Race Report: The Stutensee Triathlon 2010


I have long admired Triathletes and have great respect those that have accomplished the Ironman discipline. My friends Uli and Bernd from my running club are Ironman finishers and my respect is not lost on them. Over the past several years I have spent many, many hours on the trail with them, particularly Uli, as we ran a marathon together last year. When you run with Ironman sooner or later trail chatter lands on this subject. Their experiences at the various triathlon distances fascinated me and somewhere on the trail I stumbled over the idea to try a Tri myself.

For those who swim regularly, or take to water like a fish, a simple sprint triathlon would seem to be an easy task, particularly when one is not worried about finishing times, placement or other distractions. But a year ago I rarely went swimming, mostly because I swam so poorly. I decided if I ever wanted to fulfill my new goal to complete a sprint triathlon I would need to take another swim course. I accomplished this over the winter, taking a freestyle course at an area pool. I continued to swim at least once a week since then and through encouragement from my Ironman friends signed up for the 18th Annual Stutensee Triathlon.

This past Sunday was my debut in a whole new world, one that dragged me far out of my comfort zone, humbled my swollen pride, and allowed me to feel new life as an athlete.

As I met Uli at 4 p.m. on Saturday to pick up our start packets for the Stutensee Triathlon the temperature was hovering around 37°C (99°F). I was grateful that Uli also decided to do the Triathlon; she generously shared her experience with me and showed me the transition areas and finish area for the next day. Her husband Bernd had previously prepared a list of what I would need and we practiced the transitions together, I was as ready as I would ever be.

On Sunday I arrived at the Bike/Run transition point and deposited my baseball cap, the only additional equipment I would need for the run. I then drove the 2 kilometers to the parking lot bordering the quarry pond (Baggersee) where the 500 meter swim would take place. The Swim/Bike transition point was across the street; I unloaded my CUBE and went to the check-in. At the check-in point the officials checked my bike helmet and I parked my CUBE off to the side in the transition point. The group of starters was large this year (206), so we would be starting in two waves, the first at 10:00 a.m. the second at 10:40 a.m.; Uli and I were in the latter. The second wave could lay their stuff out only after the first wave was through.

I walked back over to the car, stopping to chat with another participant that I knew. As we chatted Bernd and Uli arrived and I chatted with them as they unloaded Uli's bike. I gathered my swim cap and goggles and walked over to the check-in with Uli. After she found a spot for her bike we rejoined Bernd and walked over to the Baggersee for our 9:45 a.m. briefing.

Swimmers were already out in the Baggersee warming up, or perhaps cooling down, it was already hot outside! We were soon joined by my Running Buddy (RB) and another friend Paul from our running club, who had come to offer us support. I was happy to see RB, we haven't been running together so much this year since I have been preoccupied with Tri training.

At 9:45 a.m. the officials gave their briefing, basically a review of the rules and walked us through the three events. We waited with RB and Paul as the first wave got ready and finally headed off into the water. I was fascinated as I watched them start, other than on the television I had never seen a Triathlon start. I sat down and tried to relax, it was slowly starting to hit me that I would be doing the same in a little while, up to now it seemed more like a dream.

After a short 7 minutes and 15 seconds the first swimmer popped out of the water and made his way to the transition point. After 17+ minutes the last swimmer made her way to the transition point, Uli and I followed so we could set up our bikes and stuff. Most of the second wave was already busily laying out their things. I found a spot not far from Uli and laid out my "stuff". For this short triathlon I decided it was enough to use just my running shoes, the bike shoes stayed home. I set my running shoes out, with running socks on top, followed by my bike helmet and sunglasses, my start number on a waistband and finally my running tank top. I realized I had forgotten my towel, so laid the old T-Shirt that I had been wearing out, it would do to get most of the sand off my feet. I rechecked my water bottle on the CUBE and made sure I was set in a lower gear.

When Uli was finished we walked over to the Baggersee and warmed up with a short swim. The water was quite warm, neoprene was not allowed or needed. I wore my running shorts, goggles and swim cap.

Shortly before our start we were herded into the start corral and before I had time for a second thought the starting pistol went off.

I ran out with the other swimmers as far as I could and began my rendition of freestyle swimming. The wave quickly left me behind, then way behind, as I paddled my way around the pond. When I signed up for the event I anticipated being the last one finished with the swimming, based on the times from swimmers from previous years. This turned out to be the case, but I was okay with this. I had good company as a diver accompanied me most of the way, occasionally asking me if I was okay - did I look so bad? I concentrated on my breathing, occasionally switched to the breaststroke to sight or rest, but mostly kept up a steady freestyle. After an eternity I arrived at the last buoy and turned towards the shoreline, another 50 meters and the swim would be behind me. I tried my best to speed up and finally arrived at the shore. I dragged myself out of the water and jogged up the bank, passing my arm over the timing transponder as I went, then over a short wooded path to the parking lot beyond.

I was happy to see two participants still there as I ran to my bike. I pulled my tank top over my wet skin then put on my helmet, sunglasses and start number. I attempted to wipe the sand off my feet with the old T-Shirt, and then pulled on my socks and running shoes. I stuffed anything remaining, including swim goggles and cap, into the blue trash bag provided and quickly ran with my CUBE to the edge of the parking lot.

At the edge of the parking lot we were allowed to get on our bikes, so with the adrenalin pumping I jumped on my CUBE and took off in pursuit of the two that had just left.

I sprinted to the end of the street, turning left onto the local highway that had been closed for our event. I slowed as I climbed over a bridge, then flew down the other side, riding down an underpass and climbing out the other end. The first part of the 20 km course was a 2 km stretch that would bring me to the other side of Blankenloch. From here we would ride three 6 km loops. As I arrived at the edge of the loop the forerunners were already heading on their second (or third) loop, I merged and stayed on the left side, English left was the rule of the day for cycling and running.

I settled into a good pace, trying to push the pace on the first kilometer or so of the loop, slowing on the climb over the bridge traversing the Autobahn. I flew down the other side of the bridge, pedaling like a Wildman until gravity took a hold. Soon I arrived at the turn around point and did my best to make an unnatural right hand turn, almost landing in the field. I pumped the pedals again and soon was climbing up the bridge again, then sailing down the other side. The road climbed gently for a bit, then leveled out, I fought to keep the pace going as I arrived at the turn around completing the first loop.

As I circled around to the right I heard Bernd yelling encouragement, this spurred me on. As I again approached the bridge the sun was beating down, I took advantage of the slowed pace long enough to drink, before flying down the other side.

I managed the next turn around much better as with the first loop, so was soon on my way back. My quads complained as I fought the bridge, but I ignored them and was soon flying down the other side, enjoying the brief wind that ensued.

As I arrived at the turn around point at the end of my second loop I noticed how few cyclist were left on the course. I ignored this and spun around the turn for my third loop. At some point during this last loop I realized in my sun-baked brain that I was actually enjoying myself! Even my complaining quads did not alter this feeling as I crawled up the bridge the last time. As I sailed down the bridge towards Blankenloch I realized this would not be my last Tri, I was hooked!

I fought the feeling to slow down and pushed hard to the end of the loop and sailed at frightening speed around the left turn that would bring me to the transition point. I arrived at the dismount point out of breath with heart pumping and adrenalin flowing, I almost removed my helmet, but a kind official warned me before I got that far. I ran my CUBE over to my stall, hung it up, removed sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my baseball cap and wobbled with stiff legs to the edge of the parking lot. I passed my hand over the timing transponder and set out over the 5 km course, two loops in the sun, legs don't fail me now!

The first place runner was just arriving at the finish line as I ran past, I tried not to let it shake me. My legs were stiff as I ran, it is a strange feeling to suddenly switch from cycling to running. As I left the comfort of the shade trees near the finish line I noticed how hot it was, the sun was beating down on the asphalt path - while cycling I at least had some breeze to cool me. I quickly caught the runner in front of me, I had seen him leaving the transition point, he was struggling in the heat. As I ran I reminded myself of the training runs that I had done in the heat to prepare just for this occasion, I pushed on.

The running course was two loops, so it was only about 6-7 minutes before the first turn around point arrived. Shortly before this was a water point, I grabbed a cup, drinking a swig and poured the rest over my head. I ran around the turn around and caught another runner just past it, they had stopped to walk! I grabbed another water on the way by then headed back to the finish. As we entered the edge of town there was another water point, I grabbed a water-filled sponge and tried to cool off as I ran. Shortly before the finish was a turn around point for the second loop, we were required to grab a hair band as we went around, I let them slip it over my hand as I ran by.

I grabbed another cup of water as I ran out of town, again pouring most of it on my head. I passed a couple more runners before reaching the final turn around, then slowed for another cup of water, this time drinking most of it. With less than a mile to go I fought to increase my speed, I was well under my 10 km pace, but I couldn't seem to get my legs to move any faster.

Finally, I saw the finish line up ahead and made a final attempt to speed ahead. As I ran over the finish line I heard my name and something about being an ultra runner, I guess they know me. I spotted Uli as I grabbed some more water and we congratulated each other. Soon Bernd, Paul and RB joined us.

On the one side I was relieved to be done, but somehow I was a bit bewildered that I was already down, I was just getting into it!

After cooling down a bit Uli and I collected our bikes and joined the others for some food. Somehow we forgot about the heat as we shared our experiences and time together. This was one of those days that will linger long in my memory, my first triathlon.

In comparison to most of the other Triathletes my performance was laughable, but for me my accomplishment was extraordinary as I reached far out of my comfort zone to overcome the fear of swimming in open water that I have had since I was a child. I look forward to doing my next event, I have tasted triathlon and it is good!

I was truly impressed with the organization of the event, the organizers and helpers outdid themselves! As the last swimmer I felt as welcome as the first, they patiently waited for me to come through, this meant a lot. Despite the heat there were still lots of fans shouting encouragement during all the events, you all deserve our thanks!

I especially want to thank Uli and Bernd for their support. They took time with me to help with my swimming and transitions, offered invaluable advice and believed in me when I had my own doubts. I may never be competitive in the sport, but I have found a new love, one that I know they share. Thanks again guys, you are my heroes!


Well done Jack, and I'm very happy to read you enjoyed it so much!

jack, sounds like you had a GREAT time. Addaboy! I'm glad it was as great an experience as I knew it would be. It's good to do things that are both a challenge and actually fun, too.

You know, I think they do some Tri's here in Hawaii, too. And I've heard rumors of germans sometimes coming to the islands on holiday....

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on July 13, 2010 9:14 AM.

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