Posted by: bradhammond | September 13, 2010

Lake Stevens Sprint

Saturday, Sept. 11 I raced in the Lake Stevens Sprint triathlon.  There was also an Olympic distance triathlon at the same time – using the same start, finish, transition area, and roads for running and biking.  After everyone in the Olympic distance race had finished the swim, they moved one of the floats closer and started the Sprint distance race.  The Olympic distance race had more of the serious triathletes, but there were still a few people much faster than me doing the sprint distance.  In all they had 102 finishers in the Olympic distance race and 172 finishers in the shorter race.


I ate breakfast between 5 and 5:30, then drove up to Lake Stevens.  I picked up my number and set up my stuff in the transition area, then put on my wet suit and came out.  I thought they might want to close the transition area once the Olympic distance race started, but judging from how many people did the sprint race and how few of them were standing around in wetsuits as long as me, I think they must have left it open for quite a bit longer.  Most of my prerace time was spent watching the swimmers in the longer race.  The exit from the swim was up a boat ramp, and lots of swimmers were slipping and stumbling as they tried to get up out of the water.  Finally the last swimmer had finished and they said they would start the first wave of the sprint triathlon in 2 minutes.


We started in the water – I jumped in from a dock and swam out a few yards, then treaded water in the place where the swim was supposed to start.  Right now my strategy on swim starts is to be right in the center, in the first or second row, so that I can get more used to swimming in crowds.  I am registered for an Ironman race in Coeur D’Alene next year, and it will be a mass swim start with thousands of people all starting at once and trying to fit into the same race course, so I want to develop as much skill and confidence as I can in swimming with lots of other bodies around!

I tried to get off to a fast start, but I did find myself behind a few other swimmers and trying to draft off them in the early going.  This was a simple out and back course, going around a single float and heading back to the boat ramp.  Unlike the Lake Stevens 70.3 race, there was no white cable to follow on the lake bottom, so I had to pop my eyes up looking forward occasionally to make sure I was heading in the right direction.  I worked my way past a few people on the way out, and I was all alone going around the float, although I could see a group of blue caps 15 to 20 yards ahead of me on the way back.  I managed to catch up with one or two swimmers on the way back, and then I had my turn to look exhausted or uncoordinated as I slipped, stumbled, and fell down trying to climb up the boat ramp.

My swim split was 9:48, which would be slow for me to swim a quarter mile, but I am pretty sure that the float didn’t end up in exactly the right spot, and that the swim was significantly longer than 1/4 of a mile.  The fastest swim split I saw in the results was 7:27, and my split was the 24th fastest.  At Lake Sammamish, the guy who swam the 7:27 had a 4:46 swim split, and I was 6:48, so despite the time looking slow, I think I had a really good swim.


Well, I trotted into the transition area and got to see some of the people who had beat me in the swim, but not for long!  The guy whose bib number was right next to mine and had racked his bike next to me was already done and was doing something in transition.  He had a towel, and a cooler, and I saw in results that he beat me by 1:30 in the swim but took over 5 minutes in T1!  I pulled off my wetsuit, buckled on my bike helmet and ran out.  Time 1:00 – I don’t know what some of the other people spent so long doing, but I wasn’t going to wait around and see.


The bike course was out and back, with one nice sized hill in the middle, which we got to climb once in each direction.  When I got the mount line I slid my left foot into that biking shoe – I had a rubber band holding the shoe level and right side up – and started pedaling with my right foot on top of its shoe.  After I built up a little speed I coasted while I slid my right foot inside and closed the velcro straps.  Within a minute I had caught up with one guy, and I yelled “On your left!” as I got ready to pass him.  The road was curving to the left, so he was out in the middle of the lane fairly close to the center line, trying to minimize his distance and not giving me much room to legally pass.  As I passed, I yelled “On your left” again and also muttered under my breath “means move right so I can pass you…” and I heard him say “I heard you the first time.”  I wasn’t going to hang around and discuss it with him, but I thought “I really want to beat this guy!”

The next rider in front of me was wearing a white T-shirt and I managed to pass him just as we started up the hill.  In about 10 seconds he passed me back and pulled away quite a bit on the hill climb.  I wondered if my passing him had motivated him to pick it up a notch.  I managed to close the gap a bit on the downhill, but before I could catch up to him it flattened out and a guy dressed all in black went speeding past both of us.  I looked him up in the results later – he had a slow swim but the fastest bike split, and came in third in both this race and Lake Sammamish.

There were about two miles of flat between the hill and the turnaround point, and again I managed to catch and pass the guy in the white T-shirt.  About a mile from the turnaround point I saw the first 2 guys on their way back.  They had a pretty good gap over the next riders.  I noticed three more, including the guy in black who had passed me.  Then I was almost to the turnaround and there was only one more rider ahead of me.  I thought “I might end up in the top 10!  That would be nice!”

I managed to catch and pass the man ahead of me on the flat before the hill, but he passed my back as soon as we started climbing.  On the steep part of the hill he pulled away, but on the longer not-so-steep part I managed to hold my own.  I thought I was going to catch him on the downhill, but he managed to stay ahead of me until the flat roads in town.  I passed him in the last mile, and after a couple of turns I undid my velcro straps and slid my feet out to bike with my feet on top of the shoes for the last few hundred yards.  I managed to do the high speed dismount pretty well, and ran into T2 just a few seconds ahead of the next guy.


I racked my bike and sat down to pull on my running shoes.  I could see the other guy at the next rack, and I was worried he would beat me out of transition, but I actually increased my lead by 10 seconds as I transitioned a little faster.  My T2 was 48 seconds, and I was heading out for the run!


I didn’t know the exact count at the time, but I think there were only 5 men in front of me when I started the run.  I couldn’t see the next guy in front of me, so I wasn’t thinking about catching people so much as trying to run as fast as I could and stay ahead of most of the people behind me!  The run course is out and back with a fairly long hill that is not very steep at all.  There weren’t any mile markers, and I wasn’t wearing a watch, so I was pretty much guessing on how far, how fast, etc.

I had probably gone a little less than a mile when I heard footsteps and got passed by someone running quite a bit faster.  It wasn’t the guy I was expecting, but I think it was white T-shirt guy!  He had shoes with fluorescent green soles, and I started thinking of him as green sole guy for a while, until he was about 100 yards ahead, then I went back to identifying him by his shirt.

Last race I managed a pace 7:09 for 3.1 miles, and I was hoping to do that again or maybe speed up a few more seconds.  I felt like I was going really fast for me, and I thought it was good that I didn’t have any muscles really hurting, or bellyaches, just a feeling of being totally out of breath.  I saw runners coming back at me, but I didn’t bother trying to count them or keep track of them, and finally I could see what I thought was the turnaround. There were two girls saying “Water!” and a table full of water cups, and an orange cone.  However, I could also see more cones in the distance (road construction?) so I asked if this was the turnaround.  It was, and just after I got turned around the guy who was right behind me in transition finally caught and passed me.  I managed to stay fairly close to him for a while, but the gap kept growing.

Pretty soon I was seeing lots of people going the opposite way.  At first it was all other sprint competitors, but eventually it was people doing the Olympic distance race, too, and I wasn’t always sure which were which.  I saw people I knew, and I heard several people call my name, but I was too out of breath to yell to anyone.  I was content to wave my hand and try to keep on racing.  I had pretty much given up on catching the guy in front of me, and then a third guy passed me during the run.  He was 50, so if I couldn’t pass him back, then I wouldn’t even win my age group.  There was about 1/4 mile to go, and the longer we ran the behinder I got – my pace for the run was 7:33 (eek!) and he averaged 6:10 per mile, so even though I’d had a lead of over 4 minutes after the bike he beat me by 15 seconds.


I didn’t know my splits for quite a while, but I was the 9th person across the finish line, and that felt pretty good! (They had waves, so the men got a head start over the women.  I was actually only 12th overall as 3 of the women finished soon after me and had faster times than me.)  I had the 7th fastest bike split, so I was pretty happy to find that out.  It was a bit of a downer to find out that I ran a lot slower than 2 weeks earlier.  I think I was probably better rested for the earlier race.  I looked at times for 3 other people who also did both of these races, and I actually did a little better in this race, I just ran quite a bit slower.  Comparing my time to the median time, my time / median time = .763, which is much better than my other races, but I think that’s largely because more of the faster people chose to do the longer race, making the sprint field quite a bit slower.  I wasn’t trying to peak for this race, but I wanted to go as fast as I could without really disrupting my training.  Mission accomplished, on to the next!



  1. Way to go!! Had no idea you were registered for CDA! WE have 7 athletes there next year!! Stoked to be cheering for you! Awesome job this weekend.


  2. Great race Brad! I need to learn from you on how to get my T1 times down signifcantly. I’m not as bad as the 5:00 minute guy with the cooler but I also don’t have a 6:33 pace on the run to make up for lost time.

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