Race Report: Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, swim bike run

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was the spectacular finish at the Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon. (Photo: United States Coast Guard)

The Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, July 21, 2013 was my third and, by far, most scenic triathlon. The race was a point-to-point course that served as a fundraiser for the Montauk Point Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark and the oldest lighthouse in New York state, dating to 1796.

Montauk sits at the very tip of Long Island surrounded by Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Starting with a swim in the sound, a bike course that toured triathletes around Lake Montauk and a run through a tree-lined state park, the Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon course put Montauk’s natural beauty on full display. Pair that with a finish beside the lighthouse at the top of Turtle Hill overlooking the sea, and you have a challenging but beautiful triathlon course.

I was tackling the race with my husband, Phil, who was doing his first triathlon. With my new bike in hand, I was ready to race.

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, swim, bike, run

With my new ride. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)


The Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon was well organized. Athletes picked up bibs on their choice of four days in four different towns including New York City and Montauk. Race communication e-mails were thorough, and the triathlon started promptly on time.

But preparing for the race proved tricky logistically as a point-to-point course. This necessitated two different transition zones: one from the swim to the bike and another from the bike to the run. This meant triathletes had to stop at Transition 2 to drop off their running gear early in the morning before driving back to Transition 1 to park and prepare for the swim.

From the parking area, athletes had a half a mile walk or bike to the transition zone, then another half mile walk to the swim start.

After the race, runners had the option of taking a shuttle bus or biking the 6 miles back to Transition 1 to pick up their gear. Phil and I chose the latter option. Bikes weren’t allowed on the shuttle so we would have had to shuttle to T1, pick up our stuff, take it to our car and then drive back to T2 to pick up our bikes. So we ended up biking 20 miles total that day.

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon: My Race

Racing a sprint triathlon in the middle of a heat wave had me worried. But the weather was on our side come Sunday morning. The temperature was in the low 70’s with overcast skies in the morning. It drizzled a little bit on the bike and a nice ocean breeze kept me cool the whole time.

Despite the great weather, it was a tough race for me. I went into it knowing I wasn’t going to score a personal record due to a lingering hip injury from a horseback riding fall in early June, but also wanting to push as hard as my recovering hip would let me.

The race played out much like I expected. I didn’t come anywhere close to a PR. But I did give it everything I had. And that felt really good. Here’s the breakdown.

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, swim bike run

Phil and I are ready to race. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The Swim: .5 Miles

I was confident going into the swim. Save two weeks of missed training from my injury, I’ve been swimming once a week. I also managed to get in two open water swims, so I knew I was ready for this leg of the race.

Swimmers made their way to a start buoy off shore while a race official with a bullhorn counted down minutes to each wave. You couldn’t hear him from the water, but you could hear the starting horn just fine.

The swim was a half-mile of open water in Block Island Sound at the very tip of Long Island. I’d read from previous race reports to expect a tough current. They weren’t kidding.

As I waited with the women in my wave for our start, the current continually pushed me well behind the start buoy. I had to keep swimming forward to stay on the starting line. I knew right then it was going to be a long swim.

Boy, was it ever. I settled into an easy pace, but miscalculated the angle to the shore I needed to swim. The buoys were parallel to the shore, but this was not a race where you could just swim straight for the buoys as in a calm lake. You needed an aggressive angle to the shore to stay on the right tangent. The current pushed swimmers back and away from land. I swam far too wide of the first few buoys and then corrected my angle to come in closer to the next few. So I know I swam a much longer distance than I needed to.

To give you an idea of the kind of current I’m talking about, my last half-mile triathlon swim took me 12:08. This one took 22:56 and I was much better trained for it. But I made it through and managed to finish third out of 16 women in my age group.

Lifeguards on paddleboards and kayaks lined the swim, and the exit from the water was well marked with two flags leading into the transition zone. The run into the transition zone was very short and included one of the most thoughtful touches of the entire race—a plastic kiddie pool filled with water to rinse sand off your feet. I splashed through it on my way to the transition zone.

I knew I was in good shape when I saw the majority of my wave’s bikes still racked.

But I also knew that the swim would be my strongest leg. So I got out of my wetsuit as quickly as possible, slipped on my shoes, sunglasses and helmet and ran to the bike. My Transition 1 time was 2:09.

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, swim bike run, Trek Lexa S

The Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon was my first race with my very own bike. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The Bike: 14 Miles

The bike has long been my nemesis as I documented in my first and second triathlon race reports. But after buying my own bike this season, I’ve started to make peace with it. I dug in and rode as hard as I could.

On the bike course, the roads were open to traffic, but many police officers were in place to direct traffic and cyclists, especially at all potentially dangerous intersections so that helped ease some of my jitters.

The first portion of the bike was largely flat. But the back end was hilly—at least for me. We climbed from sea level to 168 feet to the base of the Montauk Point Lighthouse over the course of a few rolling hills. There was one very steep, but short climb that forced me to come out of my saddle and a few smaller climbs as well.

I managed to spot Phil on an out-and-back portion of the course. His wave started 10 minutes ahead of mine. I gave him a cheer, and it made me happy to know he survived the swim alright.

Perhaps because there were no mile markers and I didn’t ride with a GPS watch, the bike finish and dismount line snuck up on me. A rider behind me almost crashed he came in so fast. I did see one “slow down” sign shortly before but I’m guessing he didn’t.

I finished in 50:19 at a 16.7 MPH pace. It’s a huge improvement over my first triathlon where I rode at 14.4 MPH pace on a shorter course. So overall I’m happy with my bike time. I finished right in the middle of my age group on the ride: eighth out of 16. It was definitely my weakest leg. But I also know I’ll only get better with time now that I own a bike. So I’ll take it!

I cruised in from the bike and had a fast transition. I racked and ran for a T2 time of 53 seconds.

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon

The run finished up the hill to the lighthouse. (Photo: Beyond My Ken [GFDL via Wikimedia Commons])

The Run: 3.1 Miles

The run was really tough for me.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon run course started with a small flight of stairs and then flattened out with a few very short rolling hills. It wasn’t a particularly challenging course and it was well shaded in the lushly green Camp Hero State Park.

But I have a love-hate relationship with the run portion of the tri. On one had, I love running. This blog is called “Run, Karla, Run!” after all. But in two of my three triathlons, I’ve just been toast by the time the run rolled around. The 3.1-mile run in a sprint triathlon is roughly equivalent to the last three miles of a half-marathon. And, unfortunately, I historically start to tank at mile 10 in a half-marathon.

Last year, I had a fantastic sprint triathlon run. I felt strong and finished 3 miles in 26:15. This year, my legs just had nothing left in the tank. I pushed with everything I had and managed to eke out a 28:50 for the 5K. My hip had really tightened up on the bike. While it certainly didn’t hurt, I could feel how tight it was and my muscles just had nothing left to give.

The run had two water stops on the out-and-back course. They were place so you got to hit each one twice, and I certainly did.

Once again, Phil and I saw each other and managed to high five. He was heading into the finish as I was heading into the run.

Unlike the bike course, the run had mile markers. I was very happy to see the 3 Mile marker.

The finish line was up a steep hill leading to the lighthouse of honor, and once at the top, runners were treated to a spectacular view out over the sea.

Another woman in my age group passed me in the last mile. We all had our ages written on our calves so you could tell who was your direct competition. I used that as motivation and hung behind her. In the last few hundred meters we traded leads. Just before the finish line she surged past me again to finish 3 seconds ahead of me. I found her afterward and thanked her. She really helped push me across the line.

Possibly because of that, I almost vomited for the first time ever after a race. I managed not to, but that was my sign that I had given it everything I possibly had. You really can’t ask more of yourself than that.

After a cool down walk, I found Phil, who regaled me with tales of his first triathlon. We hit the post-race spread, which included Danishes, muffins, watermelon slices, plums, bananas, sweet potato chips, an assortment of juices and water. And I stretched out my hip with the gorgeous ocean views below me.

Montuak Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, swim bike run

Phil and I celebrate a tri well done. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)


I finished sixth out of 16 women in my age group in a time of 1:45:04. I finished just 2 minutes and 35 seconds behind the winner, and seventh place was over 7 minutes behind me.

Overall, I took 56th out of 167 women and 210th of 431 triathletes.

Phil, who has qualified for the Boston Marathon twice and regularly bikes to work, had a great first triathlon. He finished fourth out of 25 men in his age group. He took 10th in the swim, 10th in the bike, and won the run handily among his peers in a speedy 20:08. His swim, at 25:10, was five minutes slower than his run and he turned in a solid bike at 44:00.

After he heard his stats he said, “Well, that tells me I ought to stick to running!”

But I hope I can talk him into another triathlon. After all, he finished 93rd out of 431 people total. Not shabby at all.

Knowing I was so close to the top of my age group and knowing it was an off race for me makes me hungry for an age group win some day. It’s a goal I’ll likely work toward. I’m already eyeing another sprint triathlon in August…

Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon Vital Stats

Distance: .5-mile swim, 14-mile bike, 3.1 mile run

  • Overall: 1:45:04, 6th of 16 in age group
  • Swim: 22:56, 3rd of 16 in age group
  • Bike: 50:19, 8th of 16 in age group
  • Run: 28:50, 6th of 16 in age group
  • T1: 2:09, T2: 0:53
Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


07 2013

23 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Congratulations! Particularly impressive for someone recovering from a hip injury. The location looks stunning.
    With all the training you are doing I think you are well ahead of me in terms of being prepared for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I need to get my but in gear!
    Kristi Raz recently posted..A Future in Duathlon?My Profile

  2. 3

    Congrats you did so awesome and look fabulous! Love the photos!! The new bike seems to be working well for you :) I love that you were able to see your hubs on the bike and wave, that had to be such a huge boost for both of you!!! :):)
    Laura recently posted..What’s Next?My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks! I love doing races with friends–especially when there are out and back portions and you’re able to see each other. At the Philly Marathon in Nov., Phil and I managed to high-five each other late in the race on an out-and-back and it was a huge boost.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint TriathlonMy Profile

  3. 5

    WOW you are amazing! Even though this was an off race for you, it was still AWESOME and inspiring! The course looks really gorgeous. Congrats to both of you!
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted..Somedays I feel like an inadequate runner but somedays I feel like a Champ!My Profile

  4. 7

    Well done, Karla! Sounds like you had a great race and all this talk of triathlons has me thinking it may be time to take on a new challenge in 2014. :-) Look forward to reading about your next one.

  5. 9

    Well done to the both of you. Yes, Phil should stick to running 😉 I think I’d drown on that course — the swim is my weakest leg. Evil finish to the run too, up that hill. Glad you raced that lady in your age-group right to the line. More ks on the bike will help your run a heap — not only will you be faster on the bike, but do it easier and have fresher legs for the run. Enjoy training for the next one!
    Ewen recently posted..Hoka Bondi and the Bush Capital 16kMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks, Ewen! Haha, Phil is a fast runner. He wants to break 3 hrs in the marathon and then “retire” from PR-ing and keep racing just for fun. Yes, my plan for my next tri season is bike, bike, bike now that I own one. I know it will make me stronger overall! Great advice!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint TriathlonMy Profile

  6. 11

    Great race report!

    You and Phil should do Musselman up in Geneva, NY next year. They have both sprint and Half Ironman distances. I went up to spectate last year (Ben competed) and it was really fun.
    Elle recently posted..Running While on VacationMy Profile

  7. 13

    Congrats! Amazing that the top 6 people in your age group were all so close to each other! The race looks gorgeous, I’ll have to keep it in mind for next summer (because I SWEAR I am going to do a tri by then!).

    Oh, and your husband is super speedy – even after a swim & bike! That must have been a lot of fun for you guys to do together!
    Danielle recently posted..Cape Cod SUP Adventures!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Phil is crazy fast! I’d definitely recommend this race. It’s a challenging course, but really well-organized and beautiful. And that the top 6 of us were so close makes me really want to win an age group award!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Friday Foto: Sailing Away From Tonga To New EnglandMy Profile

  8. 15

    Congratulations on a great job! This race looked gorgeous! Makes me want to try a triatholon even more! …except for that whole terrified to do so thing lol
    Kellie recently posted..NYRR Run of Champions 5K and Queens 10K RecapMy Profile

  9. 17

    Hi Karla! Quick question – I am seriously considering registering for a sprint triathlon in September (really without any training, just to get over actually doing one!). Do you think I’m ok doing it without a wet suit and using my hybrid bike? I really don’t want to spend $ on renting or buying a wetsuit & / or bike to do it. What do you think??
    Danielle recently posted..The Falmouth Road RaceMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Totally doable! Especially if you’re doing it just to get over the hump and not really to worry about time. If the water is warm enough you don’t need a wetsuit at all. I didn’t wear one in my first race. Phil didn’t wear one in his first one. Just check the average water temp for the race you’re thinking of. As for the bike, you’ll definitely go slower and will have more work on a hybrid, but also doable. Look at it this way: if you do a second tri on a road bike and in a wetsuit, you’re sure to have a big PR! If you decide to spend the money on one thing, I think renting a road bike is more beneficial than renting a wetsuit. The bike is half the race, so that’s where I’d spend the money. Which race are you thinking of?
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Meet Up: Barefoot Running From Canada to ArgentinaMy Profile

  10. 19

    Hi Karla,

    Thank you so much for this very thorough race report! I’m doing the Montauk Sprint Triathlon this coming July and it’s my first triathlon – do you have any tips and/or specific training programs that you recommend, especially for a first-time triathlete?

    Julia K recently posted..Saturday 22 March 2014My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks for reading, Julia! What a gorgeous tri you picked for your first. For this race, I recommend getting in at least one open water swim in practice, more if you can. It’s the toughest swim course I’ve done and for a first timer, I think practicing in open water will help. My husband, as a first timer, found swimming in open water much more challenging than the pool–currents, no walls to rest on or push off of, murky water, etc. I don’t even remember what training plan I used! I’ll have to dig it out. Per week, I did one bike, one swim and two runs. Really light training compared to what lots of folks do, but it got me across the finish line. I think the most important thing with a plan is to find one that plays to your strengths and that fits your schedule. Good luck with your training!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Brooklyn Half Marathon 2014 Largest In US: SlideshowMy Profile

  11. 21

    Congrats on placing so well after having hip surgery. Especially o a course that sounds pretty rough. The current would have worn out even the most fit people and even more so when gollowed by the bikes.

  12. 22

    Hi Karla, many congratulations for doing a great job in the triathlon. You proved nothing can stop you (even a hip injury :) ) from achieving anything, if you have strong determination. I enjoyed reading every race detail you shared, overall it was a great race to the lighthouse adventure.
    Crone recently posted..Kryptonite Kryptolok New York U-Lock : Enjoy Tension Free BikingMy Profile

  13. 23

    Congratulations on a great job! Awesome posting and so much helpful blogs.I will waiting for more information’s form your next blog.Thanks for shearing
    Maurice Lyons recently posted..Best Cruiser Bikes in 2017My Profile


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