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Home » Endurance » Triathlons » Pigman Sprint

Pigman Sprint Triathlon — June 4, 2006


Having been a runner for the majority of my life and completing a marathon or two, I more or less arbitrarily decided that becoming a triathlete would be a good idea. The fact that my swimming background was limited to playing in the pool as a child and my biking experience consisted of a six-mile round trip commute on a twenty year old POS Huffy did not faze me. To make accomplishing this irrational mandate somewhat realistic, I purchased a real bike (Trek 1200) and joined the local masters swim team. All that was left was a race for some motivation. The Pigman Sprint Triathlon was only twenty minutes from my house at Pleasant Creek State Park so that would be my inauguration into multisport.

Race Day

I arrived that morning without a firm idea of what I was doing. I had only discovered the race had a wave start the night before at packet pickup and was not even familiar with the transition area’s arrangement. My actual triathlon racing experience was limited to reading accounts and watching televised ones, never having seen one in person. In my ignorance I just followed the mass of humanity heading towards the transition area, got my body marked, and found the spot to place my gear.

After setting up my transition area according to my best guess and intuition, I strolled down to the beach, put on a borrowed wetsuit (a Quintana Roo Hydrojohn), and waited for the start. My heat, wave six, was scheduled to begin twenty minutes after the elites, so I watched their start and did some light swimming to become accustomed to the 73° water. This race would be only my second time swimming in open water and my first with other people around, so it would be quite an experience. While waiting for my heat to commence though, the elastic on my goggles broke. The busted part was limited to the excess band that protruded out the side, so they still clung to my face. Looking back, I should have readjusted them so the strap was more balanced, but I did not know any better and was afraid to touch them.

The Swim Start

My wave was not very large, so I would not have to contend with too many flailing limbs as I embarked on my first competitive swim. Just before my scheduled start though, a swimmer from the prior heat encountered troubles and needed assistance from the boats standing by, delaying things a couple minutes. The official finally yelled “Go” though, and I dashed into the water with everyone else in my age group. I was not that strong of a swimmer, but my race began well as I tried to control myself in the excitement of the turbulent water and concentrate on my form. Just as I settled into my stroke though, my precarious goggles decided to break less than halfway to the swim turn around. They were strapped under my swim cap (as I had been advised), so they stayed with me but did not protect my eyes. I ripped them from my head and panicked while inadvertently drinking some lake water. I would not let this little mishap very early in the race ruin my day though, so I regained my composure, closed my eyes, and thrashed forward. I had the short-lived notion of carrying my goggles throughout the swim, but quickly abandoned them to the lake. I barely managed to swim straight in a pool with a big black line on the bottom, so being an inexperienced open water swimmer with no goggles made me look like a drunken whale stumbling through the water. I bumped into a couple people as I blindly zigzagged along the course, but made it to the turnaround feeling fine. I headed back towards shore and finished my swim without any additional troubles in 9:42. My goal had been ten minutes, so I was pleased making my way up from the water to my bike.


I jogged up the beach towards the transition area after emerging from the water. A couple seconds elapsed before I remembered to start stripping my wetsuit, but I still managed to have it around my waist by the time I reached my bike. The rest of my wetsuit came off with only minor difficulties, and I put on my shoes and helmet, grabbed my bike, and headed for the exit.

I got up in the saddle and had a little difficulty clipping in, but eventually got cranking. The bike course left the park and headed towards the nearby town of Palo. A couple big hills (by Iowa standards) were spread throughout the course, but most of it was flat. Greeting the riders was a little headwind as we rode into Palo, but gale force winds stayed away. It was interesting to observe the variety of participants as I continued peddling. Quite a few mountain or hybrid bikes were tackling the course, and on the other end of the spectrum were the very nice tri-bikes that zipped by me depressingly fast. With the wide range of abilities, bikes, and staggered starts the course could become pretty crowded, with people passing three wide on each side of the road while simultaneous trying avoid traffic and not violate drafting rules.

I circled around Palo and started back towards Pleasant Creek State Park. The slight tailwind allowed me to gain speed and regain some time lost. It was neat watching the road ahead of me as I continued racing. Between those riders ahead of me and those starting in later heats, all I could see were hundreds of bikes headed in both directions clogging the road. An awesome site indeed.

The bike route went past the state park (which forced us to surmount the big hill twice) and did a 180° turn before completing inside the park’s confines. The last mile of the bike coincides with the run course though, which made for another packed gathering. Competitors were running in both directions along the out and back course while on the same road bikers were cranking hard as ever as they finished. Fun stuff, and I even made it through without any collisions.


I entered the transition area again, cleanly clipping out of my pedals that sometimes proved troublesome. Although I forgot to check my split, I felt like I performed well on the bike, and my computer said I averaged near my goal pace for most of the ride. There was no time to think about cycling though as I found my spot, parked my bike, and changed into running shoes. The run should be my strongest leg so I left confidently. Although not Jell-O, my thighs were pretty tight coming off the bike. They usually loosen up after about a mile and that day was no different as they started feeling better after struggling through the first mile. The 5K run did not allow much time to cruise once my legs felt normal though. My run was strong regardless, with few if any people passing me on that leg.

I made the last turn towards the finish and pushed across the line with a time of 1:22:15, officially becoming a triathlete. Although a couple minutes slower than my objective of 1:20, I was not too disappointed. My goals have a tendency to be pulled out of the air rather than reality anyway, plus this was my first race. I also knew I was also not in top swimming or biking form and had not formally practiced transitions. So overall I could not complain about my time. Although before the race I told myself I would only race against myself and gain experience in this new sport, I quickly checked where I placed. My time put me eighth in my age group and exactly 100th overall. You can see all the details at the Pigman 2006 Sprint Results.


The race was well organized afterwards, with water right at the finish line. Tons of food including pizza, voluminous fruit, granola bars, pop, and the like were also up for grabs. I swiped plenty of grub and chowed down. I found some people with which I train occasionally and discussed how our respective races transpired. The free massages were an added benefit, and I retrieved my gear from the transition area after utilizing that service.

I stuck around for awards (also waiting for the grand prize drawings), and despite all the fast performances, the biggest applause during the ceremony went to the last person across the line — an eighty-two year old man that was still able to complete these athletic tests. After the numerous awards were dispensed, it was time to give away some awesome swag provided by Gear West (which included a wetsuit, tri-bike, zip wheels, and a bag full of tri gear). Ten-sided D&D style dice were used to pick the winning race numbers, but no magic missiles1 came to my assistance as naturally I left empty handed. Although it sure seemed that significantly more sixes were rolled than probability would predict, so the drawing smelled of a massive government conspiracy denying me my God given right to a free tri-bike. I might have to take this matter up with the Iowa Gambling Commission. Only politician-bribing casinos are allowed to cheat like that.


Although completing my first triathlon was not a life changing experience, I definitely enjoyed the race. The buzz in the transition area as people scurried with their bikes to get ready, the fun of open water swimming, and the craziness of transitions made for a great sport. I also competed very well that day, nearly hitting my goal (which was ambitious anyway) and feeling strong throughout the race. I was not ready to quit my job and go pro, but that day I performed to my potential and learned a lot for future races. Anyway, I want to be a professional camper, not a triathlete.

I was especially pleased with my results considering my training leading up to the race. I was in good shape from running (having already completed a marathon that year) but had picked up biking and swimming only a couple of months prior. I just swam two mornings a week for about an hour and cycled when I could. I lacked an endurance base and skills in those two sports. Despite knowing the perils, I did not follow a formal training plan either, but did manage to read many books and websites covering triathlons. In any case, it was definitely a good introduction into the sport and preparation for my longer one in the fall.

My running background was obvious analyzing the results. Out of 300 non-elite male finishers, I was 117th coming out of the water, had the 126th fastest bike split (surprising to me that I did comparatively better in the swim than the bike), but was 19th on the run. I guess that is what results with greatly unbalanced experience in two of the disciplines. As I get in many more laps and miles though, those areas should improve.

The implementation of staggered starts at this race was nicely executed. Mass starts are ideal, but logistics made that impractical. In general, when awards are involved, times should not be sorted on paper after everyone finishes to determine the winner, but whoever crosses the line first should be crowned champion. Knowing how you fair against other competitors throughout the event and adjusting your race strategy accordingly is an integral part of racing. With the wave starts and prizes divided into the same groupings though, the pure element of competition remained. Everyone who was vying for the same award stood should-to-shoulder at the water’s edge waiting for the gun. Whoever arrived at the finish first would gain the prize. Although deluded by the many age group races occurring simultaneously, you could still spot the person ahead that you needed to catch, devise a racing strategy to outwit them, and find out who really wanted it more near the end. Yet another reason why I love distance running, as opposed to the endless qualifying heats of a track meet (plus I can’t sprint). Of course, if you are just racing yourself, the course, and the clock (as I told myself I was) the above does not really apply. But who can resist racing the person next to you once the gun sounds?

I cannot say I became addicted to triathlons (at least yet), but loved the challenge and struggles it entailed. I know I will be competing in them for a while.


My Race Splits
SegmentLengthExpected TimeActual Time+/-Comment
Swim500 m10:009:42-0:18Lost my goggles quarter-way through

Event vs. Place graph

Event vs. Place

Next up: Pigman Long Course (Half-Ironman distance). What am I thinking?

1 I am extremely proud to say that Dungeons and Dragons is one nerd activity I have never tried and have no desire to, but man is it entertaining to poke fun at those that have.