I completed my first triathlon last weekend, and hence I can finally say, I am a triathlete. It gives me great satisfaction, honestly. Triathlons are not easy. I picked the shortest, easiest tri locally, and it featured a 400 m open water swim, 16 mile bike, and 3 mile run.
I had to get up at 4:45 the morning of, way earlier than I prefer, and even still, I was hustling to get to transition. I set up my bike and put out my stuff on a towel. I was happy to see many of my co-workers had snagged spots nearby in transition. There were no less than seven of us from my company doing the race, including five from my group – awesome! Naturally, I was extremely nervous. I was resigned to my fate but also swore I would never. ever. do this again.
We had unusually high temperatures in Seattle the two weeks before the race, leaving the water in the high 70s, so I decided not to wear my wetsuit, given that I was only swimming 400 m. I’d practiced once sans wetsuit, so I felt it should be fine. About ten minutes before the race, I joined some of my friends in the water, and stood there absolutely freezing waiting for the race to start. The water was in the high 70s, but it was 60 degrees, and I was shivering. The 400 m swim was clockwise square, beginning by swimming along the shoreline before turning right out into the lake. It was a “deep water” start, but you could stay in shallow water until a minute or two before it was time to go, so I didn’t have to tread water for a long time.
I competed in the super sprint, and I was immensely glad I didn’t have to swim 1500 m like the Olympic competitors or even 800 m like the “sprinters.” They let everyone else go first, and then we Super Sprinters started. The only difference between the sprint and the super sprint was the swim being 800 m rather than 400 m, so I think the Super Sprint was mainly composed of people like myself not wild about open water swimming.
When the race finally started, I found myself quite uncomfortable in the water. I had a hard time getting into a rhythm and getting my breath, and I was freaking out a little. However, I just told myself that 400 m isn’t very far and kept going. I started breathing every other stroke rather than my usual every third stroke and tried not to zig-zag too much. By about halfway through, I finally caught my breath and started feeling better, but I was still extremely happy when the swim was over. According to my watch, I swam 425 yards at something like 2:12 per hundred yards. That’s a bit slower than usual, but I’m happy with it, given that it was my first open water race.
At this point I should note that I had to lay out a lot of money to get ready for this tri, between race fees and bike gear and swim practice sessions and a wetsuit (required for the open water practices). So, I decided to save money on the tri suit and bought it for $15 or so on eBay. Note to self: don’t buy white for anything you plan to swim in! OMG it looks horrid in the photos.
I got through transition relatively quickly. I decided to put on a long-sleeve jersey as it was still in the low 60s, and I was cold and wet. I hurried out and got onto my bike, and I was off. I did really well on the bike, completing the 16 miles at 17.7 mph. I just tried to keep my effort even and my cadence high. I actually think I overdid it, as my average heart rate was 155 (max 171) which is quite high for me considering I still had to run 3 miles afterwards. I really pushed hard, and my bike time was good as a result, but I paid the price on the run.
When I got off the bike and put on my running shoes, and start off, I felt LOUSY. The run was not exactly flat. I mean, it wasn’t what you’d call hilly, but it had small rolling hills, about 250 ft of total elevation gain. My run splits were 8:46 / 8:29 / 8:18, so I did start to feel better as I went along, but I was suffering. I was highly motivated to stay in front of my co-workers, which I did manage to do. (My two fastest co-workers did other races, but I managed to beat the others – all men – in the super sprint. Yippee.)
I was happy to find out I won my age group, though it turns out there were only two of us! I also got 4th overall and was happy with that, though I actually had faster times in the combined sports and lost out to third on the second transition. I guess I should work on that! Though it’s brutal enough switching from bike to run as it is.
Now that the memory of the pain is starting to fade, I’m enthused about doing it again next year and improving my swim, bike and run times. Relative to everyone else, my best sport is run (surprise surprise), second best is swim, and worst is bike. This is striking given that I killed myself on the bike, leaving myself totally exhausted for the run, and still ran faster relative to others than I biked. I just kind of suck at biking for some reason, though I am getting better.