HITS Grand Junction 2015 | Race Report

Brought to you (1 month later!) by Sam

Race: HITS Grand Junction – Half Distance
Where: Grand Junction, CO
When: May 16, 2015

  • Swim – 34:58
  • Bike – 2:38
  • Run – 1:33
  • Total – 4:53


  • Elevation gain (according to my Garmin)
    • Bike – 1,398 ft
    • Run – 646 ft

In three words – easy check in!

Per usual, my race check-in did not go according to plan. There was Friday check-in available, but it only went until 6 pm. I left Denver around 1 pm, but with traffic, I wasn’t able to make it to check-in on time. As such, I did check-in on race morning. Super easy. This is one of the greatest things about small races. I think it took me 2 minutes to check-in. Awesome!

In three words – It was cold.

Swim goal – 35:00
Swim time – 34:58

For my previous two triathlons I have really lucked out on the weather front. St George was warm, calm, and sunny. It is in the desert, so warm is pretty much a given. Conditions in Wisconsin were even better. No wind to speak of. 70s. Perfect.  So, in hindsight, I was probably due for a non-ideal weather race. And I sure got it.

Excitement or dread?

Resigned to my fate

Heading into the race I was expecting the water to be cold. It is May in Colorado. We had snow the week before. But I was NOT expecting the water temperature to be warmer than the air temperature at the start of the race. Holy smokes. My feet were already numb before I started swimming. No joke.

The organizers changed the course and made it two loops for half distance (instead of one) and four loops for the full distance athletes (and yes, there were actually people doing the full distance! In Colorado! In May!). Although you had to get out of the water when you completed each loop, I was pretty happy with the multi-loop format…especially given the frigid conditions. It broke up the swim nicely. One thing I didn’t like – you had to get out of the water and run back into the water through a pretty rocky area. Not good for those with sensitive feet (this guy).

In the end, the swim went OK. I mean, it was extremely uncomfortable, but that was the expectation.

T1 - I get cold just looking at this

T1 – I get cold just looking at this

In three words – It was cold.

Bike goal – 2:30
Bike time – 2:38:53

Prior to the event, I felt very good about my bike fitness. I completed a 70 mile training ride a couple of weeks prior where at mile 56 I had around 2,000 feet of elevation and my clock read 2:34. With this as my baseline, I was expecting to be able to ride around 2:30 over 56 miles (with less elevation) without killing myself. That sure didn’t happen.

Mud in cleats and post-swim grogginess lead to a slow bike start

Mud in cleats and post-swim grogginess lead to a slow bike start

I started out at a pretty good pace, or at what felt like a pretty good pace, and was able to keep it up for the first 30 miles – through the first out-and-back. The second out-and-back really got me though. The wind and what seemed like an endless ascent were difficult for me mentally. The second turnaround to the end of the bike was a tough stretch. I was cold, tired, and I knew my time was not what I wanted it to be. Eventually, I made it back to Highline State Park and off my bike.

Overall, I think there were several factors that impacted my poor bike time

  1. Bike fitness. Obviously, my fitness wasn’t where it needed to be.
  2. Conditions. This one, I cannot control, so not much use dwelling on.
  3. Strategy. While my heart rate was pretty consistent throughout, I think I went out a little too hard.
  4. Calories. I only took in 330 calories on the bike, and around a half bottle of water. Not good. Some of this was due to the cold – I couldn’t open any of my food with my frozen fingers – and some was due to laziness.

In the end, I liked the bike course. I didn’t like the way I performed, but that’s not the course’s fault. On a normal day I think it would have been a very enjoyable ride.

In three words – Hilly at first.

Run goal – 1:30
Run time – 1:33

Starting the run, I was absolutely miserable. My fingers weren’t working. I couldn’t feel my feet. At all. Tying my shoes was almost impossible. Plus, I had just finished an incredibly disappointing bike leg. Fortunately, my transition station was right next to the fence, so Danielle was able to stand at the fence and talk to me during transition. Like any good spouse, she was sympathetic to my plight but was not giving me an opportunity to feel sorry for myself. Exactly what I needed. Our conversation (correct sentiment, not quotes):

Me: I feel terrible.
Danielle: Welp, you’ll warm up on the run!
Me: I’m never going to warm up. This is dumb.
Danielle: You’ll warm up quicker if you run!

So on I went!

After a slower than expected bike time I decided (decided implies I used my brain, which wasn’t the case) to go out pretty fast to see if I could make up some of the time I lost on the bike.  Bad idea. The course design for the run was brutal for folks trying to start fast. In my mind there were two courses – the hills and the flats. The hills were all in the first two miles. Almost immediately after starting the run there was a steep downhill. And when I say steep, I mean a “can’t let gravity do its thing because you’ll fall on your face” steep hill. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but having to run down it in the first mile when your legs are still adjusting to running – not cool. And then, there is an equally as steep uphill immediately after. So for someone trying to push the tempo at the beginning of the run (this guy) these hills were like a punch in the gut.

If I were to run the course again, I would take it MUCH easier the first two miles and then push the pace in the second portion of the run – the flats. Outside of the first two miles, I really enjoyed the run. Feeling slowly returned to all of my extremities. The weather started warming up (no more rain!). And I was getting closer to being done with the race!

Side note – around mile 3, I started to get a really strange sensation in my foot – kind of like my sock was bunched up in the arch of my foot. After about a half mile, I decided I needed to take off my shoe to get the dang thing taken care of. So I stopped, took off my shoe, and…..nothing. Turns out, it was just my foot de-thawing.

Either way, I kept a pretty consistent effort throughout the run. I kept my heart rate in the upper 140 to lower 150 range – my aerobic range. For a half distance triathlon, I think I should be redlining things a little more –getting and keeping my heart rate in the 160s. But at the very least, this was good training for the run at Ironman Boulder.

Heading into the day, my goal was to finish around 4:40. Coming in at 4:53 was very humbling. At the same time, it was exactly what I needed for my training. I definitely gained a little urgency in my preparation after this race.

I practice this face. Practice pays off.

I practice this face. Practice pays off.

Lessons learned:

  • Prepare for some strange sensations when your feet de-thaw on the run.
  • Plan for easy-to-access nutrition during cold bike legs. Liquids would be best.
  • Quick tie shoelaces. Get them! My laces came untied 3 times during the run.
  • Push the pace a little more on the run. This is an experience thing for me. I still don’t know what a 70.3 run should ‘feel’ like.


  • Only one thing this time, but it is a good one. It has been pretty warm the past few weeks in Denver. As such, I’ve been visiting the local coffee shop for their cold brew coffee a bit too much. So I decided to make my own. GOOD DECISION. This is the general recipe I followed. For straining, I used a cheesecloth and it worked like a dream.


  1. momwizard · · Reply

    I love reading about your racing adventures, both yours and Danielle’s! Although I am not nearly in the same class of racer as the two of you, I’m still a nerdy runner, and love reading about other nerdy runners… I found myself thinking about how many races I have run where either my goals were too ambitious or I was thwarted by my mental, not physical state. I also liked the heart rate comment. As an older runner I know I push my heart rate more than I should in training sometimes, but don’t have a good idea of what rate is acceptable in a race. And the still learning part…always! That’s part of what makes running so fun! Some day I think I’m going to try a sprint tri, when I do you know I’ll be coming to you for advice!


    1. Thank you!! And definitely let me know if you decide to sign up for a tri. There are so many small things I’ve learned in the past two years. I’d love to pass them along!


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