Return to Mountain Lakes: Mtn. Lakes Tri 2012

Two years ago, I raced this tri, my first ever, on a whim and at the urging of my friend Megan.  We were looking for something crazy that I could do to celebrate a year of weight loss from July 2009 to July 2010.  Plus, I had been struggling with a nasty case of ITBS, and needed to find something to burn calories in order to maintain my sanity and to continue losing weight. I started swimming that July, and had been riding the bike for a few months before that.  But the idea of a Tri never crossed my mind. Lets just say I was proud of what I did in 2010 but was glad it was over! I’d been in the pool for 0nly 5 weeks or so, and I rode a hybrid bike I borrowed from a work colleague. Fast forward 2 years and Triathlon is something I am serious about, along with my continued passion for distance running. If two years ago, you you had told me that between August 2010 and August 2012, I would have run 6 marathons and completed 4 Tris, I would have laughed at you.

Two years later, this is my fourth Tri, including a 70.3 in May, and I am planning on doing an Ironman in the next two years. My how times change!

Swim (600 yds)

Had a good warm up pre-race, got my “oh crap” moment out of the way. (Don’t we all have one of those before the swim?  I know I’m not alone.) My plan was to hit the water pretty hard for 100-200 yards and then settle into a rhythm for the rest of the swim.  But I really never slowed down. The swim had a time trial start where you start based on an expected swim finish time.  So each athlete starts about 3 seconds apart.  I greatly prefer this to wave or all-in starts.

This part of lake Guntersville is pretty shallow and full of plant life and rocks.  So you really have to swim right in the water or cut your feet.  Not 30 strokes into the swim some plant crap lodged itself on my face and I just couldn’t get it off and I wasn’t going to stop to do so.  So looking like a dude in an Alien movie, I kept swimming.  Eventually, it fell away.

This was my best tri swim. I held a great line, did solid in sighting, passed a bunch of people, and stayed against the buoys the whole time, almost swimming into one!  I held a pace that left me needing to breath every stroke after a while.  I didn’t want to emerge from the water knowing I had more to give.  I don’t know about you, but there’s a moment in every swim, no matter the distance, where I think: “Is this swim ever going to end?!”

When I emerged from the water I looked at my Garmin, eager to see how well I had done. 15 minutes!!!????  What? No way. No way I swam that segment, THAT slow.  I’m not trying to be Mr. Conceited Tri Guy here. I’ve worked my butt off in the pool over the last 2 months and KNOW I did better than this!  Of course, that occupied my mind for the first few miles of the bike!  I knew I swam better than that.  But after talking to a few people who are pros at this and comparing the swim times of AG winners, we think the swim was 50% longer, 900 yards.  AG winners finished the swim in the 11:30s.  They should be 3-4 minutes faster for 600 yds.  It kills me not having a true swim time, but I know what I did and I am very happy with my swim.  It was funny, after the race everyone was complaining about the swim length. Even the studs in the front row at transition.  Was nice to know I wasn’t imagining this!

Bike (16.2 miles)

The plan for the bike was to split it in 4 mile segments, pushing the intensity higher in each.  This is pretty much what I did. I’ve had a couple of good , tough bike sessions over the past few Saturday’s where I had to hold a nice intensity for a long time.  I wanted to mimic that “my thighs are burning, and I’m breathing steady but I’ve got strength to give!” kind of feeling. This is a sprint tri, I told myself, don’t hold back. Don’t go crazy, either.  Be smart, I told myself. Trust my training.  This was the strongest bike segment I’ve ever had. Passing people, holding a solid cadence, strong in aero position. I felt, for lack of a better term, legit.  The only people who passed me on the bike were some serious looking bike studs who were flying! Most of whom I would later pass on the run, or see struggling badly!  finished the bike in 48:51, about a 19.9 MPH pace.

Run (3 miles)

Approaching the finish (I am NOT heel striking!)

The run is my thing. Get me to the run and I’m home free. No drowning, no lake creatures, no flat tires or dropped chains.  Just me and my feet! I wanted to average a sub-7:00 minute mile on this run.  But early on, I realized I left sub-7 on my bike.  I settled in at a pace of around 7:04, watched my form and cadence, and cruised.  I felt strong. I was tired and my HR and breathing were elevated greatly, but my legs were doing fine and I was right where I wanted to be. I passed a ton of people on the run. Several people who had yo-yoed with me on the bike and swim were there at the run with me and I passed them all.  This was a great feeling. It amazes me at a lot of tris how many people suffer on the run portion, even to the extent they have to walk.  Not tying to sound all elitist here, but this is why we do bricks. Hard bricks in the heat.  Nothing I did in this race was more intense than that which I did in training. This is the key. At least for me it is.  Finished the run in 21:23. A minute faster than the 3 mile run at the June sprint tri I raced.

I’m very pleased with my race. I did all I wanted to do (except the sub-7 on the run) and finished knowing I had given my best, raced smart, and smiled along the way.

In two years I’ve gone from a reluctant triathlete to someone who strongly believes in what the sport can do for me, and having so much fun with it.

Here’s a time comparison. Race distances remain the same as in 2010:

2010 Results

Overall 1:38:11 (86/103 AG)

Swim: 12:30

Bike: 57:21

Run: 25:55

2011 Results

Overall 1:29:28 (13/45 AG)

Swim: 15:06

Bike: 48:51

Run: 21:22


  1. Wow, great improvements! If it wasn’t for the biking and swimming, I’d totally be into these.:) No really, I wish I was more of a biker and swimmer. Need those for my cross-training too.

  2. Awesome job Gordon! I think it is really frustrating when race distances are not what they are reported as, so big bummer there, but way to push through it and still improve your time by a massive amount!

  3. This is so fantastic! What a great benchmark for you. Congratulations.

    This year, I have raced more swim courses that were mismeasured, than I ever had. You have to go with it. Shake it off. You did just that! I always say the only thing I can control is my reaction.

    You rocked the whole race. Here’s to more success in your upcoming races! (And, could I borrow some of that run speed?)

  4. Impressive – especially the 7 minute mile! In my dreams…

    I’m intrigued by triathlons but I feel so intimidated by the biking and swimming. I swim decently well but the thought of being surrounded by so many other kicking, splashing people freaks me out. And I have very little cycling experience because our city is an incredibly unfriendly place for bikers (especially inexperienced ones).

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