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The life of a Dad who strives to be the best dad possible

Mountain Man Sprint

Sprint and OlympicAs with every race, I had certain goals, some more reachable than others.  As with every race as well, I hit some goals and missed others…  A bit of background about the Mountain Man Sprint first.

The Mountain Man Sprint (and Olympic in August) are the 5th oldest races west of the Mississippi river.  They take place in Flagstaff, Arizona and are spectacular events.  The air is generally cool and pleasant.  The swim, taking place in Upper Lake Mary, is awesome.  Water temperatures for the past eight years have been exactly 71 degrees, making the swim phenomenal.

The bike and run occur on and around some truly gorgeous scenery.  Both are out and back on paved roads with huge shoulders.  The olympic has three hills before the turnaround for athletes to enjoy and the sprint course is relatively flat.  Making both bikes generally pretty fast and competitive.  Plus, most of the bike course provides rides with great lake, forest, and mountains vistas.  Can’t beat that!

While the two bikes courses are generally flat and fast, the run, equally as scenic, presents racers with treachery on the olympic course.  The “out” heads in the opposite direction from the bike and meanders along the lakeside road, with minor undulations, until a sharp right takes racers up a steep incline.  For the sprint distance, racers proceed up the incline just a bit.  The olympic, however, is a much different story, with the climb up lasting 1.5 miles, at which point, all racers make a 180 degree turn and proceed down the same hill.  This three mile stretch truly determines who has a good day and who does not.  It is a tough but great event that definitely earns its nickname: The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.


Given that this was a sprint, my race prep was easy, minor, and felt weird.  I organized all my stuff, reviewed my Race List, and went through the same mental checklist I do for every race.  Each time, I reached the same conclusion: that’s all I need.  Yet, that tiny little pile seemed too small and too simple to be correct.  I guess that’s one of the benefits of short-course racing: not much stuff needed.


I love the swim.  Yes, I know I say that at nearly every race, but I really do enjoy the swim.  Certainly, the fact that I a good swimmer helps.  But, I also love it because most other racers either hate it or suck at it.  The little devil in me can’t help but smile and enjoy that!

The Mountain Man Sprint is a 750 meter swim, in very still, comfortable lake.  But, it also happens at over 7,000 feet.  That altitude alone makes the swim very challenging.  Each year, I pass groups of swimmers who “sprinted” at the race start and then quickly were forced to breast stroke simply to get extra oxygen around the first buoy at 200 meters.  Maybe I am a bad person, but I can’t help but giggle inside as I slither past them.  I force myself to start slowly and build my speed for the first 500 meters.  Once I make the second (and last) turn and start heading towards shore, I know I have a mere 250ish meters remaining and can really open up.  Like the other times I have done this race, I had a great swim; this year, good enough for fastest in my age group at 12:56.  Other than one other swimmer (who also happens to be a cyclist AND a runner; simply unfair, as he used those skills to win our age group damn him), that time was more than a minute faster than one guy and many minutes faster than nearly everyone else.  Yeah, I had a good swim.

Transition 1

This sucked.  For whatever reason, I had great difficultly getting my wetsuit over my hands.  I still only spent 1:39, but I should have been around 0:40.  It was frustrating.


Ahhh, the bane of my racing life.  I had a sparkling clean bike, my Mad Fibers, my aero helmet, and a very lean bike.  (A “lean bike” meaning no bottle cage, no repair kit, etc.)  I pushed and pushed hard, working the entire time.  I kept hearing the voice of my Coach in my ear saying: if you feel good, if you feel comfortable, if your breathing is smooth or controlled, you are NOT working hard enough.  Within seconds of riding, my legs started to burn and I knew that feeling would not be leaving for a while…

In spite of my efforts, seven (SEVEN!!!) age groupers passed me.  Two passed me like I was plodding along on a plow horse, which I wasn’t.  The Red Rocket is NOT a plow horse; she’s a beauty who loves to fly with me.  To call it frustrating does no justice.  I was pissed.  My overall speed was more than 22 mphs, not super fast, but nothing terrible either.  Yet, I was 2-5 MINUTES behind the four guys who beat me in our age group.  Two of them had truly stunning bike times (one averaged over 27 mph!)  Oh well, I rode as hard and as fast as I could under the circumstances and don’t think I could have done much more.

Transition 2

With a flying dismount and a simple, clean transition area, I flew through T2 with a mere 0:53 time, just 6 seconds off the fastest of the day.  While other people doddled, I was running.


Now the race truly begins.  All races, in my opinion, are judged by the run.  Have a great run and you have a great race, regardless of time or placement.  Break down on the run and you will hate your performance.  I tell people all the time: It is all about the run.  This day was no different.

The pain did not dissipate during the change from bike to foot and, much to my dismay, increased instead.  The first half mile of the run during a sprint is truly painful.  Your legs aren’t ready to run, at all, and particularly not ready to run with intensity and speed.  I had to concentrate to get my speed to drop from around a 7:20 pace to right around 7:00.  Dropping that tiny 20 seconds per mile seemed to increase my discomfort by about a billion percent.  A small stitch started on my side.  My breathing became ragged.  I wanted to do nothing more than lie down and perish (well, maybe not perish, but you know what I mean…)  But, that’s how a sprint should feel so I knew I was headed in the right direction.

In the first mile, I passed two age groupers.  When they passed me on the bike, I was certain we would meet again.  To be blunt, they simply didn’t have the physique that indicated they could run with me and, thankfully, that turned out to be true.  As I neared the turn-around, I saw two age groupers I knew on the other side of the out-and-back course.  That was a major bummer as I knew I could not catch them in the last 1.5-2 miles of the race; just not possible.  Instead, I focused on just “making it suck” for the next ten minutes.  I knew if I did that, I would probably catch one or two more age groupers and be within sniffing distance of the finish line.  That would enable pure adrenaline to carry me to the end.

I made the turn around, dropped my pace just a bit and tried to narrow my vision and focus on mechanics, mostly to ignore the growing pain in seemingly every muscle in my body.  Hitting the “1 Mile Remaining” sign was both a blessing and a terrible sight to behold.  It meant it was time to put down the hammer and “make it really suck” for six more minutes.  With all the effort I could muster, I dropped my speed to 6:30 min/mile and panted my way to the finish line.

While I did not meet my goal (top 3 in age group), I raced nearly as hard as I could and gave the race all my body had to offer.  I was pleased with my swim and felt my effort on the bike was positive.  I do have to admit that I feel I caved a little on the run, but knowing you have almost no chance of making the Top 3 of your age group is a major downer.  Who knows what impact this belief had on my intensity on the run.  Regardless, I still averaged a pace of 7:08 on the run and feel this was yet another step in my evolution and progress as a competitive triathlete.  I can now only look forward to the nearly the same race in four week as the Mountain Man Olympic rapidly approaches!


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