Three years ago in 2012, the Reeds Lake Triathlon was the first ‘big’ triathlon I ever competed in. I finished 14th that year (and got chicked by Abby Geurink!) and remember telling my friend, James Fry, that one day I would be up on the podium. The picture to the left is of James and I that first year!
Fast forward three years and now I was trying to come back and, not just podium, but repeat as the winner at Reeds Lake. The night before the race, Sam Kennedy and I had a slumber party at Abby’s! Abby made us a delicious dinner that I couldn’t wait to eat. The three of us chatted for a few hours and stayed up later than we probably should have, but that’s what happens when you’re with good friends!
Swim (Garmin Connect file)
It was really cold this morning (mid 40s) so the water felt really warm. It was also really dark so you couldn't see anything! They had a pontoon with a very small flashing light at the first buoy, but you could hardly see it even standing on the shore let alone vigorously swimming! I got off to a quick start and was in the lead group until they started to go off course. I had to sight almost every other stroke because the light was so small and if you sighted while the flash was off, you didn't see it. I hit the first buoy in 3rd place and was hot on the heels of #s 1 and 2. The second buoy was also extremely difficult to see and this one didn't have a pontoon with a light near it so we were just swimming into the darkness and the fog. Luckily I somehow managed to get a good sight on it and went straight to the buoy while the other two went too far to the left. After coming around the last buoy, it was time to head in. The only problem was that I couldn't see any markers directing me where to exit the water! I ended up just swimming toward the giant flag by the yacht club. I slowed down a bit to try and just look to see where the heck I had to swim and a couple guys caught back up with me. I followed one of them in hoping he could see a little better than I could, but we still ended up too far left and almost swam into the breaker of the yacht club! We swam parallel to the shore until we were passed the breaker and then ran up to transition. I was the first one into transition giving me the fastest swim on the day!
Swim time- 12:42
Swim pace- 1:16/100y
Swim place- 1st
Bike (Garmin Connect file)
It was cold getting out of the water and hopping onto a bike going 25mph while wet! I thought about wearing gloves (because we all know what happened last time I raced in cold temps: frozen hands and the inability to get my helmet off), but decided against it as I was coming out of the water. I was the second one out of transition, but quickly caught the other guy who had come out right ahead of me. The bike course consisted of 3 laps and I took it kind of easy on the first lap because I was sitting in first. I didn't want to put any more effort in than I had to...I had a race the next day after all! While I was out riding, one of the volunteers was yelling at me, "Second! You're number 2!" I just kept thinking, "She must have it wrong. There's no one who came out of the water ahead of me...was there?" Then after completing the first lap, Eric Abbott (who was just spectating today) told me I was 1 minute down. What the heck? Maybe there WAS someone who beat me out of the water. Then after finishing the second lap, the race announcer Larry Crabbe, said (over the PA system), "Buckingham what are you doing? You're about 30-40 seconds down!" What in the world? Maybe I was in second. To make matters worse, I had a guy catch me right after the second lap. Shoot, now I'm in third! At first I thought it was my buddy, Alec Womboldt, and all I could think was, "Great, now I'm going to have to try and stay with him then run hard because he is such a strong runner." Well it turns out it wasn't Alec, but I didn't find that out until we got back into transition! I stayed right with this mystery guy and ended up passing him not too much later. Coming into T2, I asked some of the volunteers what place I was in and they told me third (as the mystery man had just passed me as I was slowing down to dismount.)
Bike time- 45:43
Bike speed- 24.7 mph
Bike place- 5th
Run (Garmin Connect File)
As I was running out of T2 Eric was back again, but this time on his bike. I hollered over to him, "Who's ahead of me?!" To which he replied, "Nobody. That guy is a duathlete. Go do what you do! Look at those little legs run!" I could only chuckle. I made quick work of the guy who was ‘ahead’ of me. Then there was a turnaround about a third of a mile down the road so I had a chance to see who was behind me and how close they were. The mystery man who caught me on the bike was still there along with the duathlete, local stud Jimi Minnema, and another guy who I didn’t recognize. I maybe had a minute on these guys…jeez, maybe I wasn’t as far ahead as I thought!
I was just trying to run comfortable though because I knew that, if need be, I would be able to push it harder and distance myself from these guys. There were a lot of people out cheering this morning which was awesome. Eric was still out riding his bike around the course and caught up with me a little over halfway. I asked him how far back the 2nd place guy was to me and he gave me the split: 35 seconds and I was gapping him. At this point, Eric was surprised I was still able to talk to him. I looked down at my watch and said, “Well we’re only going about 5:30 pace so it’s not too bad.” Looking back on it, I just have to laugh. Who says that? It’s pretty cool when training pays off so well that running a 5:30/mile pace is considered comfortable! Within the final mile, Eric caught up with me again and told me I could shut it down. I told him I already had What? 5:40/mile isn’t shutting it down?! haha. As I was nearing the finish, there was one last turn I had to make to head down the finishing chute. I heard my dad cheering and saw him right at the corner so what did I do? Stop and give him a hug of course! After thanking him for being there, I crossed the finish line before anybody else for the second year in a row at Reeds Lake.
Run time- 21:52
Run pace- 5:28/mile
Run place- 1st
While dad got the hug on course, mom was waiting for me at the finish for a long squeeze. For being so little, she gives some of the best hugs! A short while later, friend and super-star, Samantha Kennedy took the win for the women (by almost 6 minutes I might add!) earning her first win on the Reeds Lake course. Way to go Sam!
Finish time- 1:22:37
Finish place- 1st
It’s always so awesome to have my parents at any race, but especially this one. Reeds Lake was the first ‘big’ race I did 3 years ago and it will always hold a special place in my racing heart :)
A special thank you to Abby Geurink for allowing Sam and I to stay at your house the night before the race and cooking us a phenomenal dinner (which no doubt was the reason for our victories!) Thanks to Eric Abbott for giving me updates on the course and being out there to cheer me on. Thanks to everyone who called, texted, or wished me well in any way (I know you were sending fast thoughts!)
Finally, I had to get my post-race cinnamon roll at Sundance Grill & Bar in downtown Grand Rapids. Yea...it was kind of big! :D