Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Completed First Triathlon

Let's get this straight - I am a runner. I grew up swimming but never competitively. I surfed in the Ocean and swam at the pool but I never, ever swam laps. Around Christmas of '07 for some crazy resaon I decided that I was going to compete in triathlons. I couldn't swim more than 50 yards without a break and didn't own a bike. The goal was to race an early summer sprint.

After buying a bike, and teaching myself to swim laps I attempted my first Tri on June 1st, 2008. What follows is my account of that race.

PRE-RACE - The alarm clock went off at 4:00am. I hit snooze once. I don't care if this was my first tri or not, 4:00am is too early for law abiding citizens and yes I hit snooze. I had packed the car the night before so all I had to do was eat and leave. I made a bowl of real oatmeal, not that instant crap that my kids eat, but real like grandma used to make oatmeal. I sprinkled some brown sugar, walnuts, and honey on top. After a couple cups of coffee and a trip to the bathroom I was off.

It's about a 45 minute drive from my house to the Naval Base. I was sipping coffee and gatorade, (No not mixed together, that's just gross, but from two different bottles.) I had planned to stop at WAWA to buy a bannana nut muffin, but I was too excited and just drove to the base. I live on the Peninsula and had to drive across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to reach Norfolk so I would have a good view of the conditions of the Bay. Yesterday the race site was whitecapping with 2 foot waves. As my car exited the tunnel I saw..............flat, calm water. Thank you Lord!

The directions to the base were perfect and I breezed through the gate check in. I followed a car in front of my with a bike on the back so I assumed they were heading the right way. The transition area, finishing area, and parking area was on a giant helicopter tarmac right on the shore of the Bay. I was able to park about 100 yards from the transition area. This was perfect! I unloaded my bike and headed over to the transition area to check in my bike. I was so early it wasn't even open yet and I had to wait about 5 minutes until 6:00 to rack my bike. When the area opened I was the third one in on my row and I got to pick a premium end of row spot. It pays to get there early.

Now what. It's 6:03 and the race doesn't start for 2 hours. What am I going to do? I went to the car and listened to the radio, I walked around and made sure that I knew where the transition exits were. I got my chip, ate a powerbar, and looked around.

SWIM - I got my wetsuit on right before they closed the transition area. It was getting warm and I didn't want to be in that hot thing any longer than I had to be. My wave 35-39 year old males was the 4th wave to start. There was a giant concrete boat ramp, maybe 100 feet wide, that we all walked down. This was an open water start so they had us wade into the water and swim out until we were all grouped up. We treaded water for a couple of minutes and off I went. There were about 60 guys in my wave and they went off like gangbusters. I stayed calm and smooth and started my stroke. I knew the swim was my weakness and my goal was to finish the swim with a respectful time and not drown. If I came out of the water without a lifeguards assistance I would be a winner. The turn buoys were spaced about 300 yards apart and that is a long way. The water was calm so that helped. My sighting was poor and the whole race was a series of arcs. I probably swam an extra 200 yards with all of the zig zagging I was doing. (Note to self, fastest way to pick up time, swim straight) I never got kicked or kicked anybody. I did flip over on my back about three times and rest for about 20 seconds. I knew that the fastest and most economical way for me to get out of the water was to swim an easy, but strong freestyle. I kept my mind focused on what I was doing and stayed pretty calm. The wetsuit helped a lot but my time was much slower than I hoped. I exited the water after 1K in 27:20, 52 out of 58th. At least I exited the water.

I'm walking so my heart won't explode in my chest!
T1 - This transistion went well. No problem getting the wetsuit off. I had a water bottle and rinsed my mouth out. I was actually really taking my time because I was lightheaded from the swim and my heart rate was pretty high. Since I was on the end my kids were right there and were able to talk to me throughout the transition, that was really cool. My wife and family are really supportive so this really helped. I think it's important to teach my kids how to compete and I want them to see me try as hard as I can. They always ask why I don't win the races that I enter. I tell them that I win just by entering and finishing. My 8 year old son is starting to get what I mean.

BIKE - I ran through the chip mat and hoped on the bike. I had a little trouble getting my shoes on and I had to reach down twice to get the tongue pulled out. I started peadling and tried to get my cadence up. It was taking a lot more effort than normal to get to my standard 90 plus rpm's. After about a mile I realized that it wasn't me, it was my front tire! My front tire was really low, not where I was riding on the rim but it was close. I didn't have a repair kit on my bike and I wasn't gonna quit, so I put my head down and just pedaled. After a few gear changes I just knew it was going to be hard work, but I kept going. About mile 9 I decided that I needed to get some Gatorade in me, so I slowed down a bit and really worked on getting some Gatorade down.

I was never so happy to see that last turn into the transition area. I slowed down and swung my right leg over the pedals like a pro. The bike was really hard to handle with the flat front tire and I almost lost control, but I dismounted and ran across the timing mat.

T2 - I had a really fast transition here. But I noticed something that really upset me. Most of the bikes in my age group were already racked. That's what happens when you suck on the swim and have a flat tire on the bike. I slipped my shoes on and said "HI" to my kids and off to the run.

RUN- The legs were a little stiff, but started to loosen up a bit. I looked at my Garmin and it said I was running right at 7:00 pace. What? 7:00 minute pace. No way. I kept pushing for the first mile and realized that the bike had screwed up the Garmin's averaging and it wasn't giving me an accurate reading. OH well. Everything was going pretty good but it was really getting hot. I noticed that my heartrate was getting really high, like over 170 and I knew I was in trouble. I walked through the water stop to try to get my heart rate down but it didn't really help. I slowed my pace down to around 8:20 and decide to just cruise in and call this thing over.


  • SWIM Time 27:20 RATE 2.2mph Rank 52/56
  • T1 Time 2:31
  • BIKE Time 44:36 RATE 16.7mph Rank 50/56
  • T2 Time 1:07
  • RUN Time 26:13 RATE 8:27 Rank 33/56
  • Total Time 1:41 Rank 48/56

Conclusion: I guess I should just be happy that I finished but I was really destroyed by my results. It comes down to this, Triathletes don't play. They are serious about their sport and they show up to race. Running races has so many people that just show up to finish. I would really like to do so more tri's but I will definitely swim a lot more and will pay my dues on the bike. The race was really well organized and I did have a good time.


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