First Salt Springs Triathlon

The first triathlon for me and for Salt Springs Park!

The night before

No exercise Saturday, but I planned on doing a lot of stretching–which didn’t happen. I made a checklist of everything I’d need, got it all together, put the bike rack on the car, and called it a day. It rained off and on but thank goodness no cancelling-the-tri flooding. Carbo-load dinner of “Lombard Style Garlic and Potato Sauce” over pasta (with broccoli added), which is now my pre-event ritual. It’s an absolutely yummy recipe from the great cookbook The Encyclopedia of Sauces for Your Pasta (Charles A. Bellissino, Marcus Kimberly Publishing Company, 1989), but I couldn’t find any references to it online–aha! it’s self-published–aside from my marathon blog. Early bed with alarm set for 4:30am.


Slept well & woke up easily, dawdled over coffee, had the usual trouble getting my contacts in so early, ate a banana and made two slices of whole-wheat toast with honey and peanut butter to eat in the car. It was drizzling but didn’t feel as cold as I’d feared. I put the bike on the rack and then couldn’t find bungee cords (I realized later they were probably in the trunk), but I did find some little nylon straps to use instead. More crazed running around when I couldn’t find my sports watch, which I had definitely set out with my gear; I found it Velcroed to the long pants I’d decided not to wear over the tri-suit. Another recapping-the-marathon tradition: listening to Get Happy in the car.

It was still dark when I got to the bike transition area, where we were supposed to have the bikes in place BY 6:00 AM!! (emphasis from the original entry form). No overhead lights but plenty of mud, gravel, and real rain by that point. I did manage to find my spot (#9) but I was only the second bike there. I put one bag over the seat with my helmet in it but didn’t bother protecting any other part of the bike from the rain; I guess there must be covers one could buy… Another bag on the ground with towel, shoes, and socks with Two Toms blister powder. Over to the Price Chopper parking lot for check-in; the Salt Springs folks were cleverly using one of the shopping cart corrals for cover. I saw various friends and acquaintances, including the family (father Bill and daughter Rosemary) who were doing a relay, partly inspired by my letter to the editor. Back to the bike area to put my race number on the bike; the zip ties didn’t fit around the top tube itself so I slid them around the brake cable where it runs along the tube. Worried about whether to put my run number on my trisuit now (where it would create drag in the water) or wrestle with the safety pins and slow myself down during swim-to-bike; I did finally leave it for the transition. Back again to the parking lot, where I hung around for a while (and got to use the warm, clean, lighted bathroom inside!) before walking over to the start with an older guy, Eugene from Laceyville, who was doing the Olympic distance (he said if the sprint bike segment had been longer he would have done that instead, but he was looking for more of a challenge).

The Swim

We gathered on the lawn of a family who’d agreed to let the tri use their dock. There was even a photographer, Renee Coy, although with the rain I don’t know if she managed to get any pictures. The Olympic guys–six of them–were all very fit, young, and intimidatingly serious in their wetsuits, except for Eugene, who just had on a pair of shorts. I heard that one was from Harrisburg and one from Annapolis (plus there was a couple from Manhattan who did the sprint)–long way to come for a very small event! They got in the water and began warming up. Olympic-distance start was set for 7 but was delayed; Walt Kostyk (the organizer) gave final details and whistled for the start at about 7:10. The six swimmers quickly spread apart and the buoys, which hadn’t looked like they were that far, took on their true (intimidating) distances. Eugene dropped far behind as the two lead swimmers booked along. As the sprint’s 7:30 start approached, I put on my cap, took off my shoes and socks, and finally took off my long-sleeve top (note to self: in future put on the cap AFTER taking off the top…) The water wasn’t too terribly cold, but it certainly wasn’t warm, and I whooped a little getting in. Once in I felt pretty good but didn’t want to get out again; when I got tired of swimming around I crouched down in the shallow water waiting to start. Walt had said there were a dozen sprint entrants but it didn’t seem like that many (one presumably was Bill, who was only doing the bike leg). Now that I have the results I see there were only eight of us. Finally Walt came back from gear positioning and whistled for the start.

I swam for a minute or two before realizing I had forgotten to start my watch. I had to dogpaddle while I wrestled with the buttons. That and mentally cursing to myself raised my heart rate even as I lost time. I ended up doing more breast-stroke than sidestroke, but I was amazed at how closely I trailed the other sprint folks; we didn’t separate that much. I felt like I was heading directly for the one buoy we needed to worry about, but I was significantly further to the right than the rest of the swimmers (it was nice to have the room)–I think I was going straight and they curved off, which might account for my ability to keep up. When the first in our bunch got to the transition area I switched entirely to breast-stroke so I could watch. I was the last sprinter out of the water but not by much, and Eugene was still out in the lake, so my firm conviction that everyone would be gone by the time I finished the swim was disproved. Walt even yelled “You said you would be slow!” There was a nice little group cheering and clapping, including my friend and co-worker Betty M. It was so nice to see her!

As I emerged I reached into my trisuit pocket for my first gel. Strawberry–not exactly pleasant to choke down, like any gel, but not too bad. I had been looking around for water but didn’t see any. Guess what–it had been taken on to the next transition area. I was quite annoyed, partly kicking myself for not making sure to bring a bottle with me just in case, especially since it was the first year and screw-ups are bound to happen. Rosemary very kindly gave me a Gatorade and I hoped it wouldn’t mess me up too badly in combination with the gel. (I had planned on having a bottle on the bike, but the holder that was on it didn’t fit any bottles I had–it’s a very strange shape.) It seemed to take a really long time to dry myself a little, put on my shoes, socks, run number, helmet and sunglasses (it was raining, but I figured they would help keep the water [and loose stones, etc.] out of my eyes), and get going. But finally I was on my way.

The Bike

The bike segment went quite well aside from some gearing issues on the steeper hills. One of the zip ties on the number started chafing my thighs, but I was able to turn it without having to dismount. I actually caught up to someone relatively quickly (2-3 miles)–Gretchen, who looked familiar from the library–because her chain kept popping off. (She was on a mountain bike, to boot). We passed each other a few times. I almost fell over my bike at one point–trying to dismount, went the wrong way, and had to jump clear. It’s not a bad bike but the gears just take more finesse than I have, and I need more practice to know when to shift ahead of time and when to power over the rise. Not far af
ter the turn (5-6 miles in) I passed Bill, who was also on a mountain bike. Then I started seeing the fastest sprinters running back to the park. I had been so sure I would see no one after the swim that it was really encouraging! There was a quite steep rise near the very end, which I walked; in the lowest of my 10 gears it was taking too much out of my legs and I was barely inching along. I rolled into the transition area, sucked down my second gel, and chugged a bottle of water, which seemed like it took a long time (and now that I’ve seen the results, I know it was a long time). I had packed a moist towelette but the rain had kept my face relatively clean, so I skipped that and just pulled on my hat.

The Run

Having practiced bike-to-run transitions helped–I didn’t have much of that stiff-legged, disconnected-from-the-ground feeling. I was definitely running slowly and I had to adjust my laces at least once (I have complicated speed laces on that pair of shoes, which turn out not to have been a good idea–cheapo speed toggles work much better!) The rain had cleared and the road was pleasant to run on–lots to look at and no horrible hills, just moderate ups and downs (the steepest downhill was the part I had walked up with the bike, but it was short). The last two sprinters, Rosemary and Gretchen, quickly passed me, just as I expected. (I was almost a little relieved, since I had told everyone I was bound to be last!) Then I started seeing the Olympic-length bikers coming in. I passed the Washo family, there to cheer on Jerry, and Dawn told me it was only about a thousand yards to the finish. I started speeding up as I approached the entrance to the park and felt some of the typical finish-line kick, although since there was no one else running in sight, and the crowd was small, it wasn’t as overwhelming as usual. Whoo! Renee was there taking pictures–I have to find out how to get them.


I wanted a quick carb infusion but all I saw at first glance was Gatorade and soda. I really don’t like Gatorade unless I need it, so I decided to have a Pepsi. It was my first soda since last December (when I cut out high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated anything to the best of my ability) and although I prefer Coke, I was looking forward to it. Blech!!! I kept examining the can to make sure I hadn’t grabbed a diet by mistake, because the taste was so chemical-heavy and revolting. I guess my palate really has adjusted. I stretched my legs by walking around the park looking at the flood damage, which the triathlon fees are going to fix. What a mess, even now that it’s mostly been cleaned up.

I talked to Karla (the winner of the sprint, who beat the next guy by more than 10 minutes!) and she told me she had done her first tri in 1983. Wow. She also said that the guy from Manhattan, Corey, had not shown up. I hadn’t passed him at all so we figured he must have gone astray on the course. Later I spoke to his friend (can’t remember her name–post-race fog!) and she said she had been waved past the turn, on to the Olympic course, and the same thing probably happened to him. She quickly realized she had missed the turn and doubled back, but as it turned out Corey ended up finishing the Olympic bike distance (he wasn’t sure where he was and figured the safest thing was to stick to the course) and not doing the run. She told me they came from Manhattan to get out of the city and were staying in Clarks Summit. I was having a hard time coming up with recommendations of what to do & especially where to eat. We finally have a really good restaurant in Susquehanna County, the Summerhouse Grill, but I wasn’t positive they would be open. I told her about this fancy Italian restaurant near Clarks Summit, way out in the country, but couldn’t remember its name. (I think it’s Michelangelo’s–we haven’t eaten there yet but stopped by to find out more about it, and the atmosphere is sure nice.)

The Olympic guys started coming in–the winner was Montrose native Jerry Washo, yay! I had some more food, including a yummy veggie burger and some home-made cookies, and then got a massage. That was SO nice–thank you, Pat Collins Massage (although there were two of them and I’m not sure who was who). I wandered around the park some more, visiting with the llamas and admiring Renee’s photos and our friend Melissa’s poetry, both displayed in the main park building. Once Eugene, last man on the course, got in, Walt held the awards ceremony. The sprint winners had left, but Jerry was there to get his medal. The medals were nice, but even nicer were their wooden stands, made of local cherry. Oh, other presents for everyone: Granola Bears and a water bottle full of useful goodies from the New Milford Bike Shop.

I got a ride back to my car, along with Eugene, who was as happy with his time as I was with mine. Drove back to pick up my bike and got home before noon. A good day!

Walt emailed us the official results just a few days later. I did finish last, but my time was only 1:40:36, when I was expecting between 2 and 2 1/2 hours! My transition times were WAY slow compared to everyone else’s. Jerry’s were about 30 seconds each–wow. Dawn told me he had his shoes clipped onto the pedals and doesn’t wear socks. Lots of room for me to improve!

My times

Swim (600 yards, supposedly): 17:17
T1: 4:46
Bike (9.5 miles): 42:01
T2: 2:58
Run (3.1 miles): 33:34

I think I will get myself a better road bike for next year. The bike leg was the most fun!

Salt Springs Triathlon Eve

I’m taking this blog out of mothballs now that my Blogger problem appears resolved. I’m not going to detail my ups and downs with training and getting organized and everything Keep on Going-ish, but instead I’ll jump right into what I’ve been focusing on for the past few months: the first annual Salt Springs Triathlon. Tomorrow morning!!!

I heard about it many many months ago from Walt Kostyk, a library user who’s been the main person behind the Triathlon. Originally it was going to be only an Olympic distance (1200 yd swim/25 mi bike/10 K run), and by August it was clear I hadn’t trained enough for that, but thank goodness they added a sprint-ish one (600 yd swim/9.5 mi bike/5 K run) which I can definitely handle.

I half-heartedly tried to learn freestyle swimming, but I have a real problem with breathing, and so I quickly decided to stick to what I can do: breaststroke and sidestroke (faster than breaststroke as long as I swim on my left side; I’ve practiced on the right but that still doesn’t feel very efficient). So I’ll be getting out of the water after everyone else (only 22 entrants as of today!).

Then for biking I’m using an old Nashbar road bike, borrowed from friends, that’s a little too big for me. It was once a very nice bike and it’s beautifully made (the contrast with my cheapo mountain bike, that I used for training, is dramatic), but the gear shifters are on the bottom tube (hard for me!), the brakes are sidepull (which you never see any more), the tires are REALLY bald and I wasn’t able to get replacements in time, and there’s something a little out of true that makes the chain rub in high gear. (Also you can easily pop the chain off when shifting if you’re not careful.) I’m not very coordinated on a bike, or brave about downhills, so I’ll probably be slower than anyone else there too.

Then the run–I’m in OK running shape but not at my ideal weight (about 125 right now, and really my body would probably be best between 110 and 115), and the bike-to-run transition is difficult for me. (I did practise it recently and it seemed to be getting a little easier, though.) Having done a few biking-running “bricks” (back-to-back workouts) has taught me that the combination seems to suck the glycogen out of my muscles way faster than either on its own, and I’ve ended up walking part of each run I did after biking.

So much gear & technique, it’s intimidating and expensive! I did get a tri suit so I don’t have to change anything, although it’s already a little the worse for wear from wearing a Camelback swimming in muddy Stanley Lake (thanks to Dave for giving me permission to swim off his dock, and then giving me produce, cooking me breakfast yesterday, and even giving me a cool quartz necklace he made!) .

BUT I will finish (unless the rear tire, which is flaking, blows up on me…) and I’m excited!