It has been so long since I had done an "easy" triathlon race that I had forgotten how it was to race without numerous things going wrong. No hypothermia, heat exhaustion, numb feet, forgetting where your bike is racked in transition, no horrible swim, no bike mechanical problems. Even on a flat course, a sprint race isn't necessarily "easy" if you are pushing yourself hard. You can't catch your breath because you are working at a high intensity level. However, some sprint races are harder than others. Last year I did a sprint race at Lake Pleasant. There were hills, more hills and yet more hills. It wasn't a race where you went at a steady speed, because you had to fight the rolling hills. I wasn't really in sprint mode(hard and fast) because I was training for Ironman Arizona, which is more long and moderate speed training.
The swim was mercefully wetsuit legal and short. It was a 400 meter course. I was prepared to swim without a wetsuit, but I wasn't prepared to like it. I have had many miserable panic-striken swim in Tempe Town Lake. Without a wetsuit, I use a lot of energy trying to stay calm and I get tired. I hate the feeling of being tired and out in the middle of the water with no place to rest. The lake had these tall cement walls that make you feel like you are in a dank tunnel. Usually the races have you swiming straight into the sun, which is right over the horizon, so you can't see a damn thing except hapless people trying to swim straight. This particular race was west of a bridge, so there wasn't that problem.
Since the swim was so short, I decided to go at a moderate steady pace. It worked well. The wetsuit made me feel secure and the swim went fairly quickly. I was working hard, but I could still get enough air. I was done in 11:50, which isn't great for the rest of the world, but good for me. I actually get past some bodies. I struggled up the stairs. The volunteers in the race don't help you, unlike every other race I do in this lake. I ran into transition and actually got my wetsuit off fairly quickly. Usually, I am so cold that it takes forever. I get on my bike and take off.
The weather was still delightfully cool. Last year, I did the olympic course and it was very hot by the time I got on the course. I passed what look liked younger people who were in previous waves. A sprint tends to attract newbies, so at least I am faster than some of them. I kept up a moderately hard pace, but I didn't try to go too hard. This race seemed to be going entirely too smooth. I kept wondering what was going to go wrong. I caught myself in time not to veer into an orange cone. I did that last year and crashed and injured my shoulder. The bike course went up a few short hills, so it seemed a little slower than the races I have done where you just circled around the lake for a million times. The average speed was about 16.4 m.ph., which was kind of slow. I have been training on the mountain bike more and I think it has slowed me down a little. A small price to pay for variety.
I managed a flying dismount without incident and ran into transition. I actually knew where my stuff was, though it took me a second. I got into my running gear and took off.
I wanted to run hard and I did. The challenge of running after a swim and a bike is not slowing down. You get really tired sometimes, but I still had energy. You legs feel weird and it takes a while to get them going. I managed a 9:15 minute mile the first mile and a 8:57 the second mile. The last part of the 5k goes up a hill and some stairs so that you can go back over the bridge. I tried to pick off people to keep going. My chest felt like it had a crushing weight on it. The weather was still thankfully cool. Finally I hit the finish line in 29:12.
It was nice to actually do a race that FLOWED. Some races are such a struggle that it's all you can do to finish them. Everything will go wrong and you have to cope with it and move on. Sometimes you get lucky and everything works. All you are doing is fighting yourself. And having fun.