The 2014 Grizzly Triathlon Race Report: One Extra For Good Luck!

The Griz pool.

The Griz pool.

It’s Easter weekend, so I will pound this one out fast. Lots to be done in the next 24 hours.


Coming into this race, I am happy to say I am feeling stronger than ever in all three disciplines. The only hiccup in my race plan is that I was only able to get out on the open road three times before the race. And when I mean “open road” I mean a bike path in Great Falls while cruising 15-20mph. Even at that speed, my aero bars were feeling as comfortable as a dentist’s chair. But what can you do.

After getting most of my big workouts in early in the week, I took two days to taper down. This about drove me crazy. But I fortunately woke on Saturday morning refreshed….ok, more like a pack of C4 ready to go off.

For this year, my family decided to again brave the chance of us all going down to Missoula. However, instead of asking my wife to watch me race while herding our four kids, I conceded to a family of six’s realities and did the right thing: I dropped them off at the Southgate Mall in Missoula before the race. Instant happiness was found among sales and candy stores.  Despite nearly every entity in Montana having some sort of event in Zoo town, I still was able to find parking within three minutes of arriving at the race site. 15 minutes later, I was all suited up and ready to roll.

Swim: 1000y, 15:51, 13 sec PR

After I completely lost concentration last year and turned the swim into a flailing mess, my one goal for this year’s swim was to close my mind and stay in the box. I told myself that this swim should be no different than my training swims. After warming up, I closed my eyes and imagined the pool was completely empty except for me. And off I went.

Channeling some Will Graham for the swim. Did I mention that I am enjoying that Hannibal show?

Channeling some Will Graham for the swim. Did I mention that I am enjoying that Hannibal show?

I focused on long and smooth and things started great. Soon, I was on top of the first person in my wave, and after a well-timed flip turn, I was leading the lane. It was amazing how well mind over matter went. I don’t even recall noticing the people in the lane next to me more than a few times. I did get held up quite a bit while passing; I think I feel finally comfortable upgrading my expected swim time next year.

I was really zoning in towards the latter part of the swim and I lost count of how many laps I had left. No problem, I knew they would stick a kickboard in at 100yd and 50 yds left, so I just kept looking for the board. On I went until finally I saw a red kick board.  “100 yards to go” I thought.  As I headed back down the lane, I thought “was it supposed to be a red or grey board first…..did I miss a board…no must be one more after this.” So I make it back to the start and I see no board, so I figure one more. I have been focusing on efficient flip turns, and I excitedly made a quick one to start my last lap. As I reached the opposite end, I could see good old Krista, a friend from work, screaming at me….just like last year. “This can’t be good” I thought. I figured either I was way too slow and so I picked up the pace back home. Unfortunately, I got stuck again behind a fellow wave swimmer and it was slow going. As I exited the lane, I saw in great dismay that my time was 16:48. This was way off as I had consistently been swimming 15:40’s in training. I had determined before the race that I was only going to concentrate on my times during this race, and not second guess myself by thinking about prior performances. I shrugged the time off and did the only thing I could do: head towards my bike.

As I found out after the race, I apparently interpreted the kickboard signaling wrong and I swam an extra 50 yards. FACEPALM. First time for anything…..

The 15:51 time above is the correct time. What the timer’s decided to do was add the extra lap time to my T1 time, which is added to the bike time. Speaking of bike….

Bike: 12 miles, 34:49, 3-50 second PR

T1 went pretty well. No problems with shoes or helmet. Mounting took a few extra seconds. The weather was perfect today; a far cry from last year’s chinook. As I headed out, I was only minimally cold and the effort quickly warmed things up. I survived the dumpster slalom and off I went. Two people were ahead of me, and I was able to take one in right at the start. However the other guy was hauling ass. Again, I kept my head in the box and raced my own race.

As I mentioned, I came into the race pretty fidgety on the bike and it certainly showed. I have been training harder on the bike this year, but my fear made it difficult to transfer my gains to the open road. Up and down I went on the bars. This is despite not having much wind at all today. And my bike position just didn’t feel right. I am hopeful that this will improve as I get out on the road more this spring.

As I headed back from the turn around, the speed picked up and I nearly ran off the road at one point. Fortunately, I made it back to the transition unscathed. I had a little trouble getting out of my shoes, but I was still able to dismount without hugging the ground.

Despite the less than efficient ride, today was still a major PR for my bike. It’s hard to be exact about my performance because the T1 time, and maybe T2, is added to the bike time. My fastest ever bike in this event was in 2012 at a total of 34:52. That was without the extra 50 yards of swimming. Here is today’s data per the Garmin 910XT.



Here is the Garmin file from my prior PR time.

2012 data.

2012 data.

So give and take, I was about 1:00 faster today…on a bad day. I’ll take that.

Run: 3.1 miles, 23:59, 41 second PR.

T2 went fast enough. 26 seconds by Garmin. Off I go and the legs feel GREAT. There is a slight downhill at the beginning, and this usual causes me to cramp up; not today. I hit the trail and things seemed to get easier and easier. Every year before this, I have been a huffing and puffing monstrosity. Today was a controlled pushing effort. First mile passed by right on the mark and then it was finally the time to test my preparation: the hill.

Prior years, I did something like two hill days before this triathlon and called that hill training. This often left me resembling Sisyphus on the Grizzly’s infamous hill. This year, I have been doing heavy hill training once or twice a week for the past two months. I hit the hill, and instead of feeling fatigue, I felt familiarity. One of the most rewarding things I enjoy about triathlon is seeing the rewards from training. Up and up I went without a pause, feeling nothing but a burn that hurt but I knew I could handle. Once again, a soothing guitar player greeted me at top and back down I went.

Ironically, the downhill was the trickier part as I took a slide on the dirt. Fortunately, my ankles survived again. As I made my way back from the turn around, my legs were feeling better and better. This is great news for my upcoming half-ironman in June. By the time I finished up, I was ready to keep running.



Synopsis: 1:14:39, 7/21 AG, 59 second PR, 44/170 male overall….with extra 50 yards!

So overall, despite the rather humorous swim outcome, it was a good day personaly. As I figure, I have anywhere between a 59 second to a 2:00 minute personal record. Overall, it seems everyone was slightly faster with the favorable weather conditions. Still, I am happy to be seemingly stepping off my personal plateau.

Today was not only a personal victory for racing, but more importantly also for the family. Despite being stuck at the mall for 3.5 hours alone, I was greeted by my wife and kids with only smiling faces, shopping bags, full tummy’s from Red Robin, empty bladders, and clean undies. We capped off the day with a great beer from Draught Works Brewery and a pizza. With a ham waiting to be cooked tomorrow, this weekend is already epic.

photo (3)

Special beer for a special day.

Every race is a chance to learn and this is no different. Today, I realized that I need to spend way, WAY, more time on the road. This is going to be challenge with the nine hours of riding I am doing a week already. But all the trainer riding is not going to be worth anything if I can’t pedal my bike in a race. Time to buy some spring riding clothes.





About Ironvan

From couch potato to Ironman triathlete in 2 years.

Posted on April 19, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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