Pokagon Olympic Distance Triathlon–Angola IN

Pokagon TRI_logo

Last Saturday brought us a cool 50 degree day that is perfect for running but a bit chilly for triathlon!  However, it was the 11th annual Pokagon State Park Triathlon & I was signed up for the Olympic distance event.  1500m swim (.94 miles), 40K bike (24.8 miles) & a 10K trail run (6.2 miles).  First triathlon for 2017 and I was excited.  I’ve been working on my swimming ALL freaking winter and was hoping to be comfortable in the water and well, let’s be honest, faster.  So I was ready!

The race didn’t start until 9am so we weren’t rushed.  We got to the park early.  Made it thru packet pick up in about 60 seconds, which included body marking.  Checked on the water.  The weekend previous the water temp for Lake James was 39 degrees.  So water temperature was on everyone’s mind.  Fortunately after a week of 80-90 degrees, the water temp increased to 63 degrees by race day.  I know that’s cold for some people but honestly, it wasn’t that bad with a wetsuit.  My fingers & toes didn’t go numb …. so it was good.  Smile 

Swim  –  We walked down a longish stone staircase to get to the beach for our swim in Lake James.  Keep in mind that when we come out of the water, we have to climb back up to get to transition.  So a decent walk to the swim start.  But once we were on the beach everything was good.  Even though it was an early spring race, the beach was in decent condition & the water was pretty clean.  What I love about this swim, that I haven’t seen at many other races, was the line between the buoys.  So nice.  So minimal sighting was necessary & I was just able to follow the line.  I’m not a straight swimmer so did hit the rope a couple times with my stroke & I may have hit someone on the other side once, thankfully it was Julie so she didn’t get too mad at me!  The Olympic swim was straight out from shore 375m , around a buoy, back to shore, walk onto the beach to the other side of the line & repeat.  2 loops.  Easy.  My swim wasn’t perfect but it was decent for me & “fast” compared to my previous swim spits.  I don’t usually drop a lot of numbers because I know we are all at different levels but I was happy to get out of the water & see a 31.  I lapped my watch to start my transition 1 time & stop my swim time.  After the race, I saw I swam a 31:52, which is about 2:03/100yd.  Fast for me.  I was happy!!

It took me a little over 2 minutes to get up the stairs & into transition.  I wasn’t running hard but I was jogging & trying to move as quickly as I could without wearing myself out on the steps.  Little did I know, the real challenge was getting my wetsuit off over the huge square box of a timing chip that was attached to my ankle!  It took way more effort than I expected.  I had to sit down.  I almost panicked because I just couldn’t get my suit off over the chip.  Somehow I was eventually on my way & running out of transition with my bike. 

The bike.  40K – 24.8 miles  One loop.  On my beautiful new bike!  Yes, the bike is faster than me! 

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I did this race in 2007, before I owned a wetsuit, and ended up doing the duathlon because the water temp was cold that year too!  But I rode  the Olympic bike course that day.  Not sure it is exactly the same now but I remember it being hilly and windy.  It was exactly as I remember on Saturday.  But maybe windier & maybe hillier.  Smile     

I think I talked a little bit last year about a few discs in my back that ruptured (June 2016).  Well, I’ve not really recovered.  The back issue has caused some neuro issues & my legs are constantly fatigued & lack the power that I had previously. Last year was a long year, fighting the issue with my back & legs,  which comes to the forefront when I ride.  As soon as TRI season was over, I took some serious time off & did some serious treatments (Anti-Inflammatory, PT, Chiro, Cortisone/Steroid cocktail injections).  Took the edge off but I’m far from “better”.  I had hoped this would be a great TRI season with the new bike.  Well, the bike is only as good as the machine riding it.  And my machine has a couple blown valves!  So my bike split was about  5 minutes slower than my conservative estimation but I eventually made it back to transition & attempted a real dismount.  I learned a couple years ago how to slip out of my shoes as I was riding into transition, but I had yet to get brave enough to do a proper dismount.  I tried it once last week in the yard, while it was raining & figured I’d just go for it.   So as I was nearing transition, I slipped out of my shoes, then attempted to gracefully dismount.  Keeping my left foot on the pedal (atop my shoe) and swinging my right leg over the bike to drop it down behind my left foot.  Right foot hitting the ground first.  I came in a little fast.  And hit the ground “running” a little hard.  But I didn’t crash & it didn’t jar my back anymore than random daily activities.  See a smoother version of the dismount from Derek Taylor who competed in a different event last weekend.  His dismount is opposite mine but its still the same concept.  Photo credit:  Amanda Taylor – Get to Goal.

Triathlon-Duathlon Bike Dismount_Derek Taylor

Slow bike but my 2nd transition rocked.  I loved the new dismount & it really helped me speed into transition and get out on the run quickly.

Run – 10K Trail Run – 6.2 miles!  Once again, I’ve ran the 10K portion of this event previously.  But I was a lot younger & a lot faster!  But still, I remember it being hilly.  Trail runs usually are hilly but they are beautiful.  I’ve never had a more scenic run portion in a TRI  than this one.  Temps were still coolish, in the 50s.  The trail run was mostly shaded.  3 aid stations.  Nice day.  I couldn’t go real fast.  I had to walk up some hills.  And my back was really crabby about the pounding down the hills.  But I eventually made it back to the start/finish area.  5 minutes slower than I had anticipated but I made it back!

Best part was that I had time to grab my camera to capture Julie’s first ever triathlon finish!  We went 1-2 in our age group, you know.  But don’t ask how many people were in the age group!  Winking smile

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Great SWAG at this event.  Unisex Brooks technical tee, pint glass & a few other goodies. Then I got a certificate & coffee mug for the AG award.  Very cool! 

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Huge shout out to FNA Bicycles in New Lenox IL for helping me find the perfect bike.  Huge shout out to all the police & volunteers at Pokagon for keeping us safe.  And the biggest shout out of all goes to Pokagon State Park which is one of my all time favorite State Parks.  Great running trails, beaches & camping areas!  Hope to see you out there sometime!

** Give Triathlon A TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Happy Thanksgiving & Let’s #OptOutside for Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey, all!  The holidays are a wonderful time of year, full of traditions.  Some of us start our day with a local Turkey Trot while others are already warming the kitchen with the smell of homemade pumpkin pie.  I want to wish each and every one of you a joyous Thanksgiving!  I’ll be thinking of you all and hoping that you are surrounded by friends, family and someone who loves you!

thanksgiving

The holidays are full of tradition.  When I lived in IL, I would always host a Black Friday run at Waterfall Glen.  There wasn’t a hashtag for #OptOutside.  There wasn’t a big corporation behind the movement to get people outside.  Nobody was talking about health, wellness, fitness, friends or family on Black Friday.  No, they gave their thanks on Thursday and moved on to retail madness on Black Friday.   Some big retail chains are saying NO this year.  REI in particular started the push to #OptOutside for Black Friday by giving all of their employees the day off with pay.  Many other retailers has followed suit.  I encourage all of you to #OptOutside for Black Friday.  Let’s wait for Cyber Monday to get all those amazing deals for our little angels, from the comfort of our home, where we can shop in our PJs.  That’s what I’ll be doing. 

If you need a place to go on Black Friday to #OptOutside, I’ll be leading a group run at Pokagon State Park, in Angola, IN.  Details HERE.  If you don’t want to follow me, then you can follow Lilo.  She promises an AMAAHHHZING trail run!  Or if you aren’t close to us, then REI has a link HERE to find a place to #OptOutside.

Lilo

** Let’s Hit The Trails With Lilo & #OptOutside on Black Friday ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Pokagon State Park–Trail Running

Trail running can be intimidating but it doesn’t need to be scary if you know what to expect.  I’ve ran the trails at Pokagon State Park multiples times now and have found it to have some of the best trails in Northeastern Indiana.  Why?  The trails are accessible year round.  There are a variety of trails from easy to hard, with varying surface types.  All  trails are short and within close proximity to a road, or the Pottawatomi Inn.  Trails are well groomed and wide enough to run with a friend.  Best of all, the trails are marked well.

Hells Pt_sign

And if weren’t paying attention to the last couple of signs, then look at the “You Are Here” maps,  or notes/maps on particular points of interest, which are scattered throughout the trail system.

Hells Pt_map

Pokagon is a place you can go with your family for hiking, swimming, camping or horseback riding.  Or you can run for fun or even train for a marathon or ultra.  It’s good for short distance runners AND long distance folks.  I’m particularly excited to get Aby and some of her Cross Country friends up there this summer!  

I usually park at the Potawatomi Inn and start on one of the trails which begin at “The Inn”.   If it’s dark, I run on the roads within the park until the sun comes up.  Got a great pic last weekend of some of the holiday lights.

Trees

At this time of year, there is little traffic in the early mornings.  It’s a good time to tour the campgrounds, roads and paved trails while there isn’t too much hoopla.   Bathrooms are still open but lacking toilet tissue.  There will be a few scattered campers and park workers moving about in their vehicles.  And the Inn will always have guests who are coming and going. You will not be alone. 

The two trails which are easiest to connect with are those which lead to/from the Pottawatomi Inn.  Trails 1 & 3.  Trail 1 is easy to find by going down by the beach and it picks up to the side of the playground.  A nice easy trail that is in the woods with views of Lake James and some of the houses which surround the water. 

trail 1_start      trail 1

Good trail for beginners or seasoned trails runners.  A couple hills but nothing scary.  If you have a young Cross Country runner, or a new 4 legged friend to train, this would be the perfect trail developing an excitement about trail running while still keep everyone close to people, park roads and The Inn.  Well traveled trail.  Bonus, if non-running family members want to go with you to the park, they can play on the beach and playground while you take a short trail run.  Big win for everyone!!  Trail 1 & 3 highlighted in yellow below.

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Trail 3 starts in the parking lot of the Potawatomi Inn, in the Northeast corner.  You can park your car and be on the trail in 30 seconds.  In my opinion, Trail 3 is the heartbeat of the entire trail system at Pokagon.  You can access every trail in the Park, plus the Beechwood Nature Preserve loop via #3.  If you ever get lost, run towards 3 and you’ll eventually start seeing signs for The Inn which is why I suggest you park your car there.  The trail starts in the woods, runs across some wetlands with a few cute bridges with benches for sitting.  Great trail, not too technical. 

trail 3_metrail 3  trail 3_benchestrail 3_benches2

Then #3 leads wherever your heart desires, just check the map and go!!  Since most of the trails are loops, if you have a long run to do, you can run most of the trails without backtracking or even thinking too much about what to do, or where to go.  I see a sign for a trail, I just take it.  It generally loops me back to the trail I was standing on when I saw the sign.  Super easy trail system, I promise!!

Hardest Trail  – #9.  This trail takes you up, Up, UP and eventually overlooks Interstate 69 before going back down to reconnect with Trail #3.

trail 9  trail 9_interstate 69

Point of Interest – Hell’s Point, on Trail #3.  I expected it to be harder to get to with a name like Hell’s Point but it wasn’t too difficult, just follow the signs and run the trail.  Fun set of stairs and a nice view from the lookout!

Hells Pt Hells Pt_look out

Hidden gem – Beechwood Preserve Loop, which is not part of Pokagon but accessible from Trail 8.  Lots of wildlife.  Short loop which is good for walkers.  Super secret parking lot off of 127 to access this area and make it a family friendly adventure (no strollers).  Even has a half loop sign if you want a shorter route.  One big hill if you do the full loop.  Yeah, I walked that hill!  Smile

Beechwood loop_off trail 8

Easiest Trail – #7.  Grassy loop with a nice view of a wetland.  Lots of water fowl in this area.  Benches everywhere to sit and rest or watch the wildlife.

trail 7

Biggest attraction:  Toboggan Slides.  Open from the Friday after Thanksgiving thru February.  Yes, I’ll be taking the kids.  Looks super fun and slides pick up speed of 35-40 mph.  Sounds terrifying and exhilarating!  Image source

TobogganRun

Pokagon State Park is amazing, go check it out cuz I know you’ll love it as much as me!  It offers over 1200 acres of fun from water activities to hiking and trail runs.  Great fun for the entire family!

** I’ll See YOU On The Trail ** Amanda – TooTallFritz