Sunday, July 5, 2009

Triathlon race report

This was my (our) third triathlon. I am beginning to learn about the different distances, especially how well suited to runners each distance is. Our first triathlon was at a sprint distance, which means comparatively little swimming comåared to running. And not only that, the bike route in that triathlon was very hilly, which tends to suit most runners. After two minutes in the swim, I thought I was about to drown and I was in second-to-last place. I breast-stroked the whole way. But then on the bike, I began catching people and on the run I really began cathcing people. I took 6th overall and the Girl did pretty well, too, as I recall.

Today's distance was the Olympic distance. The swimming is 1500m, almost 4 times that of a sprint tri. The running is only a 10K, compared to a 5K in the sprint tri. To compare, the swimming in a half ironman is only marginally longer but the running is a half marathon. So obviously the Olympic distance is rough on runners.

There were 70 people signed up, mostly from serious triathlon clubs. It was a little intimidating to see all the expensive time trial bikes with aero bars and plate wheels. The swimming is in the harbor of Næstved, where the river sort of widens before it flows into the ocean a few miles downstream. We got our wetsuits on and warmed up a little; the water was very nice and warm. It didn't taste salty so far upstream so no extra bouyancy to be had there.

The start went and people took off like orca whales. The Girl and I were near the very back of the field. After 30 seconds, I got a small panic attack. The suit felt too tight and I didn't feel like I could move my arms or breathe properly. I treaded water for a few seconds and got my act together. The first half of the swim went very well. I worked my way up the field slowly, passing a few people. Rounding the halfway buoy felt good. The next guy up was wearing a white swim cap and I figured I would pass him on the right, as I breathe to the left. I don't know what happened next but I must have lost my focus for a few minutes. The swimming felt good, my body was rhythmically rolling back and forth - until suddenly my hand slammed into concrete. I was 50 meters off course, looking up at a rusty steel and concrete dock. There was an aging Lithuanian vessel docked maybe 50 yards away. Boy, did I feel small. 50 meters away, the race was going on with its safety in numbers but where I was at felt like an insane place to be out for a swim.

Well, I started working my way back to white cap guy. Believe it or not, I was hit by the trance again; this time, I didn't hit the dock but "felt" it towering over me. After this, I started "spotting", which is something stronger swimmers do when they take stock of the race situation. For me, it meant a few seconds of doggy paddle every minute or so. I eventually caught wtite cap guy and used him as my guide.

Back on land, I was so incredibly dizzy. It took me over a minute to get my wet suit off and I almost fell down twice. On the bike, I started off by eating a Twix bar. Got onto the tri bar and into a nice rhythm. Most of the field today was elite or sub-elite, so they biked faster than me. There was no drafting allowed, of course. The winner, Rasmus Petraeus, who is on the national team, blew by be at a pace I couldn't hold for more than ten seconds. This was when he lapped me, of course. I wouls say I got passed (lapped) by 20 people and passed 5. At my first triathlon, the numbers were probably 2 and 40, which says more about the field today than my biking.

And then, the run. Ah, the run. Even the triathlete studs, who had ridden $5000 bikes, were getting passed on the run by me. Of course, the speedsters that I passed were a full 5K ahead of me, but it was still fun to pass (or de-lap) them. I don't know yet where I finished in the pack but it was probably somewhere in the middle.

The Girl did really well on the bike. the course was multiple out-and-backs so I saw her almost ten times. She did very well on the run, too, almost catching the woman who had been slightly ahead of her all day. Her form was good, coming in:

Up next must be a half ironman. We are never going to be good enough swimmers to do well at an Olympic distance tri. I kept imagining, during the run, how many people I would have caught, had I had another 11 kilometers to work with. Of course, the bike is longer, too, but I feel like I could get much better on the bike if I worked on it.

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