Red Hills Sprint Triathlon Recap 3.30.2013

A Bike Lesson: How to make a hilly 16 mile bike loop much, much harder

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Age Group: 12/15, Overall: 254/266
Swim – 15:25 (Age group: 13/15, overall:  229/266)
T1: 4:08
Bike – 1:25:02 (Age group: 15/15, Overall: 266/266)
T2: 1:32
Run – 27:44 (Age group: 8/15, 171/266)

Red Hills was my third sprint triathlon, so I am definitely still a freshman to the sport. Before I get into what happened on race day, I must set the stage for the race day bike adventure/disaster… or the just plain bike faux pas.

I got a new Trek Domane 4.3 bike for my birthday in January. Up until this time, I was riding a base model Trek Lexa, which was a still quite an investment for me considering I did not know if I would even like road cycling or doing triathlons. So, last summer was the first time I gave up a mountain bike and snowboard for a road bike; it still took months for me to admit I was a road cyclist.

Trek Domane 4.3My new Trek Domane 4.3 arrived in a box in February, ready to be put together. Once assembled by a friend and local bike doctor (sounds good, doesn’t it), I was ready to take it for a spin around the neighborhood. I did a 6 mile loop around the neighborhood and then it rained, and then it rained some more, and then my kids were sick, and then I was sick…. Fast forward to two weeks before the triathlon and I started to panic as I still hadn’t put in any quality riding time on the new bike. But, boy did she look pretty sitting in my office. During this time, I logged many hours on the stationary bike at the gym and on my Trek Lexa attached to a trainer in my living room. During February I logged 132 miles of training and 150 miles of training in March.

The weekend before the tri, I carved out a little time to mess around with my new bike at the local high school parking lot. My four year-old scooted alongside me on her LaLa Loopsy bike with training wheels. I now realize I was paying much more attention to her and her safety than to my positioning on my bike.


My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. and I hit the snooze button 3 times. I had been battling a nasty sore throat for a few days, and I was hoping the cold that my kids had would hold off for one more day. I woke up a little achy and the sore throat was there with an inkling of head congestion. I was up by 4:15, got myself ready, and filled up a gallon jug with hot water which I planned to rinse off with after my tri, before changing into clean, dry clothes. I loaded up my two gear bags and went back in the house for my pretty new bike. Once I put her on the bike rack, I made sure to secure her tightly to the rack, perhaps a little too tight I would figure out later.  

I was out the door by 5:00 a.m. and made it to the race parking lot by 5:40. After parking, I put my handy dandy headlamp on so I could unload my gear and walk the mile to the transition area. I was feeling pretty awesome as this was the most prepared I had ever been.

After getting to the transition area and getting my arms and legs marked up, I racked my bike, dropped my gear and headed off to get my timing chip. Since I am now officially in a cool tri club, I was proud to be representing in my new tri club hoodie and the hoodie was getting some attention. After picking up my timing chip I stopped to chat up a few friends and then headed back to set up my transition spot. Knowing that I would be last out of the water, I set up at the end of the rack, closest to the temporary fence.


Once I got everything situated, I headed down to take a look at the water. It was still pretty dark out and I could see steam coming off the lake. Knowing that the lake was only 62’ gave me the chills. I knew I would panic in the water and several folks gave me some pointers about what to expect when my face hit the cold water. I tried to go through it all in my head before heading back up to the transition area to put my wetsuit on.

Thanks to BodyGlide and Vaseline, I was able to get my wetsuit on without any problems. I was dressed and ready. After hearing the National Anthem, I headed down to the water. My feet were frozen from the walk in no time. I was in swim wave 5 of 6. In the dark, the swim course looked so much longer. After the second wave started swimming, I waded in the water and attempted to prepare myself for the fun that was about to begin.  When my swim wave was up, I moved to the back of the pack and let everyone else get in first. I immediately flopped over on my back and focused on getting comfortable with the cool water. As I got close to the first buoy, I saw three women panicking, hyperventilating and holding on to canoes. I talked with each of them and told them just to take it easy, the hardest part was already over.

After rounding the first buoy I was able to get my head under the water and get a few strokes in. I kept breaking my stroke to look up and see if I was still on course. After rounding the second buoy, a swimmer in the last group caught up to me and I had calmed down enough that I was able to draft behind her and not worry about siting. This made the last 200 yards a pretty easy swim. At this point, I was ready to swim another 600 yards as I felt like I had just found my groove. I got out of the water pretty easy and started jogging up to my transition area right away. Because my hands were cold, I did fumble around in trying to find my zipper.

By the time I got to my spot most all the bikes in my row were gone, but I didn’t expect anything less. I usually catch up on the bike leg anyway. I was able to get my wetsuit off quickly, but knowing that I didn’t want to freeze on the bike leg, I put on my running tights, a windbreaker, and gloves…. While my transition time was a whopping 4:08, I do think I could have shaved off a minute.

Once I got on my bike, I felt like I just couldn’t pedal. I couldn’t push and get going. I kept thinking I might have been cold and my muscles unresponsive or maybe I didn’t train hard enough. As I settled into the first few miles of the bike leg, I passed a few folks. For a moment I felt pretty good, and then by mile 4, I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t have any power in my legs, couldn’t push up the hills, and started to dread each mile of the bike leg. On mile 6, I reached for my water bottle and dropped it and thought to myself… “Great, there goes a 2:00 deduction for littering on the course.” Each mile proved to be torturous and after mile 8 I cut my GPS off. Knowing that I was only going 11 – 13 mph was just killing me. I ended up getting passed by everyone…. And when I say everyone…. I mean everyone…. On the last two miles, the motorcycle escort pulled up next to me to escort me home. At this point I was so mad and thought it was so funny at the same time that I could do was laugh at myself. I ended up chatting with the motorcycle cop and pulled into the transition area with a bike time of 1:25, the absolute slowest I had ever ridden.

Pissed off and angry as hell, I quickly threw my bike on the bar, got into my running shoes and took off for the 5k. As I started running, many folks were encouraging and I heard one person say… “Atta girl, finish strong.” I know they were being nice, but at this point I was so angry and pushed through the run the best I could and kept wondering to myself, “Why do I have still have my legs?” If I did that awful on the bike stretch, why am I now able to run a decent run? I ended up passing several ladies on the run and had to dodge all the people walking their bikes back to the cars as I finished my run. I was just getting into a groove on the run when it was over.

Whoo hoo… finished. Deep down I was proud to be done, but in that moment I was pissed…. I walked over to my gear, changed quickly and was ready to throw my new pretty bike in the lake, I was ready to have a Tiger Woods moment. I did not go look to see how I did, I knew I was last, or at least very close to it.



Easter morning…. After Easter morning family fun, I went into my office and took a good long look at the not-so new bike anymore. I decided to take her for a spin around the neighborhood again. I first got on my old Lexa for a 5 minute spin so that I would know how everything felt. Afterward, I got on the Madone.

Minutes into my ride I realized that my seat was a tiny bit too low and my feet needed to be further up on the pedals. After my 30 minute ride I went home and made the adjustments. I went for another ride and felt much better; at least I wasn’t pedaling with just my glutes and toes anymore, I was glad to actually be using my quads. But, I still wasn’t getting the speed I knew I could get. After I got home, I received an e-mail from a mentor group that told me to check my brakes. I lifted my back tire and spun it and had no problem. Then, I picked up my front tire and attempted to spin it. It didn’t make one full revolution. Closer inspection revealed that my front right brake pad had been rubbing against the tire the whole time. I loosened the distance between the brake pad and the tire and noticed that the bike moved along the carpet much easier. By this time it was raining outside and I wasn’t able to go for another ride.  

Yes, laugh at me… please do…. Not only did I ride 16 hilly miles while just using my booty and toes, but I also kept the brake on. I hope all that hard work gives me a nice rear end for the next month! I avoided all pictures on race day because in the moment, I thought that this is the last day I want to be reminded of. I have since realized this one will likely be the one I talk about for years to come and that is the last time I let the pretty girl fool me (pretty bikes need just as much tinkering as any other bike, more actually)!


  1. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says:

    Oh my gosh I am not laughing at you but WOW you powered through all that! Lesson learned on the bike thing I guess. Congrats; wish I had a chance to meet you on Saturday for all I know I marked you. 🙂


  2. Tiffany Nunnally says:

    Oh Jen! I’m so sorry you had a bad bike experience but we all know what a true powerhouse you are no matter what happened that day! I doubt I would have been able to force myself in that water to begin with! Congrats 🙂


  3. i just got to read this completely, i know that it ticks you off that you didn’t do as well as you know you could have, but just know we have another one coming up and you have an entire team behind you


    • Jeff – As the days pass, I have started to laugh more and more about the race. It’s definitely one I will talk about for years to come for the swim and bike! Looking forward to 5.4!


  4. Molto Vivace says:

    I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t you and it was an equipment malfunction. I’m training for my first tri and have been more worried about the swim, but now I’ll think about equipment checks also. Thanks for sharing your experience!


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