Posted by: bradhammond | August 31, 2009

Lake Sammamish Sprint Triathlon


I did the Lake Samm. Sprint Triathlon on Saturday (8/29). I have been doing this race for several years now, and it was one of my best races last year. It always seems to be on the same weekend as Ironman Canada, so that takes away some of the more serious triathletes, but there are still plenty left, and they had 700 people register for this year!

They sent around a list of participants a few days before the race, and I looked up my bib number and scanned for familiar names.  I saw Drew Magill was racing, and Josh Fitchett from the Pro Club, so I expected them to do well – they finished 1,2 in a couple of races that I did last year (Issaquah and Whidbey triathlons) and they did it again in this race.  In my age group, I saw that Vince Nethery was racing, and I knew that my chances of winning my age group were rather slim – he did a 1:01:50 bike split in winning the 50-54 age group for the Lake Chelan Olympic distance last month, which is significantly faster than I can ride…  I also saw that my age group had gone from 10 people last year to 18 this year, with 10 of the 18 being new 50 year olds, so I was getting progressively pessimistic about placing in the top 3.


The race was scheduled to start at 7 am, and it was raining lightly.  I got my stuff set up in transition, then met my friend Joel, who was doing this race for the third time, and his wife Chris who was doing her first ever triathlon!  Joel is in the 40-44 age group, so he usually gets to start before me, but for this years race my age group got to start in the 2nd wave, along with some younger groups like men under 20.  I did a very brief warmup swim.  I was going out, and sighting on a large orange bouy, when all of a sudden I saw a blue swim cap two inches away and had a head on collision with someone else warming up.  I got a fat lip and slowly made my way back to the beach.


The swim course had a different shape – instead of a long stretch parallel to the beach, the long parts were out and back with a very short parallel to beach part.  The swim finish was only about 10 or 20 yards from the start area, so I thought there might be some potential for head on collisions, but the only one I got was prerace.  I started off pretty well, but eventually I was colliding with people on both sides of me.  I stopped briefly, watched the two guys who had been on either side of me run into each other, and went around them to the right.   I took very wide paths around the buoys to avoid the crowd, and probably did quite a bit of extra distance.  I felt like I got to the first buoy really quickly, but it’s a really short swim compared with my last race.  There’s about a 50 yard run (including jumping up a nice little wall) that is included in the swim time, and my official time was 8:04 for 1/4 mile. Pretty good for me, although only the 5th fastest in my age group.


I pulled off my swim cap and goggles during the run over, and got my arms and shoulders out from the wet suit before I got to my spot.  While I was pulling my legs out my watch beeped, and I noticed that my heart rate was up to about 164.  I fastened on my bike helmet and ran out of transition.  Time was 1:14, 2nd in my age group.


The first part of the bike course is very narrow with not much room to pass, and quite a few corners.  I took it easy for at least a half mile, not trying to pass people until we hit the real road.  I had just passed several people and pulled back over to the right when Drew Magill blew past me on his way to winning the race.  When we got to East Lake Samm. Parkway the bikes were nicely spread out, and I was passing a steady trickle of younger guys who had started in either my wave or the first wave.  Every now and then I would get passed by one of those 40-44 men from the third wave, but not too often. 

I had an aero bottle in front of me, with a hose practically touching my mouth, so I was taking sips of water pretty often.  Maybe a little too often, considering the cool rain!  The bike course is fairly flat, with one very easy hill that we go up and down twice (out and back course).  At the top of the hill I got into my highest gear and accelerated as quickly as I could until I hit a speed where pedaling wasn’t making much difference, then I got into an aerodynamic position and coasted.  I passed quite a few people while I was coasting down the hill, and they were still pedaling!  That was lots of fun!

About the only mistake I made on the bike course was dismounting too early.  There were people on both sides, some bikers were still just starting out, and I dismounted just before the final corner, which I couldn’t see because of the spectators (not that I want to complain about having spectators!) so I did an extra 20 or 30 yards of running with my bike.  Time was 39:41 for 14 miles – 2nd in my age group, about 3 minutes slower than Vince Nethery.


I was very happy when I got to my bike rack – it was completely empty!  I had noticed several other guys in my age group at that rack, but they were still all out biking.  As soon as I bent over to get my running shoes on, my upper abdominal muscles cramped pretty badly.  I had to sit down to get the shoes on, and I was a little worried about my abs cramping during the run.  Time was 1:09, 6th in my age group – a bit slow because of the cramping.


I was trying to “run tall”, but my abs were so tight that I was probably kind of bent over.  Basically, my pacing strategy during the run was to go hard enough in the first 2 miles to keep my heart rate monitor beeping, and then try to go as fast as possible for the last mile.  I hadn’t looked at my watch at all during the bike, but I checked my heart rate some during the run. 

During the first mile I passed a young guy wearing some sort of team uniform and he stayed right behind me for quite a while.  There is a water stop and U-turn about halfway through, and by that time I had opened up a gap on him and I could feel myself sweating.  He passed me back in the last mile, along with another guy, and beat me to the finish by 5 or 6 seconds. 

With about 50 yards to go, someone yelled at me “Go!  You can get them!”  I knew I couldn’t get them, but I smiled anyway, and did my finishing kick.  At that point, I was really happy to make it to the finish without cramping up into a human pretzel.  Run time was 22:23 for 3.1 miles, 2nd in my age group.  Overall time was 1:12:31 – 34 out 632 total, 2 out 18 in my age group!


Sooner than I expected, my buddy Joel finished as well.  Last year I beat him by 6 minutes, this year I only beat him by 50 seconds!  He joked that if he ever beats me, then he’s going to quit.  He has always beaten me in the swim and run (3 times Lake Samm., once at Kirkland, once Issaquah) but now that he has a good bike and is treating transitions as part of the race, too, it is really close.  Kirkland has a shorter bike course, and the swim is twice as long, so I think he can beat me there, but I will give him a chance and make him work for it.  His wife Chris had a great first race, and finished in 1:29:14!  I was very impressed, and I hope she keeps doing them!  They stuck around and socialized while I waited for my age group award, then we all took off.

The course was pretty different this year – bike and run were both shorter due to construction, and the swim seemed a bit longer, so I can’t really compare the time to past years, but it was a good race for me.  Last year I decided that taking the ratio of my time to the median time was a pretty good measure for how I had done in various sprint triathlons (lower being better) and by that measure Lake Samm. Sprint was my best race last year with a ratio of .808, and my ratio for this year was virtually identical at .807!  I am also very happy with my overall and age group placing.



  1. Brad, Weren’t you still beat up from the Vineman Triathlon and then that ride with Kayla? Great race. You are a machine.

  2. Brad, Weren’t you still beat up from the Vineman Triathlon and then that ride with Kayla? Great race. You are a machine. No rust on you despite your aged condition.

  3. You had a great race and it was an honor to cheer for you as you took your 2nd place medal! I learned a lot yesterday (particularly- I need to treat the transitions as part of the race) and look forward to seeing you at future triathlons. Great job on Saturday!

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