The Wild Dog Triathlon in Bristol, Rhode Island was my first time participating in a triathlon on a relay instead of on my own. The takeaway? Being part of a team is so much fun!
I participated in the Wild Dog Triathlon in 2013, and loved the event. (You can read my Race Report here.) The course was gorgeous, it was well-organized, and low-key at the same time. Perfect for a summer tri on vacation.
I debated doing the race on my own, but I honestly wasn’t even remotely trained. I’ve been on a bike exactly once this year—a solid 26 miles, but still—and have swum just a handful of times. Throw in the fact that race week was my first week back to exercising after being sick for three full weeks, thanks to the flu and bronchitis. Sure, I could have “jogged” it. But I know myself; I’m totally able to do that during a half-marathon where I’m taking in the scenery or having fun. But during triathlons and shorter races, I get too competitive.
It just so happened that my husband, Phil, and I were spending the weekend with a friend who’s done a few triathlons, so I recruited them to join a team with me. Enter team KAP’n Crunch—aka Karla, Adam, and Phil. It was a last-minute affair. We registered just two days before the race.
Sorting out who would do which leg was pretty easy. Phil is hands down the fastest runner among us, with his 18:37 5K PR. That’s a 5:59 pace, folks. A ringer on the run? You, bet!
Adam and I are both strong swimmers—and faster than Phil—but Adam is a much better cyclist than me. He can knock out 20 mph in his sleep, whereas my fastest overall racing speed was 17.2 mph at the 2015 Boston Triathlon. So biking it was for him.
That meant I would swim. We managed to cobble together a team where each of us was competing in a strong leg for us. A recipe for success.
The Wild Dog Triathlon course took triathletes through a .25-mile swim in the warm waters of Narragansett Bay at the Bristol Town Beach, a looped 10.8-mile bike course around the dazzling Colt State Park, and a 2.9-mile out-and-back run entirely along the water.
The Wild Dog Triathlon Swim: .25-mile-ish
About 65 triathletes and teams headed to the beach for the swim. Because we registered on a whim, I hadn’t packed my gear. That meant I had to do without my wetsuit, and I borrowed goggles from my nephew. Have suit and race-provided cap—will swim!
The Wild Dog Triathlon course was a quarter-mile rectangular swim in the surprisingly warm water of Narragansett Bay with a land start. My guess is it’s actually a touch longer.
Case in point: the 2013 race was a smaller triangle, instead of a rectangle, with an in-water start instead of a land start, and was also billed as a quarter-mile. How long was it actually? I have no idea.
I made sure to get in one good swim workout in the days before the race (in my borrowed goggles), since I hadn’t been able to hit the pool in nearly a month, thanks to my aforementioned illness. The workout went well and I swam a few easy quarters in the pool at a 7-minute pace. I was as ready as I could be under the circumstances.
I lined up toward the middle of the swimmers and set out at an easy pace. I got into a good rhythm out to the first buoy, where I got kicked in the shoulder by a swimmer doing breaststroke kick at the turn. That’s par for the course in a tri.
Unfortunately, the kick happened while I was taking a breath. The kick shifted my body; instead of taking in air, I took in a good gulp full of water. I had to tread water to cough it out. I lost some time, but more importantly, my rhythm. It took me a while to get back into the groove. By the time I reached the second and last buoy to turn for shore, I felt good again.
I climbed out the water as the eighth female swimmer in about 8 minutes. Then I had a 1:20 run to transition where my chip clocked me in at 9:22 for the leg. It’s not as fast as I wanted, but considering 1) I wasn’t trained 2) I didn’t wear a wetsuit and 3) I had to stop mid-swim, I’ll take it.
The Wild Dog Triathlon Bike: 10.8 miles
I passed off our team timing chip to Adam and wished him luck. He was going to need it!
We had a last-minute bike mishap just before the race. Adam’s bike was in the shop, so he brought his cycling shoes and helmet to ride mine. It’s definitely too small for him, but we raised the seat so it would work OK for a ride as short as 10.8 miles. That wasn’t the problem.
The issue? His shoes just wouldn’t clip into my pedals! Ack! They’re both standard, but my cleats must have been adjusted just off to his.
Of course, we didn’t realize this until 10 minutes before the start. We didn’t have another pair of cycling shoes to try nor platform or toe-clip pedals we could switch to. Adam also didn’t have sneakers. Ack!
Thankfully, Phil had a second pair of sneakers in the car that fit Adam, and Adam resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to cycle on clipless pedals while wearing very flexible soft-soled sneakers.
If you’ve ever attempted this feat, you know how hard it is. Unlike a regular platform pedal, the clipless have no grip unless you’re clipped in. Unlike, toe-clip pedals, there was nothing to secure his foot. That meant he couldn’t pull at all. All he could do was push, with his sneakers constantly slipping off the pedals. And at that, pushing in a super-soft soled sneaker is far less than ideal than a rigid cycling shoe.
Adam had three loops of the park road to complete. Phil and I went out to the road to cheer him on. We managed to spot him twice before heading back to transition for the hand-off. We were thoroughly impressed with Adam’s progress. He was working as hard as he possibly could, and with amazing results.
He eked out a time of 36:55, when he would have been able to easily rock 30 minutes with the right gear. That’s 17.6 mph—absolutely amazing considering his shoe/pedal situation.
And he put us in a great position in the competition at Wild Dog Triathlon.
The Wild Dog Triathlon Run: 2.9 miles
While Phil and I were waiting in transition, we deduced there were at least four relay teams on the course. With an award going to the top relay team, our competitive juices were flowing. We saw two relay runners go out on the run ahead of us as we anxiously awaited Adam’s arrival.
Phil was watching the clock. When we saw Adam rolling in the distance, we knew the other teams had about a 2-minute head start on the run.
Not knowing how fast the other runners were, but knowing how fast Phil is, we hoped he’d be able to make up the time.
Phil took off in a blaze. Adam and I went out to the course to cheer him in. I had total confidence in him. I know how competitive he is.
“Phil running is like a dog on a scent,” I told Adam. “His prey instinct kicks in.” I know if Phil had a 2-minute head start on me, he’d catch me easily, even though I run a respectable 24-minute 5K.
I’d noted what the relay runners ahead of him looked like and were wearing before they left transition. None of them passed us before we saw Phil approaching. I could spot one of them in the distance far behind Phil. I was right; he’d caught them both.
We cheered Phil on and he pushed into the finish with everything he had, clocking 17:39 for the leg at a 6:05 pace. He turned in the second fastest run of the race. Only the overall winner beat him—which is doubly impressive considering that guy had to swim and bike, too. When I’d run the same course in 2013, I finished in 23:22.
Our overall team time, including transitions, was 1:04:34, good for 1st among all teams and 14th overall at Wild Dog Triathlon.
I’m not gonna lie: we were pretty darn happy to take first team at Wild Dog Triathlon. We each won medals for the feat and a chance to stand on an actual podium. That was fun. It was all the more amazing considering Adam’s bike situation.
Doing a triathlon as a relay was incredibly fun. Granted, it does feel a bit like cheating when you’re out there on the course. Each of you is fresh for each leg, whereas the solo triathletes have to fight fatigue all race long. But that’s why we get our own category for awards.
Of course, I did have a few twinges wishing I was completing the whole race, but being on a relay is so much easier!
Either way, the Wild Dog Triathlon is one race I hope to return to, either solo or with a few friends.