By Harper Chaffee
While the brain trust of WMS was in Wisconsin last weekend, those of us left in Kansas City had the opportunity to compete in the final Triathlon/Duathlon event of the summer in KC – the Midwest Meltdown on September 9th. Held at the Wyandotte County Park Lake, it was a moderately hilly event that went off very well.
The weather was ideal. This time of year, it could be really hot or really cold, and we had it right in the middle. It was cool in the morning as most of us arrived before the sun had made it over the trees. Water temp was a nice 79 degrees, so no wet suits. Because the air was so cool, I was actually looking forward to getting into the water. The sun hit us as we waited for the start instantly bringing the outside temperature into the mid 60s. Average temp for the race was 64. Winds were mainly calm for the entire race and a high cloud layer moved in around 9am keeping the sun out of our faces.
In total, I believe 379 athletes participated, with 185 athletes like me competing in the Short Course – a .75km swim, 15.53 mile bike and 3.5 mile run. The long course had about 105 participants. This was my fourth short course Triathlon of the summer as I am a “newbie” to this sport so bear that in mind as I describe this race.
I really liked this course, even if I don’t have many to compare it to. While the swim was long, the water seemed clearer than Topeka, Shawnee Mission or Heritage – which sets the standard for the worst water as many know. I also like bike courses that aren’t loops. It’s easier to keep track of who you’ve passed, or who’s passed you and it doesn’t get routine. And the nice long straight-a-ways (for a short course anyway) are great for getting into a rhythm on the bike.
The run was pretty brutal with sharp hills, but was cool and appealing because of the trees and lake. If you’re good at hills, you have an advantage on this course. According to the Garmin 305, the ascent for the bike was 1,129 over 15 miles with a max incline grade of 12.5%. For the only 3 miles of running, the Garmin recorded 795 feet of ascent, including a 28.3% incline grade at one point! As a result, most run times were slower than normal.
Because I’m a newbie trying to do longer races, the Meltdown was a great confidence builder heading into a winter of training. The distance for the swim and bike is in the middle of a short and long course, which resulted in a 1 hour 47 minute total time for me – with an avg. heart rate of 170 for the bike and run. I don’t think it’s a good “first time triathlon” course however. Even though the distance isn’t too bad – the hills take a lot out of you. And the swim would be fairly long for a first timer.
For this course, you had to swim out 200m away from shore to a lone buoy, and then take a 160 degree right turn for a long straight-a-way. There were three “divers” floating in the water. Just the sound of that was nerve wracking. They were at water level, so how are 3 divers going to monitor more than 100 swimmers in the water at once? There was one stinky pontoon boat tracking back and forth along the course picking up swimmers when necessary. Every other race I have done featured paddle boats or something along the way for people to grab if they needed to. For the first timers, the swim probably looked intimidating from the land because the length of it was stretched out before you along the shore, unlike Topeka (which is super short) or Heritage which goes away from you, so you can’t really tell how far out it is. Long course swimmers had to make two laps of the same course, and most of their times were more than half an hour for a course that was supposed to be 1.5 kilometers.
Despite those concerns, the swim for me was fantastic. My first three races were abysmal in the swim. I couldn’t finish without stopping and dog paddling to catch my breath several times. As a result, my swim times