Okoboji Triathlon Race Report

We arrived in Okoboji to a decorated yard on Friday evening.  My parents, sister and aunt had decorated my parent’s yard to celebrate my National qualification…

Some of the decorations at my parent's house.
Some of the decorations at my parent’s house.
More decorations at my parent's house.
More decorations at my parent’s house.
Even more decorations...I think my aunt thought I was racing to compete in the Olympics instead of competing in an Olympic-distance triathlon.
Even more decorations…I think my aunt thought I will be racing to compete in the Olympics instead of competing in an Olympic-distance triathlon…

Saturday morning, we woke up at 4:30 am, ate breakfast, loaded the bikes and headed to Arnold’s Park Amusement Park, where the transition area was located.  We arrived at 5:30 am to the typical Okoboji Triathlon experience…

  1. No one is patrolling the transition area, so anyone can enter the transition area at any time throughout race morning.
  2. You have free pick of whatever spot you want to stage your transition area.
  3. The bikes have PLENTY of room to be spread out and arranged however the athlete deems appropriate (the Hy Vee Triathlon could have fit 1000 bikes in the same amount of space as 200 here).
  4. Body marking is optional and self administered.
  5. The water temperature is NOT announced and is on the border of being wetsuit ILLEGAL, but no one seems to care.
  6. As athletes wait for their race to start, they get a history lesson about the “oldest wooden roller coaster west of the Mississippi” that resides at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park.
  7. Even though the race says it starts at 7 am, that is just a rough estimate.

After getting my transition area all set up, I wandered over to watch the start of the marathon (6 am start time).  I am always in awe of the marathon runners who sign up for this event.  Since the race is held in the middle of July in Iowa, it usually has some unbearable weather, but we got REALLY lucky with the weather this year!!

The start of the Okoboji Marathon at 6 am had about 80 people racing...there is a reason so few people race the marathon...
The start of the Okoboji Marathon at 6 am had about 80 people racing…there is a reason so few people race the marathon…

After watching the marathon runners start their day, I went back to my transition area and checked everything over…looks good!!  Time to head to the water for the swim start…should I wear my wetsuit or not????  I think I’ll wear it and take advantage of the hydrodynamics it provides me…

My transition area, with my husband's transition area staged right next to me...
My transition area, with my husband’s transition area staged right next to me…

I was in wave 3, so I started 6 minutes behind wave #1 and 3 minutes behind wave #2.  As the announcement was made for our wave to start swimming, I seemed to have positioned myself just right as I had very little contact with other swimmers and didn’t have many slower swimmers (in my wave) in front of me.  I felt nice and relaxed throughout the entire swim and was grateful to NOT see any eyes in a scuba mask looking up at me this year… 🙂

I finished the 0.6 mile swim in 16:23.  I was super happy with this…1:33 per hundred yards.  The transition area was quite a ways away from the swim exit.  I felt that my transition was super efficient, but my time shows otherwise due to the distance covered…3:18.

I was quickly on the bike and circling West Lake Okoboji.  At about mile 7 on the bike, I saw a spectator cheering us on and she said to me, “Girl, you look like you’re having fun!!”  From that point on, I had a new theme song playing in my head…”Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper…

At about this point, I felt the slight headwind, but continued to push hard around the lake…and I did so without dropping my chain…YAY!!  First time while racing this year!!  With only about one mile to go on the bike, my dad, sister, two nieces and my dad’s friend/neighbor were standing on the side of the road cheering me on.  It was so much fun to see them!!  I rolled back into transition after covering the 18 miles in a time of 56:54.  I was very happy with this smokin’ fast (for me), average speed of 19.0 mph!!  My transition was smooth and efficient…1:21.

Off to the run I go…I know this run like the back of my hand since it basically goes through my parent’s back yard.  I run most of this route nearly every time I am home for a visit.  🙂  I saw the same spectator, who said, “She’s still smiling!!  Go get ’em girl!!  Have fun!!”  I smiled, ran on and immediately listened to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” in my own head again…I guess I may have to create my own soundtrack of music that plays through my head while I race afterall…although I don’t actually listen to music while I train or race, it could be funny to hear how all of these songs flow from one to the next…At about mile 2.5, there were two women who were cheering on spectators and hoola hooping continuously…they are definitely going to have abs of steel after that workout!!  I only walked through 3 water stops (long enough to down a quick glass of water), otherwise I ran at a pretty consistent and speedy pace for having just pushed so hard on the bike.  I covered the 4.5 mile distance in 37:13 for an average pace of 8:16.

I crossed the finish line in 1:55:07, with my California niece in my arms, setting yet another PR!!  My previous PR for this odd distance event was 1:58:07…PR by 3 minutes…this is a good chunk of time to cut when covering only 23.1 miles total.  So far I have raced three triathlons this summer and set a PR on all three…I have two more triathlons this summer…will the trend continue?!?!?!?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see 🙂

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Why Triathlon???

Recently I got to thinking about why I do triathlon…it’s simple really…I want to reconnect with the fun I had as a kid.

As a kid, I swam nearly every day during the summer months in Lake Okoboji…splashing around, making new friends and swimming with our dog.  There was no competition…just playing in the water.

Family swim time...one of the few times we were in the ocean instead of Lake Okoboji.
Family swim time…one of the few times we were in the ocean instead of Lake Okoboji.

I also rode my bike almost daily.  There were times I rode my bike just to have fun and times I rode my bike to get somewhere.  Regardless of the reason for riding my bike, there was always one thing that was consistent…I was never riding to compete with anyone.

Riding my bike...when I was a kid, we didn't wear helmets, but this is not something I condone now!!  I never ride my bike without a helmet now!!
Riding my bike…when I was a kid, we didn’t wear helmets, but this is not something I condone now…I never ride my bike without a helmet now!!

I ran around with people I didn’t know, acquaintances and friends of many years.  Growing up with a resort in my backyard provided me with many opportunities to have fun and meet new people…sometimes we were running to the water’s edge to swim and other times we were running in relay events at the resort with the other kids who where visiting for the week…regardless of the reason for running, it was always for fun!!

Running in a relay race with a glass of Kool-Aid...I'm the one in the yellow shirt on the left.
Running in a relay race with a glass of Kool-Aid…I’m the one in the yellow shirt on the left.

As a kid, it wasn’t about being the fastest, being the best,  or pushing myself to my limits while “training” or “racing.”  Instead, it was about the simple pleasures of having fun while swimming, biking and running.

Sometimes these simple pleasures are briefly forgotten as I try to push myself to new limits during training and racing, but it is important for me to always remember how much fun I had with each of these disciplines as a kid.  It has been fun to reminisce and remember all the fun I had while swimming, biking and running as a kid.  I’m hoping to keep these memories at the forefront while training and racing.  After all…for me, triathlon is about LOVE…those things I used to love to do as a kid and still love as an adult…swim, bike, run!!

Two States Bike Ride

This last weekend, the Iron Hippie and I went to Okoboji to visit my parents.  We had an AMAZING run on Saturday and followed it up with an AWESOME bike ride on Sunday.  The Iron Hippie was scheduled to ride for 60 miles and I was scheduled to ride for 2-3 hours.  I knew that I would not be able to ride 60 miles in that 2-3 hour time window, but figured I would come close, so we mapped out a route.

70 mile bike route surrounding the Iowa Great Lakes area, including Iowa and Minnesota saddle time.
70 mile bike route surrounding the Iowa Great Lakes area, including Iowa and Minnesota saddle time.

Living in central Iowa, we rarely get the opportunity to ride in two states in one day, but since Okoboji is only about 15 miles from the Minnesota border, we decided to map a ride that would take us into Minnesota.  We have also never had the opportunity to completely circle the Iowa Great Lakes region by bike, so we decided that we would accomplish this goal on this bike ride!!  In order to completely circle the Iowa Great Lakes area AND bike in Iowa and Minnesota (safely), we had to make our route a little longer than 60 miles…it ended up being 70.5 miles.  We definitely could have made the route shorter, but we would have had to ride our bikes on some roads with really heavy traffic and decided to opt out of that option.

We donned our bikes at 6 am and headed out in perfect weather…low 60s, less than 5 mph winds, full sun…couldn’t be better for cycling!!  The 6 am start time would allow us to get most of our ride done before the Iowa Great Lakes region woke up 🙂

On the north edge of the Iowa Great Lakes area, there is a stretch of road that is right on the Iowa/Minnesota border.  Since we were the only ones on the road, we decided to take a picture of us riding down the road…my husband was in Iowa, while I was in Minnesota!!  Not everyday you can zig zag across the road and switch the state you are in so quickly 🙂

My husband is in Iowa on the left and I am in Minnesota on the right.
The Iron Hippie is in Iowa on the left and I am in Minnesota on the right.

During this ride, I could definitely tell that I had raced hard the week before.  My legs were a bit sluggish, but I just kept pushing forward!!  We finished our 70.5 mile route in 3:55:00…giving us an average speed of 18.0 mph…I have become stronger and gotten faster on the bike and I am super stoked about it!!

We LOVED this route, the smooth surfaces and the little vehicle traffic that we encountered!!  This is definitely a ride we will be doing again in the future!!

Stop and Smell the Roses Run

Saturday morning I got the opportunity to “run how you feel” and took advantage of this opportunity to run with my husband around Okoboji.  I have run around Okoboji NUMEROUS times since I grew up there and get home to visit my parents a few times a year, but I have never taken the time to “stop and smell the roses” and really appreciate the scenery.  Saturday was an exception…it was time to really enjoy my surroundings!!

Running on a trail along the lakeshore...I love the open water!!
Running on a trail along the lakeshore of West Lake Okoboji…I love the open water!!
The water's edge...
The water’s edge…dipping our toes into the cool West Okoboji Lake water.
Running down Lakeshore Drive on a scenic route.
Running down Lakeshore Drive on a scenic route.
A snapping turtle by the marsh lands.
A snapping turtle by the marsh lands.
An eagle's nest in the marsh lands.
An eagle’s nest in the marsh lands.
My husband picking a nose along our run by the Lakes Art Center.
My husband picking a nose along our run by the Lakes Art Center.
I really miss the Okoboji Summer Theatre, but who doesn't dress for dinner?!?!?!?
I really miss the Okoboji Summer Theatre, but who doesn’t dress for dinner?!?!?!?  🙂
Running along the bike trail...beautiful!!
Running along the bike trail…beautiful!!
A daisy along the bike path.
A daisy along the bike path.
Columbine flowers along the bike path.
Columbine flowers along the bike path.
Running through the tunnel under highway 71.  As we exit the tunnel, we have a great view of West Lake Okoboji.
Running through the tunnel under highway 71. As we exit the tunnel, we have a great view of West Lake Okoboji.
Beautiful flowers along Lakeshore Drive.
Beautiful bleeding hearts along Lakeshore Drive.
Irises along Lakeshore Drive.
Irises along Lakeshore Drive.
The view of Arnolds Park Amusement Park from across the bay.
The view of Arnolds Park Amusement Park from across Smith’s bay in West Lake Okoboji.
Beautiful flowers along Lakeshore Drive.
Beautiful flowers along Lakeshore Drive.