Preparing for most triathlons, my greatest gear decision is whether I’ll wear socks or not. Run distance, terrain and weather all play a part in that decision, but it’s pretty easy to go through the options and make a decision. With temperatures in the mid 40’s and a 14 mph north wind, dressing appropriately for the 2019 Steamboat Classic Triathlon was more challenging. I don’t like to be cold and have often lived with the results of overdressing for athletic endeavors.
Common tri-gear made for all three disciplines was out of the question for me. I wasn’t getting on a bike in wet shorts and sleeveless top. I wear full tights, long sleeves in layers, gloves and ear warmers for a 50 degree bike ride. And that all starts dry. So, how many layers? Do I start wet and cover up? Do I really need a chamois for a sprint? Do I want the same clothes for running as biking? What can I pull off, literally and figuratively, in the transition area? So many options.
Last year the winner of my age group finished 22 seconds faster than me. That time can easily be lost in a transition snafu. This year, don’t care. I decided I was going to dress for comfort and enjoy the race. The course through Cape Girardeau is challenging but fun. It’s a great start to the triathlon season and I planned to make the best of it.
In the Swim of Things
The Steamboat Classic features a self-seeded, time trial start to the 450-meter serpentine pool swim. After sharing estimated paces with each other, athletes settled into a line, ready to start. Those around me were pretty true to their word as this was the first year that I didn’t pass anyone and wasn’t passed in the pool. In fact I swam in a large open space for the nine lengths.
Making the Transition
This is where it gets weird. I staged transition one in the locker room. To get there, I had to exit the pool and go outside to cross the timing mat. Ran to another entrance to access the locker room. Peeled off my jammer, dried enough to put on tights, long-sleeved tech shirt, tri-shorts, socks, shoes, and a long-sleeved cycling jersey. Wet stuff in a locker, I added the ear warmer as I ran to the real transition area where I put on my helmet, cycling shoes, sunglasses and gloves. Pushing my bike to the exit, I heard a friend yell, “Show ‘em what an old guy can do” as I clipped into the pedals. Thanks Buzz.
Against the Wind
The bike course is a bit technical at the start with several turns and few little hills in town. That effort is rewarded with a big downhill as the course heads north and out of town. Relative to the other disciplines, swimming is my strength. So I have become quite familiar with the feeling of being passed by younger athletes on faster bikes. After my extended transition, I was a little surprised there were people behind me. Somewhere around mile four, headed north into a chilly headwind, I felt so good about taking the extra time to bundle up.
I struggled with the wind much of the first half. Then the course turned more southerly after a significant climb. Hitting the rolling hills with a tailwind brought a smile to my face. Soon, the course passed the Missouri Running Company cheering section at Brian and Kim’s house. Perfect place for another mental boost before hitting the hills in town. The hills on Lexington kicked my butt. Each climb was rewarded with a downhill and soon I was speeding down Cape Rock, headed to the finish.
With such a slow first transition, the bar was set pretty low for T-2. I was out of my shoes before the last turn, off my bike while it was still moving, kinda, and stopped long enough to make sure officials knew I was off and under control before the green line. No, it wasn’t a flying-dismount-one-fluid-motion-sprint-to-the-bike-rack. Not even in my head. But, transition two was twelve seconds faster than last year, even removing a jersey.
Take Me to the River
While classified as a sprint distance, the Steamboat features a hilly five-mile run at the end. The bike ride had pushed me enough to make the run challenging. Athletes who didn’t pass me on the bike, got their chance during the run. I was into mile two before the awkward feelings left my feet and legs. Mile two was mostly downhill to the river where the course headed south along the river wall. This stretch of flat prepared runners for the significant climb awaiting. Even though the course had whooped up on me, I was resolved to not succumb to walking up the hill on Independence.
After turning at Dynamite Coffee, my favorite coffee shop, I plodded up the next two blocks. After this hill, the rest of the run was a piece of cake. Lumpy and rolling, not flat cake. In mile four I finally felt the need to remove my gloves and ear warmer to release some heat. One more gradual climb, a couple turns and then it truly was downhill to the finish line.
Finishing is Winning
An absolutely inglorious finish to the race, my slowest in five attempts on the course. But I did enjoy it. Had I dressed for speed rather than comfort, I think I would have hated it. I’m pretty sure my mind would have taken me to a dark place within the first few miles on the bike. A place that is hard to will myself out of. Rather than stressing about my slow time, I smiled and waved when my name was called as I crossed the finish.
Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation did a good job running the race. I heard a couple front-runners express concern over course marshaling. I thought there were plenty of people, at all the right spots, stopping traffic and pointing the way. I’m sure they had plenty of practice by the time I got to them. Regardless, the race was well run. Plenty of pizza, sandwiches, veggies and fruit were available as athletes awaited the awards ceremony.
Recapping the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The course – Steamboat feels like a home game for me.
Dressed appropriately – Comfort, not speed was my objective and I didn’t really get hot until there was only a mile left to run.
Friends – I saw several local athletes I have raced with through the years and met some new ones I hope to see in the future.
No problems – It can be easy to take for granted but I had no physical or mechanical failures.
Positivity – I like to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy. I appreciate all the people and circumstances involved in topping me off during the event. Getting a tailwind and screaming downhill definitely helped me get my head right. Support from the crowd in the country representing Missouri Running Company was a boost at the right time. Words of direction and encouragement from Pete, Roxanne and countless others along the course were priceless. Thank you to the volunteers and supporters.
The weather – Sure it could have been worse. But mid 40’s and the stiff north wind were not pleasant.
Missing church – I understand the logistics and participating on Sundays is a choice. Still makes my short list of bad things.
My finish time – No excuses. There were athletes who thrived under these conditions. Good for them. They are stronger, fitter and more committed than me. I applaud them.
My face – I didn’t cry, but I’m pretty sure I made an ugly face as I approached the top of at least three hills. Two on the bike and one on the run.
Transition one – Over five minutes, it was my longest Steamboat transition ever. And the whole getting naked thing, definitely ugly. Nobody wants to see that. Sorry.
The good seriously outweighed the bad and the ugly for the 2019 Steamboat Classic Triathlon in Cape Girardeau. Local races are great for so many reasons including, cost, sleeping at home, familiar course, and lots of friends. I like to encourage local events by participating and thanking those who helped make them successful.