First things first, this was full triathlon #1. I have no other races to compare it to but I’m also basing my review from the comparisons of much more experienced triathletes (which it appears, were the only other people participating in this. Apparently the other newbies did more homework than I did.)
The course was a 500 meter swim in Holiday Lake, a private lake in Brooklyn, IA followed by a 15.5 mile bike ride on country highways down-and-back style, and a 3.1 mile run up and down the hilly gravel roads of the Holiday Lake neighborhood, down-and-back style. The triathlon organizers had lined up plenty of enthusiastic and helpful volunteers. The other participants were friendly and fun to chat with as well.
In all of the descriptions, the course was described as challenging. I guess my teammates and I had much higher opinions of our skills than we should have. “How hard could a sprint triathlon in Brooklyn, IA be?” We looked at the results from the year prior and they seemed a bit slower than I’d have imagined so of course, I didn’t at all chalk it up to maybe the course being difficult. I decided it would be amateur hour (where I belong.) Nope.
Teammate Braxton called my husband aside to speak privately. I figured they were either going to discuss a male anatomy situation or something else that specifically, I wasn’t supposed to hear (sometimes it is best if I’m left out of the loop on certain details or I’ll stress.) After deliberation, they decided to tell me before the race that the highway we’d be biking on was not, in fact, closed to traffic. It was, in fact open to hills. And I think only hills.
I’ll spare you the long and lonely details, but let’s say that when you’re a decently fast swimmer you get a really big ego boost for a really short amount of time in a triathlon. Then you get to watch lots of people fly by you on bikes. All but 3 people, as a matter of fact. My only assumption is that the people who didn’t pass me must have broken their bikes at some point in transition. I do not ride on roads with cars ever on my bike and I have almost no hill training. Remember, I didn’t bike as a kid so I don’t even know how to stand up and pedal and it wasn’t until this summer that I even really started using my gear shifters! I survived, and fortunately the volunteers pointing at the turnoff hadn’t given up on the last of us bikers. I have never been so happy as when I saw those neon shirts!
My run goal was not to walk, but I had to abandon that and didn’t actually feel bad about it either when I saw faster and more experienced triathletes walking up or down some of the steeper hills with loose gravel.
In conclusion, I finished. My time was worse than I’d have guessed before the race, but much better than I’d have guessed it would be in the middle of the bike leg. My husband said it was the hardest bike ride he had ever done. My teammate Abra, the runner, said it was the hardest 5k she’d ever run. I realized that the only part of the triathlon I was good at would be over in under 10 minutes. I’m glad this was 2 weeks before Copper Creek because by all accounts, that’ll seem like a breeze by comparison. I’m proud of my team for finishing (and they had some good times!) but despite the beautiful lake, great volunteers, and scenic countryside, I don’t think we’ll do this one again…at least until we’ve let those hills fade in our memories a bit.