Race Report- My first triathlon

In January, a race management company I had recently raced with announced a new race for 2014, their first half-distance triathlon would be held in October, less than an hour from my house.  I had been wanting to do a triathlon and decided to just go for it and sign up.   I later learned that most people go for shorter distance for their first race.

Throughout the spring I focused on running, including my first ever running streak for the month of April.  By May, it was time to start triathlon training.  This coincided with my anniversary of owning a road bike for one year.  The first weeks of triathlon training left me pretty tired, but I was (mostly) enjoying the new challenge.  As a kid, I had done swim team, where I was proficient at best.  I did not win races, I did not swim in the fast lane.  I had the basics.  My first swim workouts left me perplexed.  How could I run for multiple hours at a time with little difficulty, but swimming just two laps of the pool had me huffing and puffing with no house to blow down?!?!?  After just a few weeks, I learned to regulate my breathing in the water and continued to increase my distances.  As a relatively new cyclist, I enjoyed significant improvement in that sport as well.  I also found that I really looked forward to the rides around small country roads surrounding my house, discovering roads or appreciating scenery I never had before.  It is safe to say, I was quickly learning to love triathlon training.

Through the summer I got in most of the prescribed workouts, read obsessively about triathlons, gear, advice, etc and planned my race schedule.

I decided that a practice triathlon would be a good idea before my ‘A’ race.  Luckily that same race management company was hosting a triathlon 3 weeks before the big event, either sprint or olympic distance.  Better get as close to the goal distance as possible, Olympic distance- here I come!

Then this horrible thing happened, summer ended!  Back to work for this teacher, two new classes to prepare for each day and an increase in my kids’ activities.  My training was not what it had been and not what I would like it to be, but I tried to at least maintain the progress I had made over the summer.

Olympic tri weekend began with my first open water swim to practice during packet pickup.  It wasn’t as bad as expected and I quickly determined that the wetsuit may be the best purchase I ever made.

Saturday evening- drive back home and begin to get nervous.  Turns out there is a lot more preparation involved in a triathlon than running races.  My garage became the stage to set up each transition.  I probably spent a solid hour packing and checking my belongings.

Sunday morning- Wake up at 5:00 A.M.  Thankfully this is a local race, I can’t imagine waking up earlier than this.  Also, according to accuweather on my phone the current temperature is 41 degrees.  What was I thinking!!!!!

5:45 A.M.- leave the house with a packed car!  My husband and a friend who was also doing her first triathlon and I chatted nervously on the drive.

6:30 A.M.- Arrive and figure out how to carry all of our gear from the car to transition area.  So thankful for my husband to help out at this point!  Also wondering how seasoned triathletes streamline this process.

Set up transition area, have a stranger write in sharpie on me and figure out a way to wiggle into my wetsuit.

7:15- Head down to water.  Nervously do arm swings ala Michael Phelps in Beijing and wade into the water.

tri 1
That’s right, the air is so cold that steam is coming off of the lake.
tri 14
The only picture of me in the water. I’m in the Zoot wetsuit. There were exactly two people in wetsuits with turquoise writing on them, which one do you think my husband photographed?

7:30- Race start!  I navigated my way to the edge and began swimming.  The fear of veering off course was much more significant than bumping into people or drowning, so I settled into breathing every other stroke, even though most of my swims I breathed every four strokes.  I wasn’t panicking, but I knew this wouldn’t be my favorite leg of the race.  Like in Finding Nemo, just keep swimming!  Then this funny thing happened, I kept passing people.  As I made my way past buoys, I realized I felt like the swim was going pretty well.  Even though I swore that the swim was going to be at an easy pace, passing people was a big ego boost that I didn’t want to let go, so I tried to find a balance between controlling my breathing and effort and still staying competitive with those around me and not losing any places.  Getting close to shore, I remind myself that I read to swim as far as possible before standing up.

tri 2
My husband took pictures of someone wearing a very similar wetsuit to mine, ha!!!

Out of the water and crossing the timing mat at Swim:

.9 miles
30:25:85.  Pace of 32:42/mile.  5th in AG
T1- Longer run from water to transition area than I would have liked.  Also, whose idea was it to have us run up a flight of stairs at this point?   tri 3 tri 4 tri 5 tri 6 tri 7
T1: 3:31:40, 5th in AG
Bike:
For a couple months I had been dreaming of getting a new bike, even making visits to the bike store “just to look”.  Two days before my first triathlon, the local bike store posted that “my” bike was on sale!!  I convinced my husband that we should go, just to look.  I even concocted a story about how I was leaving my purse in the car so that I couldn’t buy it (never mind the fact that I brought bike shorts and bike shoes so I could properly try it out).  James knew all along what I was doing and was wonderfully supportive all the way through.  Long story short, I upgraded my bike the day before my first triathlon.  New seat, new aero bars, new computer.
All of this was really great, except for a couple things.  My computer was not yet functional, customer support wasn’t open until Monday morning so I would be riding without knowing my speed or anything else.  Then,  a few miles into the ride, I noticed a sound.  I kept looking down to see if I had a flat or could see anything wrong without success.  So I just kept riding.
The bike was humbling.  Where the swim made me feel like a rockstar because I did better than expected, the bike was eye opening at the number of people passing me.  I would later learn that my front brake was rubbing on the tire the whole race, so I’m sure that had an effect, but there were a LOT of people who were much stronger on the bike than me.
Regardless, I finished feeling pretty good physically.  I had managed to eat a Bonk Breaker (YUM!) and drink an entire bottle of water and cherry limeade flavored Nuun.  Both had me feeling pretty good by the end of the bike.
Bike: 24.8 miles
1:26:40.7.  Pace of 17.29 mph…..bummed with this….wonder what it would have been with a computer and front brake not sticking….  5th in AG.
tri 8
T2:
2:02:55, 7th in AG
Run:
Ok, what is wrong with my legs at this point?  They feel like lead.

tri 9 tri 10

The first half mile had me questioning not only this race, but also my ‘A’ race in just three weeks.  I really had no clue how at that point I would run 6.2 miles when it felt like I was running through wet cement.
Then I looked down at my watch, funny thing happened, I wasn’t really going that slow.  My breathing was far harder than it should have been for that pace, but it was within my expected range.  Eventually my legs recovered and for the most part it felt like a normal run.  And then I entered hill country.  I didn’t remember reading anything about hills on the run course, a number of people around me were commenting on the same thing, but we all continued to suffer together.
One big hill at about the 4.5 mile mark was the last straw for me.  After many more hills than I anticipated or trained for, I was toast.  I’m sure that I killed my pace on that hill, it felt like I was barely moving.
Eventually I make my way back to the finish only to learn that I have to turn another corner and finish uphill!
tri 11
Uphill finish. Cruel.

At this point I heard my husband and my friend cheering for me and knew I had to finish strong, and made it in just under the 3 hour mark!!

tri 12 tri 13
Run: 6.2 miles
56:17:75.  Pace of 9:05/mile.  6th in AG.  (Realized a few days later that this was a new 10K PR for me by about 40 seconds.
OVERALL:
2:58:58.  4th in AG.  83rd overall.
Thoughts on the tri- great experience, happy with the overall race.  How on earth do I double these distances in 3 weeks time?  I feel like I maxed out at this race.  Regardless, I learned a lot and am looking forward to many more triathlons in my future!
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