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Triathlon Across the USA: State #44 – Delaware

Triathlon Across the USA: State #44 – Delaware

Bear, Delaware; May 16, 2021 – Lums Pond State Park, Bear Triathlon.

The Delaware triathlon was part of a six-week road trip that included stops in Omaha, Nebraska; The Villages, Florida; and parts of Virginia and Delaware for triathlons in these two states.

Before the Delaware Triathlon

Joy and I began the week between the Virginia and Delaware triathlons with bike riding on a portion of the Virginia Capital Trail, starting at Colonial Williamsburg. After a few days in the Williamsburg area, we packed up and drove to the Atlantic Coast of Delaware via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Delmarva Peninsula.

We settled in Bethany Beach, Delaware from where we took the three days leading up to the Bear Triathlon to tour the coastal area between Ocean City, Maryland and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

The sights and experiences of the area between southern Virginia and the Delaware coast for the first time reminded us how thankful we are to be on this triathlon journey.

Before the Delaware triathlon, we visited the Atlantic coast at Bethany Beach, Delaware.
The Atlantic Ocean from the Bethany Beach, Delaware boardwalk.

Previewing the Race Course

Late Saturday afternoon, Joy and I drove from Bethany Beach to Lums Pond State Park, outside Bear, Delaware, for the Bear Triathlon packet pickup. It surprised us to see a line of tens of cars stretching out of the park entrance onto the road leading up it. My first thought was that this was going to be a big triathlon. with a lot of participants.

The Bear Triathlon was a decent size, with about 550 competitors in the sprint and Olympic distance races combined. However, we eventually learned that Lums Pond State Park offers tremendous opportunity for outdoor activity beyond triathlon, from kayaking and paddle boating to picnicking. There was even a cricket match being played next to the race transition area.

After collecting my race packet, which included a t-shirt and race numbers for the bike and run, we drove the bike course. We do this as often as possible to check the condition of the roads, looking for potholes or other obstacles that could present a hazard during the race. This is also an opportunity to review the hills and turns along the course.

Near the end of the course, we saw the remains of a mother deer and her fawn lying on the bike path. By the next morning, these were no longer there.

Sign at the entrance of Lums Pond State Park in Bear, Delaware.
Lums Pond State Park (Bear, Delaware) is home of the Bear Triathlon.

3rd Annual Bear Triathlon

The Bear Triathlon is one of several running and multisport events managed by Rip It Events (Columbia, Maryland). The company also offers coaching services.

This race included both sprint and Olympic distance events. Organizers allowed participants of either distance to compete as an individual or as part of a relay team.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.6 miles (966 m or 1,056 yards) – Actual: 1,348 yards (0.77 miles or 1,233 m)
  • Bike: 10 miles (16 km) – Actual: 9.9 miles (16km)
  • Run: 3 miles (4.8 km) – Actual: 3 miles (4.8 km)

Actual distances shown above are from my Garmin Forerunner 920XT.

An Anxious Group

Maybe it was because of the many race cancellations over the past year, but the triathletes competing today seemed anxious to race.

Lums Pond State Park opens at 5 am and the transition area was set to open at 5:15 am.

I arrived at the park entrance a few minutes before 5 am expecting to wait for the gate to open. I imagined there might be a few cars which had arrived before me.

However, to my surprise, the gate was already open. I passed through without stopping.

I was even more surprised when I reached the parking lot closest to the transition area. Cars were already lined up one deep across the width of the parking lot.

Cars filled with triathletes ready to race gathered in the parking lot before the transition area opened, some even before the park was scheduled to open.

A Cool, Still Morning – Perfect For a Triathlon

The 48°F air temperature during setup of the transition area made wearing a sweatshirt feel good However, as the sun rose and race time approached, the air temperature climbed a few degrees. Meanwhile, the air remained still, with only a slight breeze, and clouds covered most of the sky.

By the start of the swim, the combination of full sleeve wetsuit and temperature in the low-to-mid 50s °F was comfortable – not too cold, not too warm.

By the time we finished the bike and run legs, the temperature was still comfortably in the mid-60s °F.

As the sun rose on race morning, the temperature became more comfortable. Perfect race conditions.

Swim

The race director reported the temperature of the water in Lums Pond to be 68°F. Not only was this race wetsuit-legal according to USA Triathlon rules, but he encouraged racers to wear a wetsuit.

Competitors started their swim in one of eight groups based on race distance, age, and gender. The first four groups, or waves, included those in the Olympic triathlon.

The three-quarter mile swim was longer than typical for a sprint triathlon. The course traveled at an angle away from the beach, then turned left toward the opposite side of the pond. After a short distance, we made a second left turn and swam parallel to the beach, finally reaching the last buoy. From here, a swim of a few hundred yards brought us to the sandy beach.

However, the swim leg was not yet complete. To finish this portion, triathletes needed to continue another roughly hundred yards before crossing the timing mat. We were then in T1, the first transition period.

The Bear Triathlon began with a counterclockwise swim around a series of orange buoys. The course started to the right in the upper picture, then turned left twice before crossing the top portion of the water. A third left turn at a buoy beyond the left edge of the upper picture led to the beach (lower left). The swim leg officially finished after completing a jog across a grassy area to the ‘Swim In’ entrance of the transition area (lower right).

Bike

We mounted our bikes just outside the transition area. The bike leg followed a course that left the park on Bucks Jersey Road. The single loop course exited and later re-entered the park at the main entrance gate.

Once outside the park, we made four right turns following Howell School Road, Red Lion Road, and Route 301. The final of the four turns brought us back on Bucks Jersey Road and the ride to the transition area.

The second right turn on the bike course of the Bear Triathlon was at Howell School Road and Red Lion Road
The second right turn on the bike course of the Bear Triathlon was at Howell School Road and Red Lion Road. Volunteers and local police ensured safety of the racers by controlling traffic at this busy intersection.

We owe a big thank you to the race crew and volunteers. They did a tremendous job of directing bikers and controlling car and truck traffic with whom we shared the road.

Run

The out-and-back run course took us on a combination of grass, dirt trail, and asphalt covered roads. One feature of the out-and-back course I enjoy is the exchange of encouragement between racers. This was on full display today.

By the time sprint triathlon racers were on the run course, some of those competing in the Olympic distance race were also on their run. The difference was the Olympic triathletes covered all but the last few yards leading to the finish line two times.

The first and last few hundred yards of the out-and-back run course were across a large grassy area that had been the location of a cricket match the day before the triathlon. Note the location of the first station for water and sports drink.

After the Delaware Triathlon

After completing my race and repacking my bike and other gear (wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, bike helmet, and race number belt), I sat outside the transition area on the edge of a picnic table from where I watched others coming and going.

During this time, I met John Dean, a seasoned, senior triathlete who was closing in on his 100th triathlon. He made it. You can read John’s story, 101 Triathlons – John Dean’s Story, on this site.

I waited as long as I could for the awards ceremony. However, I eventually needed to leave to make the hotel check-out time. Thankfully, the race organizer was kind enough to send me the award I received for my second place finish within my age group.

After showering and checking out of the hotel, Joy and I started our journey back to Minnesota. Our route took us through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on the way to West Chicago, Illinois for an overnight stay with friends.

Upon reaching our Minnesota home, we began a multi-month project of decluttering, donating, and packing for our move to Florida.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon in which the swim took place in a body of water in which swimming is normally not allowed.

Your Favorite Lake For A Triathlon Swim?

Have you done a triathlon in Delaware? I know John Dean did his first one in Delaware.

Tell us about these in the Comments below.

Triathlon Across the USA: State #43 – Virginia

Triathlon Across the USA: State #43 – Virginia
Spotsylvania County Courthouse

Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia; May 9, 2021 – Lake Anna State Park, Kinetic Lake Anne Triathlon

Our Route To The Virginia Triathlon

The Virginia triathlon was part of a six-week road trip that included stops in Omaha, Nebraska; The Villages, Florida; and parts of Virginia and Delaware for triathlons in these two states.

Before traveling to Virginia for the Lake Anna Triathlon, Joy and I had spent most of April in The Villages, Florida. During this visit, we joined The Villages Triathlon Club for their April meeting. I also took part in one of the club’s swim sessions.

Lake Anna State Park

Late Saturday afternoon, Joy and I headed toward Lake Anna State Park for packet pickup. The route included a detour into the village of Spotsylvania Courthouse to visit the historic courthouse pictured at the beginning of this post.

We soon arrived at the area in the park next to Lake Anna. At 13,000 acres, Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in Virginia. The lake is formed by the North Anna Dam on the North Anna River. (I love the name Anna, in part because it belongs to our youngest granddaughter.)

After collecting my race packet, which included a t-shirt, a pair of socks, and race numbers for the bike, bike helmet, and run, we drove the bike course. I do this to check the condition of the roads, looking for potholes or other obstacles that could present a hazard during the race. This is also an opportunity to review the hills and turns along the course.

Lake Anna State Park was the location for the Kinetic triathlon, my Virginia triathlon in the Triathlon Across the USA quest.
Lake Anna State Park, about 80 miles south of Washington, DC,, was the location of the Kinetic Lake Anna triathlon.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Virginia Triathlon

Most of us know that navigation apps can be fickle. I am quite sure all have experienced at least one occasion of being led astray by them.

On race morning, I left the hotel by myself while it was still dark. Thanks to COVID-19, spectators were discouraged from attending the race.

I was sure I would have no difficulty getting to the park when the transition area opened at 6 AM. After all, I had driven to Lake Anna State Park only hours earlier.

While it was still very dark, the route seemed familiar, at least parts of it.

So, when the Waze app I was using told me to take a left at Partlow Road, I blindly obeyed. Yes, I made the turn even though I saw a sign for Lake Anna State Park a little beyond the intersection.

I thought “Wonderful. A shortcut. I’ll be there early.”

After about ten minutes on winding roads typical of the area, I passed a small lumber mill that I had passed only minutes earlier. I realized that my ‘shortcut’ was not one at all when I found myself back at the intersection at Partlow Road.

This time, I ignored Waze, followed the Lake Anna State Park sign, and arrived at the park in another 20 minutes. I was a few minutes later than planned. However, I still had plenty of time to get a great position in the transition area for my bike.

16th Annual Kinetic Lake Anna Triathlon

The Lake Anna Triathlon is one of over twenty multisport events managed by Kinetic Multisports (Durham, North Carolina). This triathlon has been held every year, except 2020, since 2005.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 750 m (820 yards) – Actual: 787 m (861 yards)
  • Bike: 15.5 miles (25 km) – Actual: 15.4 miles (24.8 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km) – Actual: 3.1 miles (5 km)

Actual distances shown above are from my Garmin Forerunner 920XT.

Would It Rain?

I woke to check the temperature on my phone app. It showed 39°F. While I was born and raised in Minnesota, I had just come from an unseasonably warm month in Florida with daily highs in the 80s and 90s.

Then, in the minutes before the start of the race, I heard a young woman, a friend of one triathlete, read from her phone that rain was likely to begin around 8 AM, the start time for the race.

It remained cloudy for most of the race which meant we did not fight with looking into the sun. However, it never rained.

Last Minute Activities – National Anthem and Quick Practice Swim

Just before the transition area was officially closed, race announcer Jill Blankenburg led us in an outstanding rendition of the National Anthem.

The race director then asked swimmers to gather on the beach for the swim start. Before the start, however, organizers gave those of us who wished to get into the water time to do so.

I always take advantage of this quick warm-up for two reasons. First, I like to know the condition of the beach. Will I be running into water with sharp rocks, weeds, muck, or a solid but irregular bottom?

With this short swim, I learned that Lake Anna is hands-down one of the nicest lakes in which I have done a triathlon swim. As the picture below attempts to show, the beach and lake bottom are of sugar sand consistency. Not as white as sugar, but clearly as soft. Besides, I did not see a single weed during the swim.

The ‘out, across, and in’ swim course was marked by orange and yellow buoys. About every five seconds, a racer would begin their swim by passing through the blue arch and crossing a timing mat.

More Reasons for a Practice Swim

A second reason for taking advantage of the practice swim is to get my heart rate up a bit. Doing so at this point makes it much less likely that my heart rate will spike during the first minutes of the race when excitement can drive me to swim faster than normal.

There is a third reason for doing the practice swim. I like to get the shock of cold water entering my wetsuit out of the way. When, shortly thereafter, I start the swim, my wetsuit is filled with water warmed by my body heat.

Today, this was especially relevant. The official water temperature was 68°F, making me glad to have a full wetsuit. Still, there were many with sleeveless wetsuits. There were even some more hearty souls who braved the water in just a triathlon suit. There were even a couple of guys, one who had to be close to my age, in only a swimming suit and no shirt.

Swim

After the time allotted for the practice swim, racers gathered behind the ‘Swim Start’ arch. Once the air horn sounded and the first competitor crossed the timing mat and entered the water, another swimmer entered the water about every five seconds.

This ‘time trial’ start is one positive effect of COVID-19. It reduces the density of swimmers in the water and, therefore, reduces, though not eliminates, contact between swimmers.

After swimming in a straight line out to the furthest buoy on the left side of the course, across those at the end, and straight back into shore, always keeping to the left of the buoys, then finally crossing a timing mat on the shore, the swim leg was complete.

Bike

The temperature at the start of the bike leg was 46°F. Because of this, I put on a light, long sleeved shirt for the ride.

The bike course reminded me a lot of the course for the Ohio triathlon – hilly with enough variety in the scenery to make the ride interesting.

The course followed the road out of the park, then turned left, heading northwest on the smooth, tree-lined Lawyer’s Road.

At mile 5, the course began an equilateral triangle-shaped loop covering another 5 miles of hills and turns. It was during this portion of the course that we passed farming areas with horses and cattle. There were even two Christmas tree farms – Belmont and Ralph’s – on the stretch furthest away from the park.

We soon rejoined Lawyer’s Road and returned to the transition area on the side opposite the one on which we had ridden a few minutes earlier.

A big thanks goes to the race crew and volunteers who did a tremendous job of directing bikers and controlling car and truck traffic with whom we shared the road.

Beyond the hills and turns on the roads, the bike course provided interesting scenery, from gorgeous stands of trees to pastureland, some occupied by horses and cattle.

Run

By the time I was ready for the run, the air had warmed to 50 °F and the sun was peeking through the clouds. I shed the long sleeve shirt for a pleasantly cool run, all within the park.

As advertised, the run course included “a good uphill coming out of transition”. This hill continued for most of the first mile.

For the next roughly mile and a half, the course covered gradually rolling hills. The last half mile followed a paved walking trail that traveled nearly completely downhill as it guided us toward the lake.

The end of this trail broke out near the beach. From here, we ran the last few hundred feet on grass to the finish line.

The bike and run courses for the Lake Anna Triathlon shared the road into the park for most of the first mile.

COVID-Style Awards Ceremony

Remember when triathletes gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow racers? When high fives and hand shakes were prolific? Hopefully, we will get these back. I miss the celebrations.

Virtual awards ceremonies miss the point. Was it ever really about the actual award?

For this event, the Kinetic Multisports team creatively took advantage of a natural amphitheater in front of the Lake Anna beach. Rather than dismiss attendees after the race, organizers made use of the hill to reintroduce an award’s ceremony where attendees could both share in the results and stay distanced.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon using my triathlon bike with running shoes and flat pedals having a toe cage, rather than biking shoes and clip-in pedals. I saw this at the Arkansas triathlon, shortly before I fell on my bike because I couldn’t get my bike shoes unclipped quickly enough.
  • First race in which I forgot to bring glasses as protection from bugs or other airborne material. Turned out just fine.

Your Favorite Lake For A Triathlon Swim?

What is the nicest lake in which you done a triathlon swim?

Have you done the Lake Anna triathlon or another triathlon in Virginia?

Tell us about these in the Comments below.

Triathlon Across the USA: State #42 – Arkansas

Triathlon Across the USA: State #42 – Arkansas
DeGray Lake near Arkadelphis, Arkansas

Arkadelphia-Caddo Valley, Arkansas; September 13, 2020—DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon.

The DeGray Lake Triathlon was the only race I would take part in during 2020. The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in others in Kansas and Oklahoma I had registered for being canceled.

I had originally registered for a spring race, the Ozark Valley Triathlon in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Organizers delayed this triathlon until the fall and eventually made it a virtual-only race.

I had – and still have – no interest in a virtual race. One of my reasons for doing a triathlon in every state is to visit each one. I want to experience each state from the perspective of triathlon by swimming, biking, and running in it.

Meanwhile, the DeGray Lake Triathlon had always been scheduled for later in the year. Thanks to a relaxing of restrictions by the State of Arkansas, organizers could hold a live event.

Traveling to the DeGray Lake Triathlon in Arkansas

Our ultimate destination for this trip was a little south of Little Rock, Arkansas. Through a couple of slight detours, we visited our son and his family and our son’s in laws.

Our initial route took us through central Iowa. Here, we saw hundreds of acres of flattened corn stalks. These were reminders of the hurricane level winds which had passed through the area in mid-August. Three hours later and we were at our son’s home near Omaha, Nebraska.

That evening, Joy and I prepared for the six of us Alaskan halibut that I had caught about a month earlier. We finished the evening watching “Frozen” for the umpteenth time with our granddaughters.

The destination for the second day was our son’s in laws in a pastoral area of central Missouri. This was the second visit to their home, as we had stayed with them before the Missouri triathlon. They are the greatest hosts.

Before departing for Arkansas the next morning, Joan loaded us up with canned goods. The box she sent us off with included jars of salsa, relish, tomato sauce, and elderberry juice all from the produce of her garden.

Last Minute Preparations for the Arkansas Triathlon

By mid-afternoon, we had arrived in Arkadelphia. After checking into our hotel, we drove the few miles to the race venue for packet pickup. Here, I had my first experience with a triathlon being run under COVID-19 restrictions.

masked triathletes waiting for packet pickup during the COVID-19 pandemic
Masked triathletes awaiting packet pickup for the 2020 DeGray Lake Triathlon.

Part of the protocol for complying with state requirements was to allow triathletes to set up their transition area during packet pickup and leave their bike overnight.

A group from Teen Challenge, a faith-based nonprofit organization, secured the area. Others from this group provided support throughout the race the next day.

Next we completed our pre-race ritual of driving the course, or most of it. Joy drove while I observed the road conditions and took a few pictures. It was then time to sample the local cuisine at the Fish Net Family Restaurant.

22nd Annual DeGray Lake Triathlon

The weather on race morning was as near perfect for a triathlon as one can imagine. A light breeze created a satiny feeling to the humid, 73°F air.

While the sun was shining, it did so through a thick haze. We attributed this to smoke from forest fires still burning in California and the Pacific Northwest.

The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 820 yards (0.75 km) – Actual: 645 yards or 0.59 km
  • Bike: 12.4 miles (20 km) – Actual: 14.1 miles or 22,7 km
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km) – Actual: 3.8 miles or 6.1 km

(The actual distances shown above are from my Garmin Forerunner 920XT.)

Before the start, race director Bruce Dunn of All Sports Productions led with a prayer that was both thoughtful and relevant to the time. Following the playing of a recorded version of the National Anthem, the triathlon began.

Swim

The temperature of the Lake DeGray water was over 78°F. To comply with USAT rules, anyone competing for an award could not wear a wetsuit.

The swim leg began using a ‘time-trial start’. This was another part of the COVID-19 protocol for this race. About every 5 seconds, a swimmer crossed the first timing mat, starting the timer for their race, and entered the water.

One benefit of the hazy sky was a muted sun. Had the sun been shining through an unfiltered sky, we would have looked nearly directly into it when sighting during the last part of the swim. Today, however, the haze made it much easier to locate the exit and swim on course.

The swim course for the DeGray Lake triathlon started from the boat launch at the DeGray Lake Spillway Area.
The swim course for the DeGray Lake triathlon started from the boat launch at the Spillway Area.

Bike

Lake DeGray was the only flat part of this course. Both the bike and run courses involved a continuous series of rolling hills.

After a short ride from the ‘Bike Mount’ location outside the transition area, we turned onto the road within the park. The bike course stayed on this road during both the out and back portions.

The initial ride involved a climb that felt much steeper than the picture below indicates.

I made it through the first hill, though my heart was pounding. I caught my breath while on the flatter section across the dam.

As I started to climb the second hill a little past the dam, I downshifted and the chain came off. It became jammed between the frame and sprocket. The bike stopped almost instantly.

Unable to unclip my shoes from the pedals, I promptly fell over to my left. I scuffed my left knee and jammed my left ring finger.

Another casualty was my pride. As typical, several racers paused as they passed to ask if I needed help. I didn’t but was grateful for the support.

Limping through the bike leg

I got the chain back on. However, being on a modest hill, I could not mount my bike and clip my shoes into the pedals. I have never practiced this.

I walked the bike up the hill until reaching a flat enough section on which I could get on the bike and clip my shoes into the pedals.

Immediately, I noticed the chain would jump back or ahead one gear every one to two revolutions of the pedal. I was at a loss for what to do. Finding no solution, I kept riding, though slower than I should have. The clicking sound distracted me. I was also concerned the chain would come off again.

On the other hand, I was grateful for being able to finish the race.

pictures from along the bike course of the DeGray Lake Arkansas triathlon
Scenes from along the bike course of the DeGray Lake Triathlon in Arkansas. Clockwise from the upper left: (1) The first part of the course was a modest hill that got our hearts pumping, (2) followed by a short flat stretch before crossing the DeGray Lake Dam. (3) Woods provided the scenery for much of the rest of the course. (4) However, in the last mile, we again crossed over the dam, this time looking onto the hydroelectric power plant.

After the race, I learned that both the chain and derailleur were damaged, presumably in the crash. A few days after returning home, a technician at Maple Grove Cycling repaired the derailleur and installed a new chain.

Run

By the time I got to the run leg, the temperature had risen ten degrees to 81°F. It was still humid, though not different from conditions I had been training in over the summer.

Scene from the run course on the road from AR-7 to the Lake DeGray Spillway Dam Area
The T-shaped out and-back run course for the DeGray Lake Triathlon was on the road between the DeGray Lake Spillway Area and AR-7, the highway that travels along the eastern edge of DeGray Lake.

The T-shaped out-and-back course took place on roads within the DeGray Lake Recreation Area. With the time trial start, maintaining physical distance between racers was easy.

Or was it because I was near the rear of the pack?

A Variation on a Basic Triathlon Axiom

Most beginner triathletes know you should never put into practice anything for the first time on race day.

I learned an important corollary to this truth in the Arkansas triathlon: “Do nothing on race day that you have not done during the final weeks of training for the race”.

I had not ridden my triathlon bike on hills similar to those of the race course during the last several months before this race. Even though the bike had been recently tuned and ridden on the trainer, it was not race-ready.

After the DeGray Lake Triathlon

After the race, Joy and I visited historic Hot Springs. From there, we headed north through the Ozark Mountains. We continued through Kansas City and Des Moines back to Minneapolis.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon race during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This was the first triathlon with a new Trek SpeedConcept frame.
  • First triathlon for which I body marked myself using tattoos provided by the race organizer and a felt-tip marker. This was yet another part of the COVID protocol for this race.
  • Because of government restrictions, this was the first of my triathlons that Joy did not attend as a spectator. However, she visited the race venue with me during packet pickup the day before the race. (Truthfully, I think she enjoyed sleeping in.)

Have You Had a Bike Malfunction During a Triathlon?

Has your bike malfunctioned during a triathlon?

Have you done any triathlons in Arkansas? Which? What was your experience?

Triathlon Across the USA: State #15 – Maryland

Triathlon Across the USA: State #15 – Maryland

Flintstone, Maryland; June 1, 2013—Rocky Gap Triathlon

Our Maryland triathlon took us to the northwest corner of Maryland, about two miles south of the border with Pennsylvania. We had been to the urban areas of eastern Maryland before. However, this part of Maryland, in which rugged tree-covered mountains seemed to wrap their arms around us, was like another state.

Traveling to the Maryland Triathlon

We left our house in Chicopee, Massachusetts on Friday morning heading in a southwesterly direction. The roughly 450-mile drive took us through Connecticut, past New York City, and through the Pennsylvania towns of Allentown, Harrisburg, and Hershey.

Before driving into Cumberland, Maryland, we stopped at Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland’s Allegany County. During this quick visit I checked out portions of the swim, bike, and run courses.

We then headed to the Cumberland YMCA to pickup the race packet. While managed by Tri Columbia, this triathlon doubled as a fundraiser for the Cumberland YMCA.

After dinner at Henny’s Bar & Grill near our hotel, we turned in for the night, ready for a pre-dawn departure to compete in the Maryland triathlon.

26th Annual Rocky Gap Triathlon

The sun shone brightly as participants of the sprint and International distance triathlons gathered at the park.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were slightly shorter than normal:

  • Swim: 0.25 mile (400 m)
  • Bike: 8 mile (12.9 km)
  • Run: 2.5 mile (4 km)

Swim

The swim portion of the race took place in 243-acre Lake Habeeb. The lake lies in the shadow of Evitt’s Mountain, named for one of the first European settlers in Allegany County.

The water temperature was around 72° F, making the race ‘wetsuit legal’. Swimmers started in four waves (groups), with the sprint men being in the first wave.

The sprint course was triangular shaped. From the beach, we swam diagonally toward an orange buoy. After turning at this buoy, we returned to shore, swimming perpendicular to the beach.

Rocky Gap State Park
Rocky Gap State Park in western Maryland. Lake Habeeb was the location for the open water swim portion of the Rocky Gap Sprint Triathlon.

Bike

The bike course left the park through a quick ride up a short, gradual hill that exits the park. At the first intersection, the course turned left and followed the rolling Pleasant Valley Road with a gradual rise of 150 feet (45 meters) over the 4-mile distance to the halfway mark of the course.

At the half-way point, we turned around to return to the transition area with the ride in this direction being mostly downhill.

Run

The 2.5-mile, out-and-back run course began by passing the Rocky Gap Casino Resort on Old Hancock Road Northeast. At a little over a halfway into the ‘out’ portion of the run, we turned right onto Lakeside Loop Trail/Gorge Road Northeast heading toward Rocky Gap Dam.

Reaching the dam meant that we had nearly reached the turnaround point, which was a little over halfway across the dam. From here, it was back to the Finish Line along the same route. The only difference was that during the last few hundred yards (meters), we sprinted on a grassy path.

During the last mile, it surprised me to watch as a man with a 70-something number written on his right calf passed me.  (For those of you who have taken part in a few triathlons, chances are that in at least one of those, you will have had your age marked on one of your calves.)

Learning From the More Experienced, No Matter Their Age

I am not comfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger. However, I have found it easier to start a discussion with a fellow triathlete. The shared interest in the sport and our mutual desire to see others succeed at it, especially at the amateur level, is clear.

During the cool-down after the race, I met the 70-something man who had passed me on the run, James Chapman.  Being both impressed by his overall ability and curious to learn how to improve my running ability, I struck up a conversation with Jim about his training program. More specifically, I asked him how I should train to run faster.

During the conversation, Jim also shared information about his fueling approach. I recorded his comments about fueling in What I Learned About Race Fueling at the Rocky Gap Triathlon.

Triathlon run training for faster seniors

Jim summarized his run training program as follows:

  • Start with a couple of months of 3 to 5 mile easy runs three times per week. This will build a base level of fitness.
  • After the initial phase, introduce hill repeats. Hill repeats are done after a 20-minute warm-up run. Start with 3-5 repeats of 10-20 seconds running up a moderately (5-10% grade) steep hill during one of the weekly runs. Over several weeks, gradually (to avoid injury) increase the duration to 1 minute. End the session with an easy one mile cool down run.
    • NOTE: Hill repeats is an excellent candidate for a treadmill since you can precisely control the grade and pace.
  • A third key to faster running is intervals. Jim’s coach had him “doing 30 second to 3 minute pickups where you gradually run at race pace (not as fast as you can go – that leads to injury).” Jim said “My favorite interval session is a one mile repeat where I run one mile at race pace and then either jog or walk for 2 minutes and then do two more repeats. After the last repeat, run an easy one mile to cool down.”

For Jim, there are two other components of an effective run training program:

Stretching: For Jim, it is critical to stretch the Achilles tendon and calves after every workout, including after swimming. I can echo the importance of stretching after every workout, whether swim, bike, or run.

Related post: Optimal Stretching Pre and Post Workout

Strength training: Jim’s major exercises for strengthening the legs and hips are (1) step ups, (2) body squats, and (3) one leg squats.

Related post: Review of Mark Allen’s Strength Training for Triathletes

After the Maryland Triathlon

Since I was racing the next day in the Independence Triathlon in Pennsylvania, Joy and I started our northeasterly journey toward Quakertown – after a shower and change of clothes, that is.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon during which a portion of the run course was on a dam.

Have You Done a Triathlon in Maryland?

Tell us about the race or races you have done in Maryland.

What have you learned from other triathletes during or after a race?

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