As crazy as it may seem, the weekend of July 12th would not only include the high-target race Prairie Punisher Duathlon, but would also include, only 24-1/2 hours later, "Team Staples'" first running of the UCP Shawnee Mission Triathlon. The Prairie Punisher Duathlon is always a key race in my (and my sister's) year's schedule. However, given Team Staples' late-August run in the Hy-Vee Triathlon, and my jam-packed August of duathlons, a solid tune-up race would be ideal in preparation for these events. The UCP Shawnee Mission Triathlon would be the perfect opportunity.
True to the race's name, the entire triathlon takes place at Shawnee Mission Park in Shawnee Mission/Lenexa, Kansas. The swim, as it were, take place in Shawnee Mission Lake. There are two course options for the triathlon: a 1000m/18mi/4.5mi long-course, and a 500m/9mi/5k short-course. We would be running the long course, including the 1000 meter swim. The swim starts and Shawnee Mission Beach on the north side of the lake, swims out roughly 600 meters, and back 400 meters to Shawnee Mission Lake Marina, also on the north side of the lake. Transition is in the marina's main parking lot, uphill from the swim exit point. In fact, the whole transition area sits tilted on a hillside, which may add to any out-of-water vertigo suffered by participants.
After negotiating out of transition, the long-course bike route is four laps around Shawnee Mission Park (to the short-course's two laps), equaling just short of 18 miles. There are sixteen total climbs on the route, although in reality it's four climbs repeated four times over. Shawnee Mission Park has always been regarded as a great place to practice repeated short bursts of effort up climbs, over and over again. Come race day, it will serve as a pain factory, with nearly 1,500 feet of total climbing.
The first climb, starting just at the end of Shawnee Mission Lake's Johnson County Dam, is the nastiest of the four, and can really be split in to two section. The first half of climb #1 (what I affectionately refer to as "Lookout Hill") is by far the most painful, an almost-7% average ascent up 51 feet, before leveling out slightly in to the second half, at 4%, up towards lookout tower. Overall, climb #1 is a half-mile at 5% average and 10% a the initial foot of the climb. After lookout tower, a fast downhill leads straight in to climb #2, a quarter mile at almost 6%. Another drop in to Climb #3, this time only 0.15 miles, but still at 5.6%. The final climb comes just before turning back west towards the lake, and again is split in two, the first half also more steep, and averaging under 5% over a scant tenth of a mile.
The north side of the lake provides some wonderful respite in preparation for the next lap, and with some
power on the pedals, can produce some lightning-fast speeds. A few minor up-ticks pop up on approach to the transition area before heading back out on to Johnson County Dam. On the road along the dam, wind will likely be the biggest factor, as the road is perched up on a hill with zero shielding from any gusts.
Over the course as a whole, the repetitiveness of the hill-climbs will be the largest factor, and a rhythm will have to be established right from the start. As my own personal training grounds, I'm very familiar with each climb, and have found standing on the pedals for the first half of climb one, followed by sitting, then standing on the pedals for all of climb two, sitting for climb three, and standing for both parts of climb four, to be the easiest to manage. Again, take advantage of the speed allowed by the north side of the lake, but don't completely bomb it, as the last flat spot across the dam doesn't provide the same amount of respite with faces to the wind. And break out the compact cranks: the small ring will be needed for most of these climbs.
Accomplishing T2 involves a slight uphill run out of transition to actually get on-course.
Once on course, long-course participants will start the 4.5-mile run leg on the northwestern corner of the bike route, including the first half of Lookout Hill, a quarter-mile at 7% grade. Then the looooong fall from the wall -- about three-quarters of a mile to be exact. Though it sounds welcoming, the harsh pounding of the pavement will no-doubt absolutely trash quads. The fall leads in to the back multi-use trails of the Mill Creek Streamway trail. Once on the main trail -- which takes nearly 2 miles to get to -- the course is pancake-flat. Just before the finish line is where it picks up again, and throws the most difficult climb (less steep than Lookout Hill, but much longer) of the run route: a 0.30-mile, 5.5% ascent back up towards the lake. The finish is at the end of a short-yet-very-steep mini-climb, adding insult to likely injury.
Race Day Rainout
I awoke Sunday Morning with brief flashes of lightning off to the north. "It's off to the north," I thought. "It will stay off to the north." I checked out the weather: 60% chance of thundershowers. Damn. The radar: Showers all over the place, many bearing down on us. Damn.
No delays up to as late as 15 minutes before the first wave start. It was sprinkling, but just sprinkles. Definitely something that could be competed in. Then, 5 minutes before the start, delayed. At first temporarily. 30 minutes later, athletes started filing in to the transition area. The word: 2 hour delay. Almost on cue, the rain started falling harder. Then pouring. A few flashes of lightning. I sought shelter.
For an hour I stood in the rain under a tree, soaked and freezing. The announcer came over the loudspeaker, explaining that another line was to the west, and they were monitoring whether or not it would hit us. If it looked like it would, they would cancel. If it wasn't, 9:00 (2-hour delay) should be the start time.
I decided to seek out warmer climates, and hitched a ride on one of the buses that were being offered to spectators to and from the parking areas. I decided a few winks of sleep in a warm car would be nice. I set an alarm for 20 minutes, after which I would head back down to the start and get the latest update. Only two minutes after I started my alarm, a car drove by with loudspeakers on the top, the driver shouting instructions. I shut off my car's heater so I could listen in: "Once again, today's triathlon is cancelled."
Weeks upon weeks of course-specific training, a 4:30am wake-up, over an hour standing in the rain upon wait...only to be sent back home. A damn shame. The rain was heavy for a while, but by now had slowed, and the skies were clearing. Was this line of thunderstorms to the west really that bad? This imminent? I slipped on my Zoot running shoes and went for a run down to the transition area (had to get some bit of an exercise in -- I fueled while I waited and had to burn off the excess calories). I grabbed my bike, rode it up to the car, drove home, laid out my transition bag in the living room to dry its contents out, and went back to sleep.
Waking up two hours later, the sun was shining, the air was warm. Storms never moved through -- they would pass off to the south, leaving only sunshine in its wake. A damn shame.
Keep R/B/S-ing. -tds
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