I am very happy to report that the first ever (that I know of) Yellowstone National Park Triathlon is complete!
I completed the half-distance triathlon in 6:56:57, almost an entire hour slower than the stretch-goal and 27 minutes slower than the regular goal; that 27 minutes is accounted for by buffalo-jams that I expected but didn’t put in goal-time-equations.
Summary Review Notes, with details coming later.
- An awesome experience and so glad I did it!
- Course changed a bit upon assignment of campsite because the site provided a perfect transition area due to its proximity to the road. I looked at the topography of the beach between the shore by the campsite and the marina, where the swim was supposed to start, and realized I would be swimming in shallow water with a start next to camp, so that prompted the switch to an easier transition area being right in our campsite. This also provided race-specific training for the Bear Lake Brawl because of the long uphill run from the swim to the transition area.
- It was a beautiful day! Perfect weather!
- I already mentioned the change in swim course. This was a good call.
- I swam in 3-4 feet of water with sandy bottom and very clear water the entire way. It was awesome.
- The swim course ended up about 200 yards short, but the turn-around was a nice area and I didn’t want to cross the marina channel twice, so that’s what it was.
- Pace was slow at 1:38/100 but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the course I had chosen on land, so a few times I did breast-stroke to take my time sighting and making sure I was on the course I had in mind. Remember, there are no buoys out there on a do-it-yourself race!
- Water temp was about 65 degrees best I can tell. The only temperature gauge is from the Lamar River at Tower, and I suppose that is pretty close to what Yellowstone Lake would be like. I was expecting it to feel much colder, but in reality it was one of the warmer swims I’ve done. Yes, I wore a wetsuit.
- The morning was incredibly calm and beautiful. I thought this was going to be the hardest part to finish, but once I got going, it was very relaxing and a pure joy to do, and something I think I will remember forever.
- Started a bit later than expected, right before 7:00am. Original plan back in June or so was a 5:30 start, then I actually looked at sunrise and found it to be 6:23a.m. Revised plan called for 6:45 start, and I started at 6:53 or so.
- The bike course changed just a bit when I determined this would be more of a tour than a race. I added the Yellowstone Falls area tourist roads to Inspiration Point and Artists Point, where I ended up taking some selfies just for fun.
- I was worried about traffic and getting run off the road. 99% of the drivers were incredibly nice. The 1% was a big truck that just couldn’t wait. After white-knuckling the white-line with no shoulder for a minute or two, I ditched into the ditch when the drop-off minimized to a foot-deep. I survived with nothing more than a dropped-chain and realized 10 miles down the road that my water bottles were still in the ditch, causing problems on the run.
- Yes, I got caught in the buffalo jams. That was part of the reason it took nearly 3.5 hours for the bike leg! I positioned myself on the other side of a car for protection and felt pretty small and weak ten feet from a huge bison.
- Riding in Hayden Valley was a dream come true! It was so beautiful and relatively flat and open.
- Riding along the lake was really cool too! Again, no wind.
- The weather remained incredible during the bike. Relatively cool and no wind.
- The run course changed a bit on the fly. Out of T2, I ran past Fishing Bridge as I realized I wanted to get some uphill out of the way early, as I didn’t have any gels with me, and I had lost some hydration when my botles were left in the ditch during the bike incident.
- It started getting hot! I never prayed for rain during a race before, but I wanted rain during this tour. I got a few drops, and the clouds helped alot, too.
- This is when I felt the elevation hit me, or the lack of gels and hydration. I ended up doing some walking.
- Paul biked with me the last five miles on Sea Gull Point. That was pretty fun! In the spirit of the #IronCowboy when his daughter ran the last 5k with him each day.
- After the big finish, I immediately chugged a recovery drink of two servings Recoverite and one serving Hammer Whey protein and was mostly rejuvenated within an hour, at which point a beer was in order. Then we went back to the bike area to get my water bottles. Then continued to Canyon where I got a shower and a coffee. While buying fishing permits for our next adventure, I think I seemed a bit out of it to the salesperson.
- We stayed at Canyon for dinner. A couple Coors Lights, a bison bacon cheeseburger, and double order of fries hit the spot for dinner.
- The next day we hit the Lamar Valley trail for our annual family backcountry adventure at Cache Creek. The boys don’t carry real gear yet (they carry a camelback with their own water, lights, and rain jacket), so Dad gets 65 pounds of gear. When I see the smiles on their faces during backcountry swimming, fishing, rock throwing, and marshmallows on the fire, I instantly forget (most of) the pain from the back.
Final Comment: Why do this? I simply combined my love of Yellowstone National Park with a love for triathlon to create a do-it-yourself race-cation in a unique spot, and I like the idea of doing something nobody else has done (that I know of). And with two young boys, I gotta do what I can to save money here and there; which is where the do-it-yourself race-cation concept comes into play, for both money and time away from work. Finally, this was certainly no major feat like the Iron Cowboy, but I also hope to inspire somebody to get out there and do something exciting and active.