When my alarm went off at 4:30a.m. there was lightning simultaneously flashing through the window with rolling booms of thunder and the sound of a heavy rain pattering down on the roof and gutters outside. On any other Sunday it would have been perfect conditions for snuggling deeper under the covers. Instead, I deliberated for about 30 seconds, “to go, or not to go?” rolled out of bed, and got ready to leave for the 90 minute drive to Delaware for the Lum’s Pond Sprint Triathlon I’d registered for two weeks prior, for fun.
Heading up I-95 at o-dark-thirty I remained hopeful that the weather radar map I’d checked a zillion times the day before would hold true and that we’d in fact have a perfect weather window open up around 8a.m., just in time for my swim wave to start, and last until roughly 10a.m. when I’d be crossing the finish line. I was ever curious about how many others would be at the event ready to race regardless of the relentless torrential downpour. When I came upon another car with bikes strapped to the back I was reassured that I was not the only crazy athlete headed to race in the rain. And pulling into a full parking lot at Lum’s Pond State Park I was downright giddy to be there.
I made my way to the registration tent to pick up my packet and smiled in amusement at the puddles already filling the lot and the triathletes milling about with rain jackets, umbrellas or nothing at all preparing to race. I studied the beach swim start and then turned my attention to the transition area…where not a single bike was racked. My doubt of the race happening was starting to grow but no one at the event had heard otherwise so I went to get my bike and trash bag full of gear from my car.
Change of Plans
Just as I took my bike off my rack, a woman at the car across from me said we were doing the run only. I stared at her blindly not really wanting this to be true. I asked others around me if they’d heard the same thing and when everyone confirmed her statement, I re-racked my bike, switched to my running shoes (sans socks), ditched my own rain jacket and headed for the pavilion to wait for the start. By 7:30a.m. the consensus was that the race organizers were going to start run waves in the same sequence as the swim waves and that we’d do a three part run to mimic transitions. I followed a pack of others out into the rain and down to the field outside the transition area.
A race organizer was attempting to make announcements from the microphone of a police car to no avail. I believe he was announcing the start waves and likely describing the course but no one could hear him. Finally we all heard, “fine, we’ll do a mass start” and the whole lot of us lined up on the muddy field for the first leg of this modified triathlon.
Trail Run, Mud Run & Racing
I’m pretty sure my first step was into a mud puddle and it just got messier from there. We went into the woods on a path filled with mud puddles, sopping, sinking grass, roots and rocks. I’ve never been trail running before always having been worried of falling or losing my balance so I suppose having to trail run as part of a race was as good a reason as any to finally be trying it. And I loved every minute. I am sure a goofy grin was spread across my face with every footfall landing in a mud pit. It was indeed hard to keep balance but the challenge made it all the more fun. This first leg of the revised tri was 2 mile-ish out-and-back of the trail. About a mile in I was having so much fun I think I forgot I was racing; but then, I remembered I was racing.
We came out of the woods and ran through transition and out for a 2 mile-ish out-and-back run along the street where we would’ve started the bike. I was in race mode for sure by that time and noticed my pace hovering around 7:54-8:00. I was feeling good and happy. (I had also done a 16 mile LSD run the day before so was especially pleased to somehow feel so fresh.) All the while, thunder was booming and the rain poured down.
Back through transition, we went back for another 2-ish miles on the same muddy trail run on which we had started the race. I was curious to see how I’d do the second round through the mud pits which would surely be even deeper and more slippery. I focused on taking exaggerated steps, lifting my knees and keeping my arms out like chicken wings for more balance. When I came out of the woods I knew the last stretch to the finish would be on slick grass with sticky, muddy holes but I kicked into the next gear. Sprinting to the finish I knew that I could have been in that faster gear a lot longer but I’d had so much fun it really didn’t matter how fast I finished. (A bonus was that I ended up finishing first in my age group with a 48:50 finish for the 6 mile mud run.)
The Lum’s Pond event was put on by Piranha Sports and I think they did a great job considering the circumstances. We couldnt’ have swam with the lightning and the bike course would have been way to slick for any safe riding. I’d like to do Lum’s Pond next year as the whole course seemed awesome–flat and fast–and I imagine fun, rain or shine.