One of my 2013 Bucket List goals included racing my kayak in a triathlon. As July 28th and the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Triathlon neared, I found myself feeling, for the first time, the desire to skip a race. I’ve never battled feelings like this before, never felt like a race was more of a bother than a joy. If you’ve ever completed a triathlon, you know that the gear alone can be exhausting. While I haven’t ventured in to buying a wet suit or those fancy clip-in bike shoes, I still had to contemplate the logistics of tying down my kayak to the roof, my bike rack to the trunk and making sure I had all the gear I would need to be successful. Add in to the mix the fact that my husband was also racing, and we suddenly had what felt like a U-Haul of gear to load up for this race. The days before race day also included inclement weather, culminating in a small craft advisory for Lake Erie the morning of the race. I read the weather report and said to Phil, “Small craft is me! Kayaks are small crafts! What the hell do I do now?” Well, here’s what I did:
Day/Night Before: I headed out for packet pickup at Fairport Harbor State Park, grabbed our race packets and waited in line to talk to the RD. He kindly assured me that he would call the swim/kayak portion of the race in the morning if needed and that the race would turn in to a du, with a shorter run taking the place of the water portion. He sent me off with a hotline phone number to call in the morning and my nerves eased. Run/Bike/Run-I could totally kill that. Kayaking through 4 foot waves-not so much. Phil and I prepped everything the night before as if we were doing the water portion of the race and packed accordingly. Lessons learned: Should have racked the kayak the night before and taken the risk it would get rained on. Racking it the morning of the race was a time suck. Nailed it: Talking to the RD. It helps to hear reassuring words from the guy making the big decisions.
Pre-race: Phil and I got up early, called the hotline, discovered the water portion of the race was on and flew through getting ready to leave. We packed well, got in the car and made the 20 minute drive to the race venue. Thankfully, we were able to temporarily park near the beach entrance, unload the kayak and haul it to the water. I even got a spot in the first row of boats entering the water! We unloaded bikes, and I worked to set up our transition area while Phil parked the car. We set up the kiddos in a great spectating area and had time to hit the restrooms and get our ages written on our legs. Lessons learned: A front boat spot is priceless. Nailed it: Getting the front row spot.
Kayak Leg: As I listened to the RD’s speech and directions, I tried to talk to the kayakers around me and hear about their suggestions for the race. A kind woman gave me the following advice: “The start is pure pandemonium. Don’t worry about running your boat in to other people. Don’t apologize. Just push away and keep paddling forward.” I watched what other people did to get ready, hopped in when the gun went off and paddled for my life. Another boater kept managing to get in front of me, steering left then right. My goal became to get around her and forge my own path. It worked and I finished the 2 mile kayak portion in a time I was happy with. Most importantly, I was not last out of the water, which was my only real goal. Lessons learned: Sunglasses. This race is an out and back mile, with the out being in straight morning sun. Sunglasses would have helped. Nailed it: The start. I felt strong getting out on to the lake and getting myself away from other boaters.
Bike Leg: As I exited the water and ran through to the transition area, I was excited to see Phil there, working on his swim to bike transition as well. I didn’t have to change for this leg, as I wore my bike shorts and tech shirt for the kayak. Phil had to do a major transition, so I was able to help him and we began the bike portion together. If you’re familiar with the Fairport area, you know the bike portion begins with a near vertical climb out of the parking lot. I practiced that hill 30 times during training this year and I was ready for it. Phil kept telling me he was right behind me, until he wasn’t. I hoped he was safe, but we agreed that we were not in this race together, so I forged forward. The bike portion went well, better than last year. The course is rather flat and fast and I enjoy it, especially the portion that includes a pass by my Dad’s house. I said hello in my heart as I rode by, grateful for the reminder of him. I finished slightly over my goal time, partially because of a massive bike accident scene that had race traffic blocked temporarily. I can’t complain. I was heartbroken for the racers who had crashed and worried for those that were leaving the scene in an ambulance. I was lucky to still be upright. Lessons learned: Sunglasses. I know, right? Bright sun had me squinting and sunglasses would have helped. Again. Nailed it: That hill. Proud of the number of times I made similar hills part of my training. I did not have to walk my bike up-good enough.
Run Leg: By the time I hit the run leg of this race last year, I was exhausted and had to spend the bulk of my time walking. This year, the lack of the swim clearly helped me to be ready for a stronger run. I hit a happy pace, found a woman with similar speed nearby and we chatted happily for the first mile or so. The course changed slightly this year and I didn’t notice any significant difference. While the water stop was awesome, I would have loved some Gatorade. As we neared the final mile of the course, I felt strong enough to increase my speed. I entered the finishing arch, got an awesome high-five from the RD and headed to the food tent. Lessons learned: Pack Gatorade for the transition area. Nailed it: Keeping a steady pace for the entire run. Much improved over last year.
This race was excellent. For the low cost of $25 we got chip timed with ankle bracelets, a sweet tech shirt, a well-organized event and great post-race food. And, surprise of my life, I placed in my age group! We didn’t stay for the awards ceremony, but I got a manilla envelope in the mail with this award inside. I came in 3rd in my age group for women kayakers, 14th out of 31 in the event. Top 50th percentile? Hell, yes! I’ll be back for this one next year.