My first triathlon! The Chaska River City Days triathlon is a 1/3 mile swim, 16 mile bike and 5K run. I signed up for this triathlon as a back-up plan. Originally, I had only signed up for the Lake Marion sprint triathlon in July, but I figured that I should do a couple races in case one had bad weather or I monkeyed things up.
Leading up to the race, I was averaging the following during training.
9:00 minute pace on standalone runs of 3-4 miles
9:30 pace on brick runs of 2-3 miles
16mph speed on bikes of 9-16 miles
1100yds split two or three ways for training swims
My time breakdown and predicted reactions were as follows:
Over 2:00 Failure
1:55-2:00 At least I did it
Under 1:45 Able to retire as champion of the world
Packet pick-up and pre-race
I picked up my race packet on Friday afternoon (Saturday race). There was a sign noting that, due to flooding, the bike course would be altered and the distance would be 15.4 miles instead of 16 miles. Since I hadn’t participated in the race before, I didn’t really care. Also, I figured my time would have to be a bit faster, so this had to be a good thing.
I had bought a bike rack off Craig’s List that was supposed to fit on the trunk of my car. I tried hooking it up, but I can’t get it to a point where I trusted it not to fall off on the drive to the race. So, the night before the race I took the car seats (2) out of the family car (Dodge Journey) and flipped down the back seats to lie my bike in the cargo area.
I bought Zoot triathlon shorts for the race, but I don’t have any sort of tri shirt/jersey. I decided to go with a sleeveless compression run shirt for the bike and a sleeveless loose run shirt for the 5K. If I wear the loose shirt on the bike I can feel the parachute effect, and I didn’t want to wear the tight shirt on the run because it makes me look / reveals that I am scrawny (6’5” 195lbs). I packed everything up, didn’t forget anything, I set my alarm for 5am and had a good night sleep.
In the morning I got up, filled the water bottle, had a couple waffles with a banana and hit the road. It’s only about 30 minutes to the race site from my house. When I got there, I unpacked, topped off the tire pressure (my bike is an amazon.com brick, 30lbs) and set up transition. I had been looking forward to and planning for this for so long I was a little surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I got my timing ankle band and my numbering without any problems. This was all new to me so I didn’t know that they write your bib number (225) on your arm and your age (35) on the back of your leg. The pre-race meeting had a moment of silence to hope/pray for no rain, they played the national anthem and said a few cheeky jokes about the hilly nature of the course.
Hope: Don’t embarrass yourself.
I waded into the water before the swim to check out the temperature. COLD! Maybe it wasn’t caps lock cold, but it was cold enough to be uncomfortable. When the elite wave started, everyone got out of the water and stood around waiting for their time trial start. The starting order was by bib number which meant that I had about 220 people ahead of me and about a 12-20 behind me. Everything says that you should be sure to get some open water swims in before you try a race, and they are all correct. I, however, did not do any open water swims before race day.
As soon as I hit the water, I couldn’t breathe. I don’t know if it was the cold water or just being over excited/nervous, but suddenly I couldn’t inhale deep enough to exhaling under water. After a couple minutes, I tried to calm myself by turning over to my back and taking some deep breathes. That didn’t work. I couldn’t catch my breath to get in a normal stroke, and when I did try to exhale underwater seeing the weeds was freaking me out. I ended up swimming the entire thing with my head out of the water. I might as well have been doggy paddling. At one point, I was swimming past a lifeguard and she offered me her floater for a rest, I felt like an idiot. Just a little bit later, a racer swam by me and asked if I needed help. I almost quit right then and there. Luckily, at that point quitting and finishing the swim were about the same length, so I finished it out. Coming out of the water I was tired, and a little dizzy.
My posted time was 13:53 with a 2:31per 100yds average. I did start off with a watch, but it didn’t like being in the water and it was not working by the time I returned to land.
Hope: Don’t forget your helmet.
Actual: Mission Accomplished.
As I reached my first transition ever, I first noticed that there were nearly no bikes left in the transition area. Again, I almost felt like quitting. It would have helped if I had remembered that only 10-20 people started after me, but that didn’t register at the time. I splashed some water on my feet to get rid of the sand and got my shirt to slide on after only three tries (I need a better plan). I wore socks and my running shoes. I’m told some people go without socks, but I’m pretty sure they must be crazy. The MC announced some people by name as they left the transition area (maybe he was using a referencing sheet with bib numbers?), but I wasn’t lucky enough to hear my name.
T1 Time: 3:07Bike
Hope: No flat tires and 16 mph
Actual: No flat tires and 16.5 mph
The bike course was nothing but hills. I overheard someone saying before the race that this was the most challenging sprint bike course in the state, and without any frame of reference I would say that he was correct. About half a mile into the bike, I met the leader coming back to T2. I suppose that could have been discouraging, but I actually thought it was pretty funny. I know it's unlikely that I will ever be competitive in a race; I’m only racing my expectations.
At the first turn, the hill is very steep. It’s so steep that at the pre-race meeting the MC told folks to pull over to the side of the road if they need to walk up the hill. Yikes! I made it up without walking, and I believe I even had one gear left on the bike. I don’t know if I was amongst slower bikers because I was slow on the swim or because I started late in the time trials, but I ended up passing a lot of people on the bike. I don’t know if anyone I passed was in my age group, but it felt good to keep saying, “On your left.” I think I saw two people with flat tires, but I got through it without any problems. I only brought water for the race. I had a few drinks on the bike, but otherwise I tried to go the whole race without any fueling (might have hurt me in the end). The bike started out uphill, so at least you end of the loop with a screaming fast downhill.Bike Time: 56:13 with an average of 16.5 mph
My posted average speed was 17.1mph, but that was based on the previous 16 mile route.
My posted average speed was 17.1mph, but that was based on the previous 16 mile route.
Coming into T2 I could hear my wife and oldest son (Cooper 3yrs) cheering, I racked my bike, changed into my run shirt with the bib pinned to the front, waved to the family and took off.T2 Time: 0:42
Hope: 28:00 No Walking
Actual: 29:36 One StopI was so looking forward to the run. I love to run; I wish I could run farther; I wish I could run faster; I wish I could run for ever. The first mile of the run is a pretty steep up hill. At this point I was having a lot of fun. I passed a couple walkers and a couple runners passed me. It felt like I had a pretty good pace up the hill, but my watch was dead so who knows. The second mile is mostly flat. At about 1.5 miles I was passed by a 51 year old lady who was moving at an incredible speed. As she passed I said, “Wow, that’s fast.” She said thanks and was on her way. I looked up her time later; she did a 23:30 5K. Awesome.
The second mile went fine. On the third mile I started to get some terrible stomach cramps. The third mile is mostly downhill, so I hoped I could tough it out for a strong finish. But, in sight of the final turn, I had to stop and take a breather. It wasn’t long, a few seconds, but it helped a lot and I was able to run out the rest of the race. As I approached the finish line the MC called out my name over the mic, noted that I was tall and asked if I could dunk a basketball. I waved him off, finished the race and felt a great sense of accomplishment.
Run Time: 29:36 with a 9:32 pace
Post-RaceTotal Time: 1:43:32
My watch had stopped working during the swim. I had no idea what my total time was. The clock at the finish line was only a reference to when the elite wave went off. I didn’t know how long I went off after the elite wave, but I guessed had been about 10 minutes. With that estimate, my time was going to be around 1:55-2:00. I was a little bummed, but my wife and kids were at the finish line and seeing them made my day. We walked around a bit while I had some water and post-race snacks. We snapped a few picks and the family left; they had to take a separate car with the car seats and no bike in the back. I changed into some less smelly clothes and got some more post-race snacks (great food, and lots of it). At that point, I noticed there was a results board and anxiously went to check my time. I think I actually did jump up and down when I saw that I had broke 1:45, but that’s hard to confirm.