28-29 June 2014. Mark your calendars for next year’s triathlon in Susz!
For the second year in a row, the Susz triathlon was the debut race of several members of WITC, after over a dozen completed their first triathlon in Susz in 2012 (20+ total).
This year WITC had one member in the 1/2 IM (Mark G.), two in the Aquathlon (Ela and Vegard), and 10 in the Sprint (Joanna R, Justyna, Dominika, Arek, Mark P, Steve, Martins, Hans, Igors, and Tristan).
After the 4-5 hour drive from Warsaw, most of the group stayed at Pałac Bałoszyce, about 5 km from Susz, in tents on a grassy field. Since several racers decided only a few weeks before the race that they would compete, it was difficult to find accommodation for everyone, so the group decided to go rustic. The weather was good all weekend, keeping the tents and bodies dry and warm. Everyone managed to sleep through the mosquitoes and the wedding party going on inside the Pałac, which stayed true to Polish form by ending at 5 am. To everyone’s surprise, Martins didn’t end up joining the party (at least not that we know of).
There were a few changes in the event compared to 2012. The swim route turned left instead of right, and the run was a 5.75 km loop around the lake, rather than the 5 km out-and-back of the past. The Polish national championships were also held that weekend, which started after the general race on Sunday. This meant that the elite racers weren’t starting in our “open” group, making it a bit more competitive for all the amateurs. The pasta party the night before the race provided several types of pasta, in addition to traditional Polish favorites pierogi, gołąbki and bigos. We took advantage of the guilt-free carb-loading opportunity by shovelling down several bowls.
On Sunday morning everyone planned to cheer for Ela and Vegard in the aquathlon, but the start time changed at the last moment, and most spectators missed the start (at least most WITC spectators). Vegard nearly missed the start as well, entering the beach 5 minutes before 10 am, thinking the start was 10:30, as was communicated on all the posters and fliers. Luckily he got there just in time. Even without a warm up, he and Ela did great in the swim (750 m in the 15 minute range), then finished it up with runs that they both admitted “could use improvement”. Vegard showed sprinter’s speed in the last 100 m of the run, but gave everyone a scare when he collapsed at the finish line out of exhaustion. He was brought to the medical tent (carried probably by at least 80 strong men and a dozen oxen), where he was examined and released.
He ended up with two personal bests that day – total time in the aquathlon, and a heart rate of over 200. In the end, he was OK, and was able to make light of the situation. He is already looking forward to his next race, and working towards a triathlon. Mark witnessed the final burst of world-class speed and said it looked like “someone had jabbed Vegard with a red hot poker”.
Soon after, the sprinters took their spots at the starting line. Susz veterans Hans, Igors and Tristan gave final pointers to triathlon first-timers Steve, Mark P and Martins. The water was a warm 22 degrees, and the organizers suggested no wetsuits. Most of the competitors wore wetsuits, if for nothing than some added protection against the odd colored, smelly water. Hans mentioned that the water smelled “strange”, as it reeked of algae and sulfur, among other things. Steve was a little more direct saying “this is my first time swimming in a toilet”. After the starting gun, the adrenaline blocked out the smell for most of the competitors (except Igors who couldn’t stop gagging). Arms and legs were flying, everyone was pushing, pulling, and grabbing anything and everything. Those who were aware enough to swim away from the crowds had a more pleasant first few hundred meters, while others were caught in the chaos. In my “extensive” experience (3 races, if you can call that “extensive”), I’ve learned to relax as much as possible and to spend a bit of effort to move away from the crowds rather than try to join them or pass them. It allows me to relax in the swim, rather than stress about all the arms and legs that you have to swim through (which isn’t as easy as swimming through just water).
After the swim, the bike leg consisted of two 10-km laps, the same as in 2012. There was a small area of cobble stones and a couple sharp turns, but for the most part the ride was pleasant. There were several places around the route where locals gathered in front of their houses to cheer on the racers with an inspiring vigor, which provided a nice boost. Every time we passed by them, we wanted to put on our best effort. We just had to remember not to give any high-fives while on the bike.
The run leg was extremely pleasant, most people agreeing that it was more enjoyable as a loop around the lake, rather than an out-and-back. Even though it was 750 meters longer than the regular sprint run distance, the scenery around the lake more than made up for it. Statistics-wise, the only problem was that it added a few minutes to everyone’s time, over what the results would have been for a normal 5 km run.
In addition to the new routes, the race was also the debut of some new equipment. Igors got new running shoes at Ergo (with 10% member discount), which helped him to a very strong finish in the run, Mark P picked up some calf compression sleeves at the expo, which prevented cramping and kept his injured muscles in place, and Tristan wore his new bike shoes and SPD pedals after picking them up at new WITC-partner Kolarski (9-11% discount).
But not everyone had the best luck with their new gear. Hans got a new bike frame and fork, and spent a lot of time at the service tent before the race getting everything fixed (as he did last year as well). We think he saves all of his bike service needs for Susz, so he can get it all done there for free. Unfortunately, the guys at the tent said that they “didn’t recommend that he ride this bike in the race” because things weren’t fitting together properly. He was also unable to use his aero bars because of a missing bolt, and had to hold onto the gear shifter the whole time because of what could be considered faulty assembly. Martins’ also had some bike trouble, as the sprockets on his rear derailler broke (also known as the sprockets on Alan’s rear derailler since it was Alan’s bike). It happened when he first jumped on, and had to ride the entire race without being able to shift the rear gears.
Even with the bike troubles, Hans finished an impressive 7 minutes faster than his 2012 race, even though the run was 750 meters longer. Tristan and Igors also improved on their 2012 times, finishing second and third behind Arek, among WITC sprint finishers. Steve finished first among the first-timers, just behind Igors. Everyone else had great times and great efforts. Even with the “strange” water, the general consensus of the racers was that it was a great time. “Awesome” and “really fun” were common words to describe it afterwards. Dominika enjoyed the race, and said that she prefers even longer races, to give her a chance to find a rhythm. She also commented on the importance of starting in more than one race. “In Sieraków (1/4 IM) I went slow and easy, because I didn’t know how my body would react. The experience really helps.”
Asked about his first race, Steve replied “It was a lot of fun, but we need to work on our manners as a team. Igors passed me on the run, and he didn’t even say hi”. Igors argued that Steve should race in a WITC top to make it easier to see him. Well played sir.
Martins commented on his first triathlon experience: “Thanks to friends I was not stressing too much before the race, I just followed everybody. Swimming was scary, but I kept calm and in the end even felt something like a second breath, so it proved I actually am able to swim 750 meters.” Mark P added “I really couldn’t swim far before, which is embarrassing given I grew up in Australia and spent every day by the beach. The club training really helped”. As far as the finish, Martins beamed: “At the finish line I saw my friends cheering for me, I saw my time 1:50:00 and jumped from the joy. The next day I signed up for two more sprint triathlons this summer. I’m still wearing my wrist band from the Susz race and everyone smiles at me, thinking I am a teenager who had just been to some festival.” He isn’t the only one, as several WITCers still proudly show their race bands (Hans still has from 2012). Check out the video of Martins’ finish here.
Ewa, who didn’t race, but was busy running around taking pictures and cheering during the race, has some words of encouragement for WITC supporters. “Cheering and taking pictures was hard work, since there weren’t too many of us this time. I need more photographer teamates! I also prefer longer races to give me more time to move around; Sieraków was much easier”. I’d also like to suggest that we work on our finish-line celebrations to make for picture-perfect finishes, either giving high-fives to the spectators, running with “airplane wings” or performing a spectacular jump or back flip across the finish line. Please submit your ideas to the WITC Facebook page.
After the race, Hans chatted with the mayor of Susz, complimenting the city on the race, telling him how much he enjoys coming to Susz, and that we’ll be back again next year. Bringing the subject up on his own, the mayor acknowledged the water smell and offered that in 2 years the lake will be perfectly clean. I’m not sure what that means for next year, but we’ll soon find out.
So everyone get ready for 2014’s race; racers, supporters, and photographers alike. We’ll see you there.
You can view the club’s photo gallery here.
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