Monday, June 9, 2008

My first triathlon

As usual, we got out of the house too late. A huge storm was blowing through the area and we had laid all night listening to the thunder. I didn't think the would run the event.

Well, my event was held but the Girl's Olympic distance event was cancelled or, rather, reduced to a sprint. However, it was still held as two separate events, which felt a little odd. I think they felt they had bought all the awards so they may as well use they, plus they were probably worried that some people would get mad.

The evening before, the organizers had talked about doing a run-bike-run if there was any lightning. I was semi-hoping that would be the case, as I imagined I would probably be in a good position to win the race. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been a triathlon; it would have been a duathlon, which is a whole other ball of wax.

Getting ready for a tri is not easy. I get flustered before road races, not knowing where to stash my warm-up clothes etc. Yesterday, we suddenly had to worry about what went into the transition area, while quickly getting dressed for the swim. For me, that was essentially putting on my running shorts, swim cap, goggles and ear plugs). The Girl had to get into her wet suit in less than five minutes. She howled and screamed while doing jumping jacks to get into the suit and finally made it:

But what's wrong with this picture? The wet suit was inside out. Now, the Girl had to scramble to get ready and both myself and mother-in-law (who was there watching the Lorax) had to help her get into the suit. The Girl was in the second wave and had to make her way through all the later waves down to the beach. It was a little comedic but also quite stressful.

The Girl was off and there I was, in the next wave. My wave consisted of the "young male" age groups, probably all the way up tp 35 years. The water had been cold the other day when we practiced but it felt warm yesterday. I suspect I was simply so pumped I didn't feel how cold it was.

Most of the other guys were wearing wet suits. I was the only person in running shorts, which was a little embarrasing. Everyone warmed up a little; I did a few stroked and felt good, like I probably could manage a crawl the whole way. I found a spot near the back before the gun went. I probably managed less than 50 yards before I found myself gasping for breath in a panic. I switched to breast stroke, which felt ok. At this point, I was in last place. The guy right on front of me was morbidly obese and seemed to know the people from the local tri club. I got the distinct feeling that he was a guy who was in the process of changing his life around, probably wrestling with his first endurance event of many to come. But my nearest competition he was and he also quickly converted to breast stroke. We looked each other in the eye as I was passing him, like "what the heck are we doing out here?". I later saw him finist last during the award ceremony under a hearty applause.

I would crawl a little, then get overwhelmed and go back to breast stroke. A guy in a kayak was sitting there quietly, looking at me struggle to move forward in the water. I could tell that he felt that I may be someone in need of help, based on my quick shifting between strokes and my running shorts. I moved by him, inch by inch. Just after I passed the halfway point, the fast swimmers from the following wave started passing me. They must have felt pretty good in their skin, effortlessly gliding past us strugglers. And I say "us", because at this point I was actually gaining on a few people from my wave. One guy was breast stroking and one was side stroking; both looked more than a little overwhelmed. I would gain on them every time I did a crawl effort and eventually passed both of them.

But there, ahead of me, was the boat landing where I would go from being a drowning cat to a competitive athlete. Closer and closer it came and, finally, I was out of the water. I got the 107th fastest swim time out of 180. I am amazed that so many people were slower than me but this includes, of course, men and woman all age groups.

Oh, how it felt great to be out of the water. One guy who had just passed me from the other wave was walking up to the transition zone as were several people from my wave. I started sprinting up the hill into the transition zone. Got into my cycling shoes as fast as I could. I couldn't get my shirt on because I was wet so I just pulled it over my head and slipped it on as I was on the bike. My transition time was the fourth fastest of the entire field! Of course, a lot of people had wetsuits on, which slowed them down.

The first part of the bike course had some good tight turns. I decided to go all out and took the turns with my hands in the drops, leaning in. I think I passed 20 people in the tight turns alone. Biking felt really cool. It was raining hard; I would lean deep into the tribar, head between my arms. I had started to pass some of the women in the Girl's wave, so I figured she wouldn't be far ahead. And there she was, looking strong. We talked a little before I took off. Overall, the bike section was the most fun. I passed people continuously for 17 miles straight, feeling great. Two guys passed me. They must have been from waves behind me and, I suspect, battling for the win. One guy had a plate wheel on the back; he looked very cool.

I got 8th on the bike. I had thought it would be a little higher but 8th it was. Some of those tri people can bike, I guess.

Then it was off to running. Ahh, my specialty! But no, the legs felt like think logs. I waddled out of the transition area and quickly noticed that I was not the only one with a waddle. The run went by so quickly I don't remember much from it. At about half way, the legs woke up and felt really good. I passed people throughout the run. There was an out-and-back section, where I saw a couple of guys who ended up placing in the top three. I knew that the course was too short for me to catch them. Oh well. The last half mile, I sprinted like a maniac and got some good wows from the spectators. Thankfully, I got the fastest run out of the field at 17:50. Weirdly, it felt much slower, especially in the beginning.

I jogged back to see the Girl come in. She was running like a dervish, passing people left and right. Her run and bike had gone okay but the run was her territory. She, unbelievably, PRd in the 5K with a 21:35. A lot of the top men would have been happy with that time. My lady is fast as hell these days. She is probably ready to get way below 20 minutes for the 5K.

Overall, I took 6th and won my age group. But, ok, 3 of the 5 guys in front of me were in older age groups. 5th place was three minutes ahead of me.

The Girl took 11th and 2nd in her age group.

If we want to do better, we have to learn how to swim better. Well, actually, the Girl swam okay. She beat my time by over 30 seconds but it still wasn't fast enough to be competitive. But the swim isn't enough. We both need to bike faster, too. I would only have taken third, even without the swim part. The winner beat my bike time by 6 minutes and I only beat his running time by one minute. So even in a run-bike-run I would only have gotten second.

Triathlons are a lot of fun. We have both gotten the bug pretty badly and are talking about joining a tri club. Yesterday, I thought about the half marathon I won a month ago. I didn't have any fun that day. It hurt like hell to beat that college kid in a sprint and I couldn't walk the next day. Today, I feel great. This triathlon will definitely not be my last.

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