As a requirement of my job, I spend plenty of time out and about in Tooele County.
This past Saturday, however, I got a different view of a (very) small portion of Tooele City from a different perspective — as a participant in the Tooele Tri.
It was my first triathlon since moving to Utah and my first with the backward run-bike-swim format. Still, the affordable entry fee ($25) and great race swag (drawstring bag, T-shirt and bandana) made it a can’t-miss event.
As I mentioned in this column back in March, I’m in the midst of a mile-a-day running campaign and I’ve managed to hold to it. While the running has been good, the frequency of my swims and bike rides has been poor.
Channeling the receding figure of my college self, I crammed a few sessions in the pool and a couple quick bike rides into the past few weeks. They were probably more of a mental boost than a physical one, but suddenly race day was upon me.
With some question marks leading up to the triathlon, I took control of the non-race related things I could: I went to bed early, ate a breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and honey, and got to the race start at Tooele City Park with plenty of time to spare.
My wife even braved the 7 a.m. race start despite her well-documented stance as a hater of mornings. So when I toed the start line, I was about as ready as I was going to be.
With the run first, I knew I’d be starting at the discipline I was the most prepared for. While that could be an advantage, I viewed it more as a negative with the bike and swim looming.
The out-and-back run loop meant a nice downhill to ease you into the race — and a slow, grating uphill to the transition area. I tried to maintain a steady pace and found less people ahead of me at the end of the run than I expected.
With no pressure for a particular performance, I’ll admit I spent longer in the transition area than needed. After swapping my shoes and strapping on my helmet, I went out on the bike.
The beginning of the bike course continued up a deceptive false flat, leaving me with legs that felt like Jell-O. After the course turned onto 400 South, however, I made a beautiful discovery — the back half of the course was downhill.
With a three-loop course on the bike, my strategy quickly became flogging myself on the false flat incline and recovering on the fast, fun downhill portion of the course. The 10 miles on the bike went by quickly, with the short loops and new groups of cyclists joining in every lap.
Switching to the pool should have been a relief, but between my lack of training and fatigue from the run and bike, it was a struggle out of the gate. I tried to focus on maintaining my form, skipping flip turns and breathing at every opportunity.
Needless to say, ending on the swim is a lot harder than ending on the run. If you’re totally gassed on the run, you can walk a bit. In the pool, you have to keep dragging yourself through the water, just a bit slower.
Coming into the finish of the swim, I managed to pass another competitor on the final length of the pool. I hopped out on the deck and was surprised to find I had finished fifth overall out of a field of 90 or so athletes.
I even won my age group, something I haven’t done at a triathlon since my first back in 2004. So what already would have been a fun, if exhausting, experience was even better.
I received a medal for winning my age group and some validation that my daily runs have paid off. It also has me excited for future triathlons this year (here’s looking at you, Stansbury Days Triathlon.)
While I’m not exactly ready to quit my job and pursue a career as a professional triathlete, it was a great way to return to multisport. It also has my wife eyeing a return to triathlon after a few years of near-total focus on the bike.
The Tooele Tri was well organized and run; I look forward to competing again next year. I spend a solid block of hours in Tooele County every week, but it was nice to come to a community event without my notepad and recorder.