Course Preview: Kill Creek

This one goes out to all the WinforKC first-timers who signed up for the 2009 Olathe Women's Triathlon. The short version: Get yourself out there and go over the course. It's very different from the WINforKC course.

In a word: Hills.

Now, about hills. Hills are relative to your fitness. What looks like a hard hill to me may be nothing but a gentle roller to you. So go see for yourself! The swim beach is open on Monday nights (though I'm not sure about Labor Day), and the run and bike courses are open whenever the park is.

Here's my preview from yesterday's brick on this fun, pretty, exhilarating course.

The Swim
The beach has deep, loose sand, and the water drops very quickly to chest-level. Don't get freaked out when you stroke through a handful of seaweed. It's pretty thick near the shore. There's a fence around the beach area, so I assume we'll be funneled through the gate into the parking lot for transition.

A quick poll of other women (and our stopwatches) agreed that the swim course as marked feels longer than 500 meters. It feels a good bit longer than the WinforKC course.

Water temperature was great, a little cool for standing in, but who wants to stand when you can swim! We are going to have some lows in the 50s next week, so now is a good time to start mentally embracing the cold with joy and vigor. (I figure I can do that more easily than get used to a wetsuit.)

Finally, be aware that the second leg of the triangle, we will be swimming into the morning sun. If your goggles aren't tinted, that might be a good $14 investment. Next Monday and at race morning warmup, I plan to tread and hang out by buoy #1 to get some landmarks in mind.

The Bike
Did I mention hills? The first hill happens as soon as you get on the bike, and it's a lovely piece of ground: a concave hill on a horseshoe bend with a short stretch of 17% grade.

Take a look at the first half mile:

I have to say, that's going to be painful for me, and I expect to find my low gears. But as you know, I love hills, especially the ones I think might beat me, so I say Bring It.

I'd give you a first-hand account of that hill, but I didn't remember the map correctly and went the other direction out of the parking lot. Went up a gentler hill that I thought was a tough warmup. So I am planning to go out and see what the real hill does to me. Heck, I was planning to ride hill repeats on Thursday anyway — guess I can just ride the loop inside the park and do the big hill a few times.

Anyway, once you're up and over that hill, 75% of your work will be going up and down smaller but persistent rolling hills. Don't wait for them to stop so you can drink your water easily. They don't stop for a long time. Drink your water. When you're headed south, there's a beautiful flat stretch where you can go onto the big chain ring and hammer. And then back to rollers.

Important Safety Tip: These are rural roads and the drivers do NOT seem inclined to grant a lot of space. They were swiping CLOSE. So when you go out to practice, use a mirror or look back often; stay to the right; don't double up or pass without making sure the road is clear. If you're there in the evening, a light on your bike is a good idea — these roads are dark when the sun gets low.

Race Day Tip: Don't coast downhill even if you're tempted (I'm preaching to myself here, too). Keep your legs spinning to work out the lactic acid. You do not want to be on tired legs when you go north up Homestead (it's a long uphill grade) or on the run.

The Run
Ha! You thought you were done with the hills! Ha ha! Whoo. No.

The run path starts on an uphill. Not anywhere near as steep, but it has the same trick of the Dam Hill at Shawnee Mission Park: you think it's going to end, and it just keeps going up. Be ready for it and up and over you go!

Then there is a long downhill and a winding flat that takes you through gorgeous, storybook woods and fields. Also some bugs — dragonflies and a few stray bees and whatnot. It's nature. When I was a kid on car trips I would see places like this and always just ached to be out of the car and running away through them. By this time on the run, I should be so high on adrenaline and endorphins that I may actually believe I am seven years old and running through a magic forest.

Loop back. Remember that long downhill? Go back up. You can do it; it's more gentle than you thought on the way down. There is one little flat side loop, then a final hill. No tricks this time; when you finish climbing what you can see, you really are done with the hill and you get to FLY downhill, down the street, to the finish.

Who Will Be At the Finish
A lot of very happy looking triathletes! This is not a beginner's field like WinforKC, so you'll see pros and elites, lots of extremely dedicated and highly trained women (they were out there, gracefully slipping into their wetsuits, on Monday). You will also see beginners and newbies like us, and women who are where we'll soon be, in season two or three of being hooked on triathlon. You'll see lots of groups of women who went into this together or who met while training — and those of us who made new friends this way will see each others' friendly, cheering faces!

If you see me on race day, say hello — and if you see me fighting up that hill between now and then, give me a big "Hell yeah!"