Triathlon Across the USA: State #46 – Kansas
Goddard, Kansas; June 26, 2022 – Mudwater Triathlon & Duathlon, Lake Afton Park.
What a difference a day can make in race conditions. Saturday’s race in Oklahoma featured sunshine and high temperatures with lots of humidity. We would have welcomed a breeze.
Today, the skies were overcast following a good old-fashioned midwestern thunderstorm, complete with thunder and lightning. The air temperature was in the low 60s °F. Winds around 30 mph made for an interesting, if not sometimes frightening, bike ride.
Before the Kansas Triathlon
Joy and I traveled around 150 miles northwest to the Wichita, Kansas, area following the Tulsa Triathlon the day before the Kansas triathlon. The roughly three-hour trip took us on county and state highways through thousands of acres of prairie, much used for grazing cattle and horses while hosting oil derricks and wind turbines.
Previewing the Race Venue for the Mudwater Triathlon
After the Oklahoma triathlon, we drove to Wichita. We went directly to the hotel I had reserved for the night, primarily because I wanted to shower after the race earlier that day. After checking in and before showering, we grabbed lunch at a local, family-owned restaurant featuring Mexican food.
Going back to the hotel after lunch, we found it desperately in need of upgrading and repair. We canceled the reservation and left the hotel.
Hoping for accommodations closer to Lake Afton Park, we headed toward Lake Afton Park for packet pickup. We did not see a single hotel.
About Lake Afton Park
Lake Afton Park is a 720-acre recreational area about 20 miles southwest of Wichita, Kansas. A 258-acre man-made lake, Lake Afton, is within the park. Surrounding the lake are several camping areas, many of which were occupied on the Sunday morning of the Mudwater Triathlon.
The route from our original hotel took us within a mile west of Goddard, Kansas, and onto MacArthur Road, east of the park. Most of the bike course for the sprint triathlon was on MacArthur Road, although west of where we had driven to reach the Lake Afton Park.
Since we had driven a few miles on MacArthur Road from the east on the way to pickup the race packet, we did not drive further west. The road with its rolling hills (yes, these fit my definition of rolling) was in excellent condition, even at several bridges.
While picking up the race packet, I asked the race director about hotels in the area. After they pointed us in the right direction, Joy used her phone to find one of our favorites, a Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Fortunately, the hotel had a room available.
After dinner at the nearby Texas Roadhouse, I checked my bike tires’ pressure and setout my gear and hydration for the next morning. It was early to bed after a long day.
16th Annual Mudwater Triathlon & Duathlon
The Mudwater Triathlon, Aquabike, and Duathlon are put on by the Kansas River Valley Triathlon Club.
This event included four races:
- Sprint distance triathlon
- Olympic distance triathlon
- Duathlon (run-bike-run) involving the distances for the sprint triathlon
- Aquabike (swim-bike) involving the distances for the Olympic triathlon.
The advertised distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon in which I competed were:
- Swim: 750 m (820 yards) – Actual: 821 m (898 yards or 0.5 mile)
- Bike: 25 km (15.5 miles) – Actual: 25 km (15.5 miles)
- Run: 5 km (3.1 miles) – Actual: 5 km (3.1 miles)
Actual distances shown are from my Garmin Forerunner 920XT.
What’s In a Name?
What is with the name ‘Mudwater’? It doesn’t sound very appealing. This may be why part of the registration form was to answer the question ‘Do you think the event name should be changed?’
Nevertheless, they had my attention with the name. During packet pickup, I asked one of the race organizers about the name. His answer was as follows.
Initially, the race had been called the Lake Afton Triathlon & Duathlon. However, after a practice swim in the lake, one member of the triathlon club told the organizers they should rename the event to Mudwater because of the cloudiness of the water. The organizers agreed, and the name stuck.
For what it’s worth, this lake is no more cloudy, no more muddy than most other lakes, natural or manmade, in which I have swum. Water clarity is apparently also typical of other lakes in Kansas.
The water of Lake Afton was also no more cloudy than Birch Lake used for the open water swim at the Oklahoma triathlon the day before.
Joy and I had already decided during dinner the previous evening that she would stay in the hotel and get extra rest for the drive back to Minnesota after the triathlon. The hotel was on the route between Lake Afton and the interstate highway leading to our next evening’s stop at Joy’s sister Sheryl’s place.
As I woke, I thought I heard rain drops and thunder in the distance.
After getting dressed for the race, I went downstairs to leave for Lake Afton Park. Sure enough, it was raining.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hotel staff had set out the breakfast a little earlier than scheduled. So, before leaving, I had a light breakfast of banana, blueberry muffin, orange juice, and coffee.
The rain continued during the drive to Lake Afton Park. Rather than let up as my phone’s weather app had forecast, the rain came down harder. I could see lightning. The thunder was much closer. It also seemed cooler.
Nevertheless, I racked my bike, taking advantage of my usual early arrival to get what I considered a desirable spot in the transition area. However, I waited to put out my helmet and running shoes.
Delayed Start of the Kansas Triathlon
The race start time came and went while heavy rain continued. Then, thirty to forty-five minutes after the original start time, the rain appeared to stop.
Not being sure if the rain was truly finished, I placed everything I needed to keep dry for the race – shoes, socks, glasses, towel, and now, a biking jacket – into two plastic grocery bags. A few minutes before the transition area closed and the pre-race meeting began, I set the two bags next to my bike with the open ends facing the ground.
Fortunately, once the rain stopped, it did not restart, so everything remained dry for the race.
The race started at a little before 8:15 am, about one hour late.
According to my bike computer, the air temperature just before the race’s start was 64°F. Now, with the rain passing, wind from the northeast was whipping up waves on Lake Afton.
I became chilled while standing around in a triathlon suit, waiting for the race to begin. Unfortunately, there was no option for a wetsuit given the 86°F water temperature measured during the late afternoon before the race.
All swimmers got into the water behind the start line far enough into the lake to be chest to neck deep. While waiting for the race to begin, I noticed many of the campers lined up along the lake shore parallel to the swim course. I am sure I heard one of them say, “What are those crazy people doing?”
First to start were competitors in the Olympic distance triathlon and aquabike. Five minutes later, the air horn sounded for competitors of the sprint triathlon to begin their swim.
The course was down and back, with both halves parallel to the lake shore.
As the rain continued to pass through the area, the northeast winds picked up, creating a choppiness that made the second half of the swim into the wind particularly challenging. I – and other triathletes I spoke with after the race – consumed more than the typical amount of water during the swim, both up my nose and into my mouth.
During the second half of the swim, near the exit, I was reminded of the many comical things which happen during a triathlon. Today, the smile came courtesy of a triathlete who had moved close enough to the shore to walk, instead of swim, alongside me.
The air temperature, not counting the wind chill, was still around 65°F at the beginning of the bike leg. Being chilled from the swim and by the cool, windy jog to the transition area, I donned a bike jacket.
Putting the jacket on before biking and taking it off before the run cost me some time in both transitions, but it was worth it. The temperature was still 66°F at the end of the bike with 30 mph crosswinds.
The wind was noticeable on the out and back course, all on MacArthur Road past the farms of southern Kansas. At one point, I heard a racer who had made the turnaround shout to another racer, probably a friend, to be careful on the way back.
I understood what he was referring to once I made the turnaround and was heading into the wind. Now, I was facing both a headwind and a crosswind that seemed as if it would blow me off the road. Memories of the North Dakota triathlon.
Since I had not ridden my triathlon bike under these conditions recently, I was not comfortable riding in the aero position today. My bike time suffered.
The 5k run was a loop within the park, including a small section through a camping area. With trees surrounding the park, the wind we faced on the water and the open road during the bike leg was now only a cool, comfortable, and gentle breeze.
After the Kansas Triathlon
While waiting for the awards ceremony, the race organizers treated us to hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies, and drinks. While enjoying the extra calories, I chatted with the race staff and other senior triathletes.
The latter included Buck, with whom I had raced in the Tulsa Triathlon the day before. I also met the winner of the 70+ age group, a member of the Kansas River Valley Triathlon Club and Kona Ironman finisher.
A Message from the Race Director
A few days after the triathlon, I received an email from race director Alan Farrington. It included the following commentary on this memorable triathlon:
“Today’s weather was unique to say the least. In my 15 years of directing Mudwater, I haven’t seen anything quite like it. We’ve had a rain delay once before, had to cancel the swim once due to algae, and have had to activate a heat contingency plan, but we haven’t had the rain, followed by 30 mph winds, and temperatures as cool as they were for late June; all within the race time span. Everyone’s gotta have one of those races to talk about for years to come. Maybe today was the one :-)”
- First time during the swim in which I saw another triathlete walking (in the water) beside me along the course.
- Most windy bike ride.
What Advice Do You Have For Doing A Triathlon In Wind?
In the Comments below, tell us about one of your triathlons that included high wind.