Blalock Lakes Triathlon
Blalock Lakes Triathlon
Has an idea ever just come to you and all of a sudden it sticks? You can’t get it out of your head...no matter what. Maybe the idea was inspired by a friend? Maybe you were inspired by reading an article or watching something on TV? This has happened to me recently. Last winter, I was running and biking a lot with my friends, and one day, my friends tell me that they are going to do the Ironman Augusta 70.3, and they ask me if I want to do it too. At first, I thought they were crazy. For those of you that don’t know, the Ironman Augusta 70.3 is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run. I immediately thought, “Could I do that…even if I trained a lot?” Since the moment the idea to do a triathlon entered my mind, I have not been able to let it go. Instead of asking myself if I could do a triathlon, I reworded the question to: How do I train so I can do a half Ironman? I began training to prepare, and since I am feeling more comfortable swimming, biking and running, I tried to sign up last week for the Ironman August 70.3 2013. Although it is still over 3 months away, it is already sold out. However, it might be a good thing that it is sold out because I found a nice triathlon and duathlon series right here in Georgia called Tri the Parks, and they had an event coming very soon. The Blalock Lakes Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike & Aquathlon was only two days away: Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 7:30 AM. Although it was too late to register, I thought I could gain a lot of information by just going out to watch. Early Saturday morning, I was there with my camera, notebook and pen (old school) ready to figure this whole thing out and get some pointers to prepare for my own triathlon. Watching the races did not disappoint. I learned a lot and even got a chance to talk to the 1st place winner of the triathlon, Rob Richardson from Peak Racing Team!
Tri the Parks puts on races that are really ideal for someone who has never done a triathlon or is new at triathlons. The distances are shorter and perfect practice and training for a half Ironman. Blalock Lakes had many different events going on there last Saturday. There was a duathlon, which was a 3.1 mile run followed by the 25.4 mile bike and then a 6.2 mile run. Also, it was the USAT Southeast Championship for the aquabike (1500 meter swim and 25.4 mile bike) and aquathlon (3.1 mile run, a 1500 meter swim, and a 6.2 mile run). I thought it was awesome that a lot of variations of a triathlon existed for those that were injured and could not perform one of the sports or for those that had not been able to quite master that one sport quite yet. The triathlon was the main event for me. This triathlon in particular was at an intermediate level. It consisted of a 1500 meter (.9 mile) swim, a 25.4 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run. This distance is also referred to as an Olympic triathlon. The swim was two laps, and although the bike or run did not scare me, the distance for the swim was quite intimidating and made me realize the importance of practicing the open water swim.
More than anything else, I learned how important a quick transition from swim to bike is in a triathlon. The transition from swim to bike was actually much quicker than I ever realized. I have never seen a triathlon in all my life, so it was interesting to see people go from swimming in the lake to on the bike in probably less than a minute. I did not time it, but by the time I turned my camera on to take a picture (only 20 feet away) and ran over to the transition area, the first guy out of the water was off to the bike mounting area. I watched the people transitioning very closely and as soon as the racers came out of the water, they were pulling off their goggles and caps. There was no changing clothes for most because they are wearing kits specifically designed for triathlons; the padding dries quicker. Some people had towels on the ground with all their stuff on top: shoes, socks, hats and sunscreen. Some people even had a bucket to sit down on to put on their shoes and socks, which I thought was a good idea to save some energy. However, I saw some people not even wearing socks as a way to save a couple of seconds. How you can ride a bike without wearing socks and not get blisters, I am not sure, but some chose to skip the socks. Another time saving trick I learned is that a lot of the participants clip their shoes on the bike and slide in their feet after jumping on the bike. The best piece of gear for this transition is tri shoes. Tri shoes only have one strap leaving less straps to deal with during the transition. How smart? What a time saver? Fiddling with three straps all the time drives me nuts anyways. I will invest in these right away.
As far as the transition from bike to run, it looked less complicated. There is more gear to take off in this transition. The first thing to get out of is the shoes. When there was about two miles left, many racers were already unstrapping their shoes and riding the rest of the way with their feet on top of their shoes. At this point, the tri shoes really helped the racers save time again. Only dealing with one strap means the racer does not have to stop pedaling…at least for long, which means the racer will go faster and arrive sooner at the transition area. Once off the bike, the helmets came off and then it was time to put on the running shoes. Some people wore race belts with their number attached, which also held gels. One thing I saw that some people did not remember was a sun visor/hat and sunglasses. The race started at 7:30 AM and it would be easy to not think about the sun beating down on you later. However, by the time the majority of racers finished the biking section and were off to complete the run, the sun was out in full force, and it was hot. Although the course was tree lined in areas, overall, the course was not very shaded. I will bring a hat and sunglasses with me next time…even if just spectating.
By the time I walked from the biking section back to the finish line, Rob Richardson (Peak Racing Team) had already completed the 6.2 mile run and crossed the finish. His time was an impressive 2 hours, 7 minutes and twenty-four seconds! I gave him some time to cool down, but afterwards, I asked if I could talk to him. With a smile and eager to assist, he agreed to speak with me. I asked Rob, “Why do you love to compete in triathlons?” Rob explained that he grew up in this fitness-minded culture. His parents were high school teachers and cross country coaches. He said, “On the weekends, my parents were always running 5Ks.” He liked being around that community as a child, and he still does as an adult. Rob gave all the credit to why he loves triathlons to the community, saying “I want to be around a community that enjoys fitness.” Although Rob enjoys the community, triathlons are not his only passion.
Rob is a golfer and a high school teacher. He also has a beautiful wife and talks about one day having a family and possibly taking a hiatus from triathlons at some point. However, he takes his training very seriously, as he trains 6 days a week, three of the workouts being brick workouts (swimming and biking or biking and running). He tries to do a long run and/or bike also during the week as well as fitting in speedwork to increase his run time (which apparently is working). No matter what, he always takes off Sunday. Although he trains seriously, his motivation for completing a triathlon is not necessarily to win. His goal is to have fun! He said, “As soon as it stops being fun, I won’t do it.” The biggest piece of advice he gives to people new to triathlons, “Enjoy it, have fun…it is just a hobby.” Since having fun is the most important aspect to completing a triathlon to him, I had to ask, “What is your favorite sport out of all three: swimming, biking or running?” Without a pause, “Biking” Rob replied. I thought I might get a completely different answer so I immediately asked, “Well, which sport is your strongest?” However, biking was the winner again. Rob commented on his answer, “You are usually the best at what you like.” In most cases, this is probably true, and it certainly is true for him.
Rob’s talent on the bike is evident if you look at his race times. He was approximately 3 minutes behind the first swimmer out of the water. However, he caught up and stole the lead while on the bike, and he was the first person off the bike and back in the transition area to get ready to run. I wanted to know how he fueled his body to keep this lead. Rob answered by saying, “I try to eat every forty-five minutes. I only take in liquids. Today, I was drinking orange flavored Heed and eating GU gels.” I ask, “Why not Hammer gels since Heed is a Hammer product?” Rob replied, “I haven’t tried Hammer gels. GU gels work for me, and I stick with what works.” I respect that answer. You can’t argue with what works.
Before I left Rob to pack up his stuff, I had one last question and it was asking him advice about my own training. I explained to him my situation with swimming: “I just started swimming, and I really enjoy it. However, I am nowhere close to calling it my strongest sport. I am nervous about swimming close to so many people in open water for the first time. Do you have any advice?” Rob calmed my fears at least a little by giving me a strategy: “Count to ten once the whistle blows and go to the side. Let everyone pass and find your own comfort zone.” I had noticed a few people pausing and looking at their watches once the whistle had blown to start the swim, and now, those people’s actions were starting to make sense. With a little more practice swimming in open water and putting to work all the information I learned by watching at the Blalock Lake triathlon, I should be ready soon for my first triathlon. Tri the Parks is having another triathlon, duathlon and aquabike at Mistletoe State Park on July 20, 2013, and I plan on it being my first triathlon! Come out and cheer me on or sign up to compete yourself!
A special thanks to Rob Richardson from Peak Racing Team for taking the time to talk with me and allowing me to include him in this article. If you would like to share any tips of your own about triathlons, feel free to leave a comment. It would be very much appreciated. Thanks for reading!