On September 13th I finished my second sprint triathlon. The Hightstown Triathlon in Hightstown, New Jersey.
With all the training I’ve done this year getting ready for my first triathlon (New Jersey State Triathlon) and then the fact that I didn’t get to complete it because of a weather event I was looking for other events as a chance to make up the race. Although I did complete my first triathlon (Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon) in August, this race was another that I had looked at for a number of reasons. It was (fairly) close to home as I drive past the area every day on my commute, a few colleagues were getting together to do this event and had asked me and finally it was very reasonably priced and had good reviews.
With that said, I was comfortable with my swim performance in the last two triathlons and the run was also fine but I got my butt handed to me on a plate during the bike section both times. It’s not my favorite part of the triathlon but still as hard as I was pushing on my hybrid Trek FX 7.2 bike I was getting passed by everyone on a dedicated road or tri bike. It really felt like I was the one on training wheels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is a barrier to entry for competing in a triathlon, it isn’t, but I wanted to see if I would be able to do better on a road bike just once. I took to social media and asked if anyone had a 58″ road bike with SPD pedals they would be willing to lend me for the race and was fortunate enough to have a friendly neighbor offer their bike for use.
I haven’t had the chance to ride a road bike since my teens and I remember how sensitive the steering feels at first so I decided to take it out for a practice run to get used to the feel and the gearing (different from using the old levers attached to the top bar I was used to). I took the bike up to the old naval base figuring that a flat road would be easiest to start on.
After a few wobbles I was up and running (or riding). I did quite a few straights up and down the airstrip to get used to the gear changes. It was a warm humid morning and every couple of miles I had to stop to clear my glasses as they were full of mist. I was particularly wet but it was fun to be out and riding at some decent speeds (although nothing advanced…still afraid to fall). I managed 14 miles during the ride, eventually moving around the perimeter of the park so getting used to maneuvering about. A good session to build confidence on the bike. It was then off to Atlanta for the week on a business trip. Glad to get the ride done.
I arrived back home late Friday so I had to plan on heading to the packet pickup on Saturday. I pass this town on my way to work everyday. It’s the exit I take off the New Jersey Turnpike to get me to my office. After a busy morning with the family I knew it would be a quick journey to and from the staging site.
Unlike road races, I think it helps me to go to the actual event site before the race so at least I can see the swim course. I have no problems reading up on bike and road courses but for me I need to see the water. That is the anxiety point still in my triathlon experience. As I arrived at the packet pick up at Peddie Lake there were folks out on practice swims so I got to see part of the course in advance. They were still setting up the transition area for the bikes but I got a good sense of the layout, after all running in and out of transitions is very much part of the sport and it helps to know where to set up and where the entrance and exit is (more on that later though).
Packet pick up was pretty simple. Two tables, one for packets and one for shirts. There was a vendor tent (TriEverything) who were also renting wetsuits for the next day. I looked at how people doing practice swims were dressed and also from hearing from a couple of the folks swimming and I decided to pass and save myself some money at this race.
The race shirt had the Swim Bike Run logo and ran big for the sizing. It actually was a pretty wide fit. It seemed to get wider the lower down the shirt in a reverse taper. At least mine did. Nevertheless it was a nice soft technical shirt and I did wear it after the race that day.
I went home and assembled my gear for the next day. I used the same method of packing the Home Depot bucket that I had in my previous triathlon although I packed a little less this time as it was a lot to drag around and I didn’t end up using all I had brought last time. I packed my car with as much stuff as I could the night before the race and then just tried to relax after leaving myself a whole bunch of reminders at the front door before I went to bed to not forget my water bottles, food, Garmin watch etc.
Other than getting in my exceedingly snug one piece tri suit (it wasn’t this snug at the start of the summer) it was easy getting up and ready to leave the house the next morning. A big change was putting the road bike on the back of the car this time around. Wow…a revelation. It was dark as it had been in my earlier races this year but the bike was so much lighter. I didn’t struggle in the dark to make sure I had the bike racked correctly. Nice!!!
I got there early and it was still dark. The parking lot which I had used for packet pickup was closed to participants as it was part of the transition and staging area, so I followed everyone else with their bike on a bike rack at 6:45am into one of the parking lots a block or two further. I had a little foresight in packing to bring my running headlamp with me so I could actually see what I was doing once I had arrived. I un-racked the bike and got all my gear from my car and started to follow everyone else to the transition area. It was pure coincidence that I bumped into my colleague Kathy and her husband Bill. Kathy was about a month from finishing her first full Ironman (Ironman Mont Tremblant). We walked to the transition area together where we were body marked with our race number and age by the volunteers.
I set up my transition area in an empty rack at the far side so I would only be next to someone on one side. I’m still fairly new at this and I know I’m not heading for a podium finish so I just want to be in a place where I can be in my own race and not in a really busy transition area with the competitive athletes. I set out my gear, made a quick bathroom stop (or as fast as you can make it in a one piece tri suit) and tried to keep myself calm.
Since I no longer wear contact lenses when swimming I am relying on my prescription goggles to help me see in the water before I swap into my prescription sunglasses for the bike and the run. That’s all well and good for the actual race but it makes waiting around a bit tough if you cannot see things clearly as to where to go and, as I was also barefoot, where to walk and stand without injuring myself 🙂 I ended up walking around holding one of the eye pieces up to the one eye I see out of. Pretty much like a sports monocle LOL.
I met up with my colleague Bryan and we waited together while they made the race announcements and sang the National Anthem. They were running about 5 minutes behind schedule but it wasn’t too big of a deal. The race wasn’t too crowded. Once given the word we made our way to the opposite side of the lake to wait for our swim wave to start.
The swim wave started in the actual water. We had to climb down a steep concrete drop (further than I thought while wearing my prescription goggles (they are not an exact strength…but I’m not exactly reading while I’m swimming so it’s good enough). On the race website they had some FAQs about the swim which included:
How deep is the water?
The water is shallow at the entry and exit points of the course, and is between 8 and 14 feet deep throughout the rest of the course. You will not be able to touch bottom throughout the swim course however, you may hang onto a buoy or rescue kayak as long as you do not get assistance with forward movement.
Should I worry about aquatic animals?
No. The fish and turtles etc. in Peddie Lake will dive for cover when they see so many people in the water. We have never had any issues with aquatic animals bothering people in the water.
Okay then. No sharks and I can tread water. I think I’ll be okay here.
As you can see from my face in this picture…it was a little colder than I expected upon entering the pond. Not cold but not as warm as I had thought it would be.
There were quite a few lily pads at the edge of the lake and when were given the signal to go it felt like escaping a net, but once I got going I was okay. As planned, I waited until everyone had started and was out-of-the-way before I began swimming so as not to get too caught up in everyone’s moving limbs. Early on in the swim another competitor right next to me got into trouble and started yelling for assistance. I waited until he made it safely to a boat and then headed on. Just before the turnaround I started being passed by the lead swimmers of the wave behind me so I swam a little wider to get out of their way. in about the last third of the swim I was passed by a few of the competitive female swimmers. I looked up and could see I was near the end of the swim leg so I felt okay.
Getting out of the water was a bit more difficult than I expected too. I know I had struggled getting up and out of the lake at the New Jersey Triathlon which was quite rocky and seemed a little steadier on my feet at the Medford Lakes Colony Triathlon which was a gradual egress onto a beach. This was an exit up what seemed like a boat ramp. I didn’t quite gauge the angle of the exit. It was concrete and I stood up too early, lost my balance and fell down and off to the side of the ramp scraping up my knee. A little concrete rash but nothing to cry about. Just glad to get out of the water in one piece. Swim time 00:12:45.
From there it was onto transition. I sat down on my upturned bucket and washed, dried and put talcum powder on my feet before slipping on my Injinji socks and my bike shoes and headed out of the transition with the road bike.
This was a much better experience than my two previous races. 1) there was no lightning, and 2) I was faster. In fact I felt comfortable on the course and was actually passing people not being passed which was the case at my last race.
Midway on the bike course I got passed by Kathy who yelled a passing word or two as she took off on her bike into the distance. The bike was actually fun. A few up and downs and a couple of hard left turns which had me wobble a bit but it was a good ride up until a car drove onto the course around mile 8 and stopped a number of us from passing. Hmmm….eventually it moved over and we were able to pass. Still I managed to maintain a reasonable speed about 3-4 mph faster than my last ride on my own bike.
Coming down the home stretch of the bike course I was really pleased and eased off a bit to save my legs for the 5K portion of the race.
When I entered the transition area I was a little disoriented…that’s my only explanation for running down the wrong section and recognizing that none of the gear was mine. I figured out where I should be, quickly racked my bike and changed my shoes and headed out for the run. Bike time 00:37:31.
I had put a small 8oz water bottle at the back of my race belt which actually turned out to be a good idea as there was only one water stop that I recall on the run which was at the turnaround.
The 5K started up with a gradual uphill across the street and then ran through the surrounding neighborhood streets. It was a bit twisty so you couldn’t exactly see where the turnaround was. Early on I passed by Kathy on the outward part of the run. I saw my colleague Bryan on the inward stretch as I was still headed out. Good to see everyone looking good out there on the course.
It was getting warmer at this stage and so I was pretty happy to have my own hydration with me and ran a comfortable pace. As I turned the last corner and saw the finish chute I picked up the pace a little and made it through with a run time of 00:25:06.
My overall finish time for the triathlon was 1:22:18 including both transitions.
Once crossing the finish line I received my medal from a volunteer and a bottle of water.
Bryan was there at the finish line and so we waited for Kathy and also our colleague Steve and Kathy’s husband Bill before we headed back across the street to the staging area for the food and other refreshments (soft pretzels, donuts, fruit, sports drinks and water) and to watch the award ceremony.
We took a couple of group shots to share with the office and then packed up our gear and all headed in our separate ways. Easier said than done. Remember I was wearing a headlamp when I left the car? Well, I couldn’t remember which parking lot I had parked in and then once I found the correct lot I had to walk around to find my car. I’m directionally challenged.
Overall I really enjoyed this race. The race director and his team did a great job communicating with everyone before, during and after the event and they did a great job staging everyone and providing all that we needed for a successful event.
I would recommend this race for someone local. It’s a nice course in a small town in New Jersey. Great fun as I continue this triathlon journey alongside my marathon madness.
Thank you for reading.