Saturday I competed at Kinetic Multisport’s Diamond In the Rough triathlon. It had been a couple years since I raced this event in Perryville. In fact, the last couple times I had done the olympic event when it was still run by Piranha Sports. Under my new race planning strategy, I watched the weather and signed up at the last minute on Wednesday . . the very last day you could register. Race day conditions didn’t disappoint. It was a cool 68 degrees when I arrived at Perryville Community Park and the temperature never got out of the low 80s. The humidity stayed low as well. It turned into a perfect race day.
I had decided on the sprint rather than the olympic distance this year because frankly it just sounded like more fun and I do this for fun. I don’t need to tack on mileage so someone is impressed with how far I can go. I’ve left that ridiculous worry behind. With only an 8 mile bike leg, the sprint this year was short even for a sprint. It was appealing to me because it removes any and all race strategy. Just go like the hammers of hell and breathe later! No need to watch power, no need to save something for the run. Just go!
I arrived in ample time to grab my packet, setup transition and mill about prior to the start. I love pre-race especially at a triathlon. It is always fun to listen to chatter and talk to other athletes from all walks of life. It turns out many of those racing were deep in the heart of their Kinetic Multisport seasons with a deep commitment to doing as many races as they could. Kinetic has a good thing going. With more than two dozen races in 5 states, they offer many perks to those competing throughout the season. The vast majority of their races are olympic and sprint distances with a few long course events mixed in here and there. This is a nice contrast to the Ironman organization which seems to target the extreme end of the sport.
Kinetic has greatly simplified Diamond in the Rough. The olympic swim is two laps of the sprint course and the olympic run is two laps of the run course. The bike remains different but this makes both race logistics and navigation much simpler.
I was in the black-capped swim wave, also known as the old farts swim wave, which started precisely at 8:04 a.m. Diamond in the Rough is in in-water start. Once in the water and warmed up, you can either tread water, hold on to the pier, or just move inshore a bit and stand in the muddy bottom that is the Chesapeake bay. I chose the latter. The starter gave a good countdown and I simply made my way toward the start buoy as we got close to the gun.
The triathlon swim is a funny thing. It used to be something I dreaded because of the inevitable swim panic. I guess I am traumatized for life because I still get a sense of dread at the start worrying about panicking. Nobody likes to panic. Nothing good ever came after the phrase “I panicked!”.
But I didn’t panic. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve panicked on the swim. These days, I start out with a workman-like mentality and focus on the first buoy, navigating through people, and waiting for my heart rate to come up. Eventually, I focus on my stroke and get into some sort of fun rhythm. (A really inappropriate joke leaps to mind but this is a family blog.) Before I know it, I am disappointed the swim is over and I have to start doing something hard. Such was the case at Diamond in the Rough. Apparently last year the tide was strong (or as strong as it can be on the Chesapeake) and it really slowed the swim. This didn’t happen this year although I did manage to swim most of the second half next to someone else in my wave whom I collided with multiple times. I’m not sure which one of us wasn’t swimming straight but we managed to do so most of the way in.
The swim at DIR (I’m not typing “Diamond in the Rough” anymore. Okay, I did there but now I’m just doing DIR) . . . the swim requires the use of a pier and some added metal steps to get in and out of the water. The pier also has several flights of steps to get up and down from the park. Admittedly, this kind of sucks after the swim but mostly because if any number of athletes come out of the water together it gets a bit congested. Apparently, I whacked my right shin on the steps somewhere because when I got back to transition to get ready for the bike, my shin was bleeding profusely. “Hmm. That’ll look pretty badass in the race photos.*” Otherwise I didn’t notice much around transition like how many bikes were still in my area, or how slow I was.
In case my dermatologist is reading this, I did take the time to spray down with sun screen again before heading out on the bike.
- Swim: 16:03
- T1: 1:13
The bike was just fun! The DIR olympic course is known for its hills especially the giant climb coming out of Port Deposit but this part of Maryland jams a few hills into the short sprint course too. The four mile out and back is basically a mile in and out of the park then 3 miles down and up hills. Apparently there were some treacherous spots as I saw at least one broken collarbone and at two cases of serious road rash. Fortunately, I just looked like I had serious injury as blood flowed freely down my shin into my cycling shoes. Otherwise I essentially just turned the pedals as hard as I could. By cycling standards, I’m really not all that fast but it was still a good time.
I’m always impressed by guys and gals that come off the bike via the flying dismount. When done properly, it is elegant, graceful, and speedy. When done improperly . . . well I mentioned there was a broken collarbone right? At age 53 I have no need to learn to master the flying mount or dismount. You break things other than the collarbone with a failed flying mount.
As it was I clomped my way up and down the hill between transition and mount/dismount in my bike shoes with Look cleats. For those that are not cyclists, picture running with a half a golf ball glued to the bottom of your shoes.
- Bike: 26:26
T2 was a time-killing debacle. When I racked my bike I bumped the bike next to me and knocked it off the bar. This is amazing to me because in T1 my bike always seems to be magnetically attached to the bar. My bike neighbor had precariously hung their bike and faced it the wrong direction. I hadn’t really bumped it that hard. I managed to catch it before it fell but now found myself holding two bikes and not running.
I felt like yelling “TIME OUT” but that doesn’t work in triathlon. Time dragged as I re-hung both bikes. And then I had to put on socks. I learned the hard way in preparation for the French Creek triathlon not to try to run barefoot with my custom insoles. This leads to a massive blister so I sat on the ground, wiped my feet off and donned socks and running shoes. At least I had added lace locks to my Hoka’s so I could pull them on fast. All of this took so long I felt it was a shame I didn’t bring along a neck tie for a more formal look on the run.
- T2: 1:45
On the run, I mostly passed people. It is hard to tell but there were probably some olympic athletes on the course by then as well since the olympic distance started first. Still, the vast majority of folks were sprinters and the run course wasn’t packed when I was on it. I did get passed by one younger gentleman early on. He was running really well.
My friend Susanne would be proud of me for the finish. Throughout the run I had picked off one runner at a time. There was one gentleman I made up no ground on until the last few hundred yards. About 300 yards out from the finish he slowed stretching a leg. Weakness! The predator in me pounced and I accelerated. I was within a few yards of him as we neared the finish chute and I saw 50 something written on his calf. My age group! I blew past him and sprinted down the chute. He gave chase but I kept my advantage across the line. This would prove important.
I am disappointed overall with my run at DIR. I don’t know if I didn’t really have a tough enough mental game, had not done enough speedwork, or just don’t know what a good 5K pace is these days. I think all of the above. I haven’t done a transition run all year except for the French Creek triathlon, there has been a minimum amount of speedwork, and I haven’t out and out raced a standalone 5K in years. I think I need to add all these to my “to do” list. Granted, I was out to have fun at DIR but there is no reason not to try to be as competitive as I could. The run has always been my thing. I placed 6th overall in the run but I still feel like it wasn’t all that well executed and could have been faster.
- Run: 23:33
Post-race I collapsed in the grass under a shady tree for a bit and sucked down a bottle of water. I then went to the scoring tent and printed my result. 1:09 and first in age group! Awesome! I went into transition, packed up my T area and grabbed my phone. I had a text from Kinetic Multisport with my result that showed 3rd place age group. Huh!? How could that be!? We all started at the same time. It isn’t like someone faster could have finished later. I went back to the scoring tent and re-printed my result. 3rd place age group. I retrieved my earlier printout and compared. Aha! My category changed. I was 1st place in 50-54 but 3rd place overall masters. This is better so I got advanced to a better category thanks to my sprint down the chute. The gentleman who passed me early in the run was 2nd overall masters. 1st place went to a gentleman I didn’t see anywhere on the course. He was a Kinetic staff member and at the podium had on civilian shorts, a Kinetic staff shirt, and hadn’t looked like he raced. It seemed odd, but hey . . it’s their party.
Well, there it is. A pretty boring race write-up if ever there was one. It gives me an idea for something a bit more thought provoking but for now let’s just say I am still enjoying short course racing far more than I ever enjoyed long course. I think I’ll stay here for a while.
* Imagine if you will a picture of me on the podium. I had handed my phone to someone to take a picture and in so doing managed to turn on some sort of thing on the camera that made all the pictures look like this:
Assuming the race photographer doesn’t require a kidney and an organ to be named later I may purchase a couple pics from them and post later.