Friday, August 15, 2014

A triathlon! It was about time

Over two years ago I started running with a local triathlon group. One of my closest running buddies was a member and convinced me to check out some of the workouts. I was convinced that no way would I actually ever do a triathlon. I was delusional.

Of course I would do a triathlon. 

After learning to swim, buying a bike, and slowing getting more comfortable with the idea, I did register for a triathlon last year. Unfortunately, it was canceled due to thunderstorms and my bucket list item was put on the back burner. 

All my confidence going into that race pretty much disappeared through the winter. I didn't even get into the pool for 4 months. And by the time I did, my swimming endurance had suffered considerably, although I thankfully hadn't completely lost my form. Several swim workouts later, I was gaining back some confidence. But I still didn't sign up for another triathlon. I spectated a local race with some teammates and that started to get me excited. I spent a lot of time on my bike, doing the Saturday group rides, and I felt my strength increasing in that discipline considerably. My run speed was mostly holding on through the heat of the summer. 

I sucked it up and signed up for the same Georgetown race that was canceled last year, scheduled for September 21. And then the next day, I signed up for the shorter Bucket List Triathlon in August in College Station. And when I say short, I mean short....a 200 meter pool swim, an 8 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. I was still a nervous wreck, but it seemed like the perfect first triathlon for me.

I felt like I had a swimming breakthrough three days before the race. I decided to time my 200 meter swims, and was pleasantly surprised by what I was seeing. I still had trouble completing the 8 lengths without a short break, but I was swimming them under 5 minutes. It's not fast, but it was good for me. I felt a million times better going into race day.


I arrived at the College Station Middle School well in advance of transition opening - I wanted a good spot for my bike! I set up transition, talked to several other racers, and found my teammate Joe. I scoped out the timing mats, and planned my strategy. I wanted to race well. I wanted to place in my age group. Even though it was my first triathlon I couldn't turn off my competitive side. Joe and I warmed up for 4 lengths in the pool and my nerves were calmed. Greg showed up with the kiddos about 45 minutes before the race started and everything was ready.

I was definitely nervous as we lined up around the pool, but I calmed quite a bit as I watched the faster swimmers in the pool. I was number 74, so it would be several minutes before I started the race. Watching the other swimmers made me feel a bit better. By the time I hit the water, my nerves were gone. I just swam! And I felt good during the swim. Whenever I felt like I was breathing poorly, I switched from bilateral breathing to unilateral and my form improved. I had sloppy lane changes but I knew that I could improve upon that for the next triathlon. Before I knew it I was on my last length of the pool and I just flew through the water to finish up. Running out of the natatorium towards transition was the best feeling I've had in awhile!

It was a very long run from the pool to my bike, but switching out my gear didn't take too long. After going over the timing mat out of transition, we couldn't mount our bikes right away, so it was a little frustrating to be running in my cycling shoes and not riding (probably my only complaint from the race). As soon as I could get on my bike, however, I just went all out.

The weather was pretty bad. Humidity in excess of 90% and the temp was over 80 degrees. I had taken a hit on my inhaler, but I was breathing heavy right away on the bike. I got up to about 20 miles per hour and tried to hold it for as long as I could. Although the course is a fast one, the downhills are too short to gain a considerable amount of speed. I think my speed topped out around 25 mph. But I tried to hold on as best as I could and did find myself passing several people. Going all out for 8 miles is a lot more difficult than I expected it to be, but I'm hoping the thick air had something to do with that. The most surprising part about my bike split was that I didn't get passed by anyone.

Seeing the middle school parking lot after my last turn put a huge smile on my face. I was almost done with the second discipline and about to start my run, which I assumed would be my best split. I switched out my shoes and head gear as quickly as I could in transition and sprinted out to start the 2 mile run.

As soon as I started the run, however, I realized that this measly 2 miles was going to be anything but easy for me. It was hot. It was humid. And it made my legs feel dead. I was breathing heavy and just couldn't build up a very good pace. I had hoped to be no slower than 8 minute pace on the run, but I was struggling to run faster than 9 minute pace. I just kept telling myself that I'd be done soon and to just hang in there and do my best.

Thankfully that 2 mile run went by quickly and I was soon heading onto the track at the middle school for the finish. I could hear my family cheering me on and I saw Joe and DeDe (my neighbor) by the finish. I tried to pick up my pace, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't moving any faster. As soon as I crossed that finish line, I just about threw up, and then decided laying down was the best remedy. But despite how horrible I felt, I was the happiest I've been in a very long time.


Although I definitely raced this triathlon and I wanted to be a true competitor, I still didn't think I could've won my age group. Masters women are a tough bunch to beat, and although I think I had done well, would it be enough?


However, I do have to note that 2 out of the 3 women in the top results were in my age group. Because of that, they were awarded overall medals, while I was able to claim the top spot in my age group. There's something to be said about Masters women - all three top spots were claimed by women over 40! It's pretty awesome!

And my teammate Joe claimed the top spot in his age group as well - not too shabby for a guy who broke his hip in March. Neighbor DeDe won her age group, too. Great day for my friends!

The final stats from my first triathlon - 119 women, 71 men, 190 overall finishers
Swim - 200 meters - 4:43 (2:21/100m)
T1 - 2:01 (fastest woman and 5th fastest overall)
Bike - 8 miles - 24:40 (19.4mph)
T2 - 24sec (SAY WHAT??)
Run - 2 miles - 17:09 (8:34/mi)
Total - 49:00 - 1/23 AG, 7/119 women, 17/190 overall

Yeah....this makes me happy.

Now, if I can maintain those paces for the Georgetown race next month (about twice the distance), I'll be REALLY happy! I don't expect to, but I'll do my best and try my hardest!

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