by Christian Baughman, Kyle’s Bikes 2014 Triathlon Team
Well, I didn’t take the finish line down this weekend. I did knock out my sprint distance PR by several seconds. And I found my new favorite sprint triathlon! There’s a reason why TJ Tollakson and Iowa Momentum magazine name it their top sprint: Copper Creek Triathlon is a real class act.
It is very well organized, including a monitored swim preview on Saturday, a very clearly communicated race schedule, and really decent swag! Not to mention there is a bar patio that overlooks the run course for the spectators. The course is very good and the transition and finish line areas are well laid out. I can’t believe I haven’t raced it before, but I’m sure I’ll be back.
I arrived at the race site just as transition was opening, giving me time to pick a prime spot on the end of the rack, have a nice and easy reverse warm-up, and a little time to hang out before the race. I was glad I allowed this time because threatening weather caused the race officials to move the start time up by 15 minutes. In fact, I was the last athlete allowed a swim warm-up because of the adjusted schedule.
Copper Creek Triathlon starts the swim waves in the water, which is a great idea because there are a lot of large rocks and bricks in the water right at the beach. A run in would be quite dangerous! Copper even uses a cannon to start each wave just like Ironman!
I started in wave three which was a combination of male age groups 25–40 and there was a wide variety of paces represented. This was actually my best race as far as finding some toes to draft on since Pigman Long in August of 2012. I was really pretty comfortable, but looking back I could have picked better lines off the bouys. It seemed like turn one and three were not right angles so I went wide on one and tight on three. My Garmin put the distance at 994 yards which is 174 yards past the 750 m the swim was supposed to be. That explains part of my slow time, the other part is just me.
A couple of positives from the swim though: got to swim alongside teammate Scott Carkuff on the back stretch (too bad I lost him at the turn) and I had a negative split on the swim overall! Swim time: 20:10. Out of the water my family was right there cheering and I gave my boys a smile and a big thumbs up.
Many athletes had been talking about the bike course, and I took M55–59 age group winner Phelan Thomas’s advice and drove the course Saturday afternoon. Driving it, I recognized I had ridden a substantial part of it last July. It was the out of town route for RAGBRAI after leaving the State Fairgrounds. This course plays to my strengths: some good sized rollers that beg you to push your momentum over the top so you can bomb the next downhill. Not easy spinning, but it sure is fun, and after all that time I spent on the IMWI course last summer I was prepped for it.
It was a really strong day on the bike for me. My cadence and heart rate were right were I wanted throughout. I read the course well and maximized opportunities. And as a bonus I was off the bike and running before the rain hit! Bike time came in at 34:35.
Transition 2 was a snappy 0:49, yet ranked 90th on the day. I got the Sauconys on much faster than at Holiday Lake with the addition of substantial amounts of body glide on the upper and tongue of the shoes. I don’t feel like I putzed around at all, I’d just like to have that rank higher.
Just as I was starting out on the run course the sprinkles began. The question about rain had never been "if," but "when." By the time I started up the hill off the bike trail it was an all-out downpour. It’s not a huge problem to run in rain, but biking in a downpour on full-carbon race wheels would have stunk! I could not have been more fortunate with the timing of this storm.
The first mile and a half is a fairly steady uphill which can be a challenge. The fun part is that you do come down that hill later and finish on the flat bike trail around the lake.
Overall, I felt like I did a great job controlling my race: The second mile was a bit slower than the first, but overall it was a negative split and a steady acceleration in heart rate.
Sometimes you get a great pacer in a race, and I was really lucky to have F16–19 3rd place winner, Elena Hicks, pass me at about the first aid station. She has a really quick cadence and I’ve run with her (well, behind her) before on Zoom Performance/DSM Tri Club training runs. When she passed me she said, “I’m a track runner.” Well, that was obvious! After the downhill section, I caught back up with her to start the last mile and we held an even pace around the back stretch of the lake. One of my favorite aspects of this sport is how people from two totally different walks of life outside race day can find themselves busting their tails alongside each other and feeding off one another’s strength and perseverance. Take Elena out of the picture and I doubt I would have held a 6:20 pace for the last mile and a quarter. It was a great finish and a new sprint PR for me: 1:17:53.
I’m really happy with where my bike and run have come along. The Specialized Shiv from Kyle’s Bikes is a significant asset on race day and in training. Kyle made some little tweaks to the setup since the last race and they really help! My run pace is steadily improving and feels great off the bike. The one area I remain frustrated with is the swim. While I feel really good coming out of the water and could literally swim for hours, I just am not very efficient or quick yet.
After the race I was able to enjoy the finish line for a bit with family, friends, and teammates. Unfortunately, another big squall came up and caused many of us to dart to transition to recover our gear before it could blow away, which stifled a bit of the finish line celebration.
I’m very proud of my teammates: Andy Bernholtz had a very strong race and came away with another AG podium finish. Scott Carkuff came off a foot injury to a top 20 bike split and top 10 AG finish. And Shawn Blaesing-Thompson followed her Cruise the Cornfields ride on Saturday with her first triathlon since being diagnosed with MS this spring.
In honor of Shawn, my brother, and all of those living with the challenges that are daily life with MS, my TriGive charity for this race is The Upper Midwest Chapter of the National MS Society. You can donate to them through Shawn’s MS Ride.