Main image for Cayuga Lake Triathlon 2017 Time to Read: ~11 min

The year of thunderstorms and blue/green algae blooms

This year was really different from last year with training, most notably the swim. We switched fitness facilities and our new one is 10 minutes further from our house. Turns out that extra drive just pushes it over the edge for feasibility. So, we didn't go very often to swim. No worries, we figured we would hit the lake aggressively come summer just like last year. But a summer that was overly busy with activities, daily thunderstorms and the algae bloom that hit the lake conspired together. The result? Two lake swims before the triathlon!

My first swim was good; a double out and back from my friend Kathey's dock on a calm day. Elizabeth was my kayaker and it felt just like last summer. We have a good time with this and I thought it would be the beginning of many swims. A week later, I went down with Scott. The water was rougher and it had been storming for several days. The water was brown, and full of sticks and other debris from the recent storms. Because of time constraints we planned to do just a half mile swim each. I kayaked for Scott first. He struggled more than he typically does and I had a hard time kayaking for him (I am not so great at staying in a straight line or at a constant speed). When he finished he had a pretty darn good swim time despite his struggle. All during his swim I waffled about whether to swim or not the entire time but knew I had to do it. I jumped in and started swimming before I could change my mind. Scott doesn't typically kayak for me and I have a weird hang up about being embarrassed about how slow I swim when he does play the role of kayaker. Because of this, I had a little fit about 3 minutes into my swim followed by another a few minutes after that. Despite my attempts to quit, I stayed the course and he managed to put up with my nonsense. It wasn't a stellar swim though, leaving me hopeful that there would be many more. I didn't realize at the time that this would be my last lake swim in Cayuga Lake until the morning of the race.

Packet pick up volunteering

Every year there are volunteer opportunities for the Cayuga Lake Triathlon!! We can't really do same day volunteer jobs because all 4 of us race, but the day before there are opportunities. This year I said, "what if we sign up to work packet pick-up?" Everyone was game so we hopped into the 11-3 shift. We arrived and got our instructions and met all our fellow volunteers. We knew most everyone already and enjoyed some pre-volunteering conversation! Soon the 4 of us were working together with another volunteer to sort and fold shirts, and opening and stuffing Wegmans bags with a smoothie coupon! When participants started to arrive, our job was to give out shirts and bags and then to direct them on to see Shane, who was in charge of race bands. It was A LOT of fun!



There's a last time for everything

The Brad Paisley, "There's a Last Time for Everything" song just kept going through my head on race morning. Just like I didn't know that my not so stellar swim with Scott would be my last time in the lake before the tri, I didn't  know that last year could be the last year that both my parents and Scott's parents would be at the tri. My mom is dealing with health problems. My dad pulled me aside at dinner a couple of evenings before the race to tell me he didn't think they could make it down this year. Of course I understood and to be honest I was a little relieved. I knew I'd be worried about how they'd fare in the busy race environment if they did try to come down. I went over to see them the night before the race and they wished us luck. I was up most of the night worrying about the race (would we swim or not as there was enough doubt about the algae bloom to have it need to be a race day decision for our safety, how cold would the water be and my mom's health) After my rough night's sleep, for the briefest moment, I considered just staying in bed that morning and ditching the race all together.

My in-laws also always body mark for the race so they are usually some of the first people we come into contact with at the tri. However, my mother-in-law has had both knees replaced so she knew she wasn't up for the bending required. They were still volunteering, this time at same day registration. Still, it seemed weird not to see them as we got into line to get our bodies marked. And there goes the refrain in my head ... "There's a last time for everything!" It kept on in my head during most of the bike. I found myself reminiscing about Xander's last year of digging trenches in the lake a couple years back and wondering what other things are currently in their "last" that we don't yet know about. I'm hoping to have everyone at the race again next year!

If you are just getting ready here, don't worry

As we exited the car and started to walk to transition at 6:45 we heard the announcer say

If you are just getting here, don't worry. You have plenty of time

There was more to the announcement, but my brain turned off at the word worry. Suddenly I felt worried that we were late! We usually arrive around 6:30 and had decided we could get there just a bit later this year since the kids had so long to wait to start! The body marking lines were long, the body markers were not my in-laws, and the water temperature was 69.8. I hadn't even considered that it would be below the mid 70s.

To keep my head I started eating my breakfast slowly. I looked around knowing I really was here on time, my body would be marked just fine by someone else and I would swim in the water, cold or not. Everything would be ok.

What's 1500 meters when you could be swimming 3 miles?

In the bathroom line, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind me. He was excited about this swim! He had recently done a 3 mile swim that he gratefully finished before they pulled people from the water for an impending tornado warning!! He is training for the Chesapeake Bay Swim - a 4.4 mile swim across Chesapeake Bay. As we talked, I said, "Wow, 1500 meters is nothing compared to that. When I feel tired I'm just going to think about you!" This chance encounter was super helpful for keeping everything in perspective. In fact, it is one of the things I love most about races; meeting new people and sharing different life stories.

"Just keep swimming" .... even if you get kicked in the face

The now familiar pre-swim corral phrase. It always seems to pop up!  One of the women said to us all, "do like Dory does and just keep swimming!" Yes, when the alternative is to stop and sink, one must just keep swimming!

My wave went off before I could even worry too much, and soon I was in the fray of swimmers. I've been kicked before, but never as hard as I was just a few buoys in. I was behind someone breaststroking and I was foolishly trying to get around her. Not a fast swimmer, I should have taken a wider line or just settled in behind her. Still, I thought I had enough clearance. Instead she kicked me straight on in my eye, knocking my goggles off. I reacted quickly enough not to lose my contacts, and tried to put my goggles back on while holding a little orange buoy. I couldn't adjust them so I waved for a kayak and quickly swam over toward Kris. I was pretty freaked out and she took time to introduce herself, asked my name all while reassuring me me that I could hang as long as I needed. It was so early in the swim!  I got them back on as she said, "don't worry, there are still a few white caps behind you." "Great, I thought, now I am even farther back than I was before!" I started to swim again, but hadn't even made the next big buoy when my goggles were full of water again. I flagged another kayak and adjusted as quickly as possible so I could get on my way. I have never hung onto a kayak before and here I had done it twice in the span of what was probably less than 2 minutes!! Luckily this time it worked and I was on my way.

The good thing was that I was now completely alone. It was just me and the buoy line until the green wave caught me. I set into a good pattern and despite being a slow swimmer I was fine. Thoughts in my head included, "this is easier than the Gillie Girl swim because of the buoy line," and "I'm not even cold yet!" Then, just before the turnaround the green caps started passing. Suddenly I was in a mass of fast swimming men!! I didn't get kicked though and if anything it was kind of fun. None of them were breast stroking so there was no real risk of being kicked hard. I found myself imagining that I was in the fray of my own wave. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 26 minutes to the turnaround. Wow, that is a bummer!! A very slow first half. Determined to have a better 2nd half, I tried to pick up my speed and take a straighter line. I had veered back and forth way too much on the first half. By the sprint buoy turnaround my hands and feet were frozen. I knew it would happen at some point, so instead of being annoyed I felt gratitude that I stayed warm for so long!  Soon, I knew I was back near shore because of the seaweed. Ironically, the seaweed I once feared is now my comfort. I wish we had it for the entire swim because you can look down and see your forward movement!! I headed into transition, trying not to hang my head. I was embarrassed about my slow swim time.

A gorgeous bike course

Last year when I did this ride I was still scared to go down hills. I was scared of the drop off on the side of the shoulder and I was nervous about the distance itself. This year I've been riding the route weekly, put aerobars on my bike and am generally comfortable with biking. However, I had different issues this year. As I hopped onto my bike and started up the hill I was SO cold. My feet were numb, my hands were numb, and all I could think was, "wow I sure hope I warm up!" It didn't take long. I was fully warmed up within a mile, grateful for the sunshine and lack of wind.

Photo by Stevan Knapp

Photo by Stevan Knapp

The bike ride was filled with fast men passing me. I got a little bit sad during the ride. It wasn't the warm and supportive feeling that you get during the sprint distance or the Gillie Girl when most people say, "good job" or at least "on your left." Most of the men flew by me wordlessly. I did pass a couple of women, but just 2 or 3. I knew I was really far back in my swim wave which was ALL women over 35 in the Intermediate distance.

A bright spot was when a man passed me and said, "nice job" and then a mile later another one did. It reminded me that not everyone out there is blazing fast or working so hard they can't speak to others. Soon Scott passed me shouting words of encouragement and I wished him well.

There was absolutely nothing that stood out to me on this ride from a fitness point of view except how tired I was. I knew it was a combination of just returning from Mazama Running Camp out west and not sleeping that great the night before the race. The bottoms of my feet were sore from camp and I just felt generally tired. It wasn't unpleasant however, and the lake was lovely. I felt grateful for the opportunity to be out here riding on this gorgeous course just miles from my house. I tried to focus on giving the best I had on this day.

Were you struggling on the bike?

My friend Gail was participating in the sprint tri. I met her in Shane's swim class and now enjoy seeing her at all the local races!! She caught me a few miles before the end of the race. We were chatting briefly as she passed me and then she said, "I guess I have to pass you, huh?" I laughed and said, "Yup I guess you do!" I hoped I'd see her again on the run course and wished her good luck.

Later I did catch her on the run and we laughed as I passed her. We talked after the race though when she rather tentatively if I had been struggling on the bike when she passed me. I said no that I hadn't and she had a look of "should I say something" pass on her face. I asked her what was up and she hesitated. I pushed a little bit as she finally said that my knees were splaying out on my bike so she thought maybe my bike wasn't fit properly. I told her several people had said this to me in the last year so perhaps it was high time to listen.

My friend Jim is a bike guy and he was totally willing to check it out!! He moved my seat backwards and made some other small adjustments and I feel like things are going to be MUCH better!! I haven't had many rides since the race, but I don't think that my legs are going to splay out anymore which should help with my speed and comfort on the bike.

There's a difference between can't and don't want to

Soon the bike portion was over and I headed into transition for the run. I put my trail shoes on and headed out, eager to get started! I don't know if it was because I knew I was so far back in my wave of swimmers and hadn't made up any time on the bike or if I was just tired, but this felt emotionally more challenging than last year. I had to work to say "good job" to others and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. However, once I hit the first turnaround (1.5 miles in) I felt warmed up. I would be ok with this. Soon I was back to the start where I'd have to head out and do the SAME course AGAIN! Emotionally hard, not so much physically hard. Luckily my friend Joel was working this area. He was dressed in some fun outfit and full of his well known big personality!! He cheered me on and I got a second wind as I started the 2nd loop.

On the run course

On the run course

Early on in the 2nd loop I finally saw Elizabeth and screamed, "fear the LizERD" (her nickname) at her!! I could relax. She was ok. I always worry a bit that something could go wrong in one of my kids' races and I wouldn't know. Now I knew she didn't fall off the bike somewhere on the course. Next would be Xander.

Entering back into the last mile was the youth turnaround. This was Xander's crew of people. A friends' daughter, Kenzie was right behind me as she made the turnaround. Kenzie runs cross country with Elizabeth and she was the motivation I needed to keep my pace up. I was NOT going to let her catch me if I could help it. The last portion of this course is all open and it is grassy. It is my least favorite part of the course, so it was great to have that extra oomph (thanks Kenz!)  Soon I sprinted into the finish line, so grateful to be done!! I never did see Xander. He was a bit behind Kenzie so our paths didn't cross.

By the numbers

Post race we enjoyed our beer, bid my in-laws adios and caught up with fellow participants. We enjoyed our delicious post race food from Wegmans and a fantastic post race beer from Ithaca Beer. We had to move pretty quickly because we were heading to NYC for a mini vacation later that afternoon and delivering a cake for my Emoticakes' business along the way.

Post race with my in-laws, Scott and the kids

Post race with my in-laws, Scott and the kids



I was disappointed when I imported my times and checked Strava for last year's numbers. I was SLOWER in EVERYTHING this year; 3 minutes and change in the swim, 5 minutes and change in the bike, and just under a minute in the run. I am not sure what I expected, but the bike was the biggest surprise.

The swim I could explain by lack of training and being kicked in the face. The run was within striking distance of last year and the bottom of my feet were killing me with every step. But the bike was really a big time difference. I'm hoping that adjusting my bike will help but I know I have to work hard on my pedal turnover.

Post-race beer

Post-race beer

Looking at the results, it seems to me that many of the people in the Intermediate Distance are pretty strong athletes! Even though I don't feel prepared for the competition (yet),  I prefer this distance because I don't have to wait long to start (no time to get nervous) and it is a fantastic workout!! I remember the last time I did the sprint distance in the CLT, I went home and ran 10 miles to "get a better workout in." However, I think that was more about the the fact that I was signed up for the Green Lakes 50K a couple weeks later! Want to read more about this race? Check out Scott's race report.

Overall 183/213
9/12 Age Group
Swim: 48:13
T1: 2:20
Bike: 1:36:40
T2: 2:27
Run: 56:25
Official Results