If triathlon doesn't seem like a weird enough sport as it is, try doing transition drills in your yard without getting weird looks from your neighbors as they walk their dogs. My sister and I did exactly that, running to our gear, awkwardly peeling off imaginary wetsuits, jumping around trying to put shoes on, and clipping on helmets. "Bike, bike, bike, bike...", Allison would say as she ran off with her invisible stead. "Crap, crap, crap...", I'd say as my sock would resist embracing my foot.

The idea was to make the motions second nature. It's terrible to enter transition and waste time fumbling around. The drills were helpful in pointing out weaknesses in our setup. Allison showed me how to correctly lace my ez-laces to save a few seconds, and I showed her how to properly curse when leaving a helmet on while setting out for the run.

Confident in our transitory expertise, we retired early.

Fast forward to the start of the race, we entered the lake that only days earlier had been closed due to high levels of E-coli bacteria. A heavy rain from last weekend had raised the lake level and most likely had saturated it with animal poo. A water test later in the week came back low enough that it was considered safe to swim in. The lake was awfully murky brown though.

I started the swim very strong, pulling ahead so I didn't have to deal with swimming close to anyone. I had open water until I converged with another lead swimmer at the first turn. He pulled ahead as I realized that I needed to slow my pace. About halfway back to shore, another swimmer passed me. A third came up along side me as I was exiting, but he dropped his swim cap so I crossed the mat before he did. So for swimming, I was 3rd in my wave, 2nd in my age group, and 7th overall.

Next was the hill to transition. This had to be one of the hardest parts of the course for me. After wiping myself out in the swim, I emerged from the water and hastily peeled off my wetsuit on tired legs. All while running up hill, barefoot. I ended up in transition with fatigued muscles, which I had not prepared for in my drills with Allison. Although things moved slower, last night's practice meant I didn't have to think. I just grabbed and went.

As I left transition, my sunglass were fogged up so much that I couldn't see out of them. I had to look out over the top of them as I started pedaling. I began slowly to catch my breath and get some life back into my legs. The first few miles were rollers, so I would climb a hill and then coast down while lightly pedaling to recover. I eventually got into my rhythm — of people passing me.

It's the bike that gets me every time. I go out strong in the swim because I'm good at it, get passed a lot on the bike, then try and make up a little ground on the run. My new bike and gear were able to save me some embarrassment by increasing my average speed by 2 MPH, but I still need to add a few more to keep up. If you take a look at the race results, my bike speed sticks out. 23, 22, 21.9, 20.4, 22.1...ouch. Needless to say, I know where I need to make some improvements. For the bike, I was 11th in my age group, 121st overall.

I remembered to take off my helmet as I was putting on my running shoes, proving to me that the transition drills were good for something. Out on the trails I began to pass back some people that had passed me earlier on the bike. The trails were curvy, so it was difficult to tell how far ahead people were. At times I thought I was completely alone, then I'd round a corner and see two runners that I hadn't seen since the bike. Score! It was like I was on a hunt for cyclists.

Being in the first wave had it's advantages. The trails weren't crowded yet and I was able to keep track of my position. Also, I was one of the first 10 people to cross the finish line, so the crowd was still pumped. Although I didn't have anyone near me when I finished, someone in a different wave bested me by a second. I should try racing with a smack talkin' imaginary friend in the future to push me harder at the end. I finished the run 5th in my age group and 20th overall, which almost mirrored my finishing placement of 5th in my age group and 21th overall. My final time was 1:31:57.

Again, just like the Dexter Ann Arbor Run, I had a huge improvement over my time last year. I was over 13 minutes faster! I will never see an improvement that dramatic again in this race. I ran a full minute faster per mile, biked 2 MPH faster, swam a minute faster, and I cut my transition times by almost half. I feel like my swim and run are competitive now, but my biking still needs work.

Allison had a great race too. I'm sure she'll fill everybody in on her blog when she has time to do a race report. Amy and I are super proud of her and all she's accomplished so far. Thanks Mom for coming out to watch Allison and me race. It meant a lot to both of us that you were there. And thanks to Elite Endeavors, Bike Sport, and all the volunteers for putting on another great triathlon.

More pictures are available on our Flickr account. And if you're interested, the race results.


Well done Stephen! Keep up the good work!

I loved racing with you Steve! Here's to looking ridiculous in the back yard! It was a good idea of YOURS and I'm glad it helped. :-)

Oh and by the way -- I don't recall the word "crap" coming out of your mouth. You must have a PG filter on this site! ;-)

Sophia and I had a lot of fun at your triathlon this weekend. It was so exciting to watch you come out of the water 3rd and run in for an excellent finish with the cream of the crop. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season! Let's hope the weather stays as good as it was yesterday. :)

Awesome! It was great watching you and Allison compete again. Keep up the good work. I'm proud of you both.

thanks for taking on the world of triathalons, it's one more place that i don't have to monitor.. unlike my children's toothbrushing skills..
seriously, stephen you rock!

That barefoot uphill to T1 was a pain during the AAT! Hope you had a good race yesterday at Maumee. I think I saw you too on the run. Would have been not too long after the turn-around for you, and before for me if I remember correctly.



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