I survived the 2011 Lonestar Sprint Triathlon!
For those who are a little confused on the whole triathlon concept, let me give you an idea of what it is like. The entire sport is designed for people who just can’t decide what they want to do. We swim, we bike, and we run. Strangest of all, we call the whole thing fun.
This past Saturday found me up at 5am and eating a heart breakfast of half a cup of oatmeal and half a piece of bread. Not a lot, but the last thing I wanted was to start the race with a full stomach. Next I left the hotel and walked to the race’s transition area to set up my gear. Fortunately the hotel knew what was going on or they would have wondered where all the bikes were coming from. After setting up my spot I put on my wetsuit and got ready for the swim. Triathlon swims start in waves and my group (men 35-39) were the second wave. We donned are macho orange swim caps (am I the only one who thinks these things look silly?), walking to the end of the dock, and jumping in the water. Nothing like a cold bath to wake you up in the morning. By triathlon standards the swim was short (.3 miles), but the finish line sure looked a long way off. With the sound of the cannon we were off.
Open water swimming is a lot different then swimming in a pool. In the pool you have lanes and you can see what is going on around you. Not so in the ocean. I definately need to work on going in a straight line. I couldn’t see more then 2-3 feet through the water and it felt like I was swimming in a void. Occasionally I would catch a glimps of another swimmer, but most of the time it felt like I was alone in the water. I exited the water towards the front of my age group. I would love to lay claim to outstanding swimming skills, but the reality is that most triathletes are poor swimmers and I happen to be a little less poor then the rest. Total time in the water: 11:50.
As I exited the water I entered into what is known as transition 1. This involves the time between the end of the swim and the start of the bike ride. In theory it is a time when the competitors sprint at top speed to their bikes and take off like the wind. My reality was a little bit different. First off I wasn’t running. I started at a walk as I pealed my wetsuit down to my waist. From there I dropped onto my back and a volunteer helped to pull it off the rest of the way (thank you volunteer, you saved me several minutes of wetsuit wrestling and a lifetime of humorous stories for the crowd). I then slowly jogged to my bike, got on my bike shoes and helmet and waddled towards the bike start (Have you ever tried to run in bike shoes? Trust me, waddle is the right term.). I also realized I had forgotten to put on my race belt with my racing number on it. Oh well. Time in transition: 4:04.
The 12.5 mile bike ride started off with a nasty headwind for the first mile. After that it turned into a mostly sidewind until the turn around. While I am getting better at biking, it is definitely my weakest event. The strong winds made it extra challenging, but the though of having a tailwind at the end kept me going. And boy was it worth it. I finished off the ride at almost 26 miles per hour with the wind helping to push me right along. Total time on the bike: 50:26.
Back at the transition area, I entered into transition 2, the time between the end of the bike and the start of the run. This involved dropping off my bike and helmet and switching into my running shoes. I also remembered to grab my racing number before starting the run. Time in transition: 2:29.
As I started to run I took a quick glance at my watch. 1:08 flashed at me. My target goal was to finish the race in under 1:40. That gave me 32 minute to finish the 3.1 mile run. No problem. A 10 minute mile is fairly standard for me, which would give me a minute to spare (what can I say, I’m a slow runner). Of course, that is my normal running pace, not my pace after swimming and biking for an hour! The main though I had going into the run was DON’T WALK. If I ran the entire time I could do it. If I walked, even for a minute, I wasn’t going to make it. It wasn’t until 15 minutes into the run that the temptation to walk started. It kept nagging at me until I reached the 2.5 mile marker. At that point I knew I was going to make it and I even started to speed up (not much, but my legs felt it). Total time on the run: 29:28.
Crossing the finish line in any race is a great feeling and one that everyone should experience. This race was especially satisfying for me because I met all of my personal goals which included:
- Be alive at the end of the race (very glad to have met this goal)
- Finish the race
- Don’t walk during the run portion except at the water stations
- Complete the triathlon in under 1:40
- Don’t come in last place in my age group
- Feel good at the end of the race
While I met all of the above goals (finishing time was 1 hour: 38 minutes: 14 seconds) I am particularly happy with the last one. Last year I finished each of my triathlons with major IT band issues. It was often bad enough that I couldn’t walk without a limp for several days. This year I have worked to build a stronger physical base and replaced some running shoes that were way too old. The results are amazing. Not only did I not have any IT band issues this time around, but I actually got to enjoy the entire race experience: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Now I just need to figure out which triathlon is next.