DeGray Lake Sprint Triathlon and USAT National Triathlon Championship (Sprint Distance)
August 17, 2014 Arkadelphia, Arkansas
Travel to the race:
I opted to drive to this race since I was already driving to SW Missouri for a family vacation. If I were to fly, I would have flown into Little Rock, Arkansas. The airport is about one hour from Arkadelphia. I arrived on Friday, the 15th.
I stayed at Quality Inn, 150 Valley St, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 71923, 870-230-1506. It was located off the I-30 at the HWY 7 exit. It was an older hotel but it offered friendly service, affordable rates, clean rooms, free parking, free internet, an outdoor swimming pool, and free breakfast. They opened the breakfast up extra early for the racers which was very nice. They also had popcorn in the lobby after 4:00 PM (which my boys loved). They had an ice machine and a washer and dryer.
Packet pick-up was located at DeGray Lake State Park from 5-7:30 PM. The park was about four miles from the hotel I was staying at. The park was beautiful with tall pine trees and rolling hills surrounding a clear, clean lake. There were no lines so I walked right up to the registration table. Since this was also the USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race, they did weigh me to verify that I was racing in the correct division. After the packet was in hand, I decided to drive the bike course so I would be familiar with it on race day. It has hillier than I expected so I was glad to see it beforehand.
Transition was open from 6-7:45 AM. I arrived at about 6:30 and quickly set up my transition. It was set up as a square with four rows of racks. They were not assigned so I picked one that was the second in towards the bike out exit. The humidity was 100% and it was thick. It was sunny and there was no wind. At 7:30 AM there was a pre-race meeting near the finish line. This is where the race director explained the course and gave us any last minute details needed for the day. The first wave started at 8:00 AM. My wave was at 8:10 AM. After the pre-race meeting and a final bathroom break, I headed down to the boat ramp.
The swim was a floating start so once the wave before us left, we walked over the timing mat and entered the water. The water temperature was perfect and wetsuits were not needed or allowed. I positioned myself in the first row of swimmers so that I could get a good start. With a short countdown and a buzzer, I was off. I had raced the Olympic distance race the day before so I was not sure how my body was going to react to being asked to race again. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it knew exactly what to do and did it. The swim was set up as a small triangle. The buoys were very visible and the water was calm so it made for great open water swimming conditions. The race had super water support with several kayaks, boats, and swift water rescue teams. The swim felt good and I was out front quickly. The timing mat was about twenty feet from the water line which made for great swim times. I completed my 500 yard swim in 9:53.
The run to T1 was along the boat ramp and parking lot. It was paved and about 100 yards long. Once inside the transition area, I easily found my bike. I wanted to improve my transition times from the day before so I made a few small changes. I decided to bike without my gloves and I didn’t sit down to put my socks and shoes on. These changes shaved 46 seconds off my time. Total T1 time was 1:59.
The bike course started with about one hundred yards of parking lot then a sharp right turn onto the main road. The road immediately greeted us with a nice climb, the first of many. Once at the top of that hill there were a few rollers that led to the dam. The ride across that was beautiful! After that nice, flat, scenic section the road began its gradual, constant climb. From approximately mile 0-6, the road was in really good condition. From mile 6-8, there were several sections of road that had been patched and those areas were rough. It made it very difficult to maintain your speed when riding across those patches. The turnaround was at mile 8. The course was an out and back. It had two good climbs on the way back but other than that, it was a gradual downhill where a lot of speed could be gathered. Once again, going across the dam was breathtaking. There was a bit of a breeze now so I did feel myself getting pushed around by the wind at that point. As I approached the sharp left turn that took me back into the transition area, I had to really apply my brakes to control my speed into the turn. I then made my way to the dismount line. I completed the 16.2 mile bike course in 55:53.
I headed into T2 still feeling strong. I once again tried to decrease my transition time from the day before. By not having to mess with taking off my gloves and by eating my nutrition as I was running out of the transition area, I shaved 14 seconds off my previous time. My T2 time was 0:43.
The run started with about a tenth of a mile run through the parking lot. It then turned left onto the main road. It immediately began a decent climb into the woods. That was a bit challenging on tired legs. It rolled through the beautiful trees for about a half mile. Then the course turned left onto a side road. There was an aid station located just after that turn. There was a gradual climb for another half mile. The road then leveled out for another half mile. Then the course turned slightly left onto a grass section next to the highway for a quarter mile. It then turned left again to reenter the woods for the aid station and turnaround. It was an out and back as well. Once I made it to the downhill sections, I let my legs go and tried to finish the race strong. As I exited the main road and made my way back to the parking lot knowing that I was on the final leg of the race, I began my sprint. I always try to push it at the end and leave it all out there. I completed the 3.5 mile run in 35:43.
My final time was 1:44:14 and I finished in 2nd place. There were no finisher’s medals which was very disappointing. I feel that all races should give those out. They offered a sack lunch, water and Gatorade to all race participants. They also had a sprinkler near the finish line that felt amazing to be in. All races should have that too! This was a small race but I felt like it was very well run and supported. I would attend this race again.