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I win a dinasour

Mon, Aug  18, 2008 - By Mike Muha

It was an odd time to have a triathlon. A Wednesday night? But the weather forecast was warm, with a small chance of rain, and the t-shirts were really cool. I decide to register the evening before for the T-Rex Sprint Triathlon. Registration was a little unorganized at the Running Fit store in Novi, but mostly because I was there early and they were still getting their act together. Did I say they had really cool t-shirts?

The day of the race I try to eat smart, but still ate way too much for lunch. I leave work early and arrive about an hour and a half before the start. I always like to arrive early to get good parking - you never know when you might need to run back to your car in the minutes before the starting gun goes off. I pulled into of the last remaining primo parking spots.

I no longer had muscle soreness from Sunday's hard uphill ski-walking interval workout and weight session on Sunday, but the lower front of my left knee was sore - I'm still not sure how I injured it. I was a little worried about the run.

Over 400 people sign up for the race - half in the last 48 hours before the race. This will be the largest triathlon in which I've participated.

T-Rex Sprint Triathlon

Get ready...

I set up my bike and running gear in the transition corral, put on my timing chip, and have my arms marked with my race number. Where's my heart rate monitor? I have my chest strap, but where's the watch part? I walk back to my car - twice - looking for it. I could have sworn I put it in my backpack, but searching it thrice resulted in nothing. Guess I won't know my heart rate or time my splits.

Walking the start and finish areas, I make sure I know exactly where the bike and run start and end. I remember a Michigan Cup Marathon where I did not check the finish location and lost a place simply because I didn't know where I was going. That was an important lesson.

I was in the third wave, 10 minutes after the first wave. I'd assumed the no one would be using wet suits because the water was warm. But people were putting on wet suits all around me. About 10 minutes before the race began, I ran back to the car to grab mine.

The buoyancy of wet suits keeps your body more parallel with the water, reducing drag and increasing speed. I did NOT want to be at a disadvantaged, particularly since I'm a pretty lousy swimmer.

I jumped in the water to warm-up. I just swam along the shore and away from the swim course. As I turned around to head back, I realized I'd left my nose clips in the car. I get a nasty allergic reaction to the water at Island Lake Recreation Area the day after a swim - chronic sneezing and runny nose - I'm a mess. That is, until NordicSkiRacer and triathlete Ryan Robinson convinced me to use nose clips to keep water out of my nose.

I run through the shallows as the first wave heads out on the course. A dash to the car. A grab of the nose clips. A dash back to the start line. With my parking place only 30 seconds away, it's not a problem. I have time to get back in water and swim a couple more minutes before the second wave leaves and I have to find a spot with my wave.


I like being in front, probably to the chagrin of all the faster swimmers who have to get around or over me. And tonight's swim is exceptionally physical - the whole race. The start was not a problem, but during the rest of the  race, I was either running up on people, they were running up on me, or we'd sideswipe each other. At one point, two swimmers on either side converge, with me in the middle. Pinned and pummeled, I back off and catch their draft.

Getting banged around doesn't bother me. You just can't panic. It's sort of like riding in a bike pace line or the start of a cross country ski race where you're touching elbow to elbow - exhilarating in you have the nerves.

I passed several people as I head up the beach and exit the water. I run - many people walk.

Transition to the bike

The bike route out of the corral was a bit different than the last two triathlons I've done at Island Lake. Rather than mounting the bike in the parking lot, we had to ride on a short, slightly uphill grassy area to a bike path, then ride the bike path to the road. Before the start, I decided I'd put on my bike shoes and run with my bike to the mounting point, rather have my shoes pre-clipped into the peddles and running barefoot. The later makes for faster transitions, but I feared problems trying to ride over the bumpy grass or that I'd ride off the narrow bike path as I tried to pull on my shoes. It was a good decision - I was almost run off the path by another biker who was simply trying to get into his clips.

NordicSkiRacer teammate Yvon Dufor is there to cheer me on. He's out for a ride tonight. Thanks Yvon!

I feel miserable on the bike. My stomach is in knots. From lunch or nerves, I don't know.

Being in the third wave in the swim, there were already a ton of people already out of the water and on the road ahead of me. But the bike is my strongest leg, and I love passing people. Occasionally I'd have to take a slow line while traffic cleared, but it was not too bad.

The route goes all the way to the end of the Island Lake Road, around one parking lot, then out and to the right to another parking lot, and finally returning to the main park road. There are several small hills and I take advantage of them to catch other bikers.

At the end of the bike, it was back on the bike path. I unstrap and get out of my right shoe. Normally, I'd put my foot on top of the shoe then do the same with the other. This way I'd save time by not having to take off my shoes during the transition. Not this time. A little boy darts out and crosses the path in front of me. He gets across with no problem, but by the time my adrenaline rush ends, I only have time to begin braking before making a sharp turn onto the grass. My right shoe spins around and is knocked around by the ground while my bare right foot tries to avoid being hit. I'm still clipped in to the left.

Final leg

Dismounting, I awkwardly run through the corral, barefoot on the right, bike shoe on the left. Putting my bike back into the rack, I take off my helmet, then begin putting on socks and shoes. Many people don't wear socks because it takes so long to put them on. I tried running without socks once and had horrible blisters for weeks. Left sock on. Left shoe on. Right sock on. Right shoe...there's my heart rate monitor. Dumping it out, I finish putting on the shoe and head out the run chute.

Out of the parking lot, on the road, and onto the bike path, we run toward the tunnel under Kensington Road. It's a long gentle uphill climb, then down the other side. We turn around few feet shy of the tunnel.

I'm feeling miserable, but I'm passing lots of people. I also get passed by two racers.

As we reach the road again, we turn right and head up the road toward the end of the park, toward I-96. Another long gentle climb. Yvon shadows me from his bike. "Hey, you're lookin' good. Keep up the pace." I gradually pull away from someone just behind me, but can't seem to gain on a group a hundred feet ahead.

Over the top and down the other side, we turn left on the the bike path. Another 1,000 meters to the finish.

All of a sudden, I feel great. I'm running faster, my breathing has settled down, I feel in control. I start catching and passing people. Most of the last 700 meters is on a slight downhill, and I'm cooking. I sprint across the line in 1:11:49.6.

I talk to Hanson Hills/Cross Country Ski Shop team member John Morgan for a bit - he'd just completed his first triathlon - then head to the corral to pack up my stuff and put it in my car. It's getting cool, and I want to get out of my wet clothes.

I may have felt miserable, but it must have been that I was working so hard: I win my age class and finish 25th overall. I'm pretty happy! The trophies are a stuffed dinosaur - different and cool.

T-Rex Triathlon trophy

My age group winning trophy - looks mean...

I feel great and on top of the world. Then I hear that the winner and second place finisher of the next older age group finish 4th and 8th overall and am soundly put in my place...

  Muha Results
Total time:  1:10:49.6
  Swim:  14:26.2
  T1:   55.6
  Bike:  31:07.4
  T2:  1:04.3
  Run:  23:15.9