If there was ever a better example of Murphy’s Law, this race was it. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. This race was many years in the making, after I originally signed up in 2019, having it cancelled the following 2 years, it finally made it back in 2022. At the time of sign up I figured I’d still be in great shape after Ironman Texas 70.3 (taking place in April) and it was a fun Cedar Hill challenge series if you complete the triathlon, a bike rally and an Open Water Swim within a season. I’m a sucker for race challenges, what can I say? And triathlon is arguably the race I’m most comfortable with of the three variations.
Flash forward 3 years later, I’m not exactly in triathlon level shape. My road bike hasn’t been touched in a year (not the best idea for bike handling skills) and the longest ride I’ve done is about 10 miles during a spin class. Cedar Hill Triathlon offers both Sprint and Olympic and my registration was for the Olympic length – meaning 1500M swim, 25mi ride and 6.1mi run. Coming into the race I was confident in swim and run, but knew there would be an element of “winging it” on the bike. Nothing I can’t survive for 3.5 hours, right?
I quickly realized I’m a bit out of touch on the level of preparation and logistics needed for triathlons. The packing list, park and ride, and bike transportation in and out are enough to leave you mentally toast.
Saturday Packet Pick Up & Bike Check & Run Check
This is one of the few (if not only?) middle and short distance races that requires bike drop the day before the race. I’ll roll with it though. Packet pick up started at 12pm on Saturday at the Cedar Hill Chamber of Commerce, which was pretty cute. Cedar Hill is known for their State and Local Parks, but I’ve never driven through the town center before. It was exactly what you would picture small town Texas to be with little shops and Town Hall type buildings. Packet pick up was a breeze, I was armed with about 15 bags and a cute t-shirt.
Next, I went to drop my bike at the starting line T1 area. The entrance is through the State park, not local, so unless you were there specifically for the race you’d be charged $7 for parking. Bike drop was unceremonious. I was the 5th bike dropped off so I just left my bike and helmet. The next day I planned to bring my transition bag so left it at that.
The final (yes we are at stop #3 now) drop off was at T2 for my running gear. Thankfully I read the athlete guide or I would be totally screwed on race day. This race requires Run drop off the day before at Crawford Park. My bag was filled with shoes, socks, sunscreen, hat, shades, race number and race belt. Again, a bit unceremonious. By 1pm I made all three stops and headed back home.
4:30 AM – Nice and early alarm at 4am with some cold brew waiting for me in the fridge.
5:15 AM – Depart home for 30 minute drive to the Cedar Hill JC Penny’s (who knew they still existed?) to park car
5:45 AM – Arrive at JC Penny’s and barely miss the bus picking up folks from the parking lot to take to T1
6:15 AM – Get on the bus to the start line
6:30 AM – Arrive at the start line (mind you race is at 7am! I started to panic for a bit about being tardy for the bus)
6:45 AM – Waiting on the pre-race meeting to take place for Olympic racers
6:50 AM – Waiting….
7:00 AM – Waiting….
7:10 AM – Announcement: Delayed due to the bike course turn lane not being fully secured / closed to vehicles. This required a police car to be present to direct traffic so the organizers were at the mercy of the Cedar Hill and Duncanville to get another police officer out there at 7am on a Sunday. Most folks were understanding but there are a lot of grumpy triathletes too. The biggest concern of delay was the heat. The day started at a humid 85 degrees. Imagine 3.5hrs later running a 10k in upper 90s to 100s.
7:30 AM – Got my bag out of the bag check trailer to text my parents/spouse what was going on. With the delay I was running up against personal obligations like teaching spin and yoga at the YMCA.
7:45 AM – Race director announces anyone is allowed to switch from Oly to Sprint due to timing. At this point, that was my option to get back and make personal commitments on time.
8:00 AM – Bike course secured, GET IN THE WATER NOW!
Distance: 1112M (should’ve been 750!)
We got in the water right around 8am and the water felt fantastic. The great thing about Lake Joe Pool is that the temperature is not far from the outside temperature. The lake was a little cooler than the sauna atmosphere at T1 so it was a welcome cooldown. Swimmers go one by one into the water down a boat ramp, so you’re wading into the water before starting to swim. This is great psychologically for nervous swimmers rather than the cannonball splash off the dock into a swim stroke.
It is not my first open water swim rodeo, so when I normally would panic at the start of the swim I actually felt very confident. I knew the direction I was headed, the glare wasn’t terrible from the sun, and I consistently sighting. I’m also going to keep it real – I am obsessed with my Live Feisty tri kit. As I was swimming my mantra was “wow my kit is so cute and I look great, also why does this seem to be taking forever?” The longer I was swimming towards the first buoy (mind you the swim is 2 laps in a rectangular formation) I was confused why I was so slow. The Olympic swim is 1500M and should take me about 30 minutes. Each lap about 15 minutes. As I kept swimming towards the first buoy I finally figured out what was happening – the buoy was floating away. The safety jet ski started yelling at swimmers to turn around and start swimming towards shore because we were swimming WAY off course. There is very little awareness while swimming – your face/ears/eyes are underwater, you can’t see your own hand, and the millisecond you look up is just to orient yourself and go facedown again.
Thankfully some folks were passing back the message to turn around, but I was mostly concerned that less experienced swimmers would be wiped out before getting back to shore. My first sprint triathlon I never swam more than 500M at a time. By the time I got back to shore 1 loop later, I clocked 1100M at 33min. Thankfully I made the decision to switch to the sprint race before we even took off, otherwise a second swim loop would have me swimming around for an hour total.
As I emerged from the water, some other athletes at the bike racks were saying they swam a total of up to 1500M on one loop. I’m not sure anyone turned for a second or if everyone collectively decided one loop would suffice for Olympic. It seems that USAT now allows you to bike and run with your phone for safety reasons, so I stuck my phone in a sandwich baggie to protect from the wet kit, got my bike equipment on and rolled out of transition.
The website said it was hilly, but it was no joke HILLY. The course is about 13min (2 loops for Oly) and most are either on 4 lane wide and quiet paved roads or alongside the highway on an access road. Just to get out of the Cedar Hill State park is a large effort, with a massive hill waiting for you out of the parking lot. It has been a while since I’ve shifted into my hilly gear (I know, I know) so my bike seized up a bit when shifting about 10min in. I pulled over, unclipped and did a few hand cranks of the pedals and got the chain to line up again. It is very challenging to get clipped in and going on a steep incline. Lucky for me that is exactly the point I pulled over. The bike portion felt like one giant hill the entire time. At one point near the end of the first loop (mile 10-ish) you turn a corner into yet another hill where I saw a few athletes walking their bike up. Nothing is more demoralizing to bike into – ha! This was a great race to practice hill around the DFW area and a very challenging course for any newbies. I was thrilled to roll on into crawford park and get my booty off the bike.
Time: 3:19 min
I am a light packer compared to other folks, no need for food or special drinks during the race. T2 had my running shoes, helmet, race belt and a sunscreen stick I stuck in my race kit as I ran off through the field. I had a burn that lasted over a calendar year from Ironman Texas 70.3 and wasn’t about to redo that.
Time: 25:03 min
The run portion is pretty straight forward – 2 loops for Oly and 1 for sprint. There were minor hills but nothing impossible to jog up. What I appreciate so much about the race organizers was that they had frequent water/Gatorade stations plus cold wet towels to wipe down your face or put around your neck. A group of Army volunteers were even giving racers optional ice baths as they ran by.
There is something about the run portion of a triathlon that puts the fire in my step, am I the only one? I felt like I was going slow, but looked down at my garmin every once and a while to see an 8 or 9min/mi pace, which is very fast for me. I was thankful I had my hat on because the course itself was exposed at that hour of the day and heat was radiating off the pavement. Other folks seemed to be struggling in the heat.
Total time: 2:03:43min
The finish is in a wide open field and actually really cute small town vibes. Each racer got called by name and city as they went through the chute and I had my arms raised victorious racer pose running it in. I had to hustle back home otherwise I would have stayed to enjoy more of the vendors and post-race snacks. I grabbed my bags that were transported over from T1 (separate location from T2 mind you) and then walked my bike out of transition. Thankfully the JCPenny’s parking lot was only a 10min walk from the race finish, just had to off road a bit over the train tracks.
- This is a challenging race from a logistics and course perspective for any beginner, however a great challenge for experienced athletes
- I still have the coolest race kit
- Things going wrong is part of life, and it builds up our own resiliency and adaptability when we encounter challenges. I hope this race goes on forever, as the race director and team does a great job and really cares about the athletes. I’ll be back!
Have you done a sprint triathlon since the return to racing post-covid? How have things gone for you?
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