‘Starting Over’ (Dare2Tri Train2Race & Pleasant Prairie Tri) (6/23-25/23)

(Photo courtesy of Patrick Pressgrove/Dare2Tri)

A little over 9 years ago, I showed up for my first Dare2Tri camp in Pleasant Prairie, WI. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I had very little gear and experience when I arrived in 2015. I left that first camp having learned so much — and have from each of the following Dare2Tri camps!

While I’ve done 80 Triathlons since the one that ended the camp in 2015, this week was like ‘starting over’. Between personal issues, a perceived drowning the last time I raced Pleasant Prairie and a crash 13 months earlier, there was a lot I wanted to work on.

After the camp introduction, Day 1 began with triple bricks (T1->3mi bike->T2->1mi run x3). One part of the bike course included a wide u-turn that required a little bit of off-roading given the narrow trail.

Because of the crash in TX, I was concerned about that off-road portion and reaching for my bottle. But knowing that I had an extremely experienced pilot and guide (Andrew) gave me confidence that it would all work out.

While the first bike loop went well (including successful bottle grabs), I went out too fast on the run. Although Andrew helped me to get things back on pace after the first 100-200, unintentionally going out at 9:30-10 / mile created issues.

During the 2nd bike loop, we started hearing noises from the chain. The u-turn went more smoothly this time, and we made it back without any issues. The pacing for the 2nd run went better, and it seemed like a more ‘normal’ 1 mile run for me.

After we finished the 2nd brick, Andrew took a look at the bike while I took a few extra minutes to recover. Even though it was making noise, he felt confident it was safe, so we got ready for the final brick.

During the 3rd ride, the noise got worse as he went through the gears. While it was a bit unnerving to continually hear the noise — and at times hear it get worse — I trusted him that we’d be fine. Less than a half mile in, he said that we would only have a few gears to work with because of the issues, and found a gear where the noise was minimal. The u-turn wasn’t as smooth as the prior time, but we made it through and back safely. During the final run, he helped me to find a way to run more relaxed. In fact, I was so calm that I didn’t even notice that we had hit the turnaround!

After lunch, a talk on gear/travel and a chance for recovery, we headed into the pool. Even though it was a short session, I still learned a couple of new skills.

Day 2 began with us setting up a full transition before heading into the lake for a practice swim. While I felt it went well, Andrew told me afterwards that the tether kept slipping on him. He obtained a new bungee so that a new waist portion could be created prior to the race.

After getting out of the water, Andrew worked on the bike. From memory, it ended up being a bolt that was off by 2 degrees, which in turn was causing the derailer to be off. He was able to get everything adjusted, and the bike was set for the rest of the weekend.

After lunch, a bike course preview and classification talk, we headed out for bike skills. When heading out, we realized how crucial the angles were (as the seat at its lowest was higher than I am used to). We got that straightened out, and joined the rest of the Visually Impaired (VI) group for ‘tandemonium’ (11 tandems!).

During the first part, the course was a square with first left turns and then right turns. As I’m still working back from the crash, there were some turns that were very uncomfortable — but we made it through. After a short break, Aaron set up a more technical course that included 90 and 180 turns.

During the first few times through, I was extremely uncomfortable on the tightest of the 3 u-turns. Both Andrew and Aaron helped with coaching, and by the end of the session I had become comfortable enough to not only make the tight turn, but also have proper weighting for the others!

The day ended with breath work and a course talk from the RD. Andrew created a new waist portion of the swim tether while we were waiting for dinner, attaching it to the old thigh portion.

The night ended with the normal inking process and packing. As with most races, I intended to be leaving directly from the race site, so I had everything with me.

Even though it had rained overnight, Andrew said that it had dried up enough so that there were very minimal issues. Although the lake was still about the same temperature post-rain, I decided to go with the wet suit.

Because of a change to the bike course last-minute, our wave (Para Sprint) started first and about 35 minutes before the next Sprint wave. This meant that we had a fairly open course during the race.

While the issues from 2019 were in the back of my mind, I was able to keep them at bay during the swim. Even though the waist portion of the tether kept slipping and I had to adjust it 15-20 times, the swim was consistent with the practice one.

In T1, I took an extra 20 – 30 seconds to grab a windbreaker since it had gotten windy, and then we headed out onto the bike.

There were several hills on the bike, along with a 180 and several other turns. On the way out, I was a bit tentative on some of the turns. But on the way back, I found some of the comfort that I’d had prior to the crash. This included tucking in behind Andrew to get some aero on downhills, and multiple smooth bottle grabs. During one of these aero tuckins, we hit 27mph! I know that it’ll continue to get better with more practice.

T2 was normal, and we headed out onto the run. At some point between 3/4 of a mile and 1 mile, my lower back seized up and made it hard to run. So I had to go to a walk/run — walking when perceived pain got to a 7 or 8 and running again when it got down to a 2 or 3. Hydration definitely helped it during the out-and-back portion. While it wasn’t a great 5K, I still sprinted in as usual.

Thank you to Andrew for guiding me, and to Aaron, all the other coaches and Dare2Tri for all their help and sharing of knowledge over the weekend!

If you’re looking to improve your Triathlon skills, regardless of your level, I would strongly recommend any of the Dare2Tri camps! In 2023, the Kids camp (mid-July in Chicago) and Learn2Race (early August in WI) are still available! You can learn more by visiting the Dare2Tri website!

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