|Race twin Alyssa!|
The Door County Triathlon was fun, just not while I was actually completing it. This race has been on my bucket list of races for a while, but it's the same weekend as Ironman 70.3 Racine, and it's also far enough away that you have to stay the night before to make it work. I ended up buying a bib for this race in late June, because you can transfer your registration until June 30. Free/cheap is for me, and for the price I snagged this at, it was a steal.
The only issue was that it's vacation season in Door County, and the hotels were already booked up. Not a single AirBnB was to be had, either. So, camping it was. We stayed at Frontier Wilderness Camp, which despite the name, had lovely accommodations. For $30 a night, we stayed right next to very clean and upgraded-looking bathrooms with individual showers that cost $.25 for five minutes. There was also an indoor pool, a playground, a game room with wifi, volleyball courts and a dog run. And it was 10 minutes from transition. This was a no-brainer - Alyssa and I split a campground and it was plenty big enough for two tents, two cars and all the gear needed both for sleeping outside and completing a 70.3 triathlon.
|Welcome to the Jungle|
So I got my packet Saturday after the boring but easy four-hour drive to Door County , listening to this incredibly helpful course lecture on the way up. More races need to do this - it's an awesome resource.
The little triathlon village they build in the park is pretty impressive - there's plenty of parking, a few food and gear vendors and a ton of activity. When you check in, you're assigned a number, a bag of numbers for all your stuff and you get a shirt. I liked that the shirt was longer than most and the design was actually really cute. Also, you can choose between body marking and temporary tattoos. I went with the tats, but wished I would have done them myself the morning of. The tattoos are giant with a logo for the title sponsor, which I would have preferred to cut off because on the bike, it stuck to the back of my leg the entire time. And with camping, the tattoos stuck to the sheets the whole night before.
Anyhow, the morning of, I got to transition with 20 minutes left before it closed. I set up my area, hydrated, sunscreened up and added lube before walking with my swim stuff down to the beach. My brand-new wetsuit required quite a feat to get on and in place. I was wave seven, so I watched Alyssa take off into the abyss that was the lake that morning. I won't sugar-coat it - the water was total shitshow. It was like staring into a wash machine. The churn was enough that I ran into a stranger on the beach crying that she was going to drop out. I encouraged her to just try. The buoys are numbered 1-40, and I told her just to commit to getting to 5. If it still sucks, you can quit then and at least say you tried. After 10 minutes, it gets better.
After the end of my swim, I felt guilty giving that advice. It didn't really get better. My swim was a record for me, perhaps because of the new wetsuit, but that was no picnic. I was swimming up and down, breathing off every stroke and sighting for shit. The numbered buoys helped immensely, but I got confused when I neared the first turn because there were two triangle buoys. I couldn't decide it I was supposed to go in between them or what.
The whole time, the lifeguards were busy. Every breath, I saw more people taking a breather or getting pulled. It was just brutal and soul sucking. But I knew I was doing well when I pulled away from my wave and only saw men, which meant I had caught up to my previous wave. When I got out of the water, I knew something must be amiss because I could hear them counting down to the start of wave 13. The swim had overwhelmed the lifeguards and they slowed down the waves right after I went in to halt the chaos.
The wetsuit strippers were awesome, but my T1 was long. I took my time and reapplied sunscreen before hitting the bathrooms. I hit the course and realized there were very few women out of the water yet, but I was passed constantly. It was hot - I alternated between water and gatorade, and took three salt sticks on the bike. I also had two gels, mostly out of hunger. I had a cinnamon bagel with peanut butter and banana for breakfast, but it didn't seem to stay with me.
I also stopped once on the bike to pee, and a very nice volunteer held my bike and filled my bottles. Alas, none of the aid stations had sunscreen, and there wasn't any in transition. That's probably my only gripe with this race, and is easy enough to fix.
There were a few hills on the bike course, but nothing insane. I felt like I ended up looking for that port-o-potty for a long time, but I suppose if I was less inhibited or a guy, it wouldn't matter. The bike course is pretty scenic and not well-traveled, which is great for cyclists and those with full bladders.
When I got off my bike, I realized I was at exactly four hours, which meant breaking six was within my grasp ... if I didn't have a hellishly hot and hilly run in front of me. I knew from the race video there was a massive hill at 9, followed by two miles of running in total sun at the hottest part of the day.
It was not going to be a PR day for me.
I started running and ended up walking. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to keep pushing, but I had also done a race the day before and am not in as good of shape as I was the first time I took on a half Ironman. I ended up stopping to empty out my shoes, too, because they were full of tiny pointy rocks.
When I got to the infamous hill on Bluff road, there were audible curse words when I spotted it. I mean, I knew it was there, but it was worse than I thought it would be. That, coupled with a relentless downhill to the finish line, left me spent. I could have pushed harder, but I've got three weekends of consecutive racing to think about this month, and this was supposed to be for fun.
The finish line had a full medical staff and several dunk tanks for cooling. I opted to grab my medal and head to the beach for a dip in the lake, which I fantasized about from the bike on. After that, I cashed in on my free post-race meal of a pulled pork sandwich, corn on the cob and TWO beers. It was a damn good lunch and way better than your standard bagel and orange slice.
After recuperating for a stretch, I wanted to GTFO. I could feel my skin searing in spite of the triple application of sunscreen, plus a shower sounded downright decadent. When we got back to the campground, I would have paid several fold more than the going rate for that shower. We packed up our stuff and started heading home, but I wish we would have stayed another night to take in the post-race party on the beach. It looked pretty wild on Facebook, and I could have used a nap post race.
We're already plotting next year - I plan to acquire a bib in the same manner and stay at the same place, but maybe in a cabin. For $20-30 more, you can sleep in an actual bed with air conditioning. We were lucky camping wise and had zero inclement weather or wildlife, and the place was silent by 11. It could have gone the other way, though, so best to be safe next year when more options are available. Also, I'm totally going to make a trip out of this next year and stay a few days.
As for the race, I don't know what I could have done differently, training or strategy wise, other than push harder on the run and train for a faster post-bike half. Perhaps more longer bricks were in order. But really, I just need to stop making excuses and get fitter.
Time: 6:18:30 for 70.3:
Pros: LOTS of volunteers, tattoos for race numbers, numbers assign on-site, labeled swim caps for each wave, free race photos, nice post-race meal and celebration (so I hear)
Cons: No sunscreen! I didn't see a ton of aid stations on the bike, either.
Would I do this race again? Already planning on it.