On June 28, 2015, I participated in the Bigfoot Triathlon in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This event was produced by RAM Racing. I have participated in a number of their events over the years and have been uniformly impressed. This race was no exception.
The race has both sprint and international-distance options. I chose the international distance. Packet pickup was in Deerfield, IL on the Friday before the race and at the race site the next day. This is one of the only races I have ever done that does not have a free t-shirt. On the other hand, however, the race swag included a superb transition bag.
The race start-time was 7 AM. Transition closed at 6:30 AM and opened, I think, at 5:15 AM. I arrived at the site at about 5:35 AM. I, very wisely, paid the extra 5 dollars for a parking pass in the park when I registered for the race. The free parking option was, I believe, about a mile and a half away.
I took this photograph from my car as I was waiting in line to enter the parking area. That is one of the swim buoys to the right. This is same road used for the staging area for the swim start and for the start and finish of the bike.
After parking and getting body-marked, I reached my rack in transition at about 5:55 AM. So, it took a while. I said “hi” to my neighbors, set up my gear, and then had a few minutes for a warm-up run. I got back just as transition closed (yes, they hold strictly to 6:30) and then walked to the beach area.
There was an opportunity here to get in the water. However, I learned that the sprint racers were going first and it was a cool morning (low 60s). I have shivered before other races and I did not enjoy the experience.
The entire starting area was on a road that ran by the beach, which is narrow. There really was no place to sit so everyone just stood and watched the earlier waves compete. The first wave was off at just about 7. I was in the 15th out of 17 waves. So, I didn’t start until about 7:55. This meant standing for about an hour and a half. This is not ideal, but everyone else had exactly the same conditions.
The swim was a simple out and back along the shoreline of Lake Geneva. For the international distance, there was a slight dogleg to the left about 40% into the course. The swim was clockwise around this course, so the way back was closer to the shore. In areas it was quite shallow and people could, and did, walk rather than swim in these areas.
My wave had about 40 guys and the starting chute was pretty narrow. So I was expecting a lot of physical contact once the swim began. However, there was very little. I had planned to go pretty hard and I was fortunate to find good drafts for much of the swim. When I draft, I usually do not sight quite as often as I otherwise would. This led to me following another triathlete into oncoming swimmers as we missed the left-dogleg. It is frightening to suddenly see people swimming in your direction! I finished in 27 minutes and change, which was not quite as good as I had hoped, but not bad for me.
T1 involves a lengthy run up the street that leads back into the park. This was not a particularly good performance for me, largely because it took extra time to remove my wetsuit. This race used a disposable timing chip. This chip was about twice the size of many other timing chips I have used and it really hung me up. Practice!
This photo was from the start of the bike. Notice the swim course, and swimmers, in the background.
The bike course was truly one of the most lovely bike courses I have ever raced. There were rolling hills (out-of-saddle optional) and flats with a little wind. The pavement was in great shape and the course was well-marked. Also, over the last quarter or so of the course, there was a slight downhill and I often felt like I was flying.
I had planned to go pretty hard on the bike, with an intensity factor (IF) of about 0.9 (90% of threshold power). I felt like I was really working, but my IF ended up at 0.82. My average speed was also less than expected, at 21.2 mph. I think I was still fatigued from the half-iron race I did two weeks prior. Also, I developed a bad cold later that day (and a fever the next day), so I may have been in the early stages of an illness, affecting performance.
T2 was pretty uneventful. I racked the bike, changed shoes and hats, and ran out.
The run was unique. Unlike every other triathlon I have done, which have run-legs on streets, paved park paths, or packed-gravel paths, this run was on grass and dirt. I have only done one cross-country race (as an adult a few years ago), and this run was very similar. To be more specific, it involved two loops on soft and boggy (damp from the previous night) grass, dirt trails, and a very tiny paved area as the course essentially passed over a road. There were a number of challenging hills, especially toward the beginning of the loops, and one very-steep downhill. There were protruding roots as well, but I never seriously worried about tripping. But the course was energy-sapping and I ended up going much, much slower (9:07/mile) than expected. I felt like I had the fitness to go faster, but I was limited by burning quads.
If this race is your “A” race for the season, your best bet for a good result is to practice for the run!
I ended up finishing two seconds behind the 12th place guy in my age group, to place me 13th out of 44. While this was not the placement I had expected, I was really happy with my consistent hard effort and pacing.
After finishing, the race volunteers handed out bags of pre-organized food, which included pretzels, a banana, a cereal bar, soy milk, and other items. There also was an enormous finishing medal with spinning swim, bike, and run icons. Cool.
This is the transition area after the race.
The Bigfoot Triathlon is a well-run race on a beautiful, challenging course. I plan to return.