Sunset Challenge Triathlon – July 2011

I picked the Sunset Challenge Triathlon as my second attempt at a tri due to its flat courses, and lake swim. The first swim at NJ Devilman was a bit of a debacle. Since then, I took an Open Water Swim (OWS) clinic with Mid-Atlantic Multisport. What a world of difference. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The race was ¼ mile swim, 13 mile bike, 5K run.
Janice and I packed up and left for Dad’s last night. He lives only 30-35 minutes from Parvin State Park where this year’s Sunset Challenge was held. Normally it is at Sunset Lake in Bridgeton, NJ (hence the name) but due to some water quality issues it was moved to Parvin State Park. This was a good choice. Parvin is a beautiful little park that I spent a lot of days at as a kid but haven’t been back to since. The lake was warm, and clean (if one ignored the piles of goose $h!t all over the beach).
With a sprint start time of 8:00am, we arrived around 6:30. Registration was a snap. It wasn’t a really big event and I had pre-registered. Quick packet pick-up, body marking, outta there and off to transition. The transition area was probably a good 300 yards from the beach start. I headed to the T area, went through a quick bike safety inspection, located my transition spot and got set up.
We then went off to the beach for the pre-race meetings. (After a brief stop at the REAL bathrooms at the back of the main building). We watched the Olympic distance head out and then I went for a quick warm up swim. The lake water was well over 78 and wetsuits were, therefore, out. Even starting on my warm-up I could tell the OWS clinic made a difference.
Back on the beach we got our last-minute instruction, advice for staying within the rules from a USAT official and then waded out for the start of the sprint. Basically our wave was all males doing the sprint. Go!
I was much more relaxed in the swim then two months ago. Today my only issue was catching up and passing slower swimmers. It is disconcerting to clunked in the head by a foot or arm. The water was dark enough that you really couldn’t see when you were approaching another swimmer. I will buy goggles that are tinted and that have a bigger field of view. Those I talked to said it helps. I slowed or stopped 3-4 times to get out of traffic or avoid back-ups at buoys. I did do an official Tri-buoy-flip-turn-thingy around the second buoy. I was sort of proud of that. After the 3rdbuoy I sensed the shoreline and went a bit too fast. I had to back stroke for a moment after swallowing a mouthful of lake water and choking but . . still . . overall the swim was pretty good. Time: 8:41. Not bad. I haven’t focused on swimming with speed at all so I’m happy with that.
Next point of focus will be transition. I will learn to ride/run without socks. I spent way too long in both T1 and T2 today. After exiting the water it was a 300 yard dash to the T area. All through sand, so my feet were pretty dirty when I got there. I had to do a lot of rubbing with a towel to get my felt clean enough to put socks on. No more socks for short races after today. I then grabbed my sunglasses and discovered one lens had come out. Of all times! Anyway, put that back in, strapped on the garmin, put on the helmet, grabbed a quick drink and went. In the future I plan to save serious time in T1. Until now this has all been for learning and I have not been worried about it.
My T area was close to “bike out” so in short order I was on the bike and pedaling. The ride was fun. I’m not the fastest guy on the bike yet but I do okay. I think I averaged 18-19 mph. I got passed quite a bit but did my share of passing too. I took good mental notes of those passing me. I planned on seeing them later during the run. I hit mile 9 on the bike and next thing I knew I was back at transition. It was a 13+ mile ride. Very fast. Bike time: 38:31. Lots of room for improvement as I get more bike time. I’m also no sure where they counted T1 & T2 because there weren’t separate times listed for those. Overall, I was happy with my bike.
Back for T2 . . not very fast here either. Janice has video footage of it (posted later), and I really screwed around a lot with getting my shoes tied. That will change too. But I got my shoes on remembered to take my helmet off, grabbed hat & race belt with bib and left. I guess because I took so long to get my laces on I never really “felt” the bike-to-run rubbery legs. Or maybe it was because the bike was short & flat.
Anyway, the 5k run was around the delightfully shaded trail around the lake. What a great place to run! We would have quickly been broiled were we out under the mid-morning 80-something-degree sun. As it was we were shaded and cool. There were ample opportunities for water along the way. At the beginning, I grabbed one cup and dumped it down my back. Then took off! I did all the passing. My runner’s legs kicked in and I blew by everyone I saw. The only part that sucked was the end. We turned onto the beach and the last 20 yards or so were loose, deep, sand. Talk about 20 yards of torture! Run time: 20:27. This was 3rd fasted in my age group.
The overall winner was also in my age group. His times were unreal fast: 5:37, 29:24, and 16:56. Holy Fast Dude Batman!!!!
The post-race grub was perfect. Not a lot of heavy pizza etc. but pasta salad, fresh jersey tomatos, bread, lots and lots of fresh NJ blueberries, other fruit, cookies, and cake. I indulged in all but especially blueberries!
My total time was 1:12:12. Good enough for 54thoverall and 6th in age group. By simply improving transitions I could easily move up 2 spots in my AG. I look forward to bettering this time, but I REALLY had fun today and will indeed Tri again!

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