Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tri in the Grove

Did my first open water swim this weekend, and my second triathlon. It ended up being awesome!

Logan, Kari, Joe, Kathryn, Lisa, Coach Jon
Photos courtesy of Ron Kropf except where noted.

Drove to Cottage Grove Lake for Tri in the Grove. There was a sprint and olympic option as well as variations at each distance. I chose the sprint tri. 750 meter swim, bike 13 miles, and run 3.1 miles. I wasn’t sure if Ron would be able to come along as he wasn’t feeling well this week, but he felt better on Saturday and was there to cheer me on and help me with all my gear. I’m so glad he was able to go. We saw fellow cyclist, Ken B. directing traffic, and later Ron saw him in the duathlon.

Kathryn heading into the water

Kari and Lisa preswim

My coach, Jon Booth of Pure Endurance was there with his son Logan who was doing the sprint, and I think it may have been his first open water swim as well. Very inspiring to see kids get involved in this sport. My other teammates, Lisa, Joe, Kelli, Cathy, Kathryn (did I get everyone?) and I participated. I think most of us did the sprint, distance but a couple did the Olympic.

Lisa, Kari, and Kelli
Photo by Jon Booth
With everything going on, I'm in distraction overload. Later at a running store the clerk called it race brain. Apparently a well known phenomenon.

Jon helped me get my wetsuit on correctly, which was great as I didn’t have breathing issues at all on the swim. Awesome! I hadn't been getting it pulled up high enough, but with it properly fitted I could breathe - Yay! My teammate, Lisa, promised to stay with me for the swim. It was reassuring to have someone close by, but I felt bad taking away from her race. She assured me it was fine. Thanks Lisa! It was great to have the support, and a friend close by.

The swim start was crowded, but not overly so. Not nearly as bad as I had envisioned it would be. And while I kept my head above water while we were bunched up soon the crowds thinned and I could put my face into the water and swim. I lost Lisa a few times in the sea of pink caps, but was able to find her again. Great pace. I didn’t need but the briefest of breaks a couple of times. Tried side stroke, but eventually figured out that just doing a front crawl with no kicking was a better recovery and quicker. Got off course quite often, and at times had trouble spotting the buoys, but was able to follow Lisa whenever I felt too lost. The course looks different once you're in the water.

Sprint Start.

We passed at least one blue cap and several others pink caps (blues had started earlier). Lisa said we passed several blue caps - a whole group at the finish. That’s always a mental boost!

Lisa and Kari
Photo by Jon Booth

 Did I mention it's kind of hard to walk right after a swim.

Finished the swim in 22:32 minutes. I thought it would take me much longer so I’m quite pleased with the time. Also No panic!! That pleases me even more. I had worried about panicking after what happened with Beaver Freezer, and the few times I'd been in open water practice, I had felt breathless and panicky. I now know that was more from the wetsuit not being pulled up enough. Really happy to have that resolved.

The easy part for me. I was winded a bit going out, but not terribly so. I knew I needed to slow down at some point, get some nutrition and settle into a sustainable pace. I felt fast on the course, pushing it a bit, but not maxed out. It is a fast course with no steep climbs. I had tailwind in my bottle and ate a gel along the way, so about 300 additional calories.

Photo by Jon Booth
I figured biking was my best place to gain an edge. At Beaver Freezer, I held back a bit on the bike, trying to save my legs for the race. But my legs are less a problem on the run than my cardio fitness. I decided to push harder on the bike, and run/walk the run. I’d be doing so anyway, and while I might be a little slower I’d make up for it with a fast ride. The strategy seemed to work okay. My run wasn’t much slower than expected, actually pretty close to what I normally do.

Joe and Logan.
Photo by Jon Booth

Logan bike in to T2

Cathy Bike in to T2

I had a great time riding the 15 mph corner. Perhaps some motorcycling skills here? I gained enough momentum to pass another rider, who took it slower. Ok, that was a little bit fun!
Bike time 51:47

Walk/run for the win. Of course I tried to time running with the photographers on the course, and at the finish. Gotta look good in the pics. More or less I ran 50 steps then walked 50 throughout the course. It worked well keeping my cardio in a good place. Funny how much longer 3 miles feel after a swim and a ride!

Photo by Jon Booth

Photo by Jon Booth

So much fun having a cheering crowd! Such a motivator! Also because the run was an out and back, seeing other runners and teammates along the way was added fun and a great boost.
Run time 48:08
Time overall: 2:07:48

Placed 2nd (out of two-ha!) in my age group. Won a pint glass. Didn’t see that coming. Kelly, Joe, Logan, and Cathy also placed. And Ken B. for the duathlon. There may have been others, but those were the ones I saw, or that Ron captured in a photo.

Kelli, Awards ceremony

Kari, Awards Ceremony

Logan, Awards Ceremony

Joe, Awards Ceremony

Cathy, Awards Ceremony

Felt strong the whole race, except a little tired on the run. I did use my inhaler on the run as my chest felt a little tight, but didn’t have any issues with asthma otherwise. Got a finisher medal. My first. Cool!

Kari, Lisa, and Kelli. After race photo

I didn’t realize how much I like sprints. I’ve always been more of a long distance girl. At least in cycling. I enjoyed being able to push hard and not have to hold back and save energy for the long haul. There wouldn’t be a long haul today. Just 3 short hauls. :)

I’m so glad I decided to do this one. I hadn’t planned to. Didn’t feel I was ready for it, but with encouragement from my coach, and support from fellow teammates, I took the plunge - literally. Terrified and had that "what did I get myself into" moment.

Thanks to all my teammates and coach Jon for the encouragement to give it a shot. It went better than I ever dreamed. And thanks to my husband Ron, giving up a day to cheer me on and shlep all my gear.

Already signed up for Best in the West in September!


The boring details:
If you’ve come this far, you may want to quit here. The rest is just my futzing over the minutiae.


  • Fueling was spot on. 

  • Hydrated before
  • Tailwind and gels on bike (300cals)

  • Heed at waterstops on run. 
  • Never felt like I was out of gas. 

I wasn’t getting it on nearly high enough. Jon worked it up higher getting the arms up higher on the shoulder, and the chest area much higher. I think the neck front was up to my chin, but it settled down nicely once in the water. Never felt the least bit constricted at any point. That was fantastic. Never once felt panicked. Awesome!

  • Tri kit was perfect. Designed for the job and do the job well. 
  • Didn’t need any arm warmers or jacket
  • Went with no socks or gloves. Love no socks! Need to sort out when to add glide.
  • Tri bike shoes were great, though a little slippery on the walk. I did gently run a little with them. It would be great if I could learn to get in them on the bike. 
  • NB minimus shoes were perfect on the run. I wasn’t quite ready to run in my new shoes, so opted for my old favorites.
  • Definitely getting a race belt. The ambifib pack is nice, but is fussy to get on.
  • A bigger gear bag would be nice. I got everything in, with the wetsuit in a separate bag, but the gear bag was tight, and there would be no extra room for added layers.
  • Water bottle for feet washing - didn’t use it. Just shuffled dirt off on the towel.
  • Chairs were good.
  • Or add a beach towel to sit on or when getting into wetsuit maybe.
  • Ron needs to bring shorts
  • Ice chest/food/drinks were good. We left it in the car, but Ron got some drinks out of it during the race, and we used it on the way home.
  • Didn't change clothes after, but glad I had extras along in case I did want to change.
  • Get there as early as possible. Get transition set up. Time gets away from you. 
  • Figure out what works and then limit choices. Too much stuff makes for indecision
  • Bring what you need, but have a plan worked out and don’t deviate unless circumstances warrant it. 


SonjaM said...

Bravo, Kari. You have my deepest respect to pull through with this event. I wonder where this journey might take you in a few months or years... ;-)

Bluekat said...

Thanks Sonja. I’m slow but had fun. I don’t have any big aspirations for this. Just trying to stay healthy and have fun. 🙂

RichardM said...

Wow! What an accomplishment! I don’t think I would have lasted through the swim let alone the rest.

Bluekat said...

Thanks Richard, lol, I wasn't sure I would survive the swim. It was my biggest worry!