This weekend, I went back to Door County for the second year, to race what has quickly become one of my favorite triathlons. I made a long weekend of it, and put pretty much everything else on hold in favor of traveling and relaxing within the exciting atmosphere of a tri-environment.
For the past several months, my training has been paralleled by a handful of other Team In Training alumni, who decided that no race would be quite the same without putting on Purple and Green and raising some money while doing it. Congratulations to my dedicated friends who took the race personally and gave it a much larger mission. To boot, Suzie introduced husband to triathlon; Kate brought her dad to his first triathlon, which he decided would be half-iron-distance; Lia and her husband John believe that racing together is a great way to celebrate anniversaries. This group shares the love!
Again this year I opted to camp at the Egg Harbor Campground, near the race venue. However, for a little bit more risk-aversion, I opted for an A-frame site, which seemed to be a good mix of camping’s vibe, with asphalt shingles. Last year, the weather was very hot, and a
thunderstorm rolled in during the final night with a thorough drenching. This year, it wasn’t just my nerves to keep in check – Dione had signed up for the Saturday sprint-distance race in addition to my Sunday half-Iron race. This year, I had the chance to try my hand at super-fan-dom during her race, which was a lot of fun. Of course, I still have a lot to learn from Dione on the arts of advanced spectating – she carries maps and spreadsheets, and again this year saw me seven time throughout the 70.3-mile course.
The wind kicked up and the Sprint participants had to battle through large waves and some rain on the bike course, but they all did great. Dione not only came in 10th in her age group, but she also smashed her own 5k PR. For simplicity and to save space in the car, she used my racing bike for her race, which may have been a dangerous move: after averaging over 20 mph for 18 miles, Dione talked much of the way home about purchasing a new bike. And so these things go…
My own race on Sunday morning was a great experience. Fortunately, the wind was calm and the water like glass. It was a great privilege to start the morning by singing our National Anthem for my own race as the sun rose over the bay.
The water was cool and refreshing as I moved through it. Some goggle-fogging obscured what would have otherwise been a perfectly calm swim, but I was glad to come out of the water in a respectable time. After my bike had been so expertly warmed up the day before by Dione, I kept up a good cadence over the 56-mile ride. It was fun to see many of my friends out on the course, including one of my regular Tuesday night running buddies, Spencer, who rode near me for several of the final miles. I tended to go past him up the hills, he tended to go past on the flats… repeat, repeat.
Without having trained with a lot of super-long sessions this year, I began to fatigue near the end of the bike. But I stayed smart – I took in fluids and nutrition, I poured water over myself to stay cool, and I sprayed on sunscreen in transition. I stayed true to the pace-zones I’ve come to know, so as to keep moving as best I could without expiring before the end. As I began the run, I thought that maybe I’d lost a bit of interest in the race, that maybe I should just back off … Shortly I got my wits back and remembered that I am a fine runner, that this was one of my goal-races for the summer, and that I might as well give it all I had. So I ran at a pace that felt natural, but felt fast enough that by the end, I would just barely be able to hang on.
The run course in Door County is generally flat – at two elevations. Twice, the course climbs a large bluff! Both times, I slowed to a walk as the road steepened. During one of them, I heard a man behind me say “you’re going the same speed, I’m going to stop running!” Indeed – efficiency is the key to the long course. The heat became pretty intense by the end of the day, but in a half-marathon, there are never that many more miles to go. The ability to say something like “just a 5k from here” helps me continue to turn over one step after another, even as the hours pass by. I mostly focused on the pace I was traveling, rather than my total elapsed time – so I was very pleased to see the results: a PR at this course by more than 20 minutes, including a half-marathon within 5 minutes of my own open half-marathon PR. Nice!
What I remember most from the run, though, were all my friends. Many of the people I’ve trained, fundraised, worked, and played with in Madison had come up to this fun event. 1,000 participants took part in each the sprint and the half-Iron races, and I was busy all weekend trying to recall and shout out names as they prepared in transition or ran by on the course. I truly love the triathlon community and the positive excitement at the race scene. I love that this is a place where people meet and help one another; where people band together against big waves and hot sunshine; where people focus on larger missions in spite of their own challenges. The speed or ability of each athlete remains less relevant than their perseverance.
Thanks to all my friends for another great weekend in Door County.