I raced my first ever Olympic distance triathlon in Columbia, Maryland then went to Italy for two weeks, came home and trained for 13 days straight, took one day off and then raced my second ever Olympic distance triathlon. If you want to know how to train right though race day without a taper, you have come to the right place.


Race Morning

I had to wake-up at 4am so of course I was up at 3:50. On a Saturday. It sucked. I ate breakfast, put three different bags of gear/clothing into the car, mounted my bike to the car rack and double and triple checked all my gear. It was seriously easier packing myself and the boys for 14 days in Italy.

I grabbed a coffee on the way and sped to the event in record time since, no one is even up at 5am on a Saturday, let alone out and driving around.

I like getting to the venue early, especially for triathlon because there is so much set-up involved. I also needed to get my numbers written on my body and my race bag that contains all the stickers that need to go on your bike and helmet. It’s a process.

When I had my bike set up with all my equipment for the run and ride laid out and ready to go, I fought with pulled on my wet suit and headed down to the water.

Transition area and Quassy amusement park behind me.

Transition area and Quassy amusement park behind me.


My coach was very specific – this was to be a training race and I was given strict orders to keep my shit in check. Most any other time this would have been a problem but since was exhausted, am battling a nasty little hamstring issue and just plain did not want to be there that morning, I was fine with it. To say I had a bad attitude going in would have  been a massive understatement.

In a nutshell, my goal was to finish and have a solid, hard training day under my belt.


After the 61 degree, disgusting water in Columbia, MD I was more than happy to launch myself into the hot tub like temperature of crystal clear Lake Quassy, at a balmy 72 degrees! Yes, please. There were Olympic distance (1 mile) and sprint distance (.25 mile) swim buoys set up since both races went off at the same time. The Olympic distance followed the yellow buoys, of which there were four. I started out easy, as I always do, and wait for the kicking and elbowing to die down a bit. I hit my stride and passed the first buoy feeling good.

From buoy two to three, I somehow got off course even though I was looking up to sight every 20 strokes or so. I ended up way outside of the pack and had to swim on an angle to make it around buoy three. Not good. Around that same time I felt a burning sensation on my neck. I was chafing the hell out of it where my wet suit velcro was rubbing against my wet neck.

Feel the burn. Swim on.

This is what you get when the velcro of your wet suit is rubbing your wet neck in the water for 30 minutes.

This is what you get when the velcro of your wet suit is rubbing your wet neck in the water for 30 minutes. And this was four days later!

I maintained a good attitude, even though I was pissed about swimming out from the line and the chafing was burning. I came out of the water and clock read 47 minutes. I prayed we had been standing on the beach waiting for our wave to start for at least 15 minutes. Ugh.

Transition One

As I came running out of the water and into transition, I noticed it was like a ghost town. There were a few fat guys jogging along, a stray woman and 12 year-old. Not a good sign. Where were my people? Just how long did that swim really take?

I put it out of my mind, ripped off my wet suit, got my bike gear on and hit the road.


Did I mention they call this race the “Beast of the East?” Yeah. They do. It’s because the bike and run are hilly as hell. On the bike, the hills just kept coming and coming. I actually started laughing at one point. Oddly enough I felt pretty good on the climbs and amazing on the descents, of which there were few. Besides the second degree burn on my neck, now with the sun beating down on it, I felt strong. I passed a ton of other cyclists and was getting my mojo back.

Doesn’t this look like a blast on the bike? Miles 5-15 are just…um, what’s the word…hellish.

Topography of the hills on the bike course.

Topography of the hills on the bike course.

The stunning views and gorgeous, albeit hot day, lessened the agony. I tried to focus on the fact that it was simply a gorgeous day to be out on a ride.

Transition Two

I was simultaneously dreading and anticipating T2. I wanted to get this whole thing over with but I knew the run was just awful. It’s basically straight down a couple of big hills, a rolling mile and then you turn around a cone and right back up the hills. Twice.


Usually this is my fun part and where I get to shine. On this day, I just wanted to get it over with.

I ran smart and slow from the start since I was so tired and was hoping against hope that they somehow changed the run course. No such luck. I did not have my watch so I simply ran by feel. I was talking to myself the entire time and it was probably one of the longest 10Ks in my recent memory.

Almost the entire route was shaded and that helped tremendously. However, since it was a double loop, you constantly saw other competitors but it was eerily quiet. It had the feeling of a silent suffer fest and, one older guy called out to me as I passed “You’re making this look way too easy!” To which I responded with a sort of exhausted groan and maybe a “I’m glad it looks like that!” because it sure as hell was not.

In the last half mile, I picked up the pace and since my hammy felt good, I raced to the finish with everything left in the tank.

I was so happy to cross the finish line and be done!

Running to the finish! Finally!

Running to the finish! Finally!

[Tweet “How to #train though your #triathlon race and take 13 minutes off your PR! #train4life”]

The Results

I’m usually not one for surprises but, check this out:

Swim – Columbia Tri: 36 minutes

Swim – Pat Griskus: 36 minutes

Difference: Nothing! Zero! Nada! Slitch! WTF? This is beyond frustrating but I think swimming off the line killed me.

Bike – Columbia Tri: 1:30 (super windy and hilly)

Bike – Pat Griskus: 1:24 (super hilly)

Difference: 6 minutes – BOOM!

Run – Columbia: 45 minutes

Run – Pat Griskus: 42:40

Difference: 3 minutes!

Overall Columbia: 3 hours exactly

Overall Pat Griskus: 2 hours and 47 minutes

Difference: 13 minutes! (my transition times were slower at Columbia as well since I had to put a snowsuit on before the bike…)

Place – Columbia: 3rd in age group 40-44

Place – Pat Griskus: 3rd in age group 40-44

I was absolutely shocked. I was stunned that I swam the exact same time since I thought it was so much better; shocked that I biked the hell out of that hilly course; shocked that I was running a 6:52 pace when I thought I was going slow and beyond shocked that I somehow, once again, placed in my age group.

In fact, I beelined it to my car almost immediately after crossing the finish line and was doing this:


While my coach was getting this for me:



I am now enjoying the tail end of my much needed rest week and have been rejuvenated! I’m 100% ready to start tackling my 2 hour training sessions starting on Monday. Nationals, here I come!

Have you ever been surprised by your pace in a race?

Do you ever train though races? 

What is the earliest time you have gotten up on a weekend and why?