On Sunday, I completed my very first triathlon. It was the Rose City Sprint Triathlon. It consisted of a 650m swim, 13 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. My final time was 1:54:08. My sister Alana did this triathlon with me, but she is much faster. She managed to win her age group (50-54), placed second in the Masters category (40+), missing 1st place by just 15 seconds, and placed 9th out of all the women.
The day started off with us arriving at the transition area around 6:15am. There must have been perhaps 20 athletes already there and setting up their transition area. There were no assigned racks so Alana, being more experienced, had us choose spots that were near the bike in/out so as to minimize how far we had to walk in our bike shoes. We had one hiccup in that I couldn’t find my tire pressure gauge and since the gauge on my pump doesn’t work, Alana ended up borrowing one to pump her tires. I decided to not touch mine and trust the pressure was OK. I found my gauge when we got home. It had slipped into a hidden compartment in my bag.
After setting up, it was just a matter of waiting. Alana did her warm up routine and also did a warmup swim. I chose to simply wait and contemplate the upcoming swim. It was not a wetsuit legal swim and while I did a 650m swim earlier in the week without my floaty pants, I was still a bit nervous, more so after my swim fiasco at Ironman 70.3 FL. In the back of my mind in the days leading up to the race and on that morning was that I had to get through the swim. It was almost as though that was a prerequisite to having any sort of success at Ironman AZ in November.
The swim was organized into 4 start waves, each 5 minutes apart. I was in the second wave and Alana in the third wave. I was joking with her that she will pass me on the swim despite starting after me, but I will catch her on the bike.
Once the first swim was off, my wave was called to line up. I chose a point away from most of the swimmers and not right at the front. I wanted to minimize having people swim over me and also from trying to go out too hard.
Once the starting horn was sounded, I waited a few seconds before starting so as to allow the faster folks to take off and then I started swimming, and swimming, and swimming. For the first several minutes I had people nipping at my heels or swimming into me from the sides, but it wasn’t anything that really bothered me. I did my best to swim my pace. I didn’t do any sighting at the start as I was side breathing from both sides and when breathing I would see folks on both sides so I figured I had to be at least going in the right direction. Eventually I was alone and had to sight. It wasn’t too bad and afterwards when I look at my swim track, it was pretty much spot on. My issue is that the swim was hard. I was slow and it was tiring. It wasn’t so tiring that I had to stop and hold on to a kayak to rest, as I saw several people having to do, but it was tiring enough that I couldn’t wait for it to be done. I had to tell myself to keep going! It was a HUGE relief when I got to the end of the swim and was out of the water. If I ended my race at that point, I would have considered it a success!!
Once out of the water, I made my way to the transition area. I wasn’t surprised to see that Alana’s bike was gone. I later found out that she got out of the water 5 mins ahead of me. Since she started 5 mins after me, it meant her swim was 10 mins faster. Of the 200 participants, my swim split was 183rd. I was among the slowest and near last.
My transition took just under 2 mins which I was happy with. I know it wasn’t super fast, but in the end it was only 1 minute slower than the fast transition folks.
I don’t know if it was because if I was tired from the swim, but after walking my bike past the mount zone, I had a really hard time clipping in my first foot. I eventually got it in and was able to start riding. I had one gel which I ate in the first few minutes of the bike.
The bike course consisted of a lot of rolling hills. Once I noticed that, I tried to go as fast as I can on the downhills so that I can get a lot of momentum on the following uphill. One guy passed me in the first 1-2 miles, but after that no one else passed me on the bike and I passed a ton of folks. I spent most of the time in the aero position. I did have one hiccup though on the bike. For the bike and run, I planned to wear my running t-shirt with the bb number pinned on. I didn’t need it on the bike, but I didn’t have a tri belt and I figure it out be OK . But, one of the safety pins became undone so one corner of my bib number was hanging down the entire time, flapping in the wind and acting like a parachute. Lesson learned! Next time I’ll use a tri belt. The other issue is that I know I didn’t drink enough. It was tough to focus on and remember to drink while in the middle of a race.
My eventual bike time was a middle of the pack performance. Of the 200 participants, my bike split was 89th.
Coming into T2, I dismounted at the dismount line and walked into transition. I racked my bike and changed my shoes and was about to head out on the run when I had another hiccup. I was about to head out with my helmet still on. That would have been a disaster as I would have been forced to run with it (on my head or carrying it) for the entire run. Luckily a volunteer pointed out my faux pas before I left the transition area. My T2 time ended up being about 1:45
I headed out to the run walking. I ate a gel near the beginning and then ran/walked the entire 5K. I ended up averaging about 13 min a mile. The one concern I had was that I started to cramp about 1.5 miles into the run. It was manageable and I hope it was only because I didn’t really consume any salt or electrolytes. Lesson learned! Next time, I will ensure I consume enough electrolytes even for a short race like a sprint triathlon.
My eventual run split was near the bottom. I was 180th out of the 200 participants.
My overall place among all participants was 163rd out of 200. Since I placed so low in the swim and run, only my bike split prevented me from placing near the bottom overall. But even then, Alana still had a faster bike split than me by about 90 seconds. That was disappointing to me.
In the end, the triathlon brought a mixed bag of emotions. I was extremely glad to complete it and I was ecstatic that I got through the swim. If I had failed in the swim, or had not completed the triathlon, it may have doomed my upcoming Ironman. If I couldn’t complete a sprint, what hope would I have for an Ironman!
But, that doesn’t mean my confidence has been boosted. The swim was disappointing in how long it took. I swam it at a 3:00 pace per 100 yd whereas in the pool. I would do 2:15 regularly. I know part of that is due to not having my buoyancy shorts, but I don’t know how much can be attributed to that. The bike was at the pace I want for the Ironman and the run was also at the pace I want, but placing so low overall has me concerned about whether I am, or will be prepared enough. And, while I was thinking I may have a good amount of buffer to make the various cutoffs, I am starting to wonder if I really do that those buffers. Am I going to be among the last coming in with just minutes to spare?