Cane Creek Triathlon Race Report – Sept 20

Wow, with races four weekends in a row, I am falling way behind on race reports.  So even though I just completed the ASC Greenway Trail Marathon as part of a relay team this past weekend, I wanted to get a quick race report out from the weekend before.  I promise to get one out for the Trail Marathon out soon.

Anyhow, I had been planning to do the Cane Creek race all year long.  It is a fairly well advertised, sprint distance, road triathlon that was fairly close to home (less than a 30 min drive).  With 9 off road triathlons under my belt, it was quite interesting (and different) to do one on pavement.


The race was capped at 400 athletes.  When online registration closed (quicker than my procrastination allowed), I was concerned that I missed my opportunity.  Since it was sponsored by TrySports, I shot them an email to see if there were spots still available.  There were and they recommended that I stop by the store and register.  Once small problem:  I was 1000 miles away in Dallas, Texas on business.  Since I had to fly back to Charlotte on the night before the race, I had to take my chances with race-day registration.

Once I finally made it home, I decided that getting into bed was more important than getting my race gear together.  Usually, I spend the evening prior getting everything laid out, organized and placed into my transition bag.  Instead, I planned on deviating from my usual plan and wait until morning.  After all, I had my security blanket checklist.

If I’ve learned one thing in the Air Force, it was that checklists are wonderful things.  They always made us use them.  When dealing with multi-million dollar aircraft, you have to use them.  Even though you may use them a thousand times, using them every time was the only sure way to avoid mistakes.  I use this same concept with my racing.  The only way I can ensure I remember everything I need, is to go by a checklist.

The only problem I faced on race morning with this grand [insert sarcasm] idea was that I ended up running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I felt time slipping away and had difficulty trying to find everything.  I did seem to get everything together, but abandoned the search for the only missing item: my bike computer.

I really wanted to be at the venue at 6am when registration opened.  This would have allowed ample time to get registered and still get everything setup, get warmed up and complete other race-day rituals that I usually follow.  Alas, we didn’t leave our house until around 6:15.  Getting to Cane Creek park, I wasn’t sure which side of the lake the race was on.  This only further added to my tardiness. (Always get directions to the venue, it’s on my checklist).

By the time I got there, parked, registered and dealt with the loooooong porta-potty line, I had no time for warm up.  :(

I didn’t let it get me flustered, as I had enough time to properly setup my transition.  With close to 400 participants, the transition area was quite crowded and it was a virtual sea of bikes.  Just looking at it stirred excitement and made me want to race.


The swim was a 750 meter point-to-point swim.  This meant that we needed to take a hike to get to the starting point since the end of the swim would be near the transition area.  Most of us were barefoot and were walking over rocks, pebbles and other debris which caused us all to do the "ooch-ouch walk" all the way to the start.  Once at the swim start, we were welcomed by soft sand and warm water of around 74-75 degrees.  Since this is slightly below the cutoff temperature for wtsuits, it meant it was a wetsuit-legal swim.  In the days leading up to the race, I thought for sure there would be no chance of a wetsuit-legal swim, so I didn’t bother to bring mine.  I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to take advantage of the buoyancy.  Oh well, it was a short swim anyhow.


With around 400 participants, the swim was a wave start, with my age group being the first wave.  Not sure if that is good or bad, but it appeared that the 35-39 age group had looooots of talent.  Once the swim was off, I couldn’t seem to find a groove.  My swim felt a bit awkward at first as I was swimming with cold muscles.  I have found that if I do a ~5 minute warm up swim before the race, I can get into a groove a lot quicker.  However, about all I could get in before race start was about 5 or 6 good strides.

From the lake, there was a ~100 yard uphill run. Up to that point, everything was familiar to me since so far, there’s virtually no difference than that of an off road triathlon.  However, there is where the similarities ended.

Transitioning onto the bike went fairly well.  I did have problems getting my road bike shoes on as they don’t see as much action as my mountain bike shoes.  Due to their lack of play time, I can hardly call them broken in.  With that said, they were very stiff and difficult to get on, even with the straps completely loose.


On my el-cheapo road bike, I had to use the drops (the hook thingies) in an effort to get into an aero position.  With the absence of even clip-on aero bars, this was uncomfortable to hold for long periods.  However, I suffered through it knowing that it would pay off with a better time.  The only time I went out of that position was on a few of the short climbs where I stood to crank up a hill.  On my mountain bike, this is rarely the case as most of the trail climbs are more efficiently tackled with your butt firmly planted on the seat.

During the 12-13 mile ride, I passed numerous people and a couple of people passed me.  Everyone who passed me were on tri-bikes and wearing those funny-looking aero helmets.  They must have helped, as the few that did pass me, did so with amazing speed.  I didn’t let it bother me and even shouted out a few words of encouragement as I do with anyone I come in contact with during the race.  Unlike with my off road triathlons, all of my encouraging words went unacknowledged.  Bummer.

The end of the bike came a lot sooner than I had anticipated.  Had I done a little more research (knowing the exact mileage) and had found my bike computer, I could have added the strategy of negative splits.  With the bike finish upon me, I felt as if I may had conserved too much energy.  Instead, I should have poured it on during the last few miles.

Coming into transition (as with starting the bike leg), there was a long run from the road to the transition area.  This run consisted of grass, red clay, dirt, rocks and gravel.  Most folks, including myself, decided not an attempt to run it barefooted.  Instead, I clipped out and ran in my road shoes.  This was fairly easy at the start of the bike, but after spinning for 12-13 miles, it proved a little more difficult.  My legs and calves were stiff.



Once in the transition area, I was happy to see that there were hardly any bikes already there.  That meant that I had a pretty decent position.  Since my age group was the first wave, this only meant that I had a decent position within my age group and not necessarily overall.  I still had to kick butt on the run. 

My transition to the run (T2) proved to be plagued with a similar problem as T1: bike shoes.  I had just as much trouble getting them off as I did getting them on.  However, once off, everything else went smoothly.  With the running shoes on, and a quick swig of water, I was off to run the 5k.


The 5k run was a two lap, out-and-back run.  This was nice as once you have ran half of one loop, you’ve seen the entire course.  However, this also meant that it would be difficult to figure out positioning.  Once I was on the course, I couldn’t tell if folks were on their first lap or second.  Also, there was a constant stream of new runners coming into the mix.  I just decided to run as fast as I could and pass as many people as I could regardless of their position.  During the run, I stumbled across Peter Lilly, a good friend and fellow XTERRA athlete.

It was a good run and I finished the race strong at 1:25:42.  I took 8th in my age group, 44th male and 50th overall.  Not bad for my first road tri.

Full Results


All pictures taken by Alba Barton.  All rights reserved.