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First Adventure Triathlon
First Adventure Triathlon

First Adventure Triathlon

First Adventure Triathlon

Battle of Waterloo Adventure Triathlon
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After years of contemplation and many triathlons under my belt, I signed up for my first adventure triathlon “The Battle of Waterloo.” This “Epic” race takes places every other year at the Waterloo Recreation Area in Waterloo, Michigan. If you are looking for an awesome adventure in 2025, I recommend checking it out.

Triathlon vs. an Adventure Triathlon

For anyone new to triathlons, it is a sport consisting of swimming, biking and running, in that order. Just like in runs, bikes and swims there are also many different lengths to choose from when racing. The shortest race is called a super sprint and the longest regular triathlon is the “Ironman.”

Sprint Triathlon Awards
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An adventure triathlon still has swimming, biking, and running, however there are not just the traditional three legs. Instead of three, there are multiple legs of the race and they can come in any order. Sometimes in place of swimming there will be a paddle sport like kayaking or paddle boarding. Other times the traditional road biking is replaced with mountain bike or gravel grinding. If there is any type of race you are interested in trying, there is one out there for you.

First Adventure Triathlon Start Line
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Battle of Waterloo Overview

“The Battle of Waterloo” is an adventure triathlon put on by “Epic Races.” It consists of 10 legs totaling 42 miles: 1.4 mile run, 20.5 mile bike, 0.45 mile swim, 4 mile run, 0.25 mile swim, 3.4 mile run, 0.75 mile swim, 3.3 mile run, 5.8 mile bike, and 1.4 mile run.

Leg 1 – 1.4 Mile Run

The race started off with my favorite part of the triathlon; the run. The easy 1.4 mile trail run was through the Portage Lake Beach and Campground. Most of the participants really took it easy through this run and the participants began to spread out. At the transition, runners quickly changed shoes, grabbed their swim gear, and took off on their bikes.

Before my first adventure triathlon
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Leg 2 – 14.7 Mile Bike

Although the website for the “Battle of Waterloo” states that the first bike ride is 20.5 miles long, in 2023 the course was shortened to 14.7 miles. After previewing the course a week before the race, I wasn’t surprised when that they altered the course to avoid horrific roads. The new and shortened course was infinitely better for actually gaining speed. Until the roads are repaired in Jackson County, I don’t think they will return to the old course.

Leg 2 of the race was on smooth pavement with rolling hills. It was a great course to really let speed take over! At the transition zone on Clear Lake, there was a sweet drum corps cheering on the runners and lots of drinks and snacks to replenish participants before getting in the water.

Adventure Triathlon Transition Zone 1
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Leg 3 – 0.45 Swim

I was really looking forward to getting into the water at Clear Lake. After running and biking, I was really starting to heat up. To my surprise walking into the lake, it was not refreshing at all. With the water temperature in the 80s and the air temperature in the 60s, it felt like walking into a bath. Along with the warm water, the steam rising made it very difficult to spot the buoys on this first swim. Thank goodness it was just a straight swim across the lake.

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Leg 4 – 4 Mile Run

Coming out of the water and putting on my shoes, I was happy to be back to running. The helpful people in the transition zone sprayed me down with bug spray as I grabbed some gatorade and water. Leg 4 was the longest run and in my opinion the second hardest leg of the race. Most of this run went through the “Waterloo-Pinckney Trail” or along dirt roads. At this point, many of the runners were employing the ultramarathon strategy of walking the hills!

Leg 5 – 0.25 Mile Swim

Going into the race, this was the leg I was the most worried about but it really wasn’t that bad. It is very short and there are lots of people helping to guide you as you swam. The water in Mill Lake is very cool and clear. I was terrified of this leg because you have to swim through large lily pad patches and tall reed grasses. Despite my watch getting stuck on the stems on the lily pads, the plants didn’t bother me much since you could see around them as you swam.

Leg 6 – 3.4 Mile Run

Getting out of the water, I was super excited because I was halfway finished. Sliding back into my shoes, I grabbed some gatorade and turned my watch to run and went back out onto the trail. I was really confident at this point and in second place. When I looked down at my watch, it wasn’t recording. Messing with my watch, I didn’t keep my eyes on the trail and made a wrong turn. At the next intersection there weren’t any flags to signal my directions and I knew I had made a mistake. I ran back to my missed turn and continued on the trail. This cost me to spots and dropped me into 4th.

This leg of the race is definitely the flattest and easiest section. Don’t mess it up by not following the flags. It is also the section of the race where you will pass runners heading to Mill Lake as you approach Crooked Lake. If you are paying attention and watching the bright orange flags, you should have no problems! The course is very clear, but you have to be paying attention.

Leg 7 – 0.7 Mile Swim

Just before you get in the water at Crooked Lake, there are snacks and drinks at the Waterloo Headquarters. If you are feeling dehydrated be sure to grab something before you get in the water. It is a long way across the lake and you don’t want to get a cramp.
The water in Crooked Lake is warm and clear. In several spots the water is quite shallow and you could probably stand up if you needed to.

Swimming is probably my weakest area in the triathlon and I was dreading this leg. It wasn’t that bad though. The markers were spread out and the sun was high in the sky. As long as you swim straight and keep spotting, it is an easy swim. As you exit the beach on the far end, be careful of the sharp stones in the water. I got a few scrapes on the bottom of my feet here.

Longest swim in my first adventure triathlon
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Leg 8 – 3.3 Mile Run

You are almost done at this point, but the hardest is yet to come. Leaving Crooked Lake, you start the run up hill. At the top, you have a great view of the Gravel Pit you will run through if Green Road is still closed (it was in 2023). Running through the gravel pit felt a little bit like being on Mars.

From the bottom of the pit, you climb out and continue climbing up hill for at least another mile until you eventually reach “the Switchback.” The Switchback is the highest point on the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail and a great place to stop and have lunch if you are out for a hike. However, on a run it is an exhausting trek up hill. Be prepared for the hills. They are tough.

Coming down off the hill, you will exit the trail onto Clear Lake Road and return to your bike as the drum corps cheers you on.

Adventures Triathlon Transition Zone 2
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Leg 9 – 5.8 Mile Bike

At this point you are practically done. You are simply going to ride the familiar rolling hills of Seymour Road back to the Portage Lake Beach and Campground. The wind will feel amazing on your skin as you cool down from the run.

Adventure Triathlon Final Run
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Leg 10 – 1.4 Mile Run

This is for all the glory. After racking your bike back at the first transition area, you will repeat the first run of the day to finish at the start line! It is an incredible accomplishment. Hopefully you will have the best crew there to cheer you on at the finish line. Smile and take it all in!

First Adventure Triathlon Gear Management

The hardest part about this race compared to a traditional triathlon was the gear management. When you get on your bike at the beginning of leg 2, you will need all of your running, biking and swimming equipment for the rest of the race. Although you can leave your helmet and cycling shoes with your bike at the next transition area, you will still need running shoes, goggles, a swim cap, and for me sunglasses for the next 6 legs.

Practicing Transitions and Gear Management
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In preparation for the race, I tried multiple ways of carrying my equipment before I finally found what worked best for me. In the end, I ordered really light weight running water shoes. While cycling, I tucked my running shoes inside my shorts, wrapped my jersey over top and used a clip belt to hold them in place. My goggles and swim cap were tucked into the pockets on my cycling jersey and I made sure my clip belt help keep them in place too.

For the swim, I put my sunglasses inside one of my shoes and left my shoes tucked into my shorts and shirt with the belt. Remarkably everything stayed in place really well and didn’t have an effect on my swimming. If you are considering doing an adventure triathlon, I definitely recommend this method. My crew also said that this was the method of almost all of the top participants.

First Adventure Triathlon Training Recommendations

The best advice I can give when training for a race like this is to know the course. For this race, I wish I had done more hill training. Since running is generally my best area, I didn’t focus as much attention on the run as I did on the other legs in this race. I should have spent more times on the runs since they made up a majority of the race.

Practice transitions. As in all triathlons, transitions are a part of your over all time and they should be practiced. Also, as you transition from one activity to the next, you will be surprised by how your body feels. The first time I transitioned from a bike to a run, I was blown away by the strange feeling in my legs. The same thing happened the first time I ran and then swam this summer. Be sure to do some brick (stacked, back-to-back) workouts and practice your transitions.

Finally, remember to always have fun. If you aren’t enjoying the journey what is the point! I love racing, but I also love preparing for a race. It is tough, but it feels so good.

And finally, maybe leave your watch at home. You might place better!

Finishing my first adventure triathlon
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Other Adventure Triathlons to Explore

Since it will be a couple of years until the next “Battle of Waterloo,” check out some of the other amazing races out there. One of my favorite races for women is the “Trillium Women’s Only Triathlon” in Sylvania, Ohio. I am also interested in exploring more in the area of adventure triathlons and might check out “SOS Triathlon” in the Shawangunk Mountains in New York. Or maybe even the “Sea to Summit” in New Hampshire! There are so many options out there. I hope to explore some new races in 2024!

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Let me know if you are doing any new or great races! – Thanks for following our crazy adventures! ~KiteBikeVan

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