Updated to add the distances and additional details for each leg of the race.
Well, today was my first Triathlon ever. It was a learning experience to say the least. Overall, I did well. I finished and that was a good thing. It wasn’t perfect, and at times it was not pretty, but I did it. Let’s jump right into the details.
Everything went fine in the Transition Area before the race. I had a good layout for all my gear, separated by sport. I had my helmet and sunglasses on top of my handlebar so I could put them on fast. I put my cycling gloves on the drops and put my run gear in the corner of my towel. I had a bucket to clean my feet off and had a gallon of water to help rinse. I was pretty well prepared. I got my temporary Tri Club tattoo on my left shoulder to rep the club. It was great having others there from the club who weren’t racing to cheer members on who were. And they had some good tips too. For example, the other Paul in our club recommended leaving my socks on for the swim to save 10 seconds in transition. He was, of course, kidding. I knew that. “I may be new but I’m not stupid,” I said, laughing. I sucked down my Mocha Clif Bar gel and at 7:30am we went up the hill for the pre race meeting. At 7:45am there was a very short time to do a practice swim, of which I only went out a few meters and back, but felt pretty confident. I wasn’t sure how shallow it was near the edge and ended up knocking my knee into the rock surface getting in. Had a good bruise as a result but I just had to ignore the pain. We went back over the timing mat and checked in single-file to register our chips and barely 5 minutes from then, the air horn went off.
The Swim (1/3 Mile)
Swim Time: 28m 03s
Swim Place: 143/144
Please let me explain. This is somewhat my fault because I was feeling pretty good about the swim before we started, despite not having really thought out a strategy. I got in the middle of the wave thinking I would be OK there since I was pretty fast in training and should have been able to finish in 20 minutes. However, I got maybe 20 meters out and started to panic. I couldn’t move forwards because there were so many people in front of me. My goggles were fogging heavily and I couldn’t see. I panicked occasionally for the last 3/4 of the swim, hanging onto a paddleboard (I didn’t get the name of the guy, but he stayed with me for the last half of the swim which was a huge help, so I owe him some thanks). It wasn’t pretty, and I was embarrassed when I realized that every single person in every other wave passed me. My age group was long gone and at this point the objective was to finish. I had nobody left to catch up to. I was next to last out of the water out of 144 participants. Despite this, a handful of Tri Club members were there to cheer me on as I got myself out of the water, and with about 15m to go, I could hear them being super loud which brought my spirits up, and my sense of humor kicked in with a joking, “Shut up, I’m almost there!”
What I learned from this: If I’m going to be fast, I’ll be fast near the back or to the side so I can at least concentrate on myself and finish at the end of my wave, not with the whole race in front of me. Having people all over who prevented my pace I feel is what caused me to panic, because I couldn’t go anywhere.
Transition 1 (Swim to Bike)
T1 Time: 2m 56s
T1 Place: 117/144
I wasn’t fast but I wasn’t slow. Coming out of the swim, my legs felt heavy. I took some extra time to rinse them down and get the grass, goose poop, and water off. I tried to pat my feet dry a bit with my small towels and put my socks and cycling shoes on. Snapped my race belt on real fast. On went my sunglasses and helmet and I got my bike out. However, I didn’t put my gloves on. I completely forgot about them. One fell off my bike near the rack, and another fell near the exit. A photographer near the exit picked it up for me and I shoved it into my seat bag. I didn’t find the other one until T2. That’s another little interesting aside that I’ll get to later.
What I learned from this: Forget the gloves. Leave them at home or leave them in the transition bag. They’re a waste of time and they’re going to fall off. Also, put the water in the bucket before the race so you can just dip your feet in there. I knew about this beforehand but for some reason I thought it wasn’t a big deal. It really isn’t considering at this point I was just racing myself. But to save time, I’ll just fill the bucket like I thought about in the first place. Sometimes I should listen to myself, and other times I shouldn’t. This is one of those times I should have.
Bike (9.6 Miles)
Bike Time: 37m 05s
Avg Spd: 16.2
Bike Place: 77/144
Like I said before, after the swim my legs felt heavy. I had rode the course the week before so I was familiar with all the hills that were on it. You can read my preview post here. The hills felt super slow. They didn’t want to fire too well and I just powered up them in first out of the saddle. Even some of the slight inclines where it was just above flat felt a bit sluggish. I’m pretty good at cycling, but not after such a stressful swim with heavy legs. I wish I was able to make up some more time on this. On fresh legs I know I would have clocked 18-20mph average speed, but they felt so sluggish that I could only keep up a casual pace. The funny thing is that the time I got on this segment was extended by a few seconds or so because there were runners going across the bike entrance. If I had gone across the timing mat right when I got there, I would actually have beat my preview ride time, which was 37:04, by about 30 seconds.
What I learned from this: Eat a freakin banana the night before. Maybe two. And possibly do more Swim-Bike bricks. Kick easier and less often to reduce leg fatigue.
Transition 2 (Bike to Run)
T2 Time: 1m 21s
T2 Place: 106/144
Another average transition. I could have been faster here too. It was really simple, but I also wanted to look around a bit for my one glove, which I did find. For some reason during the race I forgot that I actually had one of the gloves in my bike seat, and I blanked out on where the other one was. That aside, Transition 2 is pretty simple depending on your strategy. I didn’t do the typical leave-the-shoes-on-the-pedals thing since I had socks on and didn’t want them muddying up the insides of my running shoes. I waited for those runners like I mentioned before, and then walked across the mat, racked the bike, took some water\HEED, grabbed my hat and run drink, turned my race belt number to the front, slipped my shoes on and pulled the Lock Laces a bit tight near the tops and took off.
What I learned from this: If you want to be fast, you have to really eliminate some time wasters and quit lolligagging around because of stupid things that happened earlier. Mistakes are mistakes, and now I know for next time that if I want faster transitions, I have to practice and optimize them. That could be mean foregoing the socks and using a ton of Body Glide to prevent chafing and blisters or actually obtain better shoes that are geared towards sockless triathletes. That’s a consideration for the distant future. Right now I just need to make sure I move my ass in transition with what I have.
Run (3.2 Miles)
Run Time: 29m 15s
Pace: 9m 26s/mile
Run Place: 76
I was astonished when I saw these numbers. Right after I got up the hill of the run exit, my calves and quads started to seize up pretty bad. I stopped a couple times to stretch. About 100m out of the gate I saw Coach Thea and said, “My legs are cramping like a mother!” She yelled, “Keep on drinking,” as she passed me in the other direction. Running through a quick string of logic after realizing it probably would hurt worse if I kept stopping, I started to power through it. I started repeating to myself, “There are no cramps.” About 1/4 of the way through the run, I didn’t feel them anymore. And then there was a hill. Yes, I will be honest that I walked a bit, but not as much as in training. After the U-Turn, I realized that I’d get to go downhill and was pretty happy about that. I was able to pick up my pace a bit. I stopped briefly for a yard sprinkler that was shooting into the roadway, and then doused myself with more cold water when I returned to the water station that was about a half mile, I guess, from the U-turn. It wasn’t the best water, but it was water. I also had my little yellow running bottle that I made last until the finish. On the way back towards the finish line I met up with one of our tri club members, and ran with her for 100 yd or so, and then felt strong enough to pick up the pace. I pretty much took off. I passed a couple other tri club members and cheered them on as I went along. I saw my dad near the Transition Area and he got some pictures of me on the run section there. Then another half mile or so and there was the finish line. The last timing mat beeped and that was it. A couple girls took my timing chip and strap and it was over.
What I learned from this: Cramps happen. Deal with it and keep going. It’ll hurt for a couple days after the race but it’s better to keep going and make them disappear. Half of it is mental.
Finishing Time: 1h 38m 40s
I talked for a while with Darren, our Tri Club president, about what I did wrong, what I did right, and what I could do better. One of our other members who I had passed on the run joked, “You pissed me off passing me that fast! You took off!” I couldn’t help it, I really had to use the bathroom after all the fluids I drank. I got a chilled bottle of water and, instead of drinking it, poured it right over my head to cool my body down. I got a leg\hip flexor massage from Todd of our club sponsor All-Pro Health to try to fix the tightness but it was more of a spasm than a cramp. I don’t know where you draw the line between the two but they never really stopped hurting. Even as I write this they feel pretty sore and probably will the next day or so. I ate a banana, a clementine, and had a Coke to get some potassium, Vitamin C, and some good old sugar and caffeine in me. I learned a lot from this race and decided to skip the one that is a week away. Although the practice would be good for the open water swim, I’m going to continue training and if I can get some open water practice with some other people that would probably help a lot. That way I can learn to not panic.
Overall, I had a lot of fun in this race and can’t wait for the next one. I forgot to hit the Lap button on my watch between events though, so my Garmin data isn’t 100% accurate. I’m glad I was able to find the CompuScore results before the link was updated on the race website. There are some things I’ll definitely be changing to hopefully make it an even more fun experience. My favorite part was the run, despite the cramps, knowing I actually made a decent time being just about middle-of-the-pack in placement. I’m very happy with that.
Here’s to the next one!
Photos courtesy Tovah S.\Central Jersey Tri Club, my mom, dad, and brother.
Discussion Starter: And don’t forget… Your advice is welcome in the comments below! What could I have done differently or what would you have done in the swim situation?