2019 was my third Iron Abe Olympic Triathlon (now Abe’s Olympic Triathlon) in Springfield, IL. During the pre-race meeting, director Steve O’Connor described the course as undulating. He was talking specifically about the bike portion of the race. I knew from previous years there were rolling hills and gradual elevation changes, but nothing very steep on the course. Halfway through the swim, his words came to my mind. A 10 mile-an-hour wind was kicking up waves which, at times, made my body undulate. I felt strong for most of the swim with only a couple brief episodes of doubt during the kilometer and a half.
The isolation and immersion of swimming make it easy to derail the race inside my head. Fortunately, I like swimming and the first wave of the deep-water start included men 40 and over. This allowed much of my swim to be in truly open water. Removing the distraction of other participants is helpful as I’ve never been successful at drafting in the water. One orange cap passed me near the final navigation buoy.
Undulate became my word of the day
Transition went smoothly, with only a slight delay as I put socks onto wet feet. Socks are optional for me on the bike, but I knew I would want them for the 10K run. Cycling is not my strongest discipline and I struggle a bit with knowing how much to push and how much to save for the run. Once into the bike portion, Steve’s pre-race message echoed in my head. Undulate became my word of the day. During the first long, gradual climb, I checked my computer to see that my cadence was a comfortable 80 rpm and I was exceeding 20 MPH. I don’t normally describe this speed as comfortable. The only explanations were either the elevation was deceptive or the wind was giving me a decent push. The second climb made the tailwind more obvious.
The problem with tailwinds
The problem with having a tailwind early in the race is that same wind will be in your face at some portion later. Sure enough, there was a seven mile stretch on the return trip where I really struggled to hit 17 MPH. The rolling hills quickly dropped my pace even further. Finally, we turned north which made a huge difference in my pace and attitude for the final five miles. Transition two went well as I picked up the ‘sock time’ I used in the first transition.
Seeing the people who passed me
Running uphill from the parking lot and over the bridge reminded me of undulations ahead. The run course for this race really is nice with a couple out and back portions on roads around Lake Springfield. I like this arrangement as it gives me an opportunity to see all the people who have passed me earlier in the race. Mile one was the usual feeling of legs and feet adjusting to running after more than an hour of cycling. I settled in the next couple miles and enjoyed that same breeze that had punished me on the bike.
My pace degraded by about 20 seconds in the fourth mile as the accumulated miles started taking their toll. During mile five, the undulations were no longer pleasant but I was grateful for all the shade the course provided. I also had some mild stomach cramping during the fifth mile which was a different race-day sensation for me. Starting the final mile helped take my mind off the discomforts and put my focus on the finish line. It would be in sight after crossing the bridge marking the last little climb on the run.
Second place and a picture with Abe
My finish time of 2:46.28 was five minutes slower than last year and about a minute slower than my first attempt on this course. It was good enough for second place in my age division and a picture with Abe Lincoln during the awards presentation. My time deficit was spread across each leg of the race, with transition two being the only segment faster than previous attempts. Little consolation looking back to say, “I really rocked T-2”.
I do like this race put on by Tri-Harder Promotions. It’s professionally managed with ample support on the well-marked courses. They do a good job of defining the three different distances that are competing simultaneously. The Olympic distance is right for me as it pushes my comfort level without requiring a life-altering training plan. The shaded 10K makes the run bearable in the July heat. The 1930’s era beach house is a great facility for registration, results and post-race food. The showers in the basement are an added bonus for those travelling to race.
One final adventure
Showering actually provided the final test of adventure and endurance this year. As I entered the room, I heard another participant say, “It’s kinda wonky, but I guess it works.” While the words raised my curiosity, it wasn’t enough to make me actually look at the guy showering. Then, walking into the gang-shower, I saw one man handing an eight-foot garden hose to another man. The hose connected to a wash basin was the only source of flowing water.
I tried several of the showers with no luck. I even surveyed the exposed pipes looking for a valve that may have been closed. By then, I was next in line for the cheek-clenching cleansing my smelly body needed. Dousing yourself with cold water from a garden hose is awkward enough. The added element of soap and shampoo made the post-race shower one final challenge. But much like the sport of triathlon, if you want the results, you have to put in the work. Leaving Springfield free from the residue of nearly three hours of exercise was worth it.
Tri Harder Promotions manages several other races in the Springfield area. It is worth checking out their web-site for upcoming runs, rides and multi-sport events.