Square Lake Half Ironman Relay Race Report

>> Monday, September 09, 2013

Yesterday was my first triathlon relay. I'd done a ton of duathlon relays, but never a tri. Michael, a speedy swimmer from the Y where I swim, had brought up this idea around a year ago with me, saying he knew a speedy biker. We started looking at possible races this spring, and by July we still hadn't settled on anything.

We went with the Square Lake Half Iron Distance Triathlon. I tweeted some of our/my goals for the race early yesterday morning. I didn't talk much about this race before hand because my team didn't want some other team being put together who could out-do us. So I posted this just before the race - you need to read these from bottom-to-top to read them in the order I tweeted them:

SPOILER ALERT: We achieved none of those goals.

Michael and I went to the race together, and Bart (our biker) had been there for an hour and was all set up. I was THRILLED to see that there was extra TP all over the place!

Love this.

Steve Q's photo of me, Bart, and Michael looking at a map.

Walking down the steps from transition to the lake.

Michael ready to go!

Instagrammed photo: "My (topless) swimmer starting the Square Lake Half Iron relay!!"

Wave 4 starting - you can see the groups of waves 4, 3, and 2 on the 2-loop swim course.

Michael (trust me - it's him) in 6th overall, starting the 2nd loop parallel to the beach.

Photo of me making photos of Michael (from Steve Q).

My Gear West Du relay partner Pete was the 2nd out of the water!
Here are his foot prints along with Dan Arlandson's (first 2 out of the water).

Michael coming out in 5th place overall (first place team).

Heading up the steps to Bart (seen at the top).

Bart heading out for his ride!

Michael was satisfied with his swim. I asked if he thought it was "right on" in terms of distance, and he said yes - it was right where he thought he could be!

Michael and I chatted with Steve Q for a while along with some of the other teams. Then Michael hit the lake for another little swim. Swimmers. Sheesh. :)

I walked out to the main road because the bikers were doing 2 loops. I wanted to spot Bart and see what his first loop split was just to have a sense of when he'd be coming in after another loop. First was some random middle-aged guy who unknowingly cut the course a bit. (We started to hear that a few people took a turn that was marked from the sprint tri the day before, even though the race director was very clear about "do not turn if there is no race marshal at the corner! All corners have marshals!" Oops. Mistakes happen.) Then came speedy local Dan Arlandson. And next was Bart!!

Riding past the entrance to the park to start loop #2.

Left-over water bottles being given out at the bottle drop. Reduce, reuse, recycle! :)

I did a SHORT warm-up run to test my knee. My foot has been feeling fine for the last 4 days, but as soon as that started feeling OK, the inside of my other knee started acting up. (The theory is I maybe aggravated something in my other leg by walking gingerly on my sore foot.) It was a bit tender starting out, but it felt a BIT better after a half mile, so I hoped that I just needed to move on it a little.

Waiting for Bart, we learned that the female runner for one of the other teams recently ran a 2:50 marathon (6:29 pace), and she's hoping to keep lowering that and run the Olympic Trials in a few years. I thought I might have speedy (non-relay) Dan Arlandson as a possible race buddy, and now I'd maybe have this woman as a possible run buddy, too! And since we were an all-male team and they were a co-ed team, we weren't mortal enemies. :)

Speedy Dan Arlandson came into T2 along with another athlete, and just behind them was Bart!

Me putting the chip on my ankle, GIVING THE SPEEDY FEMALE RELAY RUNNER
Look at her face - she's repulsed. I don't blame her.

First delicate steps of my run.

Taking off on the road in the distance.

Side note: Michael had my camera, and he caught an interesting chip exchange by the team just behind us:

What's their swimmer doing there with their runner?....

The swimmer is doing all the work transferring the chip so the runner can just get on her way!

To me, that idea is good in theory, but I would want to stop and adjust it if it didn't feel quite right, so I'd never let someone else put a chip on me. Good idea, though!

My legs felt GOOD out there! My knee was sore, but it wasn't bad. I was under 90 seconds from the 2 (non-relay) leaders, and I had hopes of slowly working my way closer to them. My first mile uphill was 6:20, and it felt great.

Things started going downhill a bit more over mile 2. By the mile 2 marker, my form was gone. My stride looked something like Dick Van Dyke trying to run as Mr. Dawes Sr. from Mary Poppins. (Does anyone know what I'm talking about?) My legs (my muscles) felt good, and my breathing was great. But my sore knee was now causing pain in my lower back on the same side as well. About once every 30 seconds, my leg would almost give out and I'd nearly collapse. I hit mile 2 in 6:40, and now I was just holding on.

My knee was getting sorer and sorer, but I needed to see if I could work through it. I hit mile 3 in 6:35, but this wasn't going to last. Again, I was running at a pace that I felt like I could hold forever.... if it just weren't for my knee and lower back.

Just after mile 3, we turned up a small hill onto a different road. Within a few steps up that hill, my knee tightened up, tightened up, tightened up, TIGHTENED UP, TIGHTENED UP! It felt like it was going to blow. I nearly stopped right there, but I thought "no, I need to get to the top of this little incline and see if I can 'run it out' after it levels out."

So I did that.

But it didn't feel any better once the road leveled out. So I stopped. And turned around. And started walking back with a major limp.

Damn it.

A blogger friend wasn't too far behind me and said "You OK, Steve?" And the speedy female relay wasn't too far behind him (and she was MOVING!). I was actually pretty bummed that we didn't get to race each other, because it looks like it could've been close!

Long-story-short: I hitched a ride in a truck with the race director's son who was dropping off more garbage cans at the aid stations. He dropped me right off at transition after I only had to walk about 0.3 miles. I searched for my team, and found them down by the finish line. Michael saw me and said "Oh! Sorry, I missed you finish!" I said "No... no you didn't." Bart and Michael were so great about me having to throw in the towel. I felt so shitty having let down the team. But they just kept saying stuff like, "No, you told us you weren't 100%," and "we could have just as easily had a major bike issue that kept us from finishing," and "you can't destroy your body for this one race." Those guys were the best. Thanks Bart and Michael! Sorry it didn't turn out better!

We had to get a team photo post-race (just before we sat down to ice my knee).

We watched the first few elites finish, and then we saw the speedy co-ed relay finisher come to the finish just 1 minute off the course record with around a 1:22 half marathon split!

Finishing with a big smile... I love it!

Because our team (Team "Splash, Dash, and Saddle Rash") DNFed, we don't have any official splits in the results. But I had Michael's swim as 29:47 (fastest team out of 5 "all male" teams and 12 teams total) and Bart's bike around 2:15 (fastest team once the 2:14 team who [everyone suspects] cut it short is taken out). I noted just after starting the run that I would have had to have ran a 1:25 to beat the course record, and that would have been very, very possible if I hadn't had my knee issue (it's been a long time since I ran anything slower than a 1:25 half). But I DID have my knee issue, so it is what it is.

The nice news is that when the race director heard this, he invited us to race (free) next year again. We're all interested, but we just have to make sure that works for us next year. So look for a possible redemption race for Team "Splash, Dash, and Saddle Rash" in 2014!

Now it's time for some rest. My knee hurts like a mother today. I'm icing whenever I can, and stairs are a lot of work. I'll give it another day or 2 to see if it starts to get better before seeing a sports med doc for a diagnosis. Stay tuned!....


Carolina John 12:47 PM, September 09, 2013  

Sorry man, that really stinks! You were really pushing the speed out there. Think it would have been any different if you had been trying 8 or 9 minute miles?

fwiw, I also did my first triathlon relay this weekend. It was a blast!

TriMOEngr 12:59 PM, September 09, 2013  

That totally sucks. But sounds like it was the right decision. Bummer. Cool about the free entry next year.

Steve Stenzel 1:33 PM, September 09, 2013  

John, I forgot to address that - a change in speed wouldn't have helped anything. (Well, it maybe would have gotten me to go another 0.1 miles before stopping.) It wasn't a "speed" thing, just an "injury" thing. Now I just have to get it healed up!!

Andrew Gislason 2:46 PM, September 09, 2013  

I'm surprised that "Team Wood" got their results posted. Stinks for the rest of the team members, but their biker in the Peace Coffee kit was the one that I followed on the wrong turn (stupid, stupid, I know). The guy in the lead vehicle knew he cut the course. I ended up turning my chip in during T2 and went for a nice little training run.

Viator 4:01 PM, September 09, 2013  

Bummer, Steve. I did the Square Lake short course last year, and it was a beautiful run route.

On the plus side, you made the right choice, and if you need to run a 9 min. recovery pace on training runs for a while, hey, I'm your pacer : )

(I think we must be near neighbors, by the way: I'm on Hague, just around the corner from the Blue Door.)

Keep the ice going, and take it easy. Today's heat index isn't kind to runners, anyway.

SteveQ 10:26 AM, September 10, 2013  

My thoughts: you overcompensated for the peroneal tendonitis and that led to a knee injury; injuries tend to move up the body and switch sides - when your back hurts, you're done. It's not tendonitis in the knee, as it got worse (not better) as you went; it's probably the tibial collateral ligament that got strained. When that happens in a race, you can keep going by rotating your leg so you severely toe-in, running pigeon-toed on one foot - that'd get you a finish, but would mess up a bunch of muscles. The real problem is that you tried to move up to the 1/2 marathon distance without proper endurance training and you started doing some long faster runs to prepare without adequate foundation. You can do that sometimes, but it gets harder every year.

Valerie Morwood,  10:40 PM, September 10, 2013  

I randomly found your blog--link from another blog.
I was very excited to read your post about the Square Lake Half because my husband and I raced as well. In fact, it was my first half. My husband, Dan Morwood, is a different story--he has a 20yr experience racing triathlons. He is the one you described as "random middle-aged guy who cut the course". I just wanted to let you know that he did not get confused by the olympic distance arrows. He raced and won in 04 and 06, and knew the course. Here is the link to strava for his race: http://www.strava.com/activities/81134957.
It might be a good idea to get your facts straight before blogging things that could ruin other people's reputations, otherwise, you get very protective wives commenting on your posts.

Valerie Morwood,  11:04 PM, September 10, 2013  

So sorry! I re-read your blog to my husband and we realized that you were not referring to my husband.
So embarrassed!
Thanks for the description and pictures of the race.

Cynthia 11:09 PM, September 10, 2013  

So sorry about the injury, hope it heals up and you are back to 100% soon!

Steve Stenzel 9:24 PM, September 13, 2013  

Ha Valerie! Yep, it was the winning relay (the "middled-aged guy") who cut the course. I know some people thought Dan could have been one who cut, but his previous races proved otherwise. SOLID race for him! And congrats on your first 70.3!

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