I cannot recommend the SuperiorMan triathlon in strong enough terms. Occasionally I am accused of being hyperbolic so risking that slander I will still say, “THIS IS THE BEST RACE EVER!!”
In 2014, I raced the 41 point something in the wind and rain, managed to crash, acquire a concussion and then finish the race with stars in my eyes. I still thought it was the best race ever. Watching the half-ironmen athletes finish was a big part of the inspiration that led me to sign up for my 1st 70.3 at Liberty this past June. There is just nothing that I’ve done yet that compares to the thrill of jumping off a boat into Lake Superior, swimming in those frigid waters, biking along Hwy 61 and then back along the scenic route with the big lake over my left shoulder. The race is capped off with a run route that goes under the lift bridge, and along the shore in Canal Park.
This summer I convinced my kids and husband to come along with me to Duluth for the race. We left our cabin on Saturday and drove up to Duluth to check into a Canal Park hotel for our 1 night stay.
After the family was settled we all walked my bike & gear over to the DECC for packet pick up. The kids were pretty dazzled by all the shiny fancy trip bikes aligned on transition racks. There are a lot of dedicated triathletes at this race. Or at least athletes who are heavily invested in biking! Check in was a breeze and I have to admit that laying out all the gear and racking my bike the day before the race is so calming.
Jesse was exhausted from his morning pre-marathon 20 mile run so we wandered back from the DECC along the lake walk so the kids could throw rocks into the lake. It was a hot and steamy night in Duluth. Staying right there in Canal Park was so ideal. We ordered Burrito Union take out and watched the kids swim in the hotel pool.
As we all fell asleep that night my kids showered me with well wishes and brought me to tears with their earnest emotional stake in my triathlon dreams. It is quite a feeling to be ushered to sleep by your kids wishing you well on your race day.
I woke up early, grabbed a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby and a banana from the breakfast bar (fuel mistake #1) and walked across Canal Park to the DECC. The sky was still dark and the lights of the outgoing commercial fishing boats shone on the surface of the lake. I was a little nervous about the cold water, but mostly excited. I love swimming and I already knew that the shock of the cold water would be quickly replaced with the thrill of racing in Lake Superior.
The one criticism I have is that I wish the transition racks were set up in age group bundles. It is hard to know how many competitors there are at a race when the majority of the athletes are male and you are not. It would be fun to get a look at which women are actually in your age group before the race starts. Also, I think it could be motivating to me on the run if I knew just how many athletes were in my age group.
Nevertheless, I made friends with an awesome male athlete, old enough to be my father next to me, then grabbed my wet suit to watch the 70.3 race start. I had just a small twinge of envy as I watched them jump off the boat and into the water to start their 1.2 mile swim. Instead of racing the 70.3, I had elected to stick to the 41.5 because my kids were starting school the very next day after the race. I may be an endurance athlete but I know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, if you know what I mean. Next year, I told myself as I stood in line for the port-a-potty before getting in line for the boat.
The announcer called our wave and we obediently lined up to board the Vista Fleet. While waiting to jump off I started to debate finding a bathroom on the boat for one more quick visit before the race started. I should have dedicated myself to this impulse sooner! In fact, if I had then I wouldn’t have spent 5+ minutes in transition after the swim and could have moved 2 places up in my age group. Lesson learned.
So cold! So shocking! So exhilarating!
My first thought always is: “put your head down and go to work”. I relied on that feeling and the love of swimming to propel me forward. I hadn’t swam at all in 2 weeks. Yes, that’s not a great training plan. Life with kids & a marathon training husband happens and I had to prioritize my bike & run workouts.
Instead of worrying about it I just channeled my inner polar bear, rocked my hips and kept pulling that water down. The water was choppy so that was interesting. I gulped a lot of water and then before I knew it, I was being pulled up the ramp and it was time to book it towards T1.
Swim time: 17:29
Pretty simple out and back. There are a lot of turns in the first 5 miles as you leave Duluth and head north. I hate corners. And I tend to be WAAAAAY too conservative in my approach. It is really ridiculous.
Once we were out of Duluth I fell into a great rhythm and just watched the miles tick off on my bike computer. I had a sense that there might be a tail wind because going 22 mph seemed really easy. However, I was having so much fun I didn’t really think about the head wind that would come when we turned to bike back on the Scenic Route. UFF.
The ride back was tough so to distract myself I kept looking over my left shoulder at Lake Superior with the sun glinting on the waves. That sight made the head wind very tolerable! I more or less forgot to eat the GUs that I had planned to eat (fuel mistake #2). I have got to fix this habit!
I managed to get back to the DECC without crashing! I was so thrilled. And even with the head wind I felt really good about my bike time. Learning how to ride a tri bike was definitely worth it. Now I just ‘need’ some race wheels….
Bike time: 1:56:39 (my goal was to be under 2 hours!)
The sun had arrived! The course takes runners along Canal Park and under the lift bridge and then out along the shore. There are 2 big hills. Last year those hills completely owned me. This year I vowed to run them and not walk. The problem with this goal is that I became very single minded about not walking that I refused to allow myself to grab water on the course (fuel mistake #3).
In my defense, at the first water stop I was cut off by a spectator riding a bike. She slipped in ahead of me (cut me off in fact!) and grabbed the cup a volunteer was offering me. It was so bizarre I just laughed and kept running.
The first 4 miles clicked by and I was loving life. The last part of the run was TERRIBLE. All of my nutrition mistakes caught up to me and I bonked. I was so relieved to see Murray, Noah & Jesse just before the finisher’s chute. Noah ran next to me for the last 800 and I mentally grabbed as much energy from him as I could!
Run time: 53:08
Total race time: 3:15:17
In the end I was so happy I raced and so happy that the bike went well that I forgave myself for the less than stellar run time. I wanted to run this race for the experience and not to meet a specific goal time. Also, this race helped me realize that I really need to get serious about my nutrition during a race and I need to start hydrating myself better all the time.
How many months until Swim/Bike/Run season starts up again?