Race Report: Bozeman Triathlon
I just finished the Bozeman Triathlon, Olympic distance, my first triathlon ever and my B race prior to Ironman 70.3 Arizona in October. It went better than I expected, and I finished 4th in my age group (male 40-44) and 23rd overall.
Without further ado, here’s a brief race report.
Location & pre-race prep
The race took place at Glen Lake Rotary Park in Bozeman, Montana, which includes a gravel pit turned into a pond. The weather was pretty overcast, with storms on the forecast in the afternoon; air temperature at race start was about 55°F (13ºC,) and the water temperature 62°F (17ºC,) according to the race director. I arrived at about 7:30 am, picked up my timing chip, set up my stuff in transition, and hung out for a little bit before putting on my wetsuit and heading to the pre-race meeting on the beach at 8:30 am.
Prior to this race I had been training primarily in the pool three or four times a week since April, and had done a handful of open water swims, but I hadn’t done the full Olympic distance (1,500 m) as a continuous swim. So, I went in not feeling entirely confident that I could actually finish.
The swim consisted of two laps around Glen Lake with a short run on the beach between laps. I took on a Maurten Caf gel during the race briefing, 15 minutes before the start, and did a quick warmup swim to get acclimatized to the water temperature (which was actually quite pleasant, since I train in colder water.) During warmup I noticed that the water was so murky, as soon as I got waist deep I could no longer see my feet, which I think actually helped me; I didn’t feel any anxiety being in open water during the race.
I had seeded myself in the “first timers” group since I had no clue what my actual pace would be. At 8:47 am, my group started; I was in no rush and just walked into the water after everyone else got in. However, once I started swimming I quickly caught up with the rest of the group and got to experience this old Clif Bar commercial first hand (thanks to Chris Foster for sharing it in the Team Triathlete Slack.)
After that bit of unpleasantness, I overtook a few folks and just tried to stay out of the way as much as I could to avoid further kicks to the face. About halfway through the first lap, I started feeling some muscle burn in my arms and shoulders and I started to worry I may not have it in me to do two laps. Thankfully, it cleared up after a while, as I settled into a sustainable rhythm. I kept focusing just on the next buoy, and by the second lap I felt like I could have gone on indefinitely. I was in a position to draft other swimmers at a few points, but it didn’t feel like it made any difference, so in general I tried to not get in anyone’s way. I ended up with a finish time of 39:46 and 1,633 m in total (including the walk on the beach between laps,) for a pace of 2:26/100 m.
Looking at the GPS track, I think I did a decent job of sighting. I only went slightly off-track once, going into the shallow part of the lake, but I immediately adjusted my course back on track.
I had very little practice with transitions, so I took my time in T1 to make sure I didn’t forget anything, keeping in mind that “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” I also felt very wobbly after the swim and I wanted to wait for that to clear up before getting on the bike. I took on a regular Maurten gel and a swig of Gatorade Endurance before leaving, and ended up spending 6:05 in T1. My biggest lesson: I need more practice putting on socks, or not wear them at all. The time it took me to put them on wet feet felt eternal. A user on the TrainerRoad forum recommended this trick, which I’ll have to try before my next race.
The bike route went through some of Bozeman’s backroads, along farms and very fancy houses, rolling hills through Montana grasslands, one slightly steep ascent, and two laps total. I had done a little recon the day before the race and was seriously looking forward to it, it just seemed like it would be a very beautiful ride. It was very windy when I drove by the day before, but despite the stormy forecast, there was very little wind on race day.
Overall, it was pretty uneventful, other than a close call when I hit a patch of dirt while cornering near the end of the second lap and almost lost control. I felt pretty strong the entire way, and I think I could have gone a little harder; I was shooting for around 0.85 IF, ended up at 0.79, and finished in 1:16:39. Nutrition was a bottle of Gatorade Endurance, although I didn’t finish it.
Honestly, I loved the bike leg, I wish it would have gone on longer. I was so afraid that I’d have some kind of mechanical issue that would ruin my day, I took two sets of tubes, CO2, and patches, but other than my watch and bike computer refusing to talk to each other, the bike performed like a champ.
T2 went faster, at 2:37, but still took my time and didn’t rush it. Racked the bike, switched shoes, got my belt on, took on a regular Maurten gel with some water, and left.
The majority of the run was in the park, on narrow dirt trails, with only a couple kilometers on paved road through a neighborhood, and it was pancake flat. I did it at a comfortable pace; based on my power curve, the Stryd app recommended 244 W as a target power, but I didn’t want to risk an injury, so I aimed for no more than 230 W (which is what it recommends for half-marathon pace), and ended up at 220 W average power. The route was just shy of 10K, which a bit of a bummer; at that pace (5:42/km) it would have probably been a PR for me (Update: Turns out that when a Stryd is paired to a Wahoo Rival, the distance comes from the pod, not GPS; that likely explains the inaccurate distance.) I had one more Maurten Caf gel with some water at the aid station before starting the second lap, which gave me a boost towards the end, and I finished in 53:02, for a total time of 2:58:09. I had no pain or discomfort, so probably could have gone a little harder, just like with the bike, but it wouldn’t have made any difference in the results, so I don’t have any regrets.
Almost as soon as I picked up my things from transition, the thunderstorm that was forecast started rolling through, so I left soon after, and unfortunately was not able to enjoy the breakfast burritos from the Mighty Spork.
- Tri suit: Roka Gen II Elite
- Wetsuit: Roka Maverick MX
- Swim goggles: Roka R1
- Sunglasses: Roka Matador Air, photochromic
- Bike: Specialized Aethos, stock, no aero bars
- Bike shoes: Giro Regime
- Bike helmet: Giro Helios
- Bike computer: Wahoo Elemnt Roam
- Watch: Wahoo Elemnt Rival
- Running shoes: Hoka Carbon X2 + Stryd pod
- Nutrition: Maurten gels (regular and caffeinated), Gatorade Endurance
Random thoughts & observations
- I’m surprised I didn’t feel anxious or panicky in the water as I feared. I think the fact I couldn’t see the bottom (or much of anything at all) helped.
- I got a horrible chafe on the back of my neck, from my wetsuit. I need to figure out how to prevent that in the future.
- While my sleeved wetsuit feels comfortable otherwise, I still think I’d benefit from the extra mobility of a sleeveless wetsuit.
- I’m going to try wearing ear plugs on my next open water swims to see if they help with post-swim dizziness.
- The Wahoo Rival’s seamless transitions worked pretty well, I didn’t have to futz around with my watch at all during the race (except during the beach run between swim laps, which it understandably interpreted as a transition, but only took a couple seconds to undo.) I also liked that it lets me adjust the times of each leg to match the official race timing before uploading to Strava.
- However, the multisport handoff with the Wahoo Roam just did not work, the watch and bike computer never detected each other so I ended up starting a normal ride on the bike computer and discarding it afterwards.
- Now that it’s finally warm, I need to train more outside to get better at pacing myself on the bike. I had a hard time sticking to my power target through those rolling hills.
- It might be worth to practice riding without socks, or getting tri-specific bike shoes, so I don’t have to waste time fighting with my socks in T1, which was incredibly frustrating.
- My stomach handled the Maurten gels pretty well, despite taking on more of them than I ever did during training.
- I wasn’t sure about how much of a difference the elevation change between Jackson Hole (6,400 feet, 1,950 m) and Bozeman (4,800 feet, 1,460 m) would make, so I didn’t factor it in my race plan, but I think it’s part of the reason I felt stronger than expected. I’ll need to do some more research on it before Arizona, which is even lower, at 1,140 feet (350 m) (although the heat in Tempe might cancel it out.)
- Having a kitchen was extremely valuable in the couple of days leading up to the race. I need to consider if having one is more important than being close to the race in Arizona; if that’s the case, I might switch my hotel room for an Airbnb.
- I loved how encouraging everyone was. Almost everyone I passed, or saw me grunting on the ascents, gave me a shout out. I tried to do the same for others.
- Post-race dinner was an entire pizza from Tarantino’s and half a pint of ice cream.
I went in thinking just finishing would be a victory and ended up with a much better result than I expected, so I’m pretty happy about that. More importantly, I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to do this again. I’m officially hooked on triathlons. Onwards to Arizona!