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Pigs Fly: The 2012 Grizzly Triathlon Race Report

Finally, unbelievably, I am momentarily free from the sadistic constraints of grad school and the clinic. Normally, at this time of night, I would be turning my eyes red with an online test or peering over a dangerously tilting pile of patient charts. But not tonight. Tonight, it’s just me, my couch, my Thinkpad, and a bottle of Ninkasi Spring Ale. And thus, with that glorious setting, I now offer for your entertainment the 2012 Grizzly Triathlon Race Report!


Okay, just a little background. The Grizzly is billed as the largest pool based triathlon in North America. Everyone starts in waves, the first at 8:00 and the last at a staggering 2:30. Despite the popularity, the race remains pretty down to earth. No chip timing. No huge vendors. No fancy mega tv displays or racks. Just a lot of people racing in Missoula, Montana. The race attracts everyone from beginners to the pros. Linsey Corbin is a regular and this year, Matt Lieto joined the line up.

As for me, this is my third attempt at the race. First year, went horrible. Better second year. And for this year…..


After much prior experimentation, I have my breakfast routine down for sprints. Basically, if the race is around lunch, I just have a normal breakfast. Race in the morning, then barely anything. Devoured a mushroom and onion omelet and a small pancake with syrup. On the way out, hit Starbucks and ordered my usual coffee Americano with 2 shots of espresso. During the 2 hour drive between Kalispell and Missoula, sipped a bottle of Heed.


Despite there being a Missoula football scrimmage, an American Indian Pow Wow, and the largest pool triathlon in North America all occurring in the space of two football fields, I was still able to find a good parking spot. When you have only about 900,00 people in a state as big as Montana, only so many people can be in one place at the same time. Checked in without any hiccups. Set the family up in the bleachers overlooking the pool and then I got dressed. Unfortunately, my Trisports kit hasn’t arrived yet so I went with my new Hammer Nutrition Kit. At least I had my Trisports visor. Got body marked by my friend Krista (she has a penache for writing race numbers large enough to be seen from the International Space Station) and about 30 minutes before my wave start, I set up in transition. After that, I put in a 10 min run with some spin ups. Then, it was time to go.

Swim: 1000y, 16:06, 44 sec PR, 110/367 OA, 10/22 AG

Prior to the race, I had been swimming about 5000y a week. As some people put in that much in one workout, it’s easy to see I haven’t been hitting the pool hard enough. That being said, my test times prior to the race were looking faster than my last performance of 16:50. In any case, I was just hoping not to be slower. This year, I had two other people in my lane: a serious looking dude of that important 30-34 age genre, and a young 17 yo girl. Yeah, you just know those kiddos are fast.

Timer goes off and then so do I. Felt good starting off. Mind was clear and I kept focused on my form. It wasn’t too long before I lapped the other gentleman in my lane. As anticipated though, it also wasn’t long before that 17 yo girl tapped my foot for a pass. Last year, I totally lost count of my laps after the first one. This time went a little better; I was able to keep tabs until about 700 yards.

Like Nemo, I just kept swimming. Form started to drift at the end, but I was able to bring it back together. Just when I thought I had another 100 yards to go, I saw the signal from the volunteer (a kickboard in my lane) that it was my last length. As I headed back on the last 25 yards, I picked up my kicking to push blood into my legs and out I went. Unbelievably, even with four wall stops (two to get passed, and two to pass) I came out with my best 1000y swim time ever at 16:06.


One thing I have learned is not to waste time in transition, especially for sprints. I can work for hours in the pool improving my swim time by 30 seconds, only to loose all that time and more by being careless in T1.

So, I JUMPED out of the pool and sprinted to T1. Down on the ground, shoes on in one movement. Then glasses, then helmet, then stand up, and then bike. I would guess 45 -60 seconds. I passed the kiddo on the way out of T1.

Bike: 12.2 mi, 34:52, 3:36 sec PR, 42/412 OA, 8/22 AG

Alright, everyone knows I have taken my bike to a new personal level this winter. With T6P and Trainer Road, I have my highest ever FTP. Currently, I am sitting at 3.6 w/kg. Unlike prior races, I decided to forgo all ideas of pacing. Everyone has been saying to me “just go fast” for sprints, and so…I just decided to hammer it. As hard as I could go. Every possible second. Like always, the course starts with a hair raising bridge crossing, a 180 degree turn on a four foot wide path, and the “dumpster slalom.” Every time I had some space to accelerate, I went for it. Everything seemed to be going well until I was heading out of the parking lot.

I was looking down, pushing it, and unfortunately, not looking at that 10 inch pot hole in the road roaring towards me. BOOM! I hit the hole with such force, my aero bars bent downward about 30 degrees. At first, I thought maybe I could just ride like that for the rest of the course. It wasn’t long before I realized that I wouldn’t be cranking out any power out with my bars sloping; I had no choice. I stopped quickly and just cranked upward on my bars. Up they went, a little too much in fact. But good enough. Back on and off I went. I estimate that I lost probably 20-30 seconds.

Good headwind on the way out and I was hurting. But I just kept cranking along. I definitely think the surges I have been doing during training were helpful on some of the small bumps along the way. Other than running into the Samuel Jackson of potholes (mother effin holes!) the first race on the P2 was smooth and buttery. I came into the turn around a few seconds ahead of last year but I wanted more. With the wind at my back, I pushed harder. Legs were settling in well and back was feeling good. There is one real hill on the bike course. Last year, it killed me for some reason. This time, I kept my cadence up and it was an easy up and over.

I came back into transition feeling great. I can honestly say I gave the bike my hardest. pNorm for the ride was 215, which is higher than my FTP last year. Here’s the data:

The course

This is cool. Comparison of the last three years at the same race.


Nothing much to say here. Shoes on without socks. Hat. Belt. 30-45 seconds?

Run: 3.1 mi, 24:40, 57 sec PR, 9/410 OA, 14/22 AG

I hit the ground running and I could tell something wasn’t right. I have had problems with calf cramps after riding previously, but nothing during the last winter. And I have been doing enough bricks to build a patio. But I’ll be darned, as I headed out of transition, my calves were spasming like crazy. The slight downhill out of transition made matters worse. You can see this happening to me here in this video. Just scroll to 3:40 if you want to skip everyone else.

As I hit the main part of the gravel trail, the cramps let up but my legs were not pleased with me. My stride was forced and I felt stiff. I tried to speed up but I didn’t have it in me. In retrospect, I probably gave too much on the bike. I made the most of what I had left as I headed toward the infamous hill. To make matters worse, I hit some weird button combination on my watch and I was getting no data. I am so sick of this happening to me that I am considering switching devices.  I know, the 310xt works for everyone else, but I apparently need a more idiot proof device. Right before I hit the hill, I was able to get it finally displaying my pace info.

Half the run course....

Looks like I was moving okay in the last mile.

Last year, I almost ran the entire hill. I have been doing some hill work for the sole purpose of making sure I ran up the entire thing this year.  As I headed up, I could already tell I was feeling better than a year ago. Up and up I went, running the whole way. At the top, I was greeted by the most surreal experience: classical guitar in the woods during a race. Some fella was just sitting there on a stump picking at his guitar. It was a zen like moment when combined with the endorphins and the cresting of the hill.

Down and down I went. I will tell you now, I am certain that sometime in my life I am going to fall or break an ankle on the downhill for this race. Luckily, not this year. Back on the trail I go and I tried to push it more and more. For a while, I was hovering around 7:00, right where I wanted to be. But my pace fluctuated worse than the stock martet, sometimes drifting back to 8:30. As I came into the last few turns, I was feeling like complete crap. For once though, I didn’t have someone breathing behind my back as I headed towards the finish. I even had the chance to blow a kiss to my wife and kids. Through the line I went and it was hands on knees. It was then, while looking at the clock, that I thought I was hallucinating.

Synopsis: 1:15:38, PR by 4:52!!!, 10/22 AG, 48/166 Male Overall

I am still looking out the window to see if pigs fly by. I was just hoping to make some improvement this year and 4 minutes is way beyond what I had honestly expected. At first, I was wondering if I had the possibility of earning my first top three finish in a Tri. Last year, I was 4th  in my age group with a 1:20 time. Unfortunately, thanks the natural shifting of divisions, a bunch of new fast people are in my group; third place went an appalling 1:02!

Despite a mid-pack place, I am still happy to beat my most fierce competitor, myself. Not too bad a start for my first race as a Trisports Champion. And I still feel like I have room to improve. I am working on that swim, and obviously, I have a lot of work still to do with my run. 24:40 is just appalling personally. Hopefully I can shave a few more minutes off next year.

Just want to give a quick shout out to Dustin at Hammer and everyone at Trisports for their continued support. Remember, you can save 10% at Trisports anytime with my discount code. Just type in IRONVAN-S at checkout!

Things I Learned:

  1. There is some pacing in sprints.
  2. Keep smiling.

Things I Need to Work On:

  1. That calf cramping problem.
  3. Not hitting pot holes.

PS: As the astute reader will point out, my individual PR’s don’t add up to my total time PR. I am thinking that the results posted don’t include my transition times. Who knows; this is the difficulty with non-chip timing. I would gladly pay much more to race this event if they added chip timing. I am still waiting for the “official” results to be posted online. I’ll keep you updated.

PSS: Sorry for all the typos. I fixed as many I could find. That’s what I get for mixing beer and blogging. I will try wine later 🙂

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