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T L VanderWert

Triathlon Across the USA: State #19 – Wyoming

Triathlon Across the USA: State #19 – Wyoming
Gillette, Wyoming is also known as the Energy Capital of the Nation.

Gillette, Wyoming, May 3, 2014 – Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon

The Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon in Gillette, Wyoming was the opportunity to visit family, explore eastern Wyoming, and enjoy our 15 minutes of fame.

Why a Triathlon in Gillette, Wyoming?

Joy’s and my plans to compete in the Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon, my first of the 2014 season, were cemented with mailing a check to the Campbell County Parks & Recreation on January 10, 2014.

Why this triathlon?

If you have read “How to Choose Your Next Triathlon”, you may have already guessed that there was a connection to family or friends weaved somewhere into the story.

If you have not read the earlier post, please do so later.  For now, I’ll give you the short version of the answer to the above question.

First, Wyoming was one of the states in which I had not completed a triathlon.

More importantly, Gillette was a short drive past Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City was the summer home of Joy’s dear Aunt Evelyn.  Evelyn learned that she enjoyed being a triathlon spectator during the Catching Cupid Triathlon in Mesa, Arizona (State #12).  She was more than ready to watch another race.

Travel to the Wyoming Triathlon

Joy and I left our Minnesota home on Thursday evening, spending the night in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the world famous Corn Palace.   We rose early the next morning, reaching Rapid City in time for lunch with Aunt Evelyn.

While we had planned to pick up Evelyn on the way to Gillette – and she was looking forward to the trip – health problems prevented her from joining us.  Nevertheless, we were able to visit with her both on the way to and from Gillette.

After lunch and some ‘catching up’, we made the roughly two hour trip to Gillette.  Arriving mid-afternoon allowed us to prepare for the race, pick up the race packet, and explore the area a bit before having an early dinner at the Prime Rib restaurant.

Learning About Gillette

Gillette is named after Edward Gillette, an engineer and surveyor for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad who in 1891 recommended the eventual route of the railroad.

But, what about the ‘Razor City’ nickname that is the basis for the triathlon’s name?

Legend has it that the ‘Razor City’ nickname came from association of the Gillette family name with that of the company that manufactures razor blades.

The more popular nickname for Gillette today is ‘Energy Capital of the Nation’.  This name recognizes the city’s central location within an area from which large quantities of coal, oil, and coal bed methane gas have been obtained.

One fact about Gillette relevant to the triathlon is its altitude.  Like many western USA cities, Gillette is located at an elevation significantly higher than that of my home state of Minnesota.  For this race, the average altitude was 4,550 to just over 4,600 feet.

11th Annual Razor City Splash & Dash Sprint Triathlon

The race is one of several run by Campbell County Parks & Recreation (CCPR).  You can find information about the next triathlon and other races sponsored by CCPR here. I challenge you to find a lower cost triathlon.

Distances for the individual legs of this sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.51 mile (900 yds or 823 m)
  • Bike: 11.3 miles (18.2 km) as measured from my bike computer (officially listed as ‘approximately 12 miles’)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Race Day

We rose early to reach the Recreation Center for the opening of the transition area.  In fact, we arrived before the race staff.

After setting up my transition area, I chatted with the race director.  During the conversation, I shared with him that this race was the Wyoming triathlon in our 50-states quest.

As more racers began to arrive, the conversation turned to other topics.   Before I knew it, we were in the aquatic center for the pre-race meeting.

Swim

Gillette is blessed with an incredible pool, the location for the triathlon’s swim leg.  For the triathlon, the Olympic size pool (50-yard length) was configured as a 25-yard pool with 20 lanes.

Triathletes-awaiting-the-swim-start
Razor City Splash & Dash triathletes awaiting the start of the swim leg. I added text (in white font) showing my lane. (Photo courtesy of Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon.)

The swim for this race involved five triathletes in each lane, all who had estimated similar times for their swim.  The entire 900 yards of the swim occurred within the same lane with the same five swimmers, in this case, four young ladies and me. 

Each swimmer was responsible for providing a person to count their laps.  Filling this need for me, Joy ticked off one more volunteer performance.

My swim time was actually almost three minutes faster than I had estimated at registration.  I am not sure how this happened but it was a pleasant surprise.   On several occasions, I had to slow down because of congestion in the lane.

Bike

For the bike leg, we left the transition area outside the aquatic center and headed onto a city street.  From the course map, the route looked more or less like a capital letter ‘T’ with the starting point near the bottom of the vertical section.

The course involved an out and back route with two turnarounds, one corresponding to each of the two ends of the top, horizontal section of the ‘T’.

What is missing from the simple description of the course as a flat letter ‘T’ are the four steep climbs (and descents) and rolling hills. These made this short course a bit more challenging though still quite fast.

One of the unique memories of this race was the pronghorn deer in the field alongside the course.  With the deer separated from the road by a fence, there was little danger of them running onto the course.  It’s just that you don’t see deer, nonetheless pronghorn deer, during every triathlon.

Pronghorn-deer-at-Razor-City-Splash-and-Dash-Triathlon
Pronghorn Deer were among the spectators of the Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon

Run

The 3.1 mile (5k) flat run course took us through a quiet neighborhood of Gillette.  The course left from the eastern side of the Recreation Center parking lot, looped around streets south and eventually southwest of the Center, returning to the Center parking lot and finish line.

15 Minutes of Fame

Since I was the only participant over 60 years of age, I was able to claim a first place age group prize.  When announcing my ‘win’, the race director also announced Joy’s and my mission to cover the USA through triathlon.

Following the awards ceremony, Grant Egger, a reporter for the Gillette News Record, informed us that he was writing a story about the Splash & Dash.  Of course, we agreed to his request for an interview.

A few days later, I received a copy of the newspaper article in my e-mail. 

Gillette-News-Record-article-about-Razor-City-Splash-and-Dash-Triathlon
Gillette News Record article about the Razor City Splash & Dash Triathlon

A Final Stop in Rapid City

We left Gillette at 12:15 pm Mountain Time for our first stop, Rapid City.  Our mission was to pay Aunt Evelyn another visit, this time with an update on the triathlon.

Being an experienced triathlon spectator, she asked all the right questions.  After getting her caught up and enjoying some snacks, we said our farewells and headed toward Minnesota.

Three months later, Evelyn had passed away.   We were blessed to have been allowed time with her during this trip.

Race Firsts

  • First timing biking past Pronghorn Deer.
  • I was the oldest participant for this race, another first.
  • First race in which Joy and I were interviewed by a local newspaper reporter after the race.

Have You Done a Triathlon in Wyoming?

Wyoming is such a beautiful state. I have loved it since visiting Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone Park as a child.

Have you done any triathlons in Wyoming? If so tell us which one and what you learned from it in the Comments section below.

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5 Common Mistakes in the Pool Swim of a Triathlon

5 Common Mistakes in the Pool Swim of a Triathlon
Mizzou Aquatic Center at University of Missouri, Columbia MO, venue for the swim leg of the TriZou Triathlon.

Want to prevent fellow triathletes from becoming annoyed with you during a race? Avoid these mistakes commonly made during a pool swim.

From my experience with sprint triathlon, here are the top five mistakes, in no particular order, that occur doing a pool swim:

  • Reporting too aggressive or conservative pace/time

This mistake most often occurs during registration when you are asked to provide an estimate of the time that it will take to complete the swim.   You definitely do not want to be swimming with triathletes who are significantly faster or slower than you.

If you are worried about the registration filling before you can time your swim, give your best estimate.  Then, after later measuring the time, contact the race organizer to make any correction.

In many cases, you will also have opportunity on race day to make any correction.  You will likely be asked to line up with those of similar pace (if the start is one at a time) or to join a group with those of similar speed (if swimmers start in a group, typically of five or six) .

Just don’t make the mistake on race day.

 

  • Starting too fast

With adrenaline rushing and the crowd roaring (even a small crowd can be deafening in an indoor pool), it is tempting to start swimming too fast too soon causing your heart rate to spike or breathing to become difficult.  The next thing you know, you are swimming much slower than planned or even stopping to catch your breath.  Better to start out at what you consider to be a bit slower that you think you should until you are in a rhythm.  Once your breathing is at a normal race pace and you are ‘warmed up, give it your all.

 

  • Not drafting, if it is possible

Drafting is considered by many to be one of the keys to conserving energy during the swim while at the same time turning in a respectable (for you) time.  The problem with drafting is that it can be difficult to practice unless you swim with a group.

To take advantage of drafting, swim with your hands just behind the feet of the person in front of you.  (Avoid touching their feet which sends the message that you want to pass them.)

 

  • Not staying in your space

This is especially important when swimming in the same lane as one or more athletes and remaining in the same lane during the entire swim.  Stay on your side (usually the right side) of the lane.  You do not want to be the cause of a head-on crash.

Even if the swim involves a single length of each of several lanes in a Z-pattern, stay to the right as a matter of courtesy to faster swimmers.  You will appreciate this if you are the faster swimmer.

pool swim

Staying within your space during a pool swim will allow faster racers to pass.

  • Not allowing faster swimmers to pass when they let you know that they want to

Another courtesy to fellow racers is to allow faster swimmers to pass.  Let them pass as soon as possible once they have signaled that they want to do so.  Typically, faster swimmers will tap one of the feet of the swimmer that they wish to pass.  If you can, move to the right side of the lane to allow them to pass.  In races in which the entire length of swim involves multiple laps within a given lane, it is typical for the racer who is being passed to pause at the end of a length.  Allow the faster swimmer or swimmers to pass you, and then resume your swim.

 

What is your experience?

Have you identified other mistakes or have experience with those I have listed? Leave your comments below.

 

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #34 – Louisiana

Triathlon Across the USA: State #34 – Louisiana

Youngsville, Louisiana, October 1, 2017 – Sugarman Triathlon, Sugar Mill Pond.

Without going into to all of the details, I can say that a triathlon in Louisiana was definitely not in our plans for 2017.  One of the races that I had planned in a western state never took place.  Then there was Hurricane Harvey.

On the other hand, the October 1st date and location for the Sugarman Triathlon fit nicely into our plans to visit Florida for our wedding anniversary.  On top of that, its location in western Louisiana gave us the opportunity to meet a friend who had been through a horrific time with Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

While our friend lives in Katy (Houston), Texas, she had been commuting to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for work for over a year.  Youngsville provided a perfect meeting point and opportunity for a face-to-face visit to get caught up.

 

Getting to the Triathlon

Joy and I left our Minnesota home at a little before 6am on Friday morning.  With audiobook playing, we headed toward Little Rock, Arkansas where we would spend our first night.  The overnight stop in Little Rock meant that we were roughly two-thirds of the way to the race venue in Youngsville (Lafayette), Louisiana.

We finished the trip to Youngsville the next day, arriving in plenty of time for packet pickup, a quick visit to the Sugar Mill Pond (race venue), and some authentic Cajun cuisine at Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn with our friend.

Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn in Broussard, Louisiana

Poor Boy’s Riverside Inn. If you happen to visit, be on the lookout for the ‘pet’ raccoons looking for hand-outs near the entrance.

 

8th Annual Sugarman Triathlon

2017 was the 8th annual running of Sugarman Triathlon.  Like many triathlons, Sugarman doubled as a fundraiser.

For this race, the proceeds benefited two worthy causes:  the Jacob Crouch Foundation for suicide prevention and TRAIL (Transportation Recreation Alternatives In Louisiana), an organization aimed at “building and maintaining opportunities for outdoor recreation”.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.3 mile (500 m)
  • Bike: 15 mile (24 km)
  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)

Participants had the choice of racing within Age Groups, in Relays, or as Clydesdale (male) and Athena (female).

 

Transition

The transition area for the nearly 200 participants occupied the space on Waterview Street between Shore Drive and Prescott Boulevard, in front of the Sugar Mill Athletic Club.

Racers were assigned a rack based on our race number.   As is customary, we racked our bikes alternately facing one of the two transition area exits.  For example, if the bike occupying the end position faced toward the ‘Bike Out’ end, the next bike would be racked to face opposite this, or toward the ‘Run Out’ location.

Transition area for Sugarman Triathlon on race morning from the ‘Run Out’ end.

Transition area for Sugarman Triathlon on race morning from the ‘Run Out’ end.

 

How Do You Setup Your Transition Space?

You may have heard the saying “you cannot win a triathlon in transition, but you can lose it.”  Any time spent in transition is just as important as time taken in the individual legs of the race.

Shaving a minute from your transition time is just as good as reducing your swim or bike or run time by a minute.” Source: https://seniortriathletes.com/how-to-achieve-faster-transition-times/

One key to faster transition times in a sprint distance triathlon is keeping the setup of the transition area simple.  Take a look at the video to see how my transition area was setup for this and most other sprint distance races.  Simpler is faster.

Video describing setup of my transition area at Sugarman Triathlon.

Before the Start

Race organizers created a pleasant tone for the event in the moments before the first racers hit the course.  Participants, volunteers, and spectators all came together at dockside to join in reciting the pledge of allegiance, singing of the National Anthem, and prayer.

Congratulations to the young lady to lead us in the National Anthem.  What a beautiful voice!

 

Swim

The swim was an in-water start with participants beginning in groups based on gender and age group.  The first group (also referred to as the ‘first wave’) included all males aged 50 and over and all Relay participants.

Awaiting the swim start at Sugarman Triathlon.

50 and over male Age Groupers and Clydesdales and swim participants of Relay Teams awaiting the swim start at Sugarman Triathlon.

 

Bike

The 15 mile bike course was well marked and well staffed with volunteers and local police.  There was no question about the course or the safety of the participants.  The out-and-back course was nice and flat (at least by Minnesota standards).

However, the less than ideal road conditions, with a large number of asphalt repairs, kept us “on our toes”.  These repairs meant lots of rough patches for those of us who obeyed the call to stay to right.

Fortunately, my fellow racers were forgiving.  This was especially true for the guy who I pulled in front of to avoid an exceptionally rough area.  Thank you, sir.  You are a gentleman.

 

Run

The temperature just before the start of the race was in the low 70’s F.   However, it shot up quickly.  By the time I finished the run, the temperature was somewhere in the upper 80’s – and very humid.

Such conditions are not unusual, or even considered hot, for those who live in the South.  However, for me – a Minnesotan – the upper 80’s with high humidity represents a condition in which I generally say “Maybe later” to running.

My run was slow with stops at each of the many aid stations.  Despite taking a glass of Powerade at each of these, I experienced a cramp in my hamstring with about a half mile to go.

Thankfully, a quick prayer resulted in relief from the cramp.  I was able to finish the final 1/2-mile of the run around the lake with a respectable sprint through the dockside finish line.

The finish area for the Sugarman Triathlon was in the park next to Sugar Mill Pond.

The finish area for the Sugarman Triathlon was in the park next to Sugar Mill Pond (in the background). The red inflatable at the upper right (seen beneath the tree branches) marks the finish line.

 

After the Race

With the race finished, Joy and I attended the 11am service at the Bayou Church.  Not only did we enjoy the worship and fellowship with other believers but helped to celebrate the pastor’s 33rd anniversary as pastor.   We were also able to experience Acadiana (French Louisiana) from yet another perspective.

From here, we continued our journey on to The Villages, Florida where we would spend the next two weeks.

 

Race First’s

  • First race within a planned community/neighborhood.
  • First race involving swim in a man-made pond.
  • First race involving roundabouts on the bike and run courses.

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #10 – New Hampshire

Triathlon Across the USA: State #10 – New Hampshire

Rye, New Hampshire; September 23, 2012 – Wallis Sands Triathlon, Rye Beach at Wallis Sands State Beach.

I started this triathlon, the second in as many days, differently than previous ones–with fresh scrapes on my right arm and right knee.  My right shoulder was also injured.   After this race, I would not swim for four months while my shoulder healed.

The injuries resulted from a bike crash a day earlier in the Newport 19.7 Triathlon in Newport, Rhode Island.  On a positive note, I had a new front tire and tube, thanks to the previous ones being destroyed by a knife-like, unknown object I had run over early in the bike leg of the Rhode Island triathlon.  

 

Getting to the New Hampshire Triathlon

Joy and I left Newport, Rhode Island late Saturday morning of the day before the Wallis Sands Triathlon.  We drove the 140 miles north to the Trek Bicycle Store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the triathlon’s main sponsor and location for packet pickup.

Since I was at the shop, I asked a technician to look at my Trek SpeedConcept bike for any damage from the crash.  He showed me a large cut in the front tire.   There was no real option but to replace the tire.

Following packet pickup, replacement of the front tire, and a lunch of fresh seafood, we drove the bike course (a typical pre-race routine) checking out the road conditions.  One thing that struck us was the number of cyclists, literally hundreds.  To this day, I have never seen an area with so many cyclists sharing the road with cars and trucks.

Before heading to the hotel, we stopped at a local pharmacy to purchase a tube of liquid bandage.  Joy applied it to the main cuts and scrapes once we had settled in our room.  

 

3rd Annual Wallis Sands Triathlon

Just under 400 men and women competed in the third running of the Wallis Sands Triathlon sponsored by Trek Portsmouth.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.33 mile (530 m)
  • Bike: 14.5 mile (23.3 km)
  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)
sign for Rye Beach location of the New Hampshire triathlon

Rye Beach, site for the Wallis Sands Triathlon, is located on US1-A

Swim

One of the distinguishing features of this race was the swim.  The water was “freezing” cold, in the mid-60s F, making the race definitely ‘wetsuit legal’.  Despite this, there were still some hardy souls swimming in only triathlon shorts—without a shirt!

The waves of the surf on race morning were 7 to 8 feet (2.2 to 2.4 meter) high.   Just so you don’t think I am a sissy, the race organizers announced that the waves on this day were the highest they had seen all summer.

During the warm-up swim, I learned that getting past the cresting waves was nearly impossible through a frontal attack.  So, before the start of the race, the race director gave those of us not experienced with swimming in such conditions some simple advice for getting past the waves and beyond the surf—”Swim under the waves”.

Following this advice made all the difference.  Swimming under a wave before it crashed made it straightforward to get into open water where most of the swim occurred. Of course, coming back to shore was much easier, much like body surfing.

Swim start at Rye Beach New Hampshire

Swim start at Rye Beach. (Photo courtesy of TriME.)

 

Bike

The ‘flat and fast’ bike leg began and ended on US1-A, where we road between the Atlantic Ocean (on our right side) and houses as shown in the background of the above picture (on the left side).

Leaving Rye Beach, the course consisted of a two-mile ride north on US1-A before turning inland toward the town of Rye and its adjacent neighborhoods.  At about mile 10, the course rejoined US1-A south of Rye Beach for the final four and a half miles back to the transition area.  

 

Run

The out-and-back run course also left Rye Beach north on US1-A, with a turnaround at Odiorne Point State Park.  From here, it was back to the finish line at Rye Beach.  

I made one short stop during the first mile to remove a small rock from my shoe.  However, after this, I was able to finish the run with a respectable (for me) time and average speed.

One lesson that I took from this race is that I should wear socks during the run when the air temperature is cold (as it was in this case).  My bike shoes are porous to allow air to flow through them.  Under normal circumstances when the air temperature is higher, this is  good.  However, today, my feet were cold after the bike leg. While I normally run without socks (see How to Achieve Faster Transition Times) in sprint triathlons, doing so with cold feet is uncomfortable.

 

Results

I am not sure what is ‘in the water’ in Rye, New Hampshire.  This race will likely go down as one of the fastest in which I have participated.   Despite respectable times for me—times that have led to top three finishes in my age group in several other races, I ended up 13th of 16 in my age group.  

 

Race Firsts

  • First time completing sprint triathlons on consecutive days.
  • This race was the first with a swim in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • First race with bike and run portions on scenic US Highway 1A.

 

Leave Your Questions and Comments Below

Have you raced in New Hampshire?  In the Atlantic Ocean?

If so, please share your comments below.

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