Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon: Race Recap

Finally managed to knock out my first triathlon this morning.  Grind in the Pines is a race sponsored by DQ Events and actually offers several different races in one day: sprint tri, olympic tri, olympic duathlon, and olympic aquabike.  10 years ago I might have considered signing up for just the sprint to be wimping out, but luckily I've grown sensible in my old age and realize there's nothing wrong with starting small when you're a rookie like me.  Sprint tri it is.

.25 mile swim.
11 mile bike.
3.1 mile run.

Left the house this morning at 5:30am and drove 45 minutes out to Pemberton in the Pine Barrens.  It was a gorgeous morning for a race - blue skies, cool temps and a water temperature of 75 degrees.

I can't believe how out of my element I felt watching so many fit triathletes unload their bikes in the transition area.  I had a regular bathing suit, no goggles, a pair of running shoes, a shirt, and a clunky old mountain bike from my town's bike share that I soon learned doesn't shift gears anymore.  Meanwhile, men and women were walking around me with bikes that probably cost more than my car, spandex suits, wet suits and all manner of accoutrements stacked neatly by their bikes.

A man rolled his bike up next to mine and asked me if I knew where bike out was.  I wanted to respond, "do I look like I know what I'm doing here?"  But instead I guessed it was somewhere behind me.

I teach high school German, and I spend a lot of time talking with my students about strategies for speaking and understanding a foreign language.  Having spent two and a half years living in Germany, as well as plenty of time in countries where I don't speak the language, I'm used to not knowing what's going on.  One of the strategies I tell my students is to simply look around and see what others are doing.  So I set up my transition area as best I could after watching everyone else around me.

Saw a lot of athletes spraying themselves down with cooking spray.  Maybe to make it easier to put on/take off clothing?  Seems I left my cooking spray at home, so I couldn't copy this.

I now have a better appreciation for what some runners go through with their first race.  It was one thing to feel so out of my element, but I was genuinely feeling nervous about the race itself.  I'm not a strong swimmer, and it's one thing to train in a clear pool, but it's quite another to be in a dark lake with a hundred other competitors.  I didn't know how my body would handle the unknown.  I was just itching to get to the run portion where I would feel more in my element.

The olympic tri set off in three waves, and we had to wait until 8am for the sprint tri to start.  We all had to wear red swimcaps.

I breaststroked nearly the entirety of the swim, trying to keep up with an elderly couple and a handicapped man swimming with a guide.  I genuinely wondered if I might come in last in the swim.  After nearly 12 minutes of swimming I finally hauled myself out of the lake, covered in lake muck, and into transition.  Spent an eternity in T1 (4:58) before heading out onto the bike.

As mentioned, I quickly discovered that my bike was stuck in one gear and would not shift at all.  As a result, I looked like some weird cartoon character as I pedaled like mad but made little forward progress.  It was a little frustrating.  We ended up on the same bike course as the olympic triathletes, and the constant drone of "on your left" as others passed me got old real quick.  I think I only passed one other person the entire time.

And after 43 minutes on the bike, it was finally time for my specialty: running.  Finally released from the constraints of my own physical limitations and shit equipment, I charged out of transition like I meant business, ready to take out as many runners as I could.  For some comparison: out of 85 total finishers, I came in 69th in the swim, 73rd in the bike, and 7th in the run.  The run was great.  Just a nice out and back, partly on a lonely dirt road deep in the woods.  It took me a minute or so to readjust to the mechanics of running after swimming and biking, but I was very quickly back in my element.

I finished strong and immediately helped myself to hoagies and donuts and fruit, then washed the lake muck off of me at the fire truck they'd brought in.

Some final stats:

Overall time: 1:23:10
Overall place: 52nd (out of 85)
Age group place: 6th (out of 6)
Swim: 11:43
Swim place: 69th
T1: 4:58
Bike: 43:37
Bike place: 73rd
T2: 0:54
Run: 22:00
Run place: 7th

I have a strong desire to improve my time, so I would love to do another someday, but that probably won't be for awhile.

I've been meaning to do a tri for years now, and so glad I finally took the plunge.  It really was a great event and a great morning of exerting myself in the outdoors, something I truly love. 


  1. good work! i went through a tri phase about 10 yrs ago but ultimately decided i just did not like biking enought! plus, all the gear gets a bit much, made me feel overwhelmed. anyway, just wanted to note that the cooking spray is what people will use to help get in and out of wetsuits. when you wear one for tris, you generally pick one that is super tight! not like you would wear for surfing or something like that, and it is really hard to get in and out of them so getting greased up helps that process (esp for people who try to get their T times down). you might also be asking yourself why the eff people are wearing wetsuits when the water is 75 and it is bc their buoyancy makes you faster or can act as a security blanket to newer swimmers.

    1. Thanks, Christina. Yeah, I'm not quite sold on triathlons either, also due to the equipment. I'll probably do another one down the road but not in any rush. I figured that's what the cooking spray was for but was definitely wondering why they would want a wetsuit in 75 degree water. Thanks for the answer!


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