Triathlon Across the USA: State #31–Indiana: Rain
North Liberty, Indiana, September 17, 2016 – Stepping outside the Holiday Inn Express in Plymouth, Indiana on race day, I knew this would be an interesting one. It wasn’t exactly a downpour, but the rain was coming down hard enough that I felt compelled to run across the parking lot with suitcase in hand to my car.
It was not the first time I had raced in the rain during a triathlon. However, the rain this morning was the hardest I had ever seen before the start of a race.
How would it impact the triathlon? Read on to learn.
Business required me to be in Chicago during the days before the Tri The Creek triathlon. At least one of the factors favoring this race was the short 2-1/2 hour drive south and east of Chicago to the venue. Another factor was the venue itself.
3D Tri The Creek Triathlon
Tri The Creek Triathlon’s name comes from its venue, Potato Creek State Park. The entire race occurred within the boundaries of this 3,840-acre park three miles east of North Liberty, Indiana.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the park’s name, Potato Creek, came from the “potato-like roots on this area’s creek bank” harvested by native Americans who inhabited the area along with early European settlers. The mix of wooded areas, prairie, and wetlands make this park an inviting habitat for birds and other wildlife.
The eastern edge of the park includes the ‘Horsemen’s Campground’ with plenty of trails for horses and their riders to enjoy the diverse nature of the park. A more traditional campground is located at the other end of the park, near Worster Lake, venue for the swim leg of the triathlon.
While Joy and I were exploring the park and driving the bike course on the Friday evening before the triathlon, we counted dozens of families arriving with their campers and trailers for a late season weekend of camping.
Race Day – September 17, 2016
As noted above, we awoke Saturday morning to serious rain. Temperature at race time was 67°F with the rain having let up a bit. There was essentially no wind.
For this triathlon, packet pickup occurred only on the morning of the race. While it was not my goal to do so, I was the first person to pick-up their packet.
Since it was raining, I racked my bike with plastic bags over my shoes (which remained clipped to the bike pedals). The rest of the gear – bike helmet and glasses and running shoes – remained with me in the van where Joy and I waited until near the beginning of the triathlon.
As the time for closing of the transition approached, I delivered my bike helmet, glasses and running shoes to the transition area.
While the rain had begun to let up, it was still coming down at a rate guaranteed to soak the gear that was in transition. To minimize the effect, I set my bike helmet top down on the aero bars with clear, safety glasses inside the helmet. Nothing new about this.
However, because of the rain, I covered the helmet and glasses with a plastic bag. I pushed the bag into the helmet to avoid it being blown away by a small gust of wind.
As is typically the case, I also had a towel on the ground next to my bike (for wiping my feet to remove sand and small rocks as needed) with my running shoes on top of the towel.
This time, with the rain, I put a second towel, folded to be as thick as possible, on top of my running shoes to hopefully keep them dry for the run.
Distances for the individual legs of the Sprint triathlon were:
- Swim: 500 m (0.31 mile)
- Bike: 18 km (11 mile)
- Run: 5 km (3.1 mile)
For this event, the sprint distance was one of four distances. The three other were:
- Olympic – 1000 m swim, 22 mile bike, 10 km trail run
- Super Sprint – 200 m swim, 6 mile bike, 1 mile trail run
- Sprint KayaTri – 2 mile kayak, 11 mile bike, 5 km trail run
With the water temperature at 72°F, the race was considered ‘wetsuit legal’ meaning that, according to USA Triathlon rules, swimmers were allowed to wear a wetsuit. However, given the relative short swim, I decided to swim without the wetsuit.
Like many of the Minnesota lakes in which I swim, Worster Lake had a considerable amount of algae, to which I am allergic. This was confirmed throughout the rest of the day and that night by my nose running and eventually becoming plugged.
The race course took us from Worster Lake to the Horsemen’s Campground and back.
Joy and I had driven the bike course the day before so we knew what to expect – relatively flat roads in good condition (few holes or significant cracks). By now, the rain had become a mist so the roads were only slightly damp. Even so, riders appeared cautious apparently remembering the repeated warnings of the race organizers to be careful by slowing down on corners.
Upon reaching the transition area, I learned that putting the folded towel over my running shoes had been good. While the towel was dripping wet, saturated from the rain, my running shoes were perfectly dry.
By the beginning of the run, the rain had nearly passed though the sky was overcast and the temperature remained comfortable.
The run had been advertised as a trail run. However, having been through the park the day before, I was convinced that by ‘trail’ they actually meant a paved trail dedicated to walkers and runners.
Not so. When they wrote trail run, they really did mean running on a trail complete with tree roots, boulders, loose rock, mud puddles, holes, occasional sections of grass, and lots of hills.
The run was much more rustic than I am accustomed. The good news – with the trail constantly changing, I had little opportunity to think about being tired.
In fact, with about a hundred yards to go to the finish line, I had more than enough energy to respond to Joy’s “encouragement” – her actual words were “Push it! Finish strong!” in the voice of my high school basketball coach.
After the race
The weather continued to clear throughout the race. By the time of the awards ceremony, the sun was shining.
Before the start of the race and afterwards, Joy and I had met Jim and Deb Panozzo from Michigan. Joy and Deb got to know each other while Jim, another senior triathlete, and I completed the triathlon.
For Jim, who celebrated his 63rd birthday the next week, Tri The Creek was his second sprint triathlon. I love his description of the run – “a cross-country course in the mud that took me back to my high school days”.
He went on to describe what I also experience in each triathlon. “It was a lot of fun, but very humbling on revealing my weaknesses and the things I need to work on as I approach my 63rd birthday. I am so grateful to God to be able to participate and finish.”
- First triathlon in which I was the first to pick-up their packet
- First triathlon in which there was a kayak option to the swim
- First triathlon with the run leg entirely on an unpaved trail
Lessons from previous triathlons about racing with rain were put to good use for the State #31 triathlon.
The most important lesson for this triathlon? Keeping the bike and run gear dry, or as dry as possible, minimized the impact of heavy rain before the start of the race.