Spudman 2012 Race Recap

This last weekend I went up to Burley, ID to participate in the annual Spudman Olympic Triathlon. What a fun race! What a BORING drive from Salt Lake City to Burley.

The race is so popular it’s done on a lottery system. I decided to enter the lottery in January and by Feb/March, I found out I was accepted. Everybody who entered the lottery was accepted. Well, literally a couple of hours after they sent out the email that everyone was accepted, EVERY hotel in town was sold out! Luckily, the finish line is at the Burley Golf Course and they let you camp at the driving range of the golf course.

So, to find a decent camping spot, me and my dad left home on Friday around 10:00 a.m. and headed up to Burley. It’s a good 3 hour drive up there. Other than it being an insanely boring drive, we got up there about 1:00 pm and tried to figure out where things were (my dad left directions/instructions at home). I finally looked up information on my Blackberry. We decided to go get some lunch and then head back to the golf course.

Packet pickup was from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. After we got some lunch, we headed back and pitched our tent on the driving range of the golf course. There were already a couple of motorhomes and a couple of tents already set up, but we still got a good spot.

We headed over to packet pickup and it went pretty fast. Stood in line for only a few minutes and while standing in line, I was talking to a guy behind me that was asking me about my compression socks. Come to find out, this guy used to work with my dad before my dad retired!!! Small world I tell ya.

As I step up to pick up my packet, I show them my I.D. and then I find out, my bib # is…666!!! Now, I’m a VERY superstitious person. Now, I’m not so superstitious where it’s “step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back” superstitious, but I’m not a fan of the 666 number.

But, whaddya do? I can’t exchange or ask for a different #. I kind of made a big deal of the # just because it’s the #. But, like some of the folks said on my Facebook, maybe it’ll be the exact opposite and it will be a good #. Plus, my coach was telling me that even #’s are good karma and that I have triple even #’s that’s REALLY good karma.

I was able to drop my bike off at T1 around 4:30 pm. I found it REALLY odd that we had 2 separate transition areas. In all of my other triathlons, you have your bike and running shoes in the same place. But, I guess since we were swimming DOWN the river, we picked up our bike at one transition area and when we came back from the bike, we dropped off our bike where our running shoes were, which was at T2 which was by the finish line. I was thoroughly confused about it.

Right before dinner, I saw my coach (the 4 time reigning champ of the Spudman) and he gave me a pep talk. I was SUPER nervous about the open water swim. He gave me a good pep talk and then we went and had the spaghetti dinner that we bought for $5.

I was REALLY impressed by the dinner that they provided. We got a HUGE plate of spaghetti with sauce, green beans, a baked potato and a dinner roll. Granted, I found it kind of a weird combo of spaghetti and a baked potato, but, we were in potato country, what else should I have expected? Haha!

They did a good pre-race meeting telling us about the course, and since it was such a small town, when they talked about where we were riding, I basically knew where we were riding even though I’d never been there until that day.

Now, the question remains…what to do with our time before it’s time to hit the pillow? It was SO hot outside and we knew it would be just as hot in our tent, so we just kind of walked around a little bit. I walked back down to T1 to drop off a couple of things that I’d forgotten to take the first time. My coach warned me not to pick a transition spot in T2 yet and put my shoes out yet because the sprinklers would go off and my shoes would be SOAKED in the morning.

Finally, it started to cool down, so I headed to the tent and I read my book for a little bit. All of a sudden, I heard the sprinklers go on!!! CRAP!!! I had to scramble to get the tent window and door closed. I didn’t get it closed in time though. 😦 My dad’s sleeping bag got a little wet. Mine got a little wet too, but not too much. The sprinklers went off a couple more times that night. It was quite humorous for me to listen to my dad rant & swear about the “damn sprinklers” and how “Wilbur needs to be woken up and come out & turn the damn sprinklers off”. Wilbur is the name my dad gave to whomever the groundskeeper is. Haha!

Of course I didn’t get good sleep. I never get good sleep the night before a race. Before I knew it, itw as time to get up & get ready. I went & picked out a good transition spot in T2. I love having the end spot on a transition rack. It makes it easier to find your bike in a sea of 2,000. I gobbled down 2 blueberry muffins, then it was time to just sit back & wait.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to use a wetsuit or not. Friday, the water was really warm. It wasn’t cold at all. It was probably between 70 – 72 degrees. But, then I saw my coach grab his wetsuit, so I decided I better wear a wetsuit too. Plus, I didn’t know how cold the water was going to be at 7:00 a.m. So, time to wiggle in to my wetsuit. Ugh.

I’ve never had a race start on time before. I’m happy to say, the Spudman starts on time. At 7:00 a.m. sharp, the Elite wave (my coach) was off swimming down the river. We cheered them on. I talked with his wife, Chrystel, and then got ready to watch the 2nd wave. Before I knew it, the 2nd wave was off, and it was my turn to get in the water.

I was FREAKING out. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I have a huge fear of open water. Not exactly sure why, but I do. I’ve been working on my open water swimming, but just a combo of nerves and I can be a wreck in the water. As soon as the 2nd wave was off, I got down in to the water. My first thought was, I wish I wasn’t wearing my wetsuit. The water is nice and warm. As I was stepping down in to the water, I stepped on a rock and slipped and my foot went under a rock and was stuck there. I had to sit down in the water to pull my foot out. I thought nothing more of it. My foot didn’t hurt, nothing. I swam around a little and got comfortable with the water, but my goggles were fogging up and I was FREAKING out. I didn’t know how I was going to sight if I couldn’t see out of my goggles. Then this girl said “why don’t you spit in them”. Ok, I did. It worked!!! This girl, is actually a girl named Kelli. Her next words were ‘Are you Ara from TTT?’ Yes, yes I am. She introduced herself at Kelli, one of the girls on Facebook who is also part of TTT (Triple Threat Triathletes). Small world! Knowing she was there, helped keep me calm a little.

All of a sudden they said “Go!”. I knew I had to start out slow on the swim or I was going to be screwed. So, I just leisurely swam out past the boueys a little with my head above water and once it started to thin out a little bit, I felt comfortable putting my head underwater to swim. There were SO many people in this wave start that I just used the orange swim caps to sight with. It worked. Every once in a while, I’d come up for a little longer to sight and make sure I was headed in the right direction. I expected the current in the water to be stronger than it was. Everybody was talking about how you can just float down the river if you need to (I kept telling myself this while panicking earlier), but I felt the current a little, but not as much as I expected. About 1/2 way down the river, I felt like “are we there yet”, but we were only about 1/2 way. There were times I had to remind myself to slow down a little because my arms were getting tired, but my breathing was ok the entire time. I was able to finish the swim in 22 minutes.

The Snake River where we swam.

I finally made it down to the boat dock where we headed out of the water and in to T1. My legs felt REALLY strong running out of the water. In my first oly tri, they didn’t. I was able to peel my wetsuit off fairly quick and put it in my gear bag along with my cap & goggles & drop it off at the gear check on my way out of T1.

I got on the bike & headed out. There wasn’t much room to get going on your bike and stay in the orange cones because of spectators, etc., so they were yelling at me to get back inside the cones. I was doing it as fast as I could, but they were still hollering at me. I finally hollered back “I’m getting there!” I was warned by my coach that alot of drafting on the course because they don’t enforce it alot, so don’t let it bring me down. Holy crap, as soon as I was on the bike, drafting was taking place…and not by me. There were packs of bikes. The entire 24.8 miles. There were times where I had would have 2 people pass me, one on each side, giving me about 3 inches between me and them. They have officials out on the course in golf cart type vehicles, but there is SO much drafting going on, it’s hard to penalize everybody. My guess is, at one point, they weren’t penalizing for it, so people were getting away with it, and now they’re having a hard time enforcing it. For the most part, the ride is pancake flat…unless you have a headwind. There was a pretty good headwind for about 2/3 of the bike. There were times my quads were just burning from pedaling so much. I was taking gels every 30 minutes starting as soon as I got on the bike and that helped ALOT. Towards the end of the bike, I was taking one gel and trying to avoid a pothole at the same time. Thankfully I didn’t crash, but I came close. It was quite scary. Even one of the other cyclists said something to me as he was passing. As I got closer to transition, I got out of my shoes while on the bike and thought about doing a flying dismount, but wasn’t confident enough, so I didn’t. I felt pretty strong running through transition to rack my bike. But, it’s always hard to get your shoes on when your feet have been wet, and they’ve been in other shoes too. I managed to get my shoes on, stuff the last 2 gels I had down my bra, grab my water bottle and head off on the run.

Heading in on the bike.
Transition 2.

I finished the 24.8 miles on the bike in 1:23:00.

Off I headed on the run. I knew the first thing on the run was a hill. We literally ran through someone’s back yard. Haha!! It was kind of weird. But for the rest of the run it was pretty flat. It took me a while to find my running groove. Almost from the get go, I had to go to the bathroom. This was NO bueno. They had water at miles 1, 3 and 5. As soon as we got up the hill, we had to cross the highway and some train tracks and we eventually ended up on some canal bank running. I didn’t need water until mile 3 because I had my handheld water bottle. My shins were aching though. So, I took some walk breaks. At one time I took a walk break and started talking with one of the other athletes and walked longer than I should have. By about mile 3 1/2, I REALLY had to go to the bathroom and I could see a porta-potty in the near distance, so I decided if it was available I was going to use it. It was available! Yay! But, it cost me minutes. 😦 Boo. Looking back, I probably could’ve gone another 3 miles without using the restroom and finished under 3 hours, but I didn’t want to chance it. These were new tri shorts!!! After I used the restroom, I actually found my groove. I was feeling pretty strong as far as running. The only time I stopped was to take my last gel around mile 4. I was doing good. About 250 yards before the finish, I saw my coach. He was cheering people on and then he saw me and started yelling and cheering “Goooooo Ara, you’re SMOKIN’ IT!!!!” That pushed me just a little more. I picked up the pace, but had to slow down immediately because I was running out of steam. I was determined to finish looking strong though.

There were about 2 other people right near me and we ran down this hill and then down the finishers chute. They called out the names of everyone as they were finishing. It was really cool. I love when they do that. It makes me feel special. I crossed the finish line feeling strong.

I’m the little blue spot in the back running.

I didn’t know my final time when I crossed the finish line. I knew I had a chance at making my secret goal of under 3 hours. I finally found out my time and I finished this race in 3:01:19.2. So close, yet so far away. I’m currently struggling with the things I should have done differently. I should have pushed myself harder on the run. I shouldn’t have stopped to go to the bathroom, etc. I need to just realize there’s nothing I can do about it now, I need to just move on and learn at my next race.

I went and got my bike out of transition. As I was getting ready to leave transition and head back to camp to pack up, I saw my friend Klea. She was just finishing the bike and getting ready to head out on the run. She said she struggled with the swim. Even though the clock was ticking, she wanted to take this picture:

We headed back to camp and packed up and then headed back for the awards. I knew I didn’t win anything, but my coach came in first overall. He finished the entire course in about 1:52:40. He’s a rockstar!!!

Coach coming in on the bike.
Me, my coach his wife Chrystel.

Once awards were handed out, time to pile in the car, we got lunch at Jack In the Box and headed for the miserable 3 hour ride home. 3 hours doesn’t sound like alot, but it is when it’s boring, and you’re tired.

P.S. Remember how I slipped on that rock in the water? After I finished, my toe started to hurt. I pulled off my shoe to find a nice black toe nail. Cool, huh? It’ll be a cool momento of the race.

Next up…a sprint triathlon this weekend and then on August 18th, the Jordanelle Triathlon (Olympic distance).

Here are a couple of last minute pictures:

If you’re going to put on a triathlon, you might want to learn how to spell it. Lol.

My bib #, shirt & finisher’s medal.


8 thoughts on “Spudman 2012 Race Recap”

  1. Ara, I am SO PROUD of you! I liked your secret three hour goal, and I think it’s SUPER BUENO that you came so close. Can you feel yourself getting stronger every time you do a triathlon? We need to get you a cape, because you’re my superhero! 🙂

  2. Congratulations, Ara!!! Way to go!!!! I totally know that awful feeling of thinking you have to go to the bathroom and then that battle of “do I go? Do I hold it?” I am really impressed with your overall performance. You are a great athlete. 🙂

  3. I just loved your write up! I never thought about stuffing gels down my bra! But I guess that’s as good a place as any! That river looked really wide too, bigger than I imagined it to be. Brave swimmer!

    1. Thanks Julia. Yeah, the river is pretty big. I have a new tri top & shorts that I wear and they don’t have very many pockets, so I just shoved them down my bra. It worked pretty well. Lol.

  4. I’m SOO happy for you! You did great! The crowds of bikes freaked me out too.. I was shocked at how many could just stick together for the whole race. Way to go girl

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