Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Onion Man Re-Cap

Getting set up in the transition area before the race

In the weeks leading up to this triathlon I started to think that maybe I'd made a mistake signing up for this one; maybe I should have chosen a triathlon with more recreational triathletes like myself: triathletes not worried about winning or really even about their time - triathletes just interested in finishing the race and having a good time. The Onion Man Triathlon website even said something about "competitive" which is definitely not me. But I had already paid the registration fee so it was happening!

When we got to our motel in Walla Walla the day before the race, every bike I saw in the parking lot was waaaaay nicer than mine - another sign I might have signed up for the wrong race! That night I didn't sleep well. I kept having dreams that I had forgotten to do one leg of the race and kept waking up thinking I'd overslept. When I looked at the clock at 5:15 I could hear people showering elsewhere in the motel and car doors closing. I was sure all the serious triathletes were already up and about drinking their energy-packed super breakfast shakes and riding a few miles before the sun was even up. When I finally got up and went down to eat the continental breakfast at 7:00, I finally found all the other "recreational" triathletes. I was so relieved I wasn't the only one!

Ryan dropped me off at the start of the race with my bike and all my gear and then went and parked. The transition area already seemed pretty full so I wandered around for a minute looking for space on a rack to park my bike. The first two spaces I spotted looked promising until I got to them and saw the fancy bikes parked around them; I got intimidated. I didn't want to be parked next to some super serious racer! So I wandered to the back row, parked my bike, and was immediately relieved when the people around me were chatting about how they were intimidated by all the fancy bikes and wished they had trained a little more. I had found my crowd! The three people to the left of me in the photo above were all awesome. I'm glad I was parked near them and it was fun to "know" some people when we passed each other on different legs of the race.

When I did my first triathlon two years ago I didn't use a wet suit and neither did about half of the people in the race. I thought it would be similar this time. I was wrong! I only saw one person not wearing a wet suit besides myself! I apparently stood out so much that a reporter came up to be just before the race started and asked why I didn't wear a wet suit. I said "I'm from Alaska" and my quote made it in the Walla Walla newspaper. All of this also made me think I shouldn't have signed up for this race.

When I started the swim, I seriously thought for a few seconds that it was going to be too cold. It was after all, a 1500m swim and I knew that would take me 25-30 minutes  - a long time in cold water! But after a few minutes my core warmed up (and my extremities went numb) and I was fine. The most difficult part of the swim (besides occasionally being kicked/hit/swam over) was that it was fairly windy (10mph with gusts up to 20) and the lake was a little choppy. Combine that with 250 swimmers and you get a lot of waves and splashing. I swallowed A LOT of water. I'd come up for a breath and get hit by a wave. It was gross. If I get sick, I know why! My breathing was a little more frantic than I would have liked, but I'm still happy with my time, even if the swim course was a little shorter than they'd intended.

Here I am finishing the swim and about to pass all these suckers who have to unzip their wet suits

My legs were pretty numb and cold when I started the bike. Luckily the sun had come out by then so it didn't take too long to warm up (and by that I mean 5 or 6 miles). The bike course was really lovely. First we rode through the community college, then past vineyards, houses, fields, and then onto a country road in the trees before turning around. On the way out I felt like I just couldn't get going fast - my legs were tired and my feet were numb. Once I hit the turn around, I had a surge of energy. I hadn't realized that we had been gradually climbing uphill. Even the slight descent on the way back made a huge difference. There had also been a serious headwind on the way out and I thought that meant I would have a tailwind on the way back. It didn't. It felt like a headwind both directions! I know that's not possible; it was actually a side-wind, but it still sucked.

Finishing the bike leg
While I was in the transition area changing into my running shoes, I was sure I was going to forget something. Luckily I remembered to take my helmet off before I tried to run out of the transition area (barely). As I was leaving the transition area I heard the announcer say that the seventh place finisher was coming in - six people had already finished the entire race before I'd even started the run!

During the first half mile of the run I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other. My legs felt like lead but I knew they'd loosen up after a while. I felt pretty good between about 1/2 mile into the run and the turn around point at about 3 miles. I hit a bit of a wall after I turned around. We'd been running into the wind and when I turned around, the volunteer at that end said "You'll have a tailwind on you're way back!" For a second, I thought, "Oh, awesome, I hadn't even thought of that!" But I quickly realized it also meant it just felt hot not to have the breeze in my face. By mile 4 I was feeling good again and was just telling myself all I had left was an easy 2 mile jog.

At the end of the race, we ran along the edge of the parking lot - right past the post-race BBQ. The great part was all the spectators and racers who had already finished cheered everyone along while they ate, but the mean part was we had to run past all that delicious-smelling BBQ chicken!

Heading into the last stretch
I ended up being very happy with my time and did not regret choosing this triathlon. There was a good mix of competitive and recreational athletes and a lot of really friendly racers and volunteers. With the exception of the rough pavement and speed bumps at the end/beginning of the bike route, it was a great course.

Here are my official stats:

Final time: 3:10:44
Swim time (1500m or less): 26:01
Transition 1: 2:38
Bike (40k): 1:35:19
Transition 2: 1:16
Run (10k):  1:05:29

Age group place: 4/8
Overall place: 197/223

And this is what I ate for a mid-afternoon snack after the race


  1. Great job, Molly! You kicked butt! Love that the reporter signaled you out b/c you weren't in a wetsuit. They do give you buoyancy, which is nice. I would have been in the water 2x as long & surely would have froze so glad you are a quick swimmer. When I did my first few tri's (early '90's), it was rare to see someone in a wetsuit. Now, almost everyone (but you!) wears one. Strange. Anyway - the water will only get warmer from now on so you have no worries. Got another tri planned for the summer?

  2. I have heard they give you more buoyancy, but I think I probably save time by not having to peel one off in the transition. I think I need to write a whole blog post of the pros and cons of wet suits!

    No more tris this summer. Probably not next year either. Time to focus my energy on something else...maybe finishing grad school. =)

  3. Great Job, Molly! I love your descriptions of everything! You did it! Triathlons are so much to coordinate. Have a great summer and hope to see you in Kodiak sometime! :) Zoya