Granite Man Triathlon…Fun and Difficult

When I was seriously considering participating in the Granite Man, I didn’t find that many thorough or helpful reviews on the race, so I thought I’d put my thoughts together, from a novice triathlete’s perspective.

As I get older, I find it’s much easier to get out of shape and much harder to get into shape.  Sprint triathlons have been recent goals that have helped me get in shape a few times over the past couple years.  They’ve also stoked my love for swimming, and they’ve made me appreciate bicycling more.   My first attempt at a sprint triathlon (sprint, meaning shorter than a full triathlon but not necessarily easy for someone like myself) was our local YMCA triathlon which consisted of a 10 lap pool swim, 3 mile run, and a 10 mile bike ride.  This was all on roads, except the swim of course.

I skipped the YMCA event last year, and this year the timing for trying the Granite Man at Applegate Lake in June fit my schedule better.  However, this triathlon was a step up from the YMCA.  It features a 0.75 mile lake swim (~26 laps in a pool), 12 mile mountain bike ride, and 5 mile run that’s mostly on trails.

Site of Granite Man, Applegate Lake, OR

Site of Granite Man, Applegate Lake, OR

So here’s 4 things I can pass along about this race.

Better Training: My training got interrupted by an ankle injury in soccer (soccer and triathlon training don’t mix), so I was able to train continuously for about 1.5 months before the race.  In short, I should have trained more in race conditions.  The swim portion was in a lake, which is a little different than a pool because it’s dark.  Also, I wore a wetsuit since I read that most people wore them.  I don’t know if there are differences between a 3/2 surfing wetsuit and a triathlete wetsuit, but I wore the former, and I didn’t swim very well.  I found myself short on breath, and I did the breaststroke on multiple occasions when I got winded.  In hindsight, I would have taken a swim in a lake once or twice before the race, and I would have not worn a wetsuit since the water temperature was above 71 degrees according to race directors.  Not having to take off a wetsuit before the bike would have saved several minutes of time too.

The next aspect of the race I really wasn’t prepared for was the mountain biking portion.  I did practice on some trails a few times before the race, but the Applegate Lake trail was narrower and just more difficult than the Jacksonville trails I trained on.  I fell a few times on the race trail, partially because I just wasn’t accustomed to the narrow trails and some of the rocky and steep sections.

Distance: The overall race distance was perfect.  It was about all my body could take, but I didn’t feel broken afterwards.  I have no desire to do a full triathlon, but the distance was longer than the YMCA sprint, and I enjoyed that.

Fun:   The scenery was beautiful.  I nearly wrecked my bike a few times as I gazed out at the clear, blue-green tinted lake.  Even though most people there seemed to take this race seriously and looked like it, the vibe was friendly and there were plenty of smiles.  I even won a cool little REI backpack at the raffle after the race!  This race was so fun that I’m planning on doing it next year.

Difficult:  When asked to tell someone about the race, I’ve definitely characterized it as fun and difficult.  It’s probably the most difficult physical activity I’ve ever done.  The biking was tough.  I walked for most of the really steep section.  One fall left a hand pretty cut up, and my bike nearly went over a ledge before I grabbed it by the wheel and brought it back up to the trail.  After the bike, my legs were pretty beat, so the first part of the run (which was on the road) felt like I was in slow motion.  Once I got on the trail I felt better, but I was definitely fatigued for most of the run.

I’m so glad I did this race, and the training was totally worth it.

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