2019 Niantic Bay Triathlon

The weather conditions at yesterday’s 21st annual Niantic Bay Triathlon were spectacular. We were greeted at dawn by a picture perfect blue sky and a cool temperature. It was high tide and Niantic Bay was calm. It really was a great day for a race.

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I returned to Niantic for the first time since 2015. It was my 7th time doing the race. My first was way back in 2002. My father wore the 2002 race shirt yesterday to honor my return. When I got back to his house in Old Lyme, I gifted him my 2019 race shirt, so he can wear that one 17 years from now.

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A theme of the day was age group. I’ve changed age groups again since my last Niantic and when they wrote “47” on the back of my left calf, I gulped. I was well off of my best times on this course. I put down a 1:08:07, which was my slowest since I was a triathlon newbie in 2002. 1:01:25 was my best in 2013. Keep in mind that the course has changed a bit over the years. The swim is always slightly different and it has gotten longer, which penalizes me. The bike course has largely remained the same, but the run has been redesigned. You still finish on McCook Park Beach, but you don’t go over the Bluff.

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I love the course and that is why I returned. I’ve spent summers in Old Lyme my entire life and with my parents’ home only minutes away, Niantic is a fun and convenient race to do. The best part of yesterday was seeing all our friends from the triathlon community. It had been two years since my last triathlon. I haven’t focused on multisport, but it felt good to give it a go again.

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My legs are still heavy from the Never Summer 100K which I did three weeks ago. It’s very hard to go from a 22 hour endurance effort to a 68 minute all-out effort, but I love the range of my racing. I am gearing up for cyclocross season so any event in the 45-70 minute range is good training. Last Tuesday I also returned to one of my other local favorite races, the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series. WT is an off-road triathlon and was the last tri I did in 2017. It’s a training race but I still gave it a full effort.

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Debbie has been racing the series and I’ve been watching, but last week, I raced to get my tri legs back. Unfortunately, during the bike leg, I took a hard fall. My wet left hand slipped off the bars on a notoriously rooted section and I lost control. I cartwheeled at high speed and hurt my back and ribs. I remounted and finished the race, including a good 5K run, but I’ve been sore all week.

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I didn’t know if I could start Niantic, but 1) I was looking forward to it 2) I have a high pain tolerance and 3) there was no way I was going to make a $100 “donation” plus $7 registration fee to the Hartford Marathon Foundation. I applaud their efforts, and the volunteers at yesterday’s race were awesome, but that’s big money for a race and it wasn’t going to go to waste. Even the New York Times recently wrote about the high cost of triathlons and the state of the sport. I won’t spend any time on the debate in this post, but it’s true, the number of entrants are down (there looked to be 100-200 fewer participants at Niantic than five years ago–a ~20% decline), fewer youth are participating, and the cost (gear, fees, travel, etc.) is a barrier.

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One youth who raced yesterday was Luke Anthony, a 15-year-old athlete from East Lyme. Niantic is a section of East Lyme, so that is as local as you get. Luke crushed the race, winning in 1:00:27. He was fastest on both the bike and the run. His Dad John is a member of Team HORST Sports and I’m sure he is very proud of Luke’s progress. I was stoked to have my photo taken with Luke after the finish.

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My own son, Shepard, who is 12, did his first full Winding Trails Tri a few weeks ago. He is away at camp so he missed the chance to at least watch Niantic, but I hope we do it together some day. He hasn’t done any racing on the road, whereas Luke is also a talented cyclist who has been affiliated with the CCAP for several years. The Team HORST Junior Squad is also affiliated with CCAP, but for cyclocross and mountain biking. I know that triathlon has similar youth development programs, but it’s going to take a bigger effort to garner interest in the sport. Racing on the road has hazards that are different from off-road.

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I seem to have no problem crashing on roads or trails! Even still, I think the trails are safer. Debbie road over from Old Lyme and she was part of a loud cheering section. She and I had a nice cool down on our bikes. We went over to the Waterford side of the bay and explored some pretty roads, spotting deer and other wildlife. I love riding along the shoreline.

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I didn’t train for this race so I can’t be too harsh on myself. The competitive spirit inside me always wants to improve upon every performance. I had a full day of exercise yesterday. In the early evening, I rode home to Bolton from Old Lyme. It was 41 miles and I was “cooked” when I finished. I listened to a good podcast interview with Coach Ian Sharman. The subject was failure and he offered some interesting insight into performance. The talk was focused more on ultra distance trail running, but it is applicable to any sport. By no means was my face a failure. Quite the contrary, it was a success. However, the idea that you can perform at a high level every time as you age is a fallacy. I think the longer events suit the older athletes as the mental game becomes more important than the fitness. In a 15 mile sprint triathlon, there is no time for strategy. You have to execute well, but it’s more about sheer power and speed.

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One positive aspect to my race is that I made up ground from the moment I exited the water. I picked up a few spots on the bike and even more on the run. I pushed and despite the “pain” in my ribs, I did well. The sun never stopped shining. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. They moved in by late afternoon and a breeze kicked up, but by then, I was headed north on the back roads of Lyme, Salem, and Colchester. I took Grassy Hill Road, one of my favorites and wound my way through some eastern Connecticut hills.

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I don’t know when I’ll do another triathlon, but I’m glad I did Niantic Bay. It was a blast.

Race Results

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Shepard had an awesome two weeks at @troop25ct Camp Kirkham in #newhampshire Some of the learning included First Aid, Fish & Wildlife, Sports, Photography, and Swimming. It will be great to have him back home. @boyscoutsofamerica
Little D and I passed though our favorite state on the way to NH this morning. #vermont
I dusted off my #triathlon gear for the first time in more than two years. I had to wipe mold off my running shoes, and it felt good to wash my bike. It’s good to know I can still throw it down at 47 but I will admit that we all got thrashed by a talented 15-year-old Junior. At least I got my photo with him! I’m waiting for his Dad to message it to me. 😀 MY Dad even pulled out a vintage 2002 race shirt to honor the occasion. The weather at the @hmf_events Niantic Bay Triathlon was spectacular. We saw lots of old friends. 🏊‍♂️🚴🏽🏃🏿#teamhorstsports @horstcycling #shenipsitstriders @seven_cycles #sevencycles
We successfully got the kids to their camps. Then we had a nice adventure ride in the Quiet Corner including a section of the Air Line Trail and some Natchaug State Forest wandering. Our newish @seven_cycles Evergreens were built for rides like this. #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders #airlinetrail #natchaug #sevencycles #evergreening
@horstcycling is the new home for Cross Spikes news. This community will expand with more in depth #cycling oriented product info. Keep following @horsteng for your #aerospace and #precisionmachining fix! Oh, and... #crossiscoming ### #crossspikes #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad gravelbike #fatbike #cyclocross #horstengineering
Another great post #windingtrails #triathlon #sunset 🏊🏽‍♀️ 🚴🏽🏃🏿🌅
#windingtrails #triathlon #sunset 🏊🏽‍♀️ 🚴🏽🏃🏿☀️
1) More @nemba_mtb #nembafest 2) More sweet @kingdomtrails #kingdomtrails 3) More #vermont mud ### #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes #mountainbiking #mountainbike #vermud 🚵‍♂️ 🏔 🌧
Our week of adventure continued with a quick trip to @kingdomtrails for @nemba_mtb #nembafest where we saw LOTS of friends on the awesome trails. ### #vanlife #mountainbiking #mountainbike #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #teamhorstjuniorsquad #kingdomtrails #vermont

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