Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Lake to Lake Olympic Triathlon

If you were not already aware, drinking sangria, eating tapas and lying in the sun do not make for a good training regimen. I advise against it.

On the other hand, you only get to celebrate your 20 year wedding anniversary once, so I have no regrets. However, I did pay a bit of a price for my complacency. I’m also going to blame injuries as well.

The harsh truth is that I probably should not have signed up for this event. I really wanted to do it after having been a spectator last year. When you are used to competing in events, it’s tough to just watch them and I think that feeling got the better of me. As a result, I signed up for this one quite a while ago.

Right or wrong, I was up early Saturday morning (Saturday races are really the best in my opinion) ready to make the short drive from my parent’s home in Greeley to nearby Loveland.

This race has the benefit of staging in and around Loveland High School which served both as the distribution point for race day packet pickup as well as the venue for post-race food.

I did not have a ton of time, partly because of me and partly because of long port-a-john lines, but I did get everything set up in transition. If I had a few more minutes, I would have liked to have done my mental transition walk-through.

The Swim

The aquatic leg of this event takes place in Lake Loveland. My pre-race warm-up indicated the warmest open water I’ve experienced to date. While not crystal, the water was fairly clear and did not smell like a fetid swamp.

I was fortunate to be in the last wave since the course had changed somewhat from last year’s event. The lack of clarity on this point would have caused me some anxiety had I been in the first wave. I’ll admit that I missed the pre-race meeting on Friday, but having a job precludes attendance. Putting meeting on You Tube is advisable.

Fortunately, the buoys made it fairly clear where to go. I started out on an easy but steady pace and felt good. Less than half way through the event, I started to catch people in the wave ahead of me.

One key problem with the swim was the portion that had you facing east. At that time of the day (around 7:00 for my wave) it was pretty much in your face and sighting buoys was nearly impossible. I did manage to make them out as I drew closer, but for the most part, I was reliant on the swimmers ahead of me.

Once I was around the last left turn and headed for the shore, I felt good. My pace seemed to have me passing more people than were passing me. I felt strong as I hit the beach.


The official race time has the swim ending after a long run from the beach to the transition area. It’s about 0.3 mile long. I didn’t think this was right so I hit the lap button on my Garmin as soon as my feet were on the beach. As a result, my T1 time was 6:04. I got a little lost and it took me a moment to find my bike. Clearly I’ll need to a better job of identifying my spot in future races. Soon enough however, I was on my way.

The Bike

I may have missed the change on the website, but the bike course was different from what was originally planned. We went west on 29th Street all the way to Wilson Avenue before turning left (south). No matter though. I think it all worked equally.

The initial miles of this 29+ mile stage were a mix of small climbs and small descents with nothing feeling especially difficult. Around mile six, however, a steady climb up Glade Road slowed me down somewhat. For the most part, I just kept my gearing low and spun rather than mashed. I knew some especially big hills were coming up.

The first of these was at about 11.5 miles where you gain over 400 feet in 2.62 miles. That works out to a 2.9% grade but the last portion of that is the steepest at over 5.5%. This climb is rewarded with a big descent and I managed to cruise at over 41mph. That is followed by a shorter but almost as steep hill before you descend on Horsetooth Reservoir (the second in the Lake to Lake).

As you ride out of the park that surrounds the reservoir, you gain another good head of steam. This has to be tempered somewhat by a hairpin turn but then you can pick up momentum again.

By now, I was in north-eastern Fort Collins. It was a brief stop. Less than a mile later, I was headed back south toward Loveland. This part of the course is characterized by big rolling hills. None of the climbs were especially steep and I managed to pick up speed on the preceding down hill. Overall, my speed was above 20mph on average through this stretch and I was still feeling good. 


The bike course returns to the same section of the high school parking lot from which it left. I still don’t have the most graceful exit from the bike, but on the other hand, I have never fallen off either. I got into transition and out in a very respectable 1:20 which was bellow the average in my age group. 

The Run

The run course heads out across the same field in which the transition area sits. I had forgotten how slow you feel running on grass. It didn’t last long though; the course turned to residential streets less than a quarter mile after the start.

Garmin Connect says that the temperature during the run was a pleasant 66* but it felt much warmer. In the sun it felt more like 80*. There were lots of shady spots along the initial miles, but I was still feeling a lot of hurt by this point.

My pace was actually not too bad through the first two miles; each was under 9:00. But as I approached the turn around point shortly before the three mile point, I knew I was going to have to take a walk break. My heart rate was creeping into Zone 4 (the highest one the scale I use) and it would just be a matter of time before that would overwhelm me. I pre-empted that by slowing to a walk after four miles and let my HR recover until 4.5 when I started running again. My pace through the next mile was in the 10:00 range and then, around 5.5 miles I walked again. My HR was 162 which is pretty close to my max. I let that break last for another quarter mile and then ran the rest of the way in.

After finishing, I took some Gatorade and went to stand in the shade for a few minutes. I asked my wife to get me a bottle of water, half of which went over my head and down my jersey. It took the better part of 10 minutes before I felt like moving again. Prior to that, I actually felt faint. I wish I could have run faster, but I know I gave all that was there.

Race Report

Next Time

Pre-Race Communication: This was not bad, per se, but I do think that having a meeting on a Friday afternoon is tough for those of us who work and are coming from out of town. As I mentioned before, Ironman has put theirs online and it helps. True, I can’t ask questions, but most meetings cover all of those anyway.

T1 Timing: Adding a 0.3 mile run to the end of the swim confuses the true swim time. I doubt my Garmin would have known what to do when I stopped the stroke motion of my arms and ran through what it thought was still a swim. I think the timing mat should be placed just beyond the beach.

On-Course Support: A cardinal rule with volunteers is to show them only the highest respect and remember that there would be no race without their generosity of their time. True enough. But race organizers need to put more of an effort into training them. Around mile 2, when I really wanted to dump water over my head to cool off, the only people with something in their hands had Gatorade.

An exception to the aforementioned cardinal rule is if a volunteer becomes abusive. My wife was attempting to get into position to take pictures of my run finish and inadvertently strayed into the finish of the Aquabike event which was in a different location. In fairness to her, it was marked only with some cones, no tape or other barriers. Seeing she was in the way, a volunteer physically shoved her. No kidding. No one, least of all my wife, wants to interfere with a race. But there is never, and I do mean never, cause for physically assaulting someone under those circumstances. Whoever this guy was (and yeah it was a man) is fortunate I did not see the event. Cardinal rule above all other triathlon considerations gentlemen, don’t ever presume you’re entitled to manhandle a woman.

No medals, extra money for t-shirts: This is not an especially big deal, but apparently when I registered for this one, I neglected to order a shirt. That’s probably okay since I have a ton of them and many don’t get worn very often, but it does seem a little cheap not to include one in the entry fee. Medals are also something I have in abundance, but I still like to have a little souvenir from my races. Like I said, it’s not a big deal, but a nice touch that most races observe.

Swim Navigation: I’ve never priced them, but I understand swim buoys are expensive. I’m sure that’s even truer for the large 9 foot ones that would be easier to see. Still, the difficulty I and many others had sighting could have been mitigated by using a larger buoys on the end of the course, swimming clockwise instead of counter, or using smaller buoys along the way.

The Good

Bike Course: This is a really scenic ride, especially the portion around Horsetooth Reservoir. It has its challenging hills, but those are rewarded with some incredible down hills. Better still those faster spots are later in the ride when the field has cleared out a bit. For me, the bike is usually the “fun” stage of a tri, and this one truly was.

Overall Organization: There were no problems with getting my packet, setting up in transition or starting the race. I was able to move from one stage of the race to the next without difficulty and the water and energy drinks at the end were great.

Post Race Food: A very large buffet to build your own breakfast burrito was a nice touch and greatly appreciated. While my stomach had shrunk some from the heat and exhaustion, I still managed to put away a little food and it was very good.

Accessibility for All Levels: This race accurately bills itself as an event for all comers and it really is. The addition of a sprint event bolsters this. Any race brings its share of self-important athletes (they just come with the sport) but they did not seem to be much of a factor here.

I’ve always said that the highest praise I can give a race is my willingness to do it again. Nothing I’ve mentioned above would keep me from running this one again. However, I am going to take a more conservative approach to next year’s schedule and probably also pick some events that I have not done before. In that regard, while I might return toL2L, it probably won’t be next year.

I am glad to have three weeks until my next event, the Boulder Peak. In the interim, I should be able to lose some weight (a significant factor in my slower run time) and improve my overall conditioning. That race has the mother of all hills and I’ll want to be ready.

Thanks for reading!

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