Chain of Lakes – Race Report

I woke up around my usual time of 4:30am to make the 2+ hour drive with my Dad (Stopwatch Greg) up north to Alexandria. It was only in the upper 40’s but the sun was due to come out so I was hoping that would help warm things up. With my Dad driving I slept for another hour in the car until we were about halfway at which point we made a quick pit stop and I started the breakfast, water, coffee routine to get my body going.

Being the first weekend in May in northern Minnesota there’s no way we would be swimming in the lakes; instead the swim would take place in the pleasant 80 degree water of the middle school pool. As we arrived at the middle school, volunteers were in the process of setting up transition which was right outside the pool area. Fortunately the race wasn’t starting until 9am so it allowed more time for the sun to peek out and warm things up; it did just that.

Around 8:30 everyone gathered in the pool area for the pre-race meeting. They would be sending folks off in four heats having 2-3 swimmers in a lane. That morning at check in we were all asked are “expected” swim time; they then used that to properly organize the lanes so that there would be minimal lapping of others.

My wound post race
My wound post race.

Around 9:30 my heat was up, I was in the first lane with two other men, one being, Marcus Stromberg, another strong swimmer. We took off together but Marcus allowed me to pull ahead to lead the lane. Right away the strap on my timing chip started dangling down my ankle, even though I had secured it before the race, this proceeded to drive me crazy the entire swim. Marcus stayed within a body length of me for about the first half (300 yards) but started to drop off slightly after that. I hit the wall around 6:30 and quickly jumped out of the pool. I rushed outside the pool doors and grabbed my towel, which I had left right outside, quickly dried my arms off, put my towel in my mouth and ran to the timing pad while sliding my cycling jacket on. When I bent over at my spot to put my towel, cap and goggles down, I saw my left knee was gushing with blood. Apparently I had been a little aggressive getting out of the pool. I ignored the blood threw my helmet on and ran out of transition. Marcus was right on my tail and I wanted to keep the lead for a few miles on the bike.

Mounting my bike went smoothly for the first race of the year, but I got stuck almost instantly trying to get my right shoe on, I coasted as long as I could but I had to pedal a few times to keep myself upright, I finally was able to jam my foot into the shoe. After wasting time with my shoes it was time to get to work. I was riding my new disc for the first time (I watched Kevin O’Connor glue it up for me at Gear West a few weeks earlier, maybe someday I’ll be able to do that myself), and it was my first ride outside this year (yes, as I’ve said before I love the trainer), so I was a little nervous about the ride. Around mile 2 or so we rode by a huge lake that allowed for some pretty good wind gusts, I thought I was maybe going to get thrown off the road, luckily that was the worst of it. Marcus passed me around mile 3ish, at a turn that I almost missed; I don’t think the volunteers were ready for us. Marcus shot past me giving me some serious motivation to get moving.   I tried to keep him within my view as long as possible but eventually I couldn’t tell the difference between him and the other riders ahead.

Being a really short ride/race I was still feeling good coming into transition. I parked my bike and took my jacket off as I knew I would get way too warm on the run. Putting my shoes on I saw a huge gob of dried blood on my knee from my mishap getting out of the pool, I didn’t realize I hit it so hard!

After throwing my shoes on I was off running, Dad was right there to cheer me on, wow was I feeling good. I didn’t want to get too excited so I made sure to feel out the first mile, once I made it to approximately the half-way point (mind you this is only a 2.8 mile run) I wanted to push it on the way home. The last half mile or so was on a trail through some fields/woods, when I hit this section I could hear the announcer so I tried to book it as much as possible. The finish line was up a hill to the front of the school all through the damp grass, I was trying to push it but not slip and fall on my face. When I crossed the finish line plenty of other athletes were there to cheer me across the line. I was happy to be the first woman to go under an hour on this course (57:13), my finishing time broke the course record by 4:26. Albeit short, for the first race of the season I was very pleased with all my splits, finally something to show that all that winter training was working.

Unfortunately due to the colder spring this year’s race didn’t have as big of a draw as usual. It’s a pretty awesome race, nice people, quick drive from the city, 9 am start time, short race and it’s a pool swim, so a great way to kick off the season. I hope that more people decide to participate again next year, dust that rust off early!  Check out the results.

Read Marcus’s race report.

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