Monday, September 24, 2012

Becoming a triathlete

If there is one thing that I have learned in the past three weeks, it's that life is short and you should live life to it's fullest.

I spent the summer following a beginners triathlon plan out of Triathlete Magazine's Guide to Finishing Your First Triathlon.  This is an excellent book if you are at all looking into competing in your first triathlon, I highly recommend it. My goal race was not until April 2013, but the idea was to follow the plan and see if I could at least get the 6 workouts in a week the training called for. I chose to do it over the summer knowing that if I could get the workouts in or get close to getting them all in when both kids were home, I could for sure get it done in the Spring with them in school. For the most part it went well, there was only one period over the summer (the height of swim team competition for my daughter) where I fell off the training wagon, luckily I had enough of a base built that I picked up where I left off with no problems.

Two weeks ago my friend Molly asked if I wanted an intro to open water swimming. Of course I did! While my first tri was going to be a pool swim, I knew if it went well I would want to try one with an open water swim also. We swam at Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton and did a quick bike ride that happened to be part of the bike course of many of the tri's that take place in the area. It was a great day and really built my confidence.  It built my confidence so much that I decided I wanted to do the Tri that was being held there two weeks later. I kept this idea a secret while I really pondered it. Finally, a couple of days later I sort of threw the idea out there. Since it seemed to be received well by those whose opinions counted the most (Molly and my husband) I signed up. While I never had a "what the fuck am I thinking?" moment, I did realize that this was way out of character for me. I plan everything way in advance (obviously, I started training for a tri 9 months ahead of time). The idea that I signed up for a triathlon 10 days prior to the event is kind of funny for anyone who knows me. But I also knew that I had trained all summer and I felt fairly confident that I could cross the finish line.

All of four people knew I was doing this race. Mostly because I didn't feel comfortable putting it out there and I wasn't sure how I would do. I also was so busy in those 10 days with other things that I really did not have too much time to actually think about it or freak out about it. I did thankfully, with the help of Molly write a race plan and write out a gear list to be sure that I had everything I would need. Let's just say I'm an over packer in general and the same applies to racing.

Trying to sort it all out

 I had goals that I hoped to meet overall and for each leg of the event. In general I knew what I could swim 400 yards in time wise in a pool, but I  also knew I would be slower in the open water with a wet suit and having to factor in the run from the beach to transition. I hoped to finish somewhere somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes. For the bike, I looked at some of my recent rides and the Duathlon that I did in May, I targeted an average speed of 13 mph for the bike. I know, I'm slow! For the run, I had no idea what to expect, I knew I would not be running anywhere near close to my 5k PR time, I knew the run course was difficult but I was still hopeful for a decent run, I was targeting a 10:45 overall pace.

Race morning came and the alarm went off at 4:30am. I was planning on getting to the race site when the gates opened at 6am to try and get a good spot in transition. I arrived at about 5:55am and Molly was already there and said transition wouldn't open until 6:30am. One of those little details they had left out. Shortly after Mary Sue arrived. They must have grown tired of the growing number of people trying to get into transition because they finally opened it up. Molly scouted a great rack very close to the bike in/out and the run out. It was a great spot. We got all of our gear set up before most of the masses arrived.

Best two people to race with! 

With transition all set up I headed out to see if the swim buoys were out. they were not, but it sure was pretty.

I walked through the swim in and chose the shortest route from there to my transition spot. Then mentally walked through the bike out/in and run out. After that it was time to get body marked! I had no problem remembering my bib number but had to stop and think a minute about my age!

 After that it was time to put the wet suit on and head over the athlete meeting. We were given some instructions about the swim, basically if you touch a lifeguards surf board or jet ski they pull you out and you're done. Okay, there is something for me to worry about since my sighting is not the best, try not to accidentally swim into the surfboard thus ending your day. there were some instructions about the bike course and a portion where no passing would be allowed. Okay, going to try and remember that one.

Yes, a little giddy for my first triathlon

Eventually it was time for all of us to make our way over to the beach. They had the first wave of 50+ age group swimmers in the corral and ready to go. We actually thought they had been sent off when we saw some swimming so we got in to do our warm-up. It was only when were done with our warm-up that we realized they had not been sent off. Hmm, okay we hung out in the water for a while because it was warmer there. After what seemed like a really long time we got out of the water and discovered that there was an issue with the bike course that was trying to be resolved. Finally at 8:30am a half hour after the first wave was to go off we got the word that we would be starting at nine due to some changes in the bike course. They had to cut out an entire section due to some construction that had taken place the night before. We were advised the course would now be 10 miles. Okay, fine by me, can we just get started! I wasn't panicky, but sitting around for an extra hour sure made the excitement dissipate.

Finally it was our turn, my plan was to swim to the right of the buoys so that I wouldn't get swum over and just in general try to avoid the melee. In hindsight, this was a poor choice. Apparently everyone else had the same idea! I had to run through water further than I would have liked because that's what the women in front of me were doing, I finally found a spot and just dove in. I was not panicked at all and I didn't feel like my heart rate was super high but in general I was uncomfortable. I started to breaststroke because I was wedged between two people who kept stopping. Note to self: this is why people swim over other people. Every time I would try to swim freestyle I was getting whacked, I looked up to see that the person in front of me was swimming back stroke and this was causing a problem for me, the person next to her saw her and said "oh, good idea" and started doing backstroke also, now I was wedged behind and between backstrokers. Not good, I actually slowed down to get out from my predicament and started to swim closer to the buoy to make the first turn. This was much harder than I had anticipated. I was doing way more breaststroke than I wanted, but every time I started swimming freestyle I kept getting water up my nose from all the splashing that was going on around me. At some point I realized that breaststroke was going slow and felt physically more difficult than freestyle. So I tried my hardest as I made the last turn to just do freestyle. Of course I got knocked around to which one woman actually said "sorry!" Which made me laugh and smile. Then I got clocked good but composed myself looked around and saw that we were close to the beach. I hunkered down and swam hard all the way until both my hands were touching the sandy bottom, I knew I passed several women who were wading through the water while I swam, so thank you Molly for that tip!

I exited the water and was a mess. totally exhausted. I walked up the beach until I could get the top half off my wet suit off and then jogged up to transition. Got to my rack and took my suit off and sat down, yes I sat down to put socks and shoes on, it was just easier and probably faster since I was shaky. Put my helmet on, sunglasses and tried to find somewhere to toss my wet suit that wouldn't hinder anyone else. I also had to put my garmin on and start it since I don't have a multi-sport watch. It took extra time but I wanted to wear it because I wanted to be sure I maintained my goal paces for the bike and run. Out of transition I clipped in pretty fast considering I'm still a newbie with the clipless pedals and was off. I passed one person coming up the hill out of the park and headed out on the straightaway. I was told to go easy for the first 3 miles to let my heart rate calm down and get comfortable. I ended up not needing that much time. I felt pretty good early on and started following my nutrition plan on the bike. I was passing people on the bike, okay mostly people who were on mountain bikes or hybirds, but at least I was passing people. I also got passed but I was riding faster than my goal pace and feeling very comfortable so I was very happy. Since it turns out we were riding the same course that Molly and I rode 2 weeks prior, I knew the bike would be shorter than 10 miles. If I remembered correctly it was more like 8.5 miles. As we approached the only other hill on the course I was ready to power it up, sadly the women in front of me were not and were having a difficult time shifting. I ended up having to go into the lane to pass them, but was pretty happy to pass a couple of women going up the hill, when I looked down I realized I was still in the middle ring! Take that hill! After that I knew it would be an easy ride back into transition. As we came back into the park I passed a couple more cyclists coming down the hill, unclipped and dismounted and ran into transition.

Once in transition another athlete asked where the run out was, I turned around to point it out to her and then lost my own train of thought and tried to rack my bike on the wrong rack. Luckily I realized that was not my towel on the ground and headed down to the next rack. Took off my gear, threw on my shoes and the thing that took me the longest was resetting my watch to run. I grabbed my visor, race belt and gel and ran out of transition with it in hand. Once on the course I put my visor on, race belt on and shoved the gel in pocket. Another great transition tip from Molly! I had taken in good fluids and chews on the bike to fuel for the run, the gel was a just in case scenario knowing the run course would be difficult, let's just say I'm glad I brought it. Shortly after starting the run course there is a fairly large hill. I took one look at it and knew I would be walking it. At this point I was exhausted but I also knew I had it in me to walk the entire run course if I had to and I would still finish my first triathlon. As soon as we hit the top I started to run again. there were a few more ups and downs and at some point I decided taking that gel might be a good idea, so I did. I do believe it helped because I finally found a nice run pace that I could manage. It wasn't my goal pace, but I had ended up having a better bike pace then planned so I figured it was okay if my run pace was off, plus we did start an hour later than planned and it was getting hot. There was one last hill and then it was all flat. My body was really happy with that and I found a pace I felt I could hold. I told myself to run until mile 2 and take a short walk break, which I did. I could tell by the mile marker signs that the course was going to be short based on my Garmin. So I knew that that I could make it in without another walk break. I found that happy pace, I knew I was negative splitting my miles and that sounded good to me. A big downhill and then the final stretch. The course photographer was there yelling at me to sprint for her, so I did! Ugh, okay I sprinted too early and did not have much left for the finish line but I still had a huge smile on my face!

I have to say that with exception of the swim, I think I had a smile on my face the entire time, even through the difficult run! I recently joined Forward Motion Race Club and hadn't had the chance to meet anyone yet, but got so many shouts of support on the course from other race club members that it just totally made my day and kept me smiling.

I'm so pleased with my results. Even with not being able to hold the run pace I had hoped to, my swim was in line with my goals, my bike was better than my goal and I felt good about being able to negative split the miles on the run. Overall, I'm really pleased with how I performed for my first triathlon. It also means that I can go into 2013 confident that I can do the Moraga Triathlon which will be an easier swim, more difficult bike and probably equally challenging but longer run.

Many thanks to Trisports who without their support may have never even considered doing a triathlon! My good friend Molly for always being ready to answer any question I may have and basically coaching me through my first triathlon! Mary Sue for bringing champagne to the race for me, everyone needs a friend like that! Many thanks to my family for giving me the me time to do all of this crazy stuff!

Final Stats:

Swim: 11:17
T1: 2:21
Bike: 34:51
T2: 1:13
Run: 31:35


55/90 AG
285/437 OA

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic job! I'm so glad I got to be part of your first triathlon. You had an amazing race.