of the WinSprint Triathlon was on a section of Wheeler Avenue in front of the Winchester – Clark County Recreation Center.

 

Swim

The swim was organized in waves.   Waves began at 15-minute intervals.  Two swimmers were assigned to each of five lanes of the 25-yard long pool.  A sixth lane remained open for swimmers who required more than the allotted 15 minutes to complete the swim. Swimmers swam eight laps (sixteen lengths).  Volunteers notified each swimmer when they were beginning their final lap and when they had completed all laps. Once the swim had been completed, athletes either left the building for the outdoor transition area (using the door in the picture below) or, if they were participating in the stationary bike event, left the swim area for a nearby room containing the stationary bikes.
Winchester-Clark-County-Recreation-Center-pool

The swim for the WinSprint Triathlon was held in the 25-yard WCCRC pool.

 

Bike

There were two unique features of the WinSprint Triathlon:
  1. It had the shortest bike leg of any of the more than 40 triathlons I have completed.
  2. It was the first to include a stationary bike option for the bike leg.
For the stationary bike option, the rider used a bicycle within the fitness center to ride the 6.2 mile (10 km).  Of course, there were no hills and there was no wind working for or against the rider while on the stationary bike. Not surprising, times on the stationary bikes were less than those on the road bikes.  The fastest bike split (time on the bike) for an individual sprint triathlete competing in the stationary bike event was 13:16.   This compared to the fastest bike split of 17:31 for the road bike event.  

Out on the Road

The temperature on the bike course was comfortable, in the low 70’s ⁰F.   The course left the transition area following city streets to Boonesboro Avenue, a county highway that led southwest out of town toward the turnaround at George Rogers Clark High School. Upon reaching the entrance to the High School, I turned into the parking lot.  There were no other bikers around me, though there were plenty of volunteers whose instructions I thought I followed correctly. I continued straight ahead, riding counterclockwise around the school building.  Passing another volunteer in a parking lot behind the school, I continued up the hill leading to the exit of the property and back toward the highway. While riding the last few hundred yards to the exit of the school grounds, I met other bikers going in the opposite direction of me. I am still not certain if I followed the right course or if I should have gone clockwise around the building.  The bike course map on the race website did not show this detail.
Triathlon tip: One strategy that helps to shave a few seconds off the overall race time is to leave my bike shoes connected to the pedals.   After a few pedal strokes, I coast and slip my feet into the bike shoes.  This requires practice so don’t plan to try this for the first time on race day.
removing-feet-from-clipped-in-bike-shoes

Before dismounting at the end of the bike leg, I slip my feet out of the bike shoes which stay clipped into the pedals. The picture is courtesy of WinSprint Triathlon.

 

Run

The run course took us through neighborhoods near the Recreation Center.  I knew from April that the course was hilly.  In fact, there were few flat sections on the course, even though none of the hills was especially long or steep. There was plenty of moral support and encouragement along the course.  There was also water. In fact, I still chuckle each time I recall the young girl who passed out water at the mid-point of the run course.  As I took the cup of water, she told me that I could throw my water cup on the ground. I asked her who would pick up the cup if I threw it on the ground.  Without hesitating, she gave me the answer.  “My mom.” Smiling, I tucked the paper cup into the pocket on the back of my triathlon suit and headed onward to the finish.  

Time to Head Home

After crossing the finish line and turning in my timing chip, I downed some liquid refreshment and a banana.  Having the race gear back in the van, we headed back to the hotel for a shower. With the fifth of the five fall triathlons complete, we started our return home.  

Race First’s

  • First triathlon at which daycare was provided for participants.
  • Shortest bike course.
  • First triathlon with a stationary bike option.
 

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #40-North Carolina

Triathlon Across the USA: State #40-North Carolina
Wilson, North Carolina, September 29, 2018 – Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon, Buckhorn Reservoir The North Carolina triathlon was the fourth of five sprint triathlons completed in consecutive weekends during the fall of 2018.

Travel to the North Carolina Triathlon

Following the Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon in suburban Atlanta, Joy and I traveled to the South Carolina coast and then on to central North Carolina. Frankly, we were not sure what to expect in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.  This hurricane had dumped over three feet (91 cm) of rain in some parts of the Carolinas within the past two weeks. While some roads around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina remained closed due to flooding, we were able to travel through the area relatively easily.  Sadly, we saw a number of houses still partially under water.  There were also many downed trees and twisted road signs. After two days exploring Myrtle Beach, we headed northwest for a couple of days touring Raleigh.  Mid-Thursday, we made the short drive through the countryside to Wilson for sightseeing in this historic city and for the Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon. On Friday morning, we visited Drew Parker at the Wilson Welcome Center to learn about the city.  Drew pointed us to several landmarks, including Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, a collection of “kinetic sculptures” designed and produced by the colorful and creative Vollis Simpson.  As near as I can tell, Mr. Simpson must have loved biking given the number of sculptures involving cyclists. For the next several hours we visited Whirligig Park and explored the residential streets with their southern style mansions and the business district of downtown Wilson. Video showing some of the sculptures at Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Wilson, North Carolina in action.

14th Battle at Buckhorn Sprint Triathlon

The Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon, managed by FS Series Events, (Raleigh, North Carolina), included both individual and relay sprint distances.
Longhorn-cattle-at-Buckhorn-Reservoir-near-Wilson-North-Carolina

The mascot for Buckhorn Lake and namesake for the Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon. Both the bike and run courses took us past a pasture with this and several other Texas Longhorn cattle.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
  • Swim: 0.47 mile (750 m)
  • Bike: 17 mile (27.4 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Keeping Order

Volunteers are critical to a triathlon.  They provide the needed order, preventing collisions and other mishaps.  They also keep racers on course (most of the time). So, when I received an email from the race organizer requesting additional volunteers along the race course, I immediately passed the request on to Joy.   If you know Joy, you know that she is not only an experienced triathlon volunteer but, more generally, a participant.  She would prefer to do almost anything than sit along the sideline waiting for me to complete the race. Without batting an eye, she agreed to volunteer. During packet pickup on Friday afternoon, Joy negotiated a position along the bike and run course a few hundred yards from the transition area.  Her spot was at an intersection that doubled as the first turn for the bike and for the run. After the race, she told me that her time “was busy and necessary, especially because I prevented runners and bikers from colliding.”
Triathlon tip: If you have not participated in a triathlon and have some concerns about doing one, start by attending one as a spectator or, better yet, as a volunteer.

Swim

The water temperature today was a comfortable 78°F (26°C), the upper limit for a ‘wetsuit-legal’ triathlon, according to USAT rules.

Do I Use a Wetsuit?

Removing a wetsuit after a triathlon swim adds a few tens of seconds to the T1 (swim to bike) time. You can reduce the extra time by unzipping the suit and removing your arms from the suit while running into the transition area after exiting the water. On the other hand, the extra buoyancy that the wetsuit provides leads to a faster pace during the swim.   For the distance of the swim for this race, the faster pace and reduced swim time would more than offset the added time in transition to remove the wetsuit. In the end, the decision was to use the wetsuit for the swim.
Buckhorn-Reservoir-with-buoys-for-the-Battle-at-Buckhorn-North-Carolina-triathlon

The Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon swim took place in the Buckhorn Reservoir. The reservoir dam is visible on the far shore on the left side of the picture. The final orange turn buoy and yellow sighting buoy are visible at the right.

A Triangular Swim Course

Racers were started in three waves: (1) all women, (2) men age 39 and under, and (3) men age 40 and over.  Relay participants started according to the gender and age of the team member covering the swim. Swimmers within each of the three waves left on the triangular-shaped swim course from the ramp between two docks.  In my particular wave, 57 males aged 40 and over started together a few minutes after the previous two waves of females and younger males. We swam toward the first orange buoy initially using a yellow sighting buoy to guide us to the first turn. After the first turn, we swam southeast into the sun with the sun a few degrees off the horizon.  Considering the sun and distance, the round yellow sighting buoy midway between the two turn buoys became the key to reaching the second turn buoy efficiently. Once we reached the second turn buoy, we made a second left turn and headed to the exit guided by a yellow turn buoy midway and a red inflatable waving pillar at the exit from the water. As shown in the map generated from my GPS watch, my actual path was reasonably straight.
map-from-GPS-watch-for-swim-at-Battle-at-Buckhorn-triathlon

The triangular swim course (purple line) in Buckhorn Lake from a recording made using my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch.

Bike

The 17-mile (27.4 km) bike course consisted of a series of rolling hills described by one racer from Raleigh as “about as flat as it gets around here”. According to my bike computer, the temperature was in the high 60’s°F.  With no wind, these conditions were ideal and certainly a whole lot more comfortable than on the previous two weekends. The bike course was classified as open (means ‘with traffic’) with portions on state highways.   All turns were to the right so we did not have to cross traffic.  As the race director stated in the pre-race meeting, “If you take a left turn on this course, I do not know where you will end up.” The course took us on a gentle, roller-coaster of hills through rural residential areas and past small (by Midwest standards) farms, country churches, and a few small businesses, including Triple J Produce near the end of the ride. In the more rural areas off the state highways, we passed a variety of fields (soybeans, corn).   We also rode by pastures complete with grazing cattle, seemingly unfazed by what had to be an unusual amount of bike traffic Given the series of right turns and relatively light traffic on this Saturday morning, riding this course felt safe. Ironically, my only experience with traffic was in the parking lot just before transition.  Riding into the parking lot near the transition area at the end of the course, I came up behind a white SUV crawling along, the driver apparently undecided about where he could or should park.  (He shouldn’t have even been there, but that’s for another day.) Since I could not tell if the driver would turn left or right into their parking spot, I was forced to wait before riding past his vehicle.  Finally, he made a commitment and pulled off to the right.

Run

The run course involved two loops of the same path, most of which was on a portion of the bike course.  The flat course left the transition area onto the road leading out of the Buckhorn Reservoir boat launch, again past my favorite volunteer, Joy. At the end of the road, we turned right and then turned right again at the next intersection onto a street leading to the reservoir dam, located on the eastern edge of the reservoir.  I remember chuckling at the young boy running around his yard trying to herd the family’s chickens back into their cage – on both trips. After returning to the parking lot near the transition area the first time, we turned around at an aid (water and sports drink) table and repeated the course.  After the second lap, we passed the aid station completing the short run to the finish line.
Paul-Bloom-and-Sharon-Roggenbuck-after-the-Battle-at-Buckhorn-Triathlon

Battle at Buckhorn Triathlon age group winners Paul Bloom (age 71) and Sharon Roggenbuck (age 80). Sharon’s approach to the podium to receive her age group award included a cartwheel.

Our Next Destination

It was then on to Kentucky for the WinSprint Triathlon the following weekend.  However, before this, we headed to western North Carolina, visiting Mt. Airy (Andy Griffith’s hometown) and Asheville (home of the Biltmore Estate). Another takeaway from North Carolina is the memory of large patches of orange and yellow wildflowers in the median of divided highways throughout the state.  I wish other states would do this. After leaving North Carolina, we spent several fun-filled days in southwestern Tennessee.  Here we visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge (home of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood).  It was then onto Winchester (Lexington) Kentucky.

Race First’s

  • First time racing past longhorn cattle, something expected in Texas but not in North Carolina.

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