Posted by: bradhammond | September 22, 2009

Kirkland Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

This was my third year in a row of doing this race. Last year it was wet and chilly, but this year it was dry, sunny, and very comfortable. My achilles tendons have been very sore since doing the Lake Sammamish Sprint, so I hadn’t run over a mile for weeks.  As a result, I expected to do a bit worse in the running leg, but I hoped to make some
improvements in my times for swimming and biking.

I threw my back out about 10 days before the race, so for about a week I was using a lot of ice and taking a lot of aspirin and ibuprofen.  About 3 days before the race I started suffering from really severe stomach pains, so I stopped taking the aspirin and ibuprofen, as they tend to bother my stomach some. I expect that a doctor might tell me that I have ulcers – maybe I’ll go see someone for it.   Anyway, Sunday morning I woke up soon after 4, and I had diarrhea.   After I got to Kirkland I took a few trips through the bathroom lines, and waited until almost 7 to put on my wetsuit.  My swim wave started about an hour after the “elites”, so I got to watch a lot of people swim and start out on the bike.

The half mile swim is in Lake Washington, which can be a bit rough at times, but Sunday morning the water was very calm.  The only waves to swim through were from the boats patroling the swim course. You swim out, turn left at a green float, go parallel to the beach until the second green float, make a very sharp left turn, and head for a huge inflatable arch near the transition area.  

I got off to a comfortable start and only had one collision on my way to the first float. I felt like I wasn’t swimming off course at all. At the second float, I went 1 or 2 strokes past it, and there wasn’t anyone near me, so I turned by rolling onto my back for one stroke as I changed direction. I took a pretty direct route to the gate, and finished with swim time of 14:56. Almost a minute faster than last year, and 2 minutes faster than 2007, so I am pretty happy with it. Still, there were guys in 50-54, 55-59, and 60-64 who did the swim in under 13:00, so I will keep trying to improve.

They make you run a really long way with your bike at Kirkland.  This makes T1 times seem slow compared to some races.  I got through in 2:04 compared to 1:50 last year and 3:04 in 2007.  Even the elites were taking over a minute, so I am only a little bit disappointed with that.  Just remembered an excuse for being slower than last year – I had to put on a shirt and number belt, as I had decided not to use the trisuit.

The bike ride is only 12 miles, but it is really hilly. Also, there are sharp turns at the bottom of some of the downhill sections, so you have brake hard in a few spots. My wave was 11th out of 12, so there were lots of slower bikers to work my way around throughout the course.  The first two miles are fairly flat, and I caught up with a rider on a nice bike with a disk wheel.  I recognized him as John Curley, a local TV personality who has been doing a “Beat John Curley” promotion where he will donate money to your charity if you are the number chosen from those who registered and beat him. I passed him going up the first little hill, and pulled away for good on the second hill we came to. I heard a couple of other riders talking about a 65 year old guy who was doing really well on the bike, but I didn’t see him at that time.

There were several course marshalls out on motorcycles to enforce the rules.  They disqualified a number of people, usually for crossing over the center line on the bike course.  It seemed like I was always close to a motorcycle, so I was being extra
careful.  Last year I had some trouble with people weaving back and forth to create their own switchbacks on the hills – when the rules require you to pass on the left but not cross the center line then you have no legal way to get past someone who has already veered all the way out to or past the center line.  I would start yelling very loudly when I got about 10 or 15 yards back “Please move right! I want to pass you on the left. Please move right! I want to pass you without crossing the center line!”  I was probably a bit more proactive and assertive in my yelling this year, and people seemed to cooperate pretty well!

On the first really long uphill stretch I thought it seemed easier than in past years, and I was passing a lot of people with noone passing me.  There is a second long uphill, and I was passing a lot of people there, too, including a few who decided to walk their
bikes up the hill.  I don’t think anyone passed me on the bike until I was coasting down the final hill, and then a 45 year old (also my wave) who I’d passed on the first big hill passed me back.  Doing my high speed dismount at the end of the bike, I saw the 65 year old guy right in front of me. If not for the number on his calf, I’d have no clue he was older than me!  He is a little bit taller than me, and I don’t expect to grow, but that is what I want to look like when I am 65!  My bike time was was 38:24, significantly faster than previous years (40:00 in 2008, 41:37 in 2007).  I’ll keep trying to improve, but I am very happy with my bike time!

I remembered the abdominal cramps in T2 of my last race, so I sat down to put on my running shoes. Running out of T2 the little foot muscles and ankle muscles didn’t feel quite right, so I decided to give them a few hundred yards to warm up before pushing hard. Time for T2 was 1:31 compared to 1:35 last year and 2:12 in 2007.

I was right behind the 65 year old guy when I started the run, and as soon as we got on the street and the course widened I went past him. About a half mile into the run I saw Chris (Joel’s wife) on her way back, so I yelled “Go Chris!”, and less than 100 yards later I saw Joel, so I yelled “Go Joel, you can catch her!”  My mouth was feeling a bit dry, so I sipped some water near the halfway mark.  At one point there is a U-turn, so you can see the people who are somewhat close behind you. I recognized George Belhmer (60-64 winner last year and this year) and John Curley both within 100 yards of me, and I wanted to try and hold them off. George is a very fast swimmer – under 13:00 again, but I can usually go faster in the run and bike. The last few hundred yards of the race I heard lots of people cheering for John Curley, and I knew he was right behind me. I tried to kick it in as fast as I could, but he beat me by 1 second. (I beat him at Lake Samm. and Issaquah, though!)  My run split was 22:37 – slower than previous years (22:08 on 2008, 22:19 in 2007) but not at all disappointing to me.  I actually expected to be even slower than that.

My total time was 1:19:33, 5th in my age group and 108th overall. Past years: 2007 1:26:27, 7th AG, 162 overall  2008 1:21:26 4th AG, 109 overall. Last year that time would have gotten 2nd in my age group and placed me in the top 100, but it was a tougher field this year. The winner of the 55-59 age group beat me by just over a minute, but otherwise I beat all of the competitors who were older than me. My friend
Joel finally beat me in overall time, finishing in 1:17:55 (17 AG, 83rd overall).  Now I need courses with shorter swims and longer bike rides just to have a good chance of beating him again!  Chris finished in 1:37:52 (16 AG, 461 overall), doing the swim in under 17:00 and running only 47 seconds slower than I did, which is really good for her second triathlon.  They are both hooked on doing triathlons now, and I think Joel will try the Olympic distance next year.  I like that, as I will probably have company at a few more races…



  1. Well done Brad, not sure how you can get faster except for sheer determination. I am back running though only 5 days a week. Still jumped in a 5k and broke 6:00min pace so I was happy aout that. NE Runner website had a nice picture of my buddies and myself hamming it up in the ocean after the race.
    Take care and keep training.

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