Shawnee Mission Triathlon Race Report

Bryan West; Runner, Marathoner, Duathlete, Ultrarunner and now.... Triathlete!  Ever since I started working out & running in November of 2009 I've threatened to attempt a triathlon, but I never had the guts to get in the pool and start swimming.  In April I finally decided this would be the year and I was done making excuses.  I'd never swam before (unless you count goofing off in the pool with friends as a kid) so I didn't even know where to start.  I did the only thing I could think of; I reached out to my Facebook & DailyMile friends.  I knew I had several local triathlete friends so I was banking on one of them knowing where I could get cheap lessons & access to a pool, but what I got was even better!  My friend Heather (fellow Trail Nerd from the B.A.R. run) turns out to have been a collegiate water polo player for San Diego State University and had been a swim instructor for a number of years!  She told me where she swims & plays polo and offered to help coach me!!  HUGE thanks to Heather; I could not have done this without her!

My TriTat with my race # (right arm) the night before the race
I had originally signed up for the long course (1000 meter swim, 18 mile bike, 4.5 mile run), but after several open water swims, a ridiculous heat wave and several "incidents" with bike issues while testing the race course, I decided it would be best to drop to the short course (500 meter swim, 9 mile bike, 2.4 mile run) since this was my first attempt.  It was a tough decision to come to but I think it was for the best.  Being that my two biggest race goals I'm working on right now are the Hawk 50 mile run & the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile run, I've been running and racing a lot lately (including a night time trail 1/2 marathon last Friday night just 8 1/2 days before the tri) so this week I took it easy.  I did very little running.

That's a VERY light week for me, so by race morning my legs were feeling loose and fresh; ready to roll!

Race director giving some course
pointers at the pre-race briefing
As a first-time triathlete, I was required to attend a pre-race briefing at packet pickup the afternoon before the race.  I didn't mind so much since I like hot weather, but I felt sorry for the more cool-weather-inclined folks since it was the hottest part of the hottest day of the hottest year we've had in many years.  That's right, for the pre-race briefing at 4:00 Saturday evening it was 105* actual temp and only a little shade from the sun as we sat on a mound of grass by the SMP Marina parking lot (right in front of the transition area for the race).  I'd already biked the course several times and I've run the trails the run would be on many times so most of the helpful info I got was in regards to applying the race tattoos, the swim and where/when the spectators could be.  It was nice to get an overview of the race day events and it was nice to have some time sitting out in the warm weather.  Of course, I wasn't disappointed that race morning was far cooler!  After the briefing I went home for an evening hanging out with my wife, Kristy, carb loading and getting all my stuff I'd need for the race together.  I cooked up a nice stir-fry (lots of rice, veggies and a little pork), cleaned up the kitchen, then started working on getting everything in order.  I got my bike put up on my bike rack, got all the stuff I'd need and put it in my Napa Valley Marathon backpack (serving as my transition bag) and put on my TriTat race numbers.  Ready to roll!!  I went to sleep at about 10:30 and had the alarm set for 5:20 am.

I woke up race morning tired (of course) but excited and ready to go.  I got ready and headed out to the kitchen.  I had a couple snack bars and drank a bottle of Powerade Zero to help get some extra last minute hydration.  I sat down on the couch and answered several messages of encouragement I had received from friends and headed out to Shawnee Mission Park.  I got to Theater In the Park where we were to park and unloaded my bike.  I got my backpack and headed down to the transition area to set up.  It was almost exactly 1 mile of complete downhill so I got there fairly quickly without peddling.  I found my assigned slot on the bike racks and put my bike up, laid out my towel, shoes, Stinger Chews (1/2 pack for after the swim and 1/2 pack for after the bike), S-Caps, and water bott.... CRAP!!  I forgot my water bottle wth Powerade in the car!!  There would be no water along the bike course, so I NEEDED the bottle!  Well, I guess that gives me a chance for a warm up!  It was about 6:30 (race started at 7 and my heat was set to start at 7:40) so I had time.  I took a jog up the mile long hill to my car, grabbed the bottle and headed back down the mile long hill to my bike.  Finally everything was set and I got to see the first wave start.  I got my swim cap and goggles and headed down to the water.  There was an area to warm up by swimming across from the marina (transition area) to the beach (swim start), so I swam across.  Then it was just time to wait for my heat to get started.

Coming out of the water after the swim

I waited in the water while several other heats went off.  Our heat was set to start at 7:40 as the first heat of the short course.  After the last wave of the long course they moved the volunteers out on boats up to the buoy where the short course turns to make sure we didn't go too far.  While waiting I chatted with several other guys in my group and was surprised by how many were first time triathletes just like I was.  Finally we walked over to the other side of the beach and got in the water ad they started the count down.  I stayed at the back with just a couple swimmers behind me.  They sounded the horn and off we went!  I've only been swimming for a few months and I still am not very good at free style, so I just did that for about 50 meters or so then switched to a side stroke.  I've gotten fairly good at that so I felt more comfortable sticking with it.  I was able to move ahead of a couple other swimmers while we were in the water.  I kept a steady pace and only had to switch to a back stroke to rest a couple times.  I did get run into by another swimmer a couple times right before and right after the turn, but thanks to the fact that I've been doing the open water swim at the park since it started a month or so ago I was prepared for it and it didn't really cause me any problems.  I got to the boat ramp and I started running up to the transition area.  Swim:  500 meters in 12:44 (official time)

Transition 1:

I was pretty out of breath and tired after the swim so I wanted to use the transition to catch my breath.  I didn't want to waste too much time, but I did want to use the opportunity to gather myself a little and be strong starting out on the bike portion.  I got my bike down off the rack, put on my shirt, shorts, helmet & gloves.  I also wanted to make sure I was good to go if the heat from the last few weeks showed back up so I took an S-Cap and ate 5 Honey Stinger Chews then headed out to exit of the transition area to start the bike leg of the event.  Transition 1:  4:46


This leg of the race was my biggest concern going in.  I don't exactly have a great bike.  It is a Schwinn OR2 hybrid that I got last summer at Target.  Not a bad bike at all when riding on relatively flat ground, but add in the giant hills (like the course following the perimiter road of Shawnee Mission Park) and it has some pretty big troubles.  Every time I hadn't riden the course in training my chain had come off several times.  I was just hoping that wouldn't happen today.  The course starts with a relatively flat (couple short, small hills) section of about 3/4 of a mile from the marina to the Dam Hill.  It's called the Dam Hill for more reasons than it being located at the end of the dam.  It's steep, its long (almost a full mile of continuous climbing) and it has very little shade.  Normally I lose my chain somewhere on this climb, so I had a boost of confidence went I started the fast downhill at the end of it and had not had any problems with my bike.  The rest of the route is a pretty steady rotation of tough uphill climbs followed by quick, steep downhills except one long stretch of about 3/4 of a mile that is fairly flat.  I was rolling through pretty well.  I finished the first loop in about 20 min having passed several people and been passed by some seriously fast people.  I felt good since I had really only been passed by the serious triathletes that I would expect to pass me.  The second loop went well also and without incident!  My bike had decided to cooperate!  The second loop was pretty much identical, right about 20 min.  I headed down the small lane headed to the transition so I could leave my bike behind and start the final leg of this journey.  Bike:  9 miles in 40:43 (official time) with a 13.2 mph avg

Transition 2:

I felt good coming off the bike and didn't want to waste time since I had taken so much in the first transition.  I got my bike back on the rack, dropped my helmet and gloves, took another S-Cap and ate another 5 Honey Stinger Chews as I headed out to the exit to the run.  Quick and efficient this time.  Transition 2:  2:13


Coming to the finish of the run
Normally a 2.4 mile run seems pretty easy and a nice way to put in a fast time, but not this time!  I was tired and my legs were a little sore from biking all those hills, but I felt relatively strong.  At this point the sun had come out and there are two very steep hills on the run course so my plan was simple; steady effort.  I started on my way and was moving pretty fast considering with a relatively low effort level.  Up until I got to the Dam Hill I was holding about a 10:00 avg pace.  I could hear a guy right behind me talking to a lady he was running with about "just follow him, he's keeping a good pace."  When I got started up the hill I started power hiking up it since it is so steep.  That's when I found out who they were talking about!  "Oh, now our pacer is walking!"  They were right behind me so in just a second they were beside me.  I told him, "hey, I'm an ultra runner, I know better than wasting energy running up a hill that won't gain anything for me."  He chuckled, but not for long.  They were running, I was hiking.  We were going to exact same speed.  The section of the hill we were running for the course is fairly short so I felt it was smartest to hike it and run again when I got to the small parking lot we would do a loop in.  We got there and I started running again and grabbed some water and Gatorade at the aid station there.  I got a shock when I took a big chug of the Gatorade!  They had mixed it themselves and it was VERY strong!  I don't really like Gatorade anyway, but can drink it if offered at a race.  This was so strong I spat it out and grabbed another water on my way back passed the station at the end of the small loop to wash the taste out!  I was again ahead of the two runners that were using me as a pacer, but again they were right behind me.  We started talking about triathlons, ultra running, etc.  It was nice to have some company and they were definitely nice people.  Then the bomb dropped on me.  At about 1.4 miles in (1 mile to go) I got a side stitch like I haven't felt in a couple years.  It started simple enough, but it got worse and worse and worse.  By the time I was hiking up the massive hill to the top of the dam I was in excruciating pain from it.  I wanted to either cry of throw up.  I seriously have not had a cramp like that in my side since my first couple months as a runner.  My partners were staying just behind me and I was powering up the hill as best I could.  I got to the top and despite the horrible pain in my side I started running again.  The finish line was a short half mile away; pain or no pain I can run out a half mile!  I ran it at fairly decent pace and about half way there my running partners (I believe their names were Roger & Ashley but I don't remember for sure) had caught up with me.  Roger was right by my side and she was a little behind us but holding strong.  I told him about my side stitch and he handed me his water bottle.  I thanked him and squeezed some water on my face and got a drink which helped a little (mentally mostly) and we sped up a little.  We ran in strong together to the finish.  I was now a triathlete!!!  Run:  2.4 miles in 25:29 (official time) with a 10:40 avg pace

Kristy, Me and my friend from the run
Total Official Time (link to official results): 1:25:54

At the finish I was happy and excited but I was really hurting from that side stitch.  I got a nice surprise; my RR100 pacer Sherrie & friend Chris had come off the dirt trails (right by the finish line) finishing their run just in time to see me come across the finish!  What great timing!  They were there and congratulated me and chatted with me for a bit when my wife Kristy & friend Jill fought through all the people to congratulate me as well.  They had come out to support me and I had gotten to see them at every transition and that was so helpful!  I also got to see Matty & Ashley (Trail Nerd friends from the B.A.R. Crew) and Tim (a friend from the Olathe Running Club) along the way out cheering.  It was awesome to have so much support out there!  It was a lot of work and it was a very tough challenge, but I'd done it!  I really had fun and I look forward to my next triathlon.  I'd like to make it all the way up to an Ironman some day, but for now I need to work on improving my swim, get a better bike and improve my own biking skills.  I have a long way to go, but I felt so awesome having finally earned the title of Triathlete!


  1. That does it -- I'm following in your footsteps instead of chickening out. Great race and great report. Yay bike for cooperating and yay people for not kicking you in the face on the swim. Boo side stitch. :)

  2. Great report on your latest exploits, Bryan. I can feel the pain, taste the sweat, and sense the excitement. Congrats on entering the land of the triathlete!

  3. YAY!!!!!!!!! So proud of you!!!!!!!

  4. Great job Mr. Triathlete :) You worked hard on this and conquered it in style!! Congrats!!

  5. I like cycling and this type of wear as it keeps body fit. Wearing this type of wear like triathlon shorts and sports wear running and sycling are amazing. Really a nice post for motivation.


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