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Bluff Creek Triathlon: Shawn's Report

by Shawn Blaesing-Thompson, Kyle’s Bikes 2014 Triathlon Team

Shawn came out of the water strong

Bluff Creek Olympic
1500 m Swim, 40 km Bike, 10 km Run
Don Williams Park, Boone County, Iowa
August 10, 2014

Bluff Creek Triathlon at Don Williams Park north of Ogden has been one of my favorite races for a while now. I have done the course twice as a sprint and once as an "almost Olympic." The swim was cut short in 2011 due to water temps being very cold, as the race used to be in May. This is also a very similar course to the one Iowa Games Triathlon used to run in the same park which I did several times before they moved it to Easter Lake.

This was the first Olympic-distance race that I have done in a couple of years for a variety of reasons, so I have to say I was more nervous than usual going into this one.


My pre-race prep could have been a little better, starting with learning the swim course. I didn’t realize that there was one buoy we could not see from the beach. When some folks started cutting away from the buoy line to take a more direct route, I did not and it probably cost me, according to my GPS, almost 200 yards of swimming. I felt like I had a strong swim but course disorientation had me all muddled. I also forgot to spray my goggles with anti-fog yet again. I considered taking on nutrition before the swim but opted not to and that was a series of nutrition based errors that cost me some functionality throughout the race.


The Olympic bike course is a bit notorious. You can Google Twister Hill (first down and first up) and get a feel for what I mean. There is a 3.5 mile N/S straightaway to start the ride with some gentle rolling hills and then the course turns right into Pilot Mound. It continues for another two miles and then the "Hill" sign comes into view and seems like a giant understatement. The downhill going out felt steep and is shorter than the uphill across from it. I didn’t brake going down and at the bottom the road curves to the right before you cross a bridge and climb up the other side which bends to the right. The Specialized Alias I am riding from Kyle’s Bikes didn’t quite have enough gears to keep me spinning comfortably up this hill and I had a couple of guys go by me as I was working the hill, including teammate Christian.

Once I got to the top, the course levels out a little bit and then curves to the right some more and throws a few more smaller rollers at you. It also threw some headwind at us for a couple of miles which we encountered again for the last three miles of the ride. Then we turned around and repeated the bike course in reverse.

Taking on Twister hill from the other direction is a bit more exciting because you are coming down it and around a curve at the same time so you can’t see the bottom right away. I looked at my watch this time and nearly broke 45 mph and that was after I tapped the brake so I could check my speed. I had to give a little whoot before we bounced across the bridge at the bottom and the nutrition I had planned for the other side of the valley flew out of my top tube bag. I was bummed and opted against foraging in the bag for something else as things had been there a while. So I tried pushing the EFS I had in my one water bottle hoping it would be enough to get me going on the run.

All and all my bike time was faster than when I raced the course in 2011 by three minutes.


Shawn tried to stay cool on the runGoing into the run I felt like I had prepared for the muggy warm weather by bringing my Pearl Izumi cooling shrug. It was prewet in a little cooler in transition and was an adventure to get on but seemed to help. It is supposed to be able to drop skin temperature by up to 5 degrees so long as you keep it wet. My husband also offered to come hang out on the course with ice water and ice for me at the run turnaround, as the run is a loop you run twice. I walked through the water stops which totaled four, and drank a cup and poured a cup.

They only offered Heed for electrolytes which is nasty stuff so I didn’t take anything except water and didn’t grab a gel in T2 since I was distracted by the shrug. The heat and humidity had me stymied despite Joe bringing me ice and my wearing my cooling sleeves (which I was able to keep wet). I actually got dizzy and had chills going up the hill into mile four so I walked there as well as around 5.5 miles.

I am sure it is combination of needing more longer runs under my belt, only having one run last week while on vacation, and not getting enough nutrition on the course.

In the end, my run time was 14 minutes slower than my run time in 2011. I try not to think of myself as limited by my MS so I am going to chalk this race up to a larger nutrition and training malfunction.


Shawn made her own ice bath at Bluff Creek TriathlonMy favorite part about this weekend’s race was finishing and having a group of people cheering me across the line. I was the only lady in my division at the Olympic length so despite having a time that was 11 minutes slower than my previous slowest Olympic race time, I still got first place in my age group and a nifty pint glass with the race logo on it. I guess sometimes it pays to show up and get things done no matter how much they challenge you.

My stats: Swim 30 minutes, T1 1:22, Bike 1:29.51 (three minutes faster than the last time I rode this course), T2 1:15, Run 1:09.54 (14 minutes slower than the last time I ran this course). Overall time was 03:12:28.7 (Previous slowest Olympic time was 3:01 so I have a lot of room to improve).

I big shout out to my sponsor Kyle’s Bikes and DiscountTriSupply.com as well as the Kyle’s Bikes team and my Triathlon Racers of Iowa teammates. My next race is the Hy-Vee Olympic Triathlon August 31st, so come cheer me on in Des Moines.

Looking Forward

I worked with my personal trainer on the Wednesday after the race and lamented my story to him. First thing he told me is it is just one race and that I should let go the of the disappointing run.

After he got done making me work for my time, he gave me two run workouts. One to help me build my distance (a slow easy seven miler for the weekend) and a step tempo workout which I did Thursday morning.

It was a glorous "fall" morning with the sun not yet over the horizon and a lovely 58 degrees when I left the house. The plan, a warm-up mile easy and then two sets of hard two milers with a four-minute walk in the middle, with the goal holding a 10-minute mile tempo.

I did the first mile in 11:50 (good for me as I usually go out too hard), the first two miler hard at a 9:11/mile, the four-minute walk, and then the second two-miler hard at a 9:30 minute pace. Not only did I get to my real goal pace, I managed to talk my body into going fast for four miles. With a little conservative focused over the next two weeks, I might just be able to get a decent run in when I do the Hy-Vee triathlon on the 31st. Feeling better about things now.

Full results from Bluff Creek Triathlon are online at True Time Racing.

Shawn races with MS and encourages people to support MS research by fundraising for the MS Society.

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on mountain biking and long-distance gravel riding. She still has a soft spot in her heart for weird multi-sport events like indoor triathlon and aquabike. She also teaches indoor cycling.

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