Not long after I put “complete triathlon” on my bucket list did I have the bright idea to search for upcoming races. My new King County library card and borrowed copy of Triathlete added a bit of fuel to the fire. I quickly discovered the Washington Triathlon Event Calendar and scrolled down the list. Lo and behold, the Lake Meridian Triathlon, taking place on Sunday August 26th, is almost literally outside my front door. It also happens to be the day after my 30th birthday. I couldn’t resist.
In the two weeks that I’ve been in the area, I’ve biked the entire Soos Creek Trail, most of the Interurban Trail, some of the Green River Trail, explored the trail around Young’s Lake, and pedaled all the way from my house to Pikes Place Market. I joined the nearby 24 Hour Fitness and have been swimming and working out, in lieu of being able to take 3+ hours of dance class every day. Since I’m now at sea level, I required a 2.6 mile run up and down the hills of nearby streets, to actually wear myself out properly.
On Sunday morning, bright and early, I did something of a course inspection. At 8:35am I hopped in the lake, which was surprisingly warm. The mildly humid air and overcast skies kept the wind out and the warmth in; I felt fantastic. Then I realized I was out in the middle of a lake by myself, with only a few fishermen to holler if I drown. Instead of trying to figure out the exact layout of the rectangular course, I swam out to the swim line buoys and swam parallel to shore for what I approximated to be almost the 400m distance.
As I tell everyone, I am pretty much a polar bear and can ignore the chill of water down to the point of it almost cramping my feet. Since I wasn’t sure what to expect for water and air temperatures, nor did I want a wet crotch as I biked off into the unknown, I crept off to the park restrooms after my swim and changed into dry underwear. All I had with me was my sweat pants (a big mistake, as the bottoms kept getting stuck on the gears) and a huge sweatshirt. I was one big mass of aerodynamic mayhem as I biked out of the park at 9:05am with my hoodie, sweat pants, and huge backpack stuffed with my towel and bathing suit.
Despite being weighed down and largely overdressed I managed to not feel overheated, and only pleasantly sweaty through the bike route. I kept checking my map and directions to make sure I was on the right path. Other than one short moderate hill, a very short steep section, and a few rolling country hills, the route was technically very easy. The bike route is 15.8 miles in length, about a 4 out of 10, if I were to rate the strenuousness of the distance for myself.
Feeling quite satisfied, I rolled into Lake Meridian Park at 10:22am. I parked my bike against a tree near the boat launch, and decided to at least walk the running section. I hadn’t eaten anything before coming out, but paced the eating of an almond butter and banana sandwich during the cycling portion. I have never been able to participate in vigorous exercise with anything substantial in my stomach, so I will have to pace my eating, and train my body to be able to digest food as I’m working out, another challenge if I compete in longer races.
After sitting on the bike for the past hour, I was surprised that I actually wanted to… run. The three events seem to draw energy from different parts of the body, and in keeping such a modest pace in the previous sports, I didn’t feel drained. The only thing preventing me from actually running the course was the shoes I had chosen. I didn’t have anyone to watch my things when I was in the lake so I didn’t want to bring my cleats, or keep my running shoes anywhere. I just used the laceless shoes I wore before I bought my bike shoes, which have no ankle support, and are even a poor choice for just walking.
I walked up the roadway and as I got onto the start of the Soos Creek Trail I broke into a light jog. I transferred my weight lightly from the ball of one foot to the other with a short stride, and followed another runner as they shifted over to the dirt path. I found the dirt and grass to be less strenuous on my body and was able to slowly jog about half the 3.1 mile distance. I think that on race day, when I’m pumped and have some energy snacks along the way, and the right shoes on, I should be able to run the entire distance at a decent pace. My normal jog when I exercise is 25-35 minutes, and approximately 2-3 miles depending on the route. The longest distance I’ve ever jogged at one time is from Queenstown up to Frankton along the lake, which is somewhere between 5-6k. It took me about 38 minutes, but I had to stop and walk for a short way about 75% of the way through.
I’ve never done at 5k race (although that is on the bucket list too – but not any 5k, a zombie 5k) but I figured, hey, I’ll just start with the triathlon! For my first triathlon I want to qualify for a decent finish time, so I picked the Super Sprint course, having the shortest distances for each of the three events. The course I am doing is a 0.25 mi swim, 15.8 mi bike, 3.1 mi run. I completed my course inspection, including the time it took to rinse off and change out of my swimsuit, in about two and a half hours, so I’m sure I will finish. My main concern is the logistics of it all, so I am focusing on those issues over the next few days. Here is my progress:
Today I met up with Patty at Northwest Tri and Bike for the 9:30am Tuesday women’s ride. Two other women were with us, making it a total of four riders. We kept a moderate pace as we rode the triathlon route. It took us about an hour and 25 minutes from when we left the bike shop to when we returned, so I feel confident that when I am racing I should be able to get it under an hour and fifteen minutes.
Inside the shop I bought some tri shorts, quick-drying and lightly padded, designed for all three events. I also picked up some of the nutrient gels that they will be distributing on the course, just to see what it does to my body. I also picked up some Speedo Vanquisher Plus goggles from Sports Authority. Speedo goggles have always been my brand of choice. They are sleek, suction well, and the mirrored lenses of the ‘plus’ model have UV protection and are slightly tinted for outdoor conditions. My current challenge is to find a top that I can successfully swim and run in. Not an easy task (running is never an easy task) for someone of my build. I tried swimming in the sports bra that I run in, but it created drag that made it feel like I was swimming in molasses. It’s not that it added much to my time, but I didn’t like how it felt, and when I look and feel good, I just perform better. I also didn’t care for swimming in the tri shorts. My next plan is to wear my swimsuit in the lake, and toss the tri shorts on for biking and running. The top is still the mission… Tomorrow night there is open water training at Lake Meridian, and while I would love to own/rent a triathlon-specific wetsuit, it’s a bit more than I can invest right now! I plan to buy a used one from the shop in a month from now after the season. If you see a crazy girl out in the middle of Lake Washington in November, that might be me! Now if only they made the wetsuits in bright pink, just like the tri belt I bought…