Race Recap: 2014 Black Bear Sprint Triathlon

Hello! Wednesday is here.  The weekend is close.  Weekends are for miles and workouts these days, so I'm not exactly in store for rest, but such is life these days.

On Sunday, June 1, I did my penultimate triathlon of the season (at least as of now):  the Black Bear Sprint Triathlon in Lehighton PA.  Amy and Bill did the Olympic distance at this race last year, but I did not, as it was the same day as the Upper Dublin Sprint triathlon.  This year, I knew I wanted to give it a try, as the bike course was supposedly really difficult and it was a gorgeous open water swim -- both excellent preparation for Lake Placid.  My coach was fine with the race, but told us to do the sprint.  So that's what we did.  And this is what I walked away with:

Race medal on the left and the bronze third place in my age group medal on the right!  Yay.  It was a hard fought battle, and I'll share the details below.  

Aside from the thrill of a race and a break in training, I was looking forward to meeting Brian Schwind, my bloggie friend, of his blog, Bri Tri, who I "met" online last year after we both did New Jersey Devilman.  I found Brian's blog and his recap of that race and then realized he was training for IMLP 2013.  I followed his training journey and his ultimate 12:37 IRONMAN finish in Lake Placid.  He's training for IMLP 2014, so it's been cool and inspiring to follow his training journey again.  Brian was doing the Black Bear half iron distance, and he managed to find me in a sea of black wetsuits at the swim start.  He mentioned he recognized me but what sealed it was when he saw Amy and Bill with me.  Ha.  Brian was doing the half iron and had a great race.  It was really cool to finally connect.  

The Details

There were 247 athletes in the sprint race.  I finished in 2:01:10, was 76th overall and third in my 35-39 female age group.  I think I was the 14th woman to finish.  I don't think I could be happier with those results! And it wasn't just me: Amy and Bill crushed Black Bear as well.  They both finished 2nd in their age groups and had times of 2:00:25 (Amy - who was the 71st overall and 12th woman) and 1:35:47 (Bill - who was 12th overall).  

Me on the podium with the other 35-39 AG winners

Amy on the podium with the other AG winners

Bill on the podium with the other AG winners
The sprint race started at 7:30.  We were able to get in the water between 7 and 7:30 to warm up, which was really nice.  If given the opportunity, I always warm up in the water.  It truly helps.  Even just to swim for a minute.  

Swim:  750 meters [15:06]

The sprint men got in the water and were on their way.  Then the sprint women.  We got in the water and it was just perfect.   The temperature was just right (if you were in a wetsuit) and the quality was amazing: crystal clear.  It was hard to get to the buoy line to start - I wasn't really swimming - more of a dog paddle type thing and it was exhausting.  We bobbed around for a minute or so and then the horn went off and off we went!  There was a lot of commotion, a lot of swimmers, a lot of splashing and just a big crowd the entire time.  I didn't feel like it was an aggressive situation at all - just a lot of people swimming.  I did my usual first few minutes where I sang ABBA, took deep breaths and did not kick: just swam stupid slow.  Then once I was in a groove and out of the initial scrum, I could kick and start swimming a little harder.  

This race uses labeled buoy markers which count off every 100 meters - so so so nice!  Sighting was a snap: the sun was behind us, so it was very easy to see.  Plus, I could see the red meter buoys on my right.  The yellow turn buoy was very easy to sight the whole time.  Once you hit that yellow buoy, you turn right and head for the shore.  I got out and was happy to see a 15:00 or so swim, which put me squarely in the middle of the pack as the 121st of 247 finishers.  And into transition I went.

T1:  [2:53]

T1 was pretty smooth and uneventful.  As I exited the water, I started unzipping my wetsuit and pulled it around my waist.  I also pulled off my cap and goggles.  Once I found my rack with my stuff, I ripped off the wetsuit, quickly sat down and dried off my feet and put on socks and bike shoes.  I balled up my wetsuit, grabbed my helmet and sunglasses and bike and headed up the hill to the bike mount area.  It is a long run from transition to the bike mount!  And you have to run up a grassy hill (with a volleyball court in the middle, which you can avoid).  I did really well in T1: I was 59th overall of 247 people.  

Bike: 18 miles [1:15:04 ~ 14.4 mph]  

This bike was no joke.  Brian described the bike as a roller coaster and that is about as accurate as I can imagine.  It really was just like a coaster: either climbing or descending and very little flats.  Add to that, the race had some technical aspects: lots of sharp turns, lots of descents into turns that immediately went into a climb.  Your hands had better be on those shifters at all times or you'll pay dearly.  The bike was a challenge for sure, but I held my own.  I think the only person on the bike who passed me was Amy!  I kept her in my sights, which was helpful.  I always say if I can keep up with Amy or keep her in my sights on the bike, I am doing A-OK.  She happens to kill the bike.  I was beyond thrilled with my 89th of 247 people finish.  That is just about top third.  For me that is amazing.  And as you can see ... my speed was 14.4 mph.  If that speed is the 89th best of the sprint race, that is really saying something about the difficulty of that course.  

T2:  [1:46]

I really like T2.  It's one of my favorite parts of the race, because I can dismount the bike and get moving on the run.  Maybe that's why my T2 times are usually so good!  I was the 36th overall time for T2.  Ha.   As you can see in this pic, I was kind of hulking out and ready to HULK SMASH BIKE in transition.

The best part of transition in this race is "The Preacher" who is this awesome cheerleader type guy who stands at the bike exit/entrance into transition and cheers people on, but also gives practical advice.  He was yelling "rack your bike and RUN AWAY FROM ME!!", which sounds funny but it was actually useful, as the entrance to the run was at the opposite end of transition.  I love the Preacher and want to make him come cheer me on at all of my races.  He also said gems such as "this is YOUR race" "they're gonna name this race after YOU" "you RUN up that hill. go go go!".  

Amy and the Preacher (on the right in red jacket and white cap)

Run: 5K/3.1 miles [26:18 ~ 8:29/mile pace]

As much as I love running, the run on a sprint tri is really tough.  What inspires me is that the faster I go, the sooner it's over.  I just run as hard as I can.  I didn't wear a heart rate monitor but if I did, I'm pretty sure my data would show I redlined this entire run.  The run is mostly on trails, which is a tough adjustment for someone like me who sticks to the road.  It is mostly flat but with a handful of steep hills, which were very tough.  I could see Amy in front of me the whole time and I just tried to keep a steady pace behind her, which I did for the most part.  No one, except the Olympic distance winner, passed me on the run, which was awesome.  At the very end, I passed a woman who I think may have been in my age group.  

It felt great to cross the finish line!  The race had really good post-race spread: bags with soft pretzels, a pbj sandwich and fruit, and plenty of ice water and soda.  It was a great day: a challenging course that we all managed to do well at.  I walked away feeling pumped and ready for the next few weeks.  

I will definitely do this race again, and I think the sprint distance is perfect.  The Olympic and half iron distances have to run up the rocky side of a dam (you read that correctly ... just read Brian's blog about his half iron race if you don't believe me!), which is wholly unappealing.  It was a good day.  

If you like and understand fancy vocabulary (i.e., my use of "penultimate" above), you'll know that my next and final race is Ironman Lake Placid, which happens in about 52 more days.  June will surely be a really big push with workouts.  I am ready!  I say this fully aware that it is only June 4!

See you swoon,


  1. Great race and report Shanna!! Thanks too for the mentions! Oh that Preacher guy. Ha...yeah I was crackin up when went by him. I forget what he said but it was pretty funny. I'm gonna call you guys the Three Amigo's lol. Only 52 days and 21 hours to go!!