My Sasamat Lake mini-triathlon

Last week I did a new workout that inspired me to create a new goal for myself: this summer I’m going to complete my own personal Sasamat Lake mini-triathlon!

Sasamat Lake 9 a.m. in July

Sasamat Lake looked deserted when I arrived there this morning (a Monday) at 9 a.m.

My workout was simple: I rode my mountain bike from my apartment in downtown Port Moody up to Sasamat Lake. I cycled to the far end of the park past Parking Lot F and down to the north beach. It was a tough 23-minute ride with 260 feet of climbing to the highest point near the park entrance, followed by a drop of 145 feet down to the beach. Though it had been cloudy and cool when I started, my uphill ride got me sweating and warm. In addition, a welcome sun was coming out over the beach as I took off my cycling shorts and t-shirt. I hastily pulled on my bathing cap and goggles and plunged into the water. I swam for 10 minutes (that’s about the longest I can swim without hypothermia setting in, sans wetsuit).

20 minutes later, as I was preparing to ride back, I saw a triathlete finishing his swim.

20 minutes later, as I was preparing to ride back, I saw a triathlete finishing his swim.

I put my cycling clothes back on as quickly as I could and headed along the path to the other beach. After that I negotiated a steep uphill to get back up from the beach and to the park entrance. Good! I was breathing hard and my wet bathing suit was refreshing rather than chilling.

family playing at Sasamat Lake

As I rode away, I could tell the beach would soon be busy.

After that it was mostly an easy downhill ride. Glancing at my Garmin from time to time, I tried to set a new downhill record on the steep part without crashing. I was back home in 20 minutes.


My mini-triathlon is going to be a laughable athletic event compared to the exploits of my many Ironmen (and women) friends. However, it fits perfectly with my philosophy of setting healthy goals that can be achieved through a reasonable and consistent amount of training. I don’t believe more is always better. As I’ve written about in other posts, I think training for marathons or Ironman-distance triathlons can injure many people. Also, the time commitment required can lead to relationship or work conflicts and an unbalanced life.

I’ve already written posts about 20-minute workouts. What about a mini-triathlon consisting of 20-minute segments for each sport? My mini-triathlon will be challenging, fun, and exhilarating, I promise!

My triathlon plan

Start/Finish: The bike path near the intersection of Murray St. and Klahanie St. E.

1) Cycle as hard as I can up to Sasamat Lake and down to the north beach. Estimated time: 22 minutes.
2) Lock my bike at the beach or have a friend watch it and my backpack. Run around the lake (a 3K trail that is undulating in sections). Estimated time: 18 minutes.
3) Swim for 10 minutes (without wetsuit) or 20 minutes (with wetsuit).
4) Cycle back to the finish. Estimated time: 18 minutes.

My mini-triathlon should take me about 1hr20 without a wetsuit (including transitions) or 1hr40 with a wetsuit (longer swim and longer transitions).

Advantages of setting up my own triathlon

I can accommodate my limitations and goals:

• My main limitation is my arthritic knee. I haven’t considered competing in real triathlons, because, ironically, running is my weak sport now. I can only run about 6K once or twice a week, and running on pavement is especially damaging to my knee.

• I don’t want to have to buy a road bike to be competitive in the cycling portion of the race.

• I can choose to do a very short swim so I don’t have to transport my wetsuit. Also, without help, I’m very slow getting into my wetsuit and I don’t want to chop up my endurance workout with long transition times.

• I want to get in a quick, convenient, safe workout. By starting from my apartment, I waste no time and I don’t use my car. I choose my time carefully for maximum safety: I ride up to Sasamat around 8:30 in the morning, when there are few cars on the winding roads. I take bike paths and minor roads wherever possible.

• I have fun and get to be outside in a stunningly beautiful place!

My mini-triathlon will be enough of a challenge for me, I know. It gives me a goal to train for, and after I do it I’ll have a new PR to try and beat.


A runner learns to love swimming (sometimes)

Sometimes I miss being able to run swiftly, gracefully, almost effortlessly, with a body whose parts all function smoothly. It was as a runner that I learned to be fully in my body and appreciate its power. It was as a runner that I knew the joy of hard breathing, of mind demanding and body delivering.

I’m a land animal, not a water animal. Water is a foreign hostile place for me, mainly because I can only stay warm in tropical-temperature waters. I never learned good swimming strokes because swimming lessons were times when I could be conscious of little more than my miserable shivering.

Yet constant running injuries meant that swimming was always a part of my training regime. I’ve always barely tolerated pools, though: I hate the boredom of repeated lengths, the smell of chemicals, but above all the uncomfortable temperature that makes almost every pool workout unpleasant for me.

Swimming in lakes is different.

At Sasamat Lake I can get the same immersion in my body’s sensations that running gives me, but in a different way. In fact, swimming is an even greater sensory shock than running is, because it’s a plunge into a totally new environment.

On a hot summer day, it’s a wrenching, welcoming shock to rush into the lake.

Cold. Pain. Sprint-swimming so as not to freeze. Ahhhh…not cold anymore…hot body relief, delight, coming back to life. Awake! Pull hard. All shoulders and arms and lungs. Breathing rhymically, yeah, that’s the only thing that’s like running, with swimming it’s even deeper and I’m very conscious of the exhale, blowing out underwater so I’m ready for the next breath. Rolling with my breath. With each roll loving the tilt of the water’s surface, seeing all at once sun glare/sky/water/land and my body in the exact centre of it all.

About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
This entry was posted in Cycling, Injuries and Getting Older, Personal stories, Seasons, Training Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to My Sasamat Lake mini-triathlon

  1. Caroline crabtree says:

    Nancy, once again we are in sync. I have taken up swimming and find it replaces running for me as well. I look forward to the summer and swimming in the lake at the cottage. Way better than the YMCA pool I use all year.

  2. Caroline, I’m so lucky that I can get to Sasamat Lake in 15 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bike. I go almost every day in the summer!

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