© Scott Dawson, http://scottpdawson.com (607) 279-7173, @scottpdawson

Cayuga Lake Triathlon 2019 (Olympic Distance 2:38:18)

As usual for my races, I love to write a recap of how they went. It’s mostly for me to look back and remember the particulars of each race: this is my 4th intermediate race at the Cayuga Lake Triathlon, and I’d raced 5 sprint races prior to that. Vineeth, one of my fellow classmates in Shane Eversfield’s Total Immersion classes at Island Health & Fitness, told me pre-race that he’d read one of my posts about a prior race. He found it really helpful, so there’s the second reason I write about my races: if you’re contemplating the event, it’ll give you a better sense of what to expect! 


Ian moved his store location from the Ithaca Commons to a storefront adjacent to Purity Ice Cream. This was the first year for packet pick-up at the new location, but that didn’t stop us from taking in a delicious outdoor lunch at Viva Taqueria. We arrived at Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company with bellies full of “Mexithacan” food and margaritas. 

Packet pick-up was super efficient. We talked with Ian Golden and Alex Kleinerman (the race director) while we waited for the kids to pick up their relay packets. Just a week prior, the kids’ relay swimmer notified them that they couldn’t swim for them. That was cause to panic a bit: it’s hard to find another swimmer on short notice! However, Elizabeth quickly put an appeal out of Facebook and quickly found a new swimmer. She was participating in the national championship the following weekend, and really was happy to jump into the Cayuga Lake Triathlon as a training effort. This was pure serendipity: the kids would have a pro on their relay team! She met them at the store so they could pick up their packets together.

Back home, I laid out all of the things I’d need for the race before helping Amy deliver cakes to two separate weddings. One was at a private home in Trumansburg; the other at Fountainbleau. I didn’t have a ton of time before I had to be at Trumansburg High School for the third performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We had to be there at 5 p.m. for the 7 p.m. curtain. I used that time to put on my stage makeup, do a vocal warmup, and mentally prepare myself for a pretty demanding show on stage. I’ll write more about that later! 

Race morning. Photo Credit: Ed Dawson

Race morning arrived too soon. I don’t think I got the greatest sleep, but it wasn’t the poorest, either. I enjoyed my typical pre-race breakfast: a few cups of coffee and an everything bagel with peanut butter. We headed to the park in two separate cars: Amy and I first with the Subaru and two racked bikes; the kids a few minutes behind us in the Pilot with a bike stashed inside for their relay. It was so great to see our friends before the race! It was hard to walk a few steps and not see someone we knew. We got a picture with my parents, since they were volunteering at the registration table.

With Ed and Jean


I love my wetsuit. It provides just a touch of buoyancy and helps me feel a bit insulated from the things I cannot see in the water (fish, seaweed, and cold patches). When the water temperature was precipitously close to 78 degrees, the legal limit for wetsuits, I admit I was a little nervous. Whoever took that 77.7 degree temperature on race morning … thank you!

Wetsuit legal!

The water looked so nice. The buoy line was straight as an arrow, a departure from prior years where the wind whipped it into a cruel arc. While not glassy, the lake surface wasn’t choppy at all. I got into the warmup lanes and swam a few laps about 20 minutes before the 8a start. The water felt warm, but not overly so.

While I’m perpetually ready for a run, and had been training fairly regularly to ride in recent weeks, my swim preparation was slim to none. I’d only done two training swims: one stint in Island’s pool a while ago, and a more recent panic-filled half mile at Kathey’s dock. It’s ironic, then, that when I lined up in the water with the other men aged 40+, I felt very, very calm. The vibe of the whole group was calm, actually. When it was time to go, we gradually slipped into the water and started swimming. It was all very chill, and there was very little aggressive kicking or jockeying for position.

The 2019 Tri is off! Starting with the intermediate men, 40+ in pearly pink caps!

Posted by Cayuga Lake Triathlon on Sunday, August 4, 2019

I found my groove early on during the swim. I didn’t experience any of the panic I’d had a week prior during my half-mile test run. With such a stress-free start, and such warm and smooth water, it was hard not to feel anything but gratitude. At one point on the outbound leg, I heard a kayaker say something off to my left. I saw them back-paddling and felt a wave of comfort as I remembered the feeling of Amy kayaking off my shoulder during training swims during this and prior years. I had a feeling that this kayaker was Louise Adie, a good friend who’s known me since I was a kid. I had no way of knowing for sure in the moment, since I didn’t take my head out of the water for more than a split second each stroke. I learned after the race that it was, indeed, Louise. Magical. 

I was happy to head north again at the turnaround buoy. The calm conditions meant that I wouldn’t enjoy a massive tailwind on the way back, but that was okay. I encountered a few pods of swimmers going my pace on the return leg. I was reminded of swimming with Shane Eversfield during his Total Immersion classes. I really enjoy the feeling of swimming side-by-side with other swimmers. Safety in numbers, I guess? Soon I was out of the water on the beach, high-stepping my knees to get my legs moving.

My parents shot a great video of me coming out of the water, too! 


I stripped off my wetsuit after finding my bike at the end of row 11, on the left. I’ve learned in past triathlons to memorize where my bike is! I had some trouble stopping my watch in transition. It was still recording my swim, so stopping it and starting the bike leg took some doing. This was my first time using an Apple Watch in a triathlon. It recorded the actual swim with some precision, though, so that was happy news. 

I was jealous of the feature that athletes with Garmin watches enjoy: simply hitting a button as they transition. My friend Jia was showing me that after the race. 

I managed a quick transition nonetheless and headed out on the bike course. I focused on keeping my breathing smooth and measured. I knew I didn’t want to have a dry cough for the performance of Chitty at 3p. It’s hard to sing when you’re coughing! 

I passed the Knapp family cheering squad as I crested the last of the rises out of the park. They’re always energetic and fellow frequent hikers (and photographers) in the park. It was a beautiful morning for a ride and I found myself smiling a lot as I looked at views of the lake. I bombed down the hill into Sheldrake. Apparently it had recently rained there, but it hadn’t at the park. I thought that was interesting and watched my speed as I shallowed out on the curve into the “Sheldrake Sprint.” The neighborhood’s residents were out in force again, cheering with their cowbells. The sprint was over all too soon and I found myself climbing back up to 89 for the return trip. I always feel exhilaration when I pass the police marking the road closure for the descent back into the park. Despite hitting my max speed of 39.1 mph on the descent, I got passed (quickly) by a younger intermediate racer on a very nice tri bike. I remarked to myself just how much money you could invest in this sport if you were really serious about it. He was really hauling, and I have no doubt a lot of it was training. A lot of it is bike, though, isn’t it? I crossed the grassy strip that marks the entrance to the park and headed to transition for the final run segment.


I managed a pretty fast run transition: swapped bike shoes for socks and running shoes, clipped on my running belt, threw on a hat, and traded my nice bike shades for my cheap-o (free) Cruzan Rum mirrored sunglasses (hey, they’re light, and fun!) While I ran side-by-side out of transition with another biker who had finished at the same time as me, I very quickly realized that his pace was a bit fast. I let him go and ran most of the 10K by myself. I drew a lot of energy from other runners on the out-and-back course. I’m so grateful that I get to run these trails as a normal routine, any month of the year. They’re so beautiful.

Airborne at the turnaround
Happy runner!

There were definitely parts of the run where I felt fatigued and ready to be done, but then I’d see someone I knew smiling or shouting encourage, or telling me to take another lap (thanks, Joel!) Then, just like that, it was over. 

Finish line smile!

Post-Race Thoughts

I felt pretty good about the race this year. Most of my training was on the bike, and really just a moderate amount of running. I enjoyed watching other runners finishing their races. Xander wrapped up his relay team’s performance and Amy finished her intermediate. Ray and Diana had spectated the bike course and come down to the finish area to say hello, too.

We grabbed a wrap from Wegmans and an Ithaca Beer and enjoyed our picnic lunch down by the lake shore. I had to be back uptown by 1 p.m. for my call time, so there wasn’t much time to linger. I indulged in a quick shave and a shower and headed to the school for my second big event of the day. More on that later, I promise! 

With Ray and Diana

Next year is the national championship for both the sprint and intermediate distances, which will be a HUGE deal. We’ve hosted the sprint national championship before (I think that was my first triathlon, actually), and it was really nice to have a carpeted walkway from the lake to the transition area. Many other people will get to come experience what Taughannock Falls State Park has to offer!

Cayuga Lake Olympic Triathlon: By the Numbers

4/12 age group M45-49
22/98 male
25/146 overall

(2:07 per 100)
(19.55 avg mph)
(7:42 per mile)
(2:19 per 100)
(19.74 avg mph)
(7:25 per mile)
(2:24 per 100)
(19.47 avg mph)
(8:00 per mile)
(2:06 per 100)
(19.5 avg mph)
(8:17 per mile)
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