2016 KCCC Triathlon

My Kansas City Corporate Challenge Triathlon experience has about 10 stories all wrapped up into one race/event. Below are a few stories that stand out as well as a guest post of my sister’s race experience as this was her second ever triathlon and first one in three years.

Story 1: What is KCCC?

Kansas City Corporate Challenge is a competition between corporations in the KC area. Corporations are broken into Divisions based upon the number of employees in each company. Then the employees compete in various events ranging from triathlon to 5k, half marathon, bike race, swimming events, track and field, darts, 3v3 soccer or basketball, disc golf, bowling, fishing, horseshoes, even tug-of-war. You’re assigned points based on how you do within your age group and within your division. You find the uber competitive triathletes (like me), to cyclist or runners that decided to give the duathlon a go, to someone who is doing their first triathlon in 3 years (my sister) or even someone doing their first triathlon/duathlon ever. There’s definitely a wide range of individuals competing in these events. I want to thank Purplepatch Fitness for working with me to include this race in my schedule since it is not a USA Triathlon sanctioned event nor that beneficial to my 70.3 Muncie preparation. It was, however, a lot of fun.

Story 2: The showdown.

It all started about 6 months ago with Brandon Barnett showing up to masters swimming and talking smack, telling me how he was going to beat me at the KCCC Triathlon mid-June. I’ve won the last two races (2013 and 2015, rained out in 2014), but Brandon was confident he would beat me. His main rationale was it’d be his only race and I’d be focusing on other races (which is/was true). The good humor and fun continued all spring and early summer. It actually made me look forward to going to masters just to see what he’d say that day. Good, competitive fun always makes practice better especially on the days when I wasn’t feeling it or didn’t want to be there. Brandon would push off the wall right on my feet, so naturally I’d pick up the pace and try to drop him.  I loved all the, “yeah I let you go; I didn’t want to hurt your ego by catching you and being on your feet.” Despite him spending more time all spring and early summer on the golf course rather than training, the smack talk continued all the way up to race morning. Results can be found here. Let’s just say one of us won overall and the other was 2nd overall. I’m already looking forward to next year’s rematch. Side note: I will admit, for someone that hasn’t raced in like 10 months, he actually did very well. And, naturally, he told me so at masters the day after saying his performance was more impressive than mine because he’s, quote, “slow and out of shape.”

Brandon and I

Story 3: The coach?

So, back in early May, my sister sent me a text asking me for a favor; “Can you write me a training plan of sorts for the KCCC Triathlon?” Nervous but beyond excited, I obviously accepted.  I’ve never coached anyone before, nor have I ever considered it. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. After setting some initial baselines of what she could or couldn’t handle for swim, bike and run, I started to write some workouts. It was a lot of fun to give her workout ideas and even push her a bit more than I know she would have done on her own. We also had to schedule around several other obstacles such as travel for work, and other KCCC events (volleyball, bike race, track, 3v3 soccer) in which she was participating. Watching her progress and get in better shape was fun and exciting. I now know (to some small degree) what a coach goes through.

Story 4: My race.

Swim started off well. I learned from my mistake last year of thinking I could just muscle through the 500 meter swim and go full gas from the start. I started strong, smooth, and in control early on. Picked up the turnover the second half and excited the water in 6:31, tied for first for fastest swim split, and my fastest time of all three years–2013, 2015 and 2016 (2014 rained out, as mentioned in story 2).

Not even a mile into the bike loop, you hit the first big hill after crossing the dam. I was nervous since at TriZou, KC Tri, and Pigman, I struggled to find my biking legs early, but that was not the case here. My legs actually felt really good early on! Between gasping for air and yelling “On your left!!”, I was determined to set the fastest bike split for the day, and that’s exactly what I did. Nine miles in 20:49 (Strava link and Garmin link), it was my fastest bike split out of all 3 years by over a minute. It was also the most power I’ve held in any race and was above my FTP (functional threshold power–Basically a 20 minute test that determines what watt/power you can theoretically hold for 1 hour). Needless to say, I was beyond shocked and pleasantly surprised with my bike effort.

Running out of T1

Having biked harder than I’ve ever done before, I wasn’t entirely sure how the legs would feel for a hilly run course. Early on, I just let the legs go on the downhills and figured I’d settle into a pace after the first half mile when it flattens out before going up a steep hill after the dam. The lungs were burning and HR was high (same with bike), but I actually felt good. I was about 5:25 pace prior to the uphill after the dam and went through mile 1 in 5:38. Huge downhill for half a mile followed by flat for half mile gave me a 5:15 mile 2. Unfortunately, that’s where I started suffering and I still had 1 mile of literally all uphill. 5:58 for mile 3 and relieved to reach the finish line in 17:17, the exact same time I ran in 2013 which ties for my fastest 5k split on this course.

Overall time of 46:16. Crossing the finish line I really had no idea what my time was (I was in last wave to start the swim). I was beyond thrilled to find out I just broke my old course record (from 2013) by 1:36 lowering it from 47:52 to 46:16.

Story 5: Kaitlin’s race, in her words.

The much anticipated (or dreaded) race day finally arrived and it was time to put my training to the test. I knew I would struggle on the run (from past experiences and the fact that I just hate running), so I knew I needed to perform well on the swim and bike portions to have a shot of beating my 1:30 goal that I set for myself.

Pre race

I arrived on the beach a few minutes before my swim heat was supposed to start and positioned myself toward the front of our heat so I could be one of the first few in the water. My plan for the swim was to just keep it steady and swim strong for as long as I could. After a minute or so of swimming, I looked up to realize that I was headed toward the middle of the lake and not straight at the dock like I was planning. Whoops! So, I redirected my path toward the dock and kept on swimming. I very clearly can’t swim in a straight line because I’m pretty sure I just zigzagged across the water until I reached the buoys and could somewhat follow those. By the time I reached the buoys, I was forced to start weaving my way around the slower folks from the heat before me. It was not an easy thing considering you can’t see anything in the water, so I had to look up every 10 seconds to make sure I wasn’t swimming up someone’s back. Finally, I made my way around the two turn buoys and was headed back toward the swim exit. By this point, I was sick and tired of weaving in and out of everyone because it was taking up more energy than I wanted, and I was finding it harder to catch my breath. A couple times on the way back to the swim exit, I flipped on my back and did backstroke for a few seconds to catch my breath and look at something other than the ugly, murky water. I felt pretty good on the swim and focused on keeping my stroke strong the whole way. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I swam 10:06 since I felt like I was moving so slow while weaving in and out of other swimmers.

Swim - Kaitlin

In T1, I took the time to put on socks and my Fitbit, two things I’m sure my brother would cringe at me taking extra time to do, but hey, you gotta count those steps, right? 

I got all my gear on, grabbed my bike and headed for the bike exit. I hopped on and set out on the bike course toward the first big hill that was coming up after the dam. I was really hoping my legs would loosen up pretty quickly, but as I was climbing the first major hill, the only things running through my mind were “holy crap I have to do this whole loop twice. THEN I have to run!”… “I wonder how mad my brother will be if I fake a flat tire and bail out on the bike” … “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to finish this race, I’m already so tired!”

I pushed through the challenging set of hills and my legs started to feel better on the long gradual downhill. The second lap went a lot better with a lot less “I’m so ready to be done” thoughts. Another female in my age group passed me going up the dam hill on the second lap, and I made it my goal to not let her get away from me. I stuck to that and actually ended up passing her not long before we entered T2.

Coming out of T2, my legs were super tired from the hilly bike course and I knew the run course was not going to be easy. I was already struggling not far into the run and had to stop and walk often so I wouldn’t feel so nauseous. About this time, my brother (who started his race 20 minutes after me) goes flying by me yelling encouraging words which were met with “this sucks!”  I still wasn’t feeling well so in true Kaitlin fashion, I ended up moving off the side of the course and throwing up (having flashbacks to my half marathon). This actually ended up making me feel a lot better so I could start running again. The remainder of the run was a mixture of running and walking with a lot of “I’m so ready for this to be over” thoughts. I was really hoping to perform better on the run and actually be able to run more of the course than I did, but with heavy and tired legs, that just wasn’t going to happen. I knew going into the race that the run would definitely be the hardest for me. The run was also the point that I died during my first triathlon about 3 years ago. Regardless, I’m so proud of myself for finishing the race since it’s a tough course with a hilly bike and run. I ended up beating my goal by finishing in 1:26, and I even managed to score some points for my company. I really don’t think I’ll be doing another triathlon anytime soon. I think I’d rather just focus on cycling since that’s what I enjoy the most. But maybe in another 3 years, I’ll have forgotten about the pain of a triathlon and I’ll be ready to try another one.

If you’re interested in traveling (my sister’s passion), be sure to visit her blog Travel Far, Eat Well. She’s already visited a lot of really cool places both in the US and over seas with some reviews and tips on where to go and what to do.

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Pigman Sprint Triathlon

Going into the race, I knew I would need a perfect race in order to win it (in hindsight, even that probably wouldn’t have done it). The Pigman sprint race is a gender equalizer format, so the women “elite” wave started 5:28 before the “elite” men; and the first person across the finish line (regardless of gender) would win an additional $750. Since the prize money total is less than $5000, anyone (professionals or amateurs) can sign up to be in the “elite” wave.

Swim: 6:14 for 500 meters

I had done my research to determine who the fastest swimmer would be, so I lined up behind him. With just a 500 meter swim, I knew it would be absolutely critical for me to get out of the water with the leaders (I assumed 2 pros and an 18 year old (aka fastest swimmer) would be in the front pack).  I figured the pros would pull away from me on the bike leg, so I needed to be near the lead coming out of the water to minimize the overall deficit before the run. I got off to a good start and pushed hard to stay on feet. At the half way point of the out and back swim, I was about a full body length off 3rd place. I really wasn’t feeling that great, but knew I needed to close that gap or they’d continue to pull away from me. I increased my arm turnover and was able to get up on 3rd place’s feet. Surprisingly, I felt better, had a straight line toward the finish, and found a nice groove. About this same time (as I found out after the race from my mom), 1st place was pulling away from 2nd and 2nd was pulling away from 3rd and 4th. I came out of the water in 4th place, just 8 seconds behind 2nd place (the pro I thought would win). Overall, I am very happy with my swim. I put myself in a good position and had one of my best swims ever. Now I just need to figure out how to hold a pace even remotely close to this for the Olympic or 70.3 distance swims!!

Pre Swim

T1 was rough. The lake was down a good 10+ feet for maintenance purposes, so we had an additional 100 yards of beach running before the uphill grass run to get to T1.  I quickly slipped out of my Roka wetsuit, put on my Rudy Wing57 helmet, grabbed my bike and headed uphill through transition to start the bike. I exited T1 in 3rd overall.

Bike: 37:37 for 15.5 miles (25k)

After a 2-mile section to get out of the state park, the main part of the bike course was two out and back sections with 1 big hill in the middle. I flew down the hill south toward the first U-turn roughly 5 miles into the bike. The fastest swimmer was now in 2nd and I was comfortably 25-30 yards behind him. As we approached the first U-turn, I slowed and started to position myself to make the turn. As I was turning, like an idiot, I looked at the shoulder of the road which was soft sand and gravel. Guess where I went? Yup…right in the dang gravel! Since I was going slow around the turn, I didn’t go far into the shoulder. But with it being a little soft, I debated how I’d get back on the road since there was a 1.5 to 2 inch drop from the road to the shoulder. I didn’t want to ruin my Enve wheels by trying to pop back up to the road and risk the wheels scrapping the lip of the road. Since I was parallel to the road and didn’t have a good angle to cut over due to the softer shoulder surface, I slowed to a stop, unclipped my left foot and popped back up onto the road. Second place was pulling away and third had now passed me. After mumbling a few choice words to myself in disgust, I tried to regroup and stay in contact with them as we now had roughly 7 miles of headwind. What ticks me off is I have been practicing my U-turns and bike handling skills in general because I knew this course and Muncie 70.3 both have two out and back segments with U-turns, yet I still completely messed it up. I know on U-turns that where you look is where you’ll go, which is why I was mad at myself for looking at the shoulder of the road when I could have easily made the turn without any issues. I struggled going into the wind and second and third slowly pulled away from me. The wind was definitely stronger than I anticipated, and with no protection on an open road, it made for some challenging riding. I finally made it to the second U-turn and was determined to nail it and learn from my earlier mistake. After a smooth turn, a “that’s more like it!”, and now a tailwind again, my legs started feeling better. Overall, I was quite disappointed in my bike. I knew it was the most crucial part of the race if I wanted to stand any chance of winning, and giving up 45-50 seconds on second and third was disappointing.

I finally made it to T2. I quickly racked my bike, threw on my Saucony Kinvara’s and grabbed my race belt as I headed out of transition.

Run: 16:57 (strava) and Garmin data.

Just out of T2, I asked my mom how far down I was. She wasn’t sure (guessed about 20 seconds, but another spectator told me, “a lot”) so I just pressed on and tried to make the most of it as you never know what can happen on the run. The first half mile was all downhill before a half mile of flat road across the dam. Off in the distance, I could see second about 15 yards in front of third. I checked my watch at a certain land marker and then checked again once I got to it and realized I was about 35-45 seconds down. With $100 difference between 3rd and 4th place (and difference between me netting money vs losing money), I told myself to go after it. The challenge and the money were worth the risk and effort. After a 5:16 first mile, I closed the gap some from my first time check. This was also the first time I checked my pace as I was more focused on place than pace. I felt really good, and the fact that I was closing the gap certainly helped. The second mile is harder with two uphills and two downhills on the out and back section (5k goes out 1.5 mile and then back same way with the finish line being a little past the start of the run). Feeling good, and motivated by already closing the gap, mile two is where I went to work and used the hills to make up more time. By the time we hit the half way point of the run, I was 12 seconds back of second and about 5 seconds behind third. Shortly after the turn, I moved into third and had my sights set on 2nd place. After closing more time on an uphill, I had a long downhill that ended right at the two mile mark. Using the downhill as momentum, I tried to put in a surge as I passed him to see if I could drop him. I heard my watch buzz and saw 5:18 for mile two. Unfortunately, he went with me. I instantly slowed the pace from 5-minute pace to over 6-minute pace. My thinking was: 1st is long gone, 2nd gets $400 and 3rd place gets $250. I wanted that $400! I also knew I had the pace to pull away since I had already made up roughly 45 seconds in the first two miles. But after a hard first two miles, I knew this moment wasn’t the time for a big move. So I slowed dramatically, let my heart rate drop and get a little bit of recovery before I planned to make my next move or to cover a move he might make. The last mile was reverse mile 1, so half mile of flat with half mile of uphill and false flat, all of which was also into the wind. He slowed with me and we ran side-by-side for a fourth of a mile. He accidentally bumped my hand and apologized. I said “no worries” and we carried on. For some reason I thought about making a joke and instinctively just did it. After a few seconds of silence between us I said, “Wait, I mean, yeah you better be sorry!” and laughed, which he did as well and I said, “just kidding.” I felt like it took the edge off of the tension since we were both racing for money. Right back into racing mode, I dropped behind him and let him set the pace. I was debating when I’d make my move. My heart rate dropped from mid-170’s to mid/upper 160’s, my legs still felt great, but I was trying not to get too antsy. As we approached the steepest hill after the dam, I knew my time was coming. I waited until we almost reached the top and put in a huge surge (looking at file afterwards, I dropped pace to just under 5-minute pace). My heart rate instantly jumped to upper 170’s. He responded and stayed with me; I kept the pace high and just kept pushing, hoping to drop him. After 20 paces or so, I could tell he was dropping back. This was my chance to break the elastic and drop him completely. I kept the pace high and within a few more steps, he was gone and slowed his pace. I kept going for 10-15 more seconds to open up the gap more to discourage him from regrouping and coming after me again. I made it up the hills and false flat and turned toward the finish line. A slight downhill and tailwind was more than welcomed as I was hurting from my move. I just happened to look down at my watch at 3.1 to see 16:37 (I didn’t feel or hear the buzz at 3 miles) and finished the 3.16 (according to my Garmin) run in 16:57 and an overall time of 1:03:39 for 2nd place.

Start of run

I’m thrilled with my 2nd place finish. Starting the run, I wasn’t sure that was possible and thought I had ruined my race with a poor bike ride. I was asked several times (and even questioned it myself) why I would drive 10 hours round trip to race for 1 hour when there are other local races I could do. Simple answer: prize money and competition. Every year, pros show up for this race, so I knew I would be pushed and motivated to perform well. Plus, I knew if I could get third place or better, I would make a little profit after factoring in entry fee, hotel, and gas money. Even 4th or 5th place would minimize my expenses. After the race, I realized another reason; Pigman puts on a top-level race every year. Well-organized race, great competition, prize money, low entry fee price, amazing post-race food and beverages are all phenomenal. I’m really not sure why more athletes in the Midwest (and KC area) do not go race here every year (either the Sprint in early June or Half in mid-August). I know I will certainly be back.

This race was an absolute blast. I’m happy with my swim, disappointed with my bike, but thrilled with my run. I actually got to race the run. I never looked or worried about my pace the entire 5k. The only reason I knew splits was because my watch buzzed. I was checking my time behind the competitors in front of me and my heart rate only out of curiosity since I know my HR on hard intervals and 5ks and know what’s too high to sustain (hence the massive slow down after not dropping 2nd place when I made my initial move). This is what I love about triathlons and why I wanted to get my speed back–racing! Racing is so much fun and presents a different challenge than just enduring or hitting “X” pace for “X” miles or time.

I definitely have to thank my mother for joining me on this trip. She spent ten hours of drive time, plus her weekend, just to see me swim, go in/out of transition, and finish. This wasn’t a spectator friendly course, so her support, company, and photos were much appreciated, thank you!!! Also have to thank Purplepatch Fitness. I know I have a better bike split in my future based on the workouts I’ve been doing. And getting me back into fast run shape is awesome. I’m enjoying it and it’s coming at a perfect time. Thank you also to Every Man Jack. Getting cleaned up after my race and before a 5 hour drive home was much needed.