Of all the triathlons I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in, Pleasant Prairie has always been among my favorites. It’s close to home, very well organized, the swim is one of the best venues, the bike course is mostly flat and the run takes you around the lake. Last year, it was pouring rain for about 18 hours before and up until the original race start. I dreaded racing last year because of the wet pavement.
Talk about an absolute opposite change in conditions today! It was chilly, maybe 62 degrees at the start, but the ground was dry as a bone and there was not a cloud in the sky (the sun wasn’t up yet!). I forgot that transition closed at 6am because the race started at 6:30am! I think that’s the earliest race start I’ve ever seen.
The racks were pretty jam-packed and there were a few women nearby complaining about it. What are you gonna do? You don’t like it up where it’s crowded, move your bike. I tried to ignore them, but I couldn’t…I knew these are the same women I’d be battling it out with on the course. I tried not to let them bother me.
Almost brainlessly, I set up transition and waited for MN to finish setting up her stuff. A quick walk over to the “secret” porta potties revealed they weren’t so secret. We had about a 15 minute wait and transition was closed before we got back. I then realized I had forgotten to leave a gel in there for the run. I easily snuck into transition to leave a gel with my running shoes, then began peeling off my outer layers to squirm into my wetsuit. A little mishap with the wetsuit zipper stressed me out for about 5 minutes, but it was under control in plenty of time before the race started.
In order to get to the front of the swim start, I camped out by the rail that corraled the upcoming waves. Piece of cake, I was in the front row on the outside for the start, right where I like to be. The horn went off and some girl ran in 3 big steps and took a huge dolphin dive and immediately got a good lead. DAMN! I swam along side one woman for about 200 yards until she petered out…then I just happened to see a light purple cap (my color) in front of me. Well, we must be about the same ability if we’re both out here, so I jumped on her heels. She was quick and I was working harder than I’m used to, but I knew the draft was a good thing. She was swimming a little crooked, but every time I tried to get around her, I never made up ground. I decided it best to just stay on her feet. She was doing an awesome job navigating around the other swimmers and once she cleared the way for me, I had less effort to put in.
I stayed on her heels until the finish. One of the best swims I’ve ever had in this distance. Thank you, whatever your name is!
I was able to get out of the water and had the wetsuit half way off before I reached my bike. My breathing was a bit labored, but I knew I’d settle in on the bike after a few minutes. I seemed to be the first bike off my rack, but I still had this feeling that first dolphin-swimmer-girl was out there somewhere.
Due to construction, the bike course was changed this year. It was 2 loops of the sprint course, which I wasn’t really happy about. The first half of the ride was more scenic. All too quickly, I was making my way up the overpass and the quads started burning. I just pushed the chain down to the easiest gears and tried to spin up so I could catch my breath from the swim. I was breathing too hard. Then a nice little downhill and we’re already making our first turn. This year, the wind was steady and I questioned the use of my disc wheel. The turns were plentiful and though the first loop was easy (and a little short, I noticed), the second loop was majorly crowded and I was tired of yelling “on your left!” just to have few people move. It’s like they never heard it before. Many, many riders riding just to the right of the double yellow, so I’m forced to sit back, pass on the right (illegal) or cross the double yellow (also illegal). It was frustrating after a while. The entire bike leg, I felt sluggish, just never found my rhythym, I guess. I was happy to be off the bike and this was a short ride for me. Just not a bike day for me.
On to the run, I felt pretty good. No hamstring pain and my breathing was under control. I thought I could push harder, but I knew I was off the podium already. With 1 swimmer ahead, 1 passed me on the bike and then another passed me immediately on the run, I just decided to do my own race. I was comfortable all the way around. It was great to be able to see so many friends on the out-and-back-and-out-and-back course. You wanted to look strong at all times because you couldn’t be sure who’d see you next!
Other than the wind getting a little gusty, this was just a beautiful day. Some thought it to be a bit warm on the run (there is absolutely not one speck of shade for you), but I found it nice. The wind actually cooled me off just enough. My last Olympic distance race was this same race last year. Hard to believe a year has gone by so fast.