First Time to Tri: Musselman Triathlon Mini Mussel Edition



Name of the raceMusselman Triathlon: Mini-Mussel Sprint

Where: Geneva, NY

Date: July 12, 2014

Time: 9:00 am

Distance: Sprint (750 meters swim, 16.1 miles cycle, 5K run)

Terrain: Swim was into a channel connecting Seneca Lake to Seneca River (calm), bike course had small rolling hills, and run course was flat

Entry fee: $70

Swag: Cotton t-shirt, full bottle of shampoo and conditioner, and refillable water bottle. In addition all novice triathletes received a finisher’s medal and a bottle of wine.

Post-race Food: Lots of fresh fruit from Red Jacket Orchard (cherries, apricots, bananas, plums, etc), bagels, nut butters, cream cheese, ice cream, cookies, juices from Red Jacket Orchard, lots of samples from Wegman’s (after the Half Ironman distance, a hot meal of pulled porked/BBQ chicken/vegetarian option, red cabbage salad, and pasta salad and drink were served).

Time: 2:32:00 (Swim: 30:18; T1: 5:07; Bike: 1:25:20; T2: 2:32; Run: 28:43

Performance: Overall 787/797; Gender 392/399; Age Group (35-39) 57/58

Weather: Water: 72 degrees, 74 degrees with 69% humidity


I’m so proud. Ben is a little mortified by my performance, but I DON’T CARE (love you, honey, but sorry, I’m not sorry). If you’re a little surprised that I completed a triathlon and wondered where you missed my posts about my triathlon training, you didn’t miss any of those posts. Because I didn’t train at all.

Nada. Zip.

I did the equivalent of walking a 5K in terms of doing this tri. Meaning that I went in with the simple goal of finishing the tri, but not racing it.

I know there are people who take triathlons (and races) very seriously and think that anything less than 100% effort is being disrespectful and would be/are outraged by a lacksadaisical approach to the tri. Well, I’m not one of them. Ben has wanted me to do Musselman for a couple of years now and I did it for him. I knew the distance was short enough and I was in good enough cardio condition to complete the sprint tri without doing anything special. I suppose if I cared even a little bit, I would have done some swimming and cycling, but I couldn’t be bothered. I wanted to just finish and have a good time, albeit not a good race time.

Musselman is a bit of a tradition for us. Ben has been going to the last several years. I went with him two years ago, but I didn’t go last year because I was in Iceland on my way to Russia. Musselman takes place in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York in a little town called Geneva. Jeff Henderson, the race director, created Musselman, and the entire event reflects his love and effort (and those of the volunteers and sponsors as well). It’s an entire weekend of festivities.

In PJs

In PJs

Friday night there are two different triathlons for children (junior 6-10 years and senior 11-14 years) and the micro-Mussel, which is a super sprint (100 yards swim, .6 bike, and .2 run). In the micro-Mussel, there are two waves. The normal wave and the Tricycle wave, where people wear costumes and complete the bike course on a tricycle or a Big Wheels bike. We always make sure that we arrive in time for the tricycle wave. It’s hilarious watching people in costumes trying to ride a tricycle or a Big Wheel. People get quite creative in figuring out how to move forward in the least awkward manner.

Saturday was the sprint tri. Ben and I both did the sprint. Usually Ben does the Double Mussel (sprint and the half), but he decided to take it easy this year. Because of the relaxed late start, the bike set up happens in the morning. Ben kindly gave me his wetsuit to swim in and he went without. He was off in the first wave. Usually I try to see Ben start, but since I was doing the sprint myself, I was busy thinking about my own swim. I was in the 4th wave. I hadn’t swam in two years. When it was my wave’s turn to start, I stayed in the back to avoid being kicked and hit by other swimmers and slowly swam.

And boy, did I swim slowly. The fastest swimmers finish in less than 10 minutes. The bulk of the swimmers finish in about 20 minutes. It took me just over 30 minutes. Amazingly, I wasn’t the slowest swimmer. A few other people took longer than I did. I think I took the distinction of being the only swimmer to complete the swim using the backstroke exclusively. I hate swimming. If I have to be in the water, I’ll pretty much backstroke the entire time.

The bike course is through the picturesque countryside with rolling hills. Just about every minute of the ride is worthy of a Kodak moment. Green fields, red country barns, white farmhouses, animals peacefully grazing, and lush crops growing. I wished several times that I had a camera with me. I did the bike course on my hybrid (which horrified Ben, I don’t know why, I’m the one who rode it, not him). Because Musselman is a very beginner friendly course, there were several other people who also had hybrids and mountain bikes. I biked slowly because I was tired from swimming. There were a few moments where I tried to cycle faster, but it just hurt and made me sad, so I slowed down and became happy again. I don’t like cycling all that much because it hurts after a while. I think I must have looked really sad to some other cyclists because I got a lot of “You’re doing great. Keep it up!” from them as they pasted me. I’m a pretty decent runner, so I don’t get to experience what it’s like to be a back-of-the-packer in road races, but I was definitely getting my fair share of back-of-the-packer experience at Musselman! When I heard a spectator cheering, “You’re out here doing it!” that’s when I knew I REALLY must be in the back. The types of cheers you get as a racer depends upon where you are in the field.

When I finally finished the bike course, I saw that several people were done and were taking their bikes out of transition. I still had to run! I got a bit depressed, but I knew that in less than a half hour, I too would be done. That’s the beauty of a sprint tri, all the sections are relatively short (although I still think the swim is 750 meters too long). I never ran right after cycling, but let me tell you that I’ll never forget how strange it feels to run after you’ve been sitting in a saddle for more than an hour. One, everything hurts. Two, you’re really tired. I decided to trot along as fast as I could without killing myself. I settled into a nice 9-min-ish pace. I quickly caught up to and passed some racers. It was a nice feeling to pass some people after getting passed so much on the bike course. The run course was a simple out and back course along the lake. Ben found me with about a half mile left. He ran next to me encouraging me.

I was so thankful to be crossing the line. It was finally over! I survived.

Musselman was especially poignant this year because of the tragic deaths of Michael Coyle and Lanlin Zhang from last year. Both of them passed away from cycling accidents in the sprint and half, respectively. Their families came out this year to honor their memories by completing the triathlons wearing their numbers so that their numbers would cross the finish line this year. We had a few minutes of silence to remember them before each race. A ghost bike and flowers were placed at the scene of their accident. The family member who wore Coyle’s and Zhang’s numbers was loudly announced, cheered, and celebrated as they crossed the finish line.

After the race, there’s plenty of food thanks to the generous sponsorship of Red Jacket Orchards and Wegman’s. I love Red Jacket Orchards and Wegman’s. I wish we had a Wegman’s in NYC. It’s better than Whole Foods. Red Jacket Orchards is a local orchard and juice company that supplies much of the fresh fruit (and juices) for Whole Foods in the East Coast. The freshness and the deliciousness of their fruit is fantastic, but their juices are PHENOMENAL. I don’t like apple juice, but I ADORE their cold press Fuji apple juice. It tastes like the juice just ran off a freshly bitten apple. It has a flavor unlike any other apple juice. We’re also big fans of their strawberry apple juice. One of the best things about being in Musselman is that your bib is good for 20% off their store. After our race, we went to their store to buy fruit and bottles of juice.

medalWe ate our fill and relaxed. As a novice triathlete, Musselman gave me a finisher’s medal and a bottle of wine. Each (formerly) novice triathlete got to stand on the podium while being given their award. I was really happy and proud of myself for finishing (maybe I should be so proud of having a low goal, but when I was in the middle of the swim, I was wondering). Celebrating the completion of one’s first triathlon like this was a lovely touch.

In the afternoon, Ben and I went to downtown where the Mussel Mural was. Each year racers can paint on the mural. Usually people just pain their names, but sometimes people paint small pictures or write short sweet messages. Two years ago, I painted our nicknames on the mural along with the year. We found our names and I added this year and a small picture of a ring to commemorate our engagement.

Benny + Bunny Our nicknames for each other

Benny + Bunny
Our nicknames for each other

In the evening we went to Red Jacket Orchard for fruit and juice and then to Wegman’s for dinner. On the way back to the hotel, we found Gifford’s, an ice cream stand right next to the Ramada that sold WINE ice cream. Seriously. It had 5% alcohol. I got a “small” serving of chocolate Cabernet; the serving size was quite generous. The ice cream was very delicious. I love the taste of chocolate and red wine.

Chocolate Cabernet at Gifford's

Chocolate Cabernet at Gifford’s

Sunday, we spectated the Half Ironman distance. We watched the swim and the bike portions. We couldn’t stay for everything because we had to head back home. I wanted to see the World Cup final game, but we wouldn’t make it home in time. Using Yelp, we found a random bar in Throop, PA to watch the final between Germany and Argentina. We weren’t the only ones because a bunch of other people driving from upstate NY to NYC also came in for the exact same reason. It was funny how on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, the only people in that bar where NYers who found it using Yelp.

If you’re interested in trying a tri, I absolutely recommend doing Musselman. It’s very friendly, has loads of character (including a little stuffed Mussel as a mascot), and very novice friendly. Even though triathlons aren’t my thing, I had lots of fun. It’s even fun being a spectator for Musselman because of all the events they have. If you want to relive your college dorm days, you can say at Hobart & William Smith College’s dorm with all the other athletes. Ben has done that in some years and he loved meeting so many different people.

13 thoughts on “First Time to Tri: Musselman Triathlon Mini Mussel Edition

  1. This post made me smile and laugh so many times. “There were a few moments where I tried to cycle faster, but it just hurt and made me sad, so I slowed down and became happy again.” LOVE that. Totally me on a bike. I love your attitude about training, the race and finishing in the back of the back. People who are offended by those of us who just want to have fun from time to time probably take life way too seriously. Sometimes it’s all about racing hard. And sometimes it’s all about the experience. Congrats on your first tri!

    • Aw, thanks. My next tri is the NYC Tri in Aug. Ben is getting me a road bike so I can go faster and spend less time in the saddle. My goal is simply to beat my younger sister’s Oly tri time, so I’m being slightly more ambitious. I had fun, but I can’t imagine getting more serious about it. Unfortunately I hate swimming too much.

  2. I’m back and forth on wanting to try a tri. It’s always the swim that gets me.
    CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING! And you didn’t even train? I love that! Whatever, Ben. You are AWESOME.

    • Oh, yeah, the swim portion kills me too. I wish there were more non-traditional tris, where the swim portion is replaced with kayaking or something like that.

      Sprints are short enough that even I can suffer thru a swim. There are sprints with even shorter swims, so maybe you can look into those.

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