Door County in July – it’s the perfect vacation destination. Can it get any better? Sure: add a challenging but really fun event, and a bunch of friends.
What comes to mind when I think of the Door County triathlon? The festive atmosphere. An A-frame cabin and friends around a camp fire telling stories. Stories about races and tales of anticipation from those preparing to do their first.
So when it came time to write a race report, I asked a handful of friends: what was their experience? What did they learn? What made them happy? I encourage you to ask these of yourself after every race.
A long-time friend and TNT marathon-runner this spring, John tackled his second half-iron triathlon in Door County. He appreciates the kind of family that triathlon builds:
I always enjoy swapping stories about events and training. Having 2 days to listen to others and share my own experiences was a true delight.
There were constant reminders of human resolve and the uniqueness of the endurance community (My Team Triumph, participant with a prosthetic leg, TNTers, people of all ages, shapes, and sizes going after the finisher medal).
John did the Door County half last summer, and a few shorter triathlons. His perspective has changed as his relationship with the sport develops.
For the first time in a triathlon event, I felt the competitive fire. In running events, I often want to compete against others, in addition to competing against myself and the course. I had never had that feeling in triathlon; in the past I just wanted to finish.
The last 20 miles of the bike; I felt like I was towing a Mack truck filled with boulders. Maybe this should not be a surprise, my longest training ride was 25 miles.
Patience is important, even during a race.
And, one last tip:
The Pick n Save in Sturgeon Bay had surprisingly good fruit.
An Ironman finisher and veteran of triathlon, Spencer is a good friend and training buddy of mine. I respect the perspective he keeps on the races, and his consistently good demeanor.
Saturday evening into pre-race Sunday morning was a ton of fun hanging out and chatting with everyone. It’s funny how much difference a year can make. Last year I only knew a handful of people. This year our [Endurance House] team was huge plus all the alum from previous years made it seem like a big family reunion with a race in the middle… The excitement and energy were fantastic.
Spencer’s report included some of the time-honored woes of triathlon. No matter how many years you do it, every race is different; things are always changing. From one race to the next, you can always modify your game plan. And from one moment to the next, you can always pick how you express your life.
Had a bit of trouble in t2. Brain wouldn’t focus and I stood 2 feet to the left of my spot trying to find it. Finally got the bike racked and shoes on. Took a bit more time to get them laced. Next time speed laces.
Then the hill. Walked up it and started jogging again but was now feeling the distance. Did what I could to keep my heart rate at the target and that effort seemed to be good. My times were slowing but the end was near… did a burpee at the line in honor of Jenny [our late triathlete friend]
I met Melody at the aforementioned camp fire. She was one of those racers who had a friend suggest she try it, then there she was, at her first sprint-distance triathlon. When I asked about her race, her focus was much like many novices’: the swim.
I feel like I’m repeating the obvious; probably every triathlete has had similar feelings, minus the drowning part.
(No Melody, a lot of them mention the drowning part, too.)
Going into the race, I was most concerned with the swim, since I only learned how to swim properly within the last two months. The distance seemed very doable, as long as I remained calm and kept to a slow, methodical pace. But once in the water, having not anticipated waves, I panicked and forgot most of what I’d learned, and basically just swam from lifeguard to lifeguard.
A key takeaway: swimming from lifeguard to lifeguard is one of many ways to get exactly where you need to go: from the start to the finish. Melody had an interesting insight about the length of the race, and the difference between a single sport and multisport:
Last year I completed my first half-marathon, and even though my race times were comparable, the triathlon just seems to fly by much quicker. I didn’t anticipate how much weakness in one activity would affect performance in another in which one ordinarily feels more confident; I spent the first half of the bike just trying to recover from the swim. Even still, at the end of the race, I didn’t feel nearly as exhausted or sore as after my half-marathon, perhaps because the muscle groups vary.
Dione conquered her first half-iron triathlon in Door County, well on her way to her first Ironman Wisconsin in September. Her race summary doubles as great race advice.
- Use Body Glide on areas you never imagined need it. They do.
- When you farmer’s blow on the bike, come out of aero, unless you like snot on your shoulders.
- Green freezy-pops can turn your race around.
- When you want to give up, just keep moving forward. I had a woman come up to me after the race thanking me for keeping her going during the last few miles. I was having a real tough time during those miles, and unbeknown to me, was actually motivating someone to keep going. Be the person who can inspire others by never giving up!
- I love my tri friends, and their friends and families. Triathlon is an individual sport, but it wouldn’t be any fun alone. Both on the course and off, these friends motivate, inspire, and support me.
As for me, I had a few things to offer the race. I went to Saturday’s sprint race to support all those racers, share my sunscreen, hold their stuff, and listen to what they had to tell someone. I rang my cowbell, took photos and hollered. Sunday morning I kicked off the half-iron race with the National Anthem, and then settled into my own race-day with a modest but fun pace.
Although my finish time was nearly the same as last year, I improved in the swim and the run – which is gratifying since those are the places I’ve focused my training. (I also had a blazing T2, of which I’m particularly proud).
Triathlon continues to be an individual sport, but its community gives it life, which shines brightly each July in Door County.