Lake County Sprint Tri – Lac Labelle, Oconomowoc, WI – 13 August 2016
By Daniel Scott Hamm
I met Carol Jorgenson in 1976 in our first year of high school. We were both on the Waukesha South High School gymnastics team and saw each other daily during the season as the boys and girls shared the same gym. Fast forward: I started triathlon in Paris in 2010 and coincidentally, Carol started triathlon about the same time in Wisconsin. For the last 6 years, when I visit in August, we do a couple of races together – running, swimming and/or triathlon.
This year we did the Lake Country sprint distance triathlon in Oconomowoc on the lovely Lac Labelle. I hadn’t been there since 1981 when I had a summer job as a lifeguard on that very lake. It was fun to find myself there again after all these years! It brought back a lot of memories.
There were options to do sprint or Olympic distance, individual or relay, and there was even a family division. The transition area closed at 6:45am (yikes!) and there were many waves 3 minutes apart, starting with the elite athletes at 7am. Carol and I exited the transition area, which was right on the beachfront, at about 6:35am. She opted to go to the porta-potty while I did a swim warm up. I only had about 5 minutes until the race announcer told us to get out of the water at 6:45am. The water was just under the no wetsuits temperature, so the water was really a perfect temperature wearing only the ExpaTRIes tri suit. (wink).
There was motivational music playing while people waited to start. There was a lot of AC/DC and other heavy metal. Remember, this was in Wisconsin. I remembered Luis Rojas telling me at the Paris Triathlon that he always warms up for at least 10 minutes before a race. I ran in place and Carol joined me for some push-ups and deep knee bends and she led me in jumping jacks. We did that repeatedly, with some stretches thrown in, for a good 20 minutes I’d say before my wave was called to the starting area. Carol’s wave was three minutes after mine (Men 45+ were followed by women 45+).
In the starting area we waited to be told to enter the water. I chatted very briefly with a black man who Carol and I talked with at length after the race; a very interesting guy. He is a former police officer, who then became a social worker and is now in law school. He did a couple of Ironmans in the 2000’s and loves the sport. In Madison, Wisconsin he has started a club for black men to encourage them to participate in what is generally a very white sport. We thought that was really cool. Carol told him I live in Paris and do the Paris triathlon. He thought that was cool and would like to do it someday. I told him about the ExpaTRIes and the tools we use to organize ourselves (Training Peaks, Meet-up). It would be so cool if we could help him organize a trip one year with some of his club members.
The swim was a breeze. Almost no clashing at the start nor at the first buoy turn for the very short quarter mile swim (400 meters). Yeah, the Americans still can’t fully convert to the metric system. Then the 15.75 mile bike ride (24 km) was in typical rural Wisconsin countryside. It was really pretty flat, just some rolling hills. Not as flat as the Paris triathlon, but not as hilly as Cergy or the Chevreuse. For Americans it was a hilly course. Haha.
The waves were organized such that Carol and I passed people and we were passed throughout the bike and run legs. There were young and old, fat and thin, elites and beginners, and parents with kids alongside them. There was a man a little older than I, with a big fat belly but powerful legs. His bike was not as good as mine, and mine has tri bars as well. We stayed together the last half of the race. I would pass him when my better bike and aerodynamic position were an advantage and he passed me when only power made the difference. I tried to chat with him a bit but he wasn’t having it. He was in a really competitive mind set, a little anxious even. It might have been one of his first triathlons. Hopefully he’ll adopt the mutually encouraging spirit that dominated this triathlon, and that I have always enjoyed at Wisconsin triathlons.
The 3.1 mile run course (5k) was flat except for one area of “false flat”. It was an out and back so you crossed a lot of people face to face. As I was heading out Carol was returning from the bike leg and we spotted each other. On my back half of the 5k we crossed each other while she was on her first half and we shared a heeeyyy! and a high five. I said good job to just about everyone I crossed who looked like a beginner, or facing a challenge, except for the ones with headphones. Yes, headphones are allowed believe it or not. I think you could run in a thong if you wanted. I’ve seen people cross the finish line in speedos at the Age Group Nationals. I noticed more black people than usual, and that observation was explained after the race when we talked to Aaron, the guy I mentioned earlier. It was indeed good to see more diversity.
Another fun moment during the run was being encouraged by the guy who works at the store where I had my bike tuned (Bicycle Doctors in Dousman). He had told me he would be there but I wasn’t sure we would spot each other. Funny coincidence, at the age of 16 he bought his first used car from my oldest brother. Mike, that’s his name, is a triathlete and is going to do an Xterra race in Michigan in a couple of weeks.
I waited for Carol at the finish line. She arrived less than 2 minutes after me. Her run was better than mine. But also her transitions were faster. I was faster on the swim and the bike. We make perfect tri buddies. The food at the finish line was awesome with all kinds of fresh fruit, even strawberries. I had watermelon which is why I am bloated in the picture (wink).
I managed to lose my Oakley sunglasses, the only negative thing to report. Other than that, it was great. I welcomed the rain as it cooled things off and took humidity out of the air. Plus, I got practice in the rain at Versailles with the Expats!
For your information, there is an Ironman in Madison every year in September. If you are interested in visiting Wisconsin, I recommend it!