Before I get to the actual race that took place today, I have to give a big shout out to my friend Jeff, who tracked with me through the swim portion of the race and kept me on track. He certainly is a faster swimmer than I will likely ever be and he was given permission (by me) to take off at any time on the swim. I was 100% confident I wasn’t going to drown, but I also knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle (more on that below). But Jeff was like an older (even though he is younger), more athletic brother who wouldn’t let me get too far behind him without checking on me. Solid move my friend and thanks so much. However, the next race (January) I fully expect you to go at your usual pace. Maybe by then I can keep up.
I hydrated quite a bit yesterday and as a result I was up at 3:00 to use the bathroom. TMI, you say. Well, I tell you that because when I was back and bed at 3:02 I started to think about the race a bit. A bit too much actually. And, you know how it goes from there, I never fell back to sleep. Finally just got up at 4:45 and started to get ready. Nice breakfast of oatmeal, banana and juice had me feeling pretty good. Jeff came by right at 6:00 and as we were loading the bike on the car we were discussing how ominous the skies looked. It wasn’t raining, but dark clouds were rolling in and the winds were gusting. We decided to head down to the race anyway, but agreed that if storms hit before the race, we were not going to do it (that decision is made easier by the facts that the entry fee was only $15 and it is a 5 mile drive from our houses to the start line). During our 10 minute ride to the race the skies opened up, the rains came in heavy and the winds continued to blow. We actually almost just turned around and headed back home, but we were already up and on our way so we pushed on, both fully expecting the race was not happening for us. By the time we got to the race the rain had stopped but it still looked pretty bad out. We walked over to the registration area and met another friend who said he was definitely doing the race, so at that point we had no choice. I mean we couldn’t just walk away at that point. It was official, I was going to participate in my first triathlon, bad weather or not. By the time I offloaded and set up my bike and clothes/gear, registered, had my number written on me with a Sharpie (#347) and headed down to the water the clouds were breaking up and the skies were starting to lighten. I think the sun might have actually popped out to say hello at some point. I was fairly excited, but still calm enough that I felt confident.
That confidence quickly went south once the swim started. The swim, as you know if you have been following this blog, is by far my least favorite and least confident part of the race. I mean BY FAR. Plain and simple, I am just not a swimmer. To quote Harry Schearer from a 1980s SNL skit, “I’m not a strong swimmer”. I started out well enough but about 50-100 meters in I took in a full gulp of salt water with what was supposed to be a full breath of oxygen. I didn’t panic too much, just took a couple of side strokes while I coughed and got my wind, but it did ruin any chance I had of getting into a nice rythym. For the first 350-400 meters I basically would swim 10-15 strokes, take a quick look at where I was heading, readjust my line, take a few side strokes, then swim again. I also took in a fair amount of salt water over the course of that first half of the swim. I think it was a combination of being too wound up, worried about people around me, taking in salt water and trying to look ahead to see where I was going. Basically just inexperience swimming in a crowd during a race. Although by about 200 meters in there wasn’t much of a crowd around me. The second half I think went a little better. For one thing, I actually swam more instead of side stroking. The last 100-150 meters was pretty good and by the time I was in a nice ryhtym, the swim portion was over. My time was around 22 minutes (I was wearing a Garmin watch to record all my splits, but at the end of the race it just showed I did a 15 mile swim..ha! I had hit the button that I thought switched modalities, but apparently not). The race site will be posting the times soon so I can check the actual time. I had been doing 750 meters in the pool in 16:30, so this was MUCH longer. BIG difference between pool and open water, obviously. If I am going to do this again in January I will need to get into the open water and practice….a lot! I wasn’t the last one out of the water……but there weren’t many behind me.
The bike went pretty well. I transitioned a little slow (still trying to recover from the salt water drinking contest called a swim) but once I got on the bike I think I did about as well as I expected. The course was basically 4 laps along a road right along the water. The weather was still touch and go and the wind was probably gusting up to 25-30 mph. Heading out away from the water it was in our faces and heading back towards home it was behind us. So, the first lap out I was thinking, “Crap! This is going to be brutal!”. But then coming back on lap 1 I was flying. Sometime during lap 2 the skies opened up for about 5 minutes. Just a complete deluge that in truth felt pretty good on my body, but didn’t make biking any safer. Oh, and the guys with the special bikes, with the 808 carbon tires and the aerodynamic helmets…yeah….they’re fast as hell. Stay out of their way. I just heard them go by…din’t really see them. My shoes/clips felt good and I probably conserved a bit of enery with those, even though the course was very flat. Again, not sure of my exact time, but I am thinking it was around 45 minutes for the 12 miles. And a very important thing happened when I finished the bike portion and pulled into the transition area for the run….I remembered to clip out of my pedals. No wrecks.
I switched out of my bike shoes and into my running shoes. I was feeling pretty warm so I just took off my tri shirt and went shirtless for the 5K run. I squeezed out an energy gel and gulped down some gatorade and headed out. At first my legs were heavy, and I worried about my stamina. I was running into a stiff wind and wondered how I was going to do this. I just kept telling myself, “One foot in front of the other…don’t stop moving” About 5 minutes into the run I am fairly confident the energy gel I sucked down at the transition point kicked in. Suddenly I was feeling good and running faster. My legs didn’t feel as heavy and my breathing was solid. I actually passed some people on the run. The run is my strongest leg of the race, but coming on the heels of the swim and bike, I worried I would lose that edge. Of course everyone else feels just as worn out by that point in the race. The last 1.5 miles I had the wind at my back, the sun had come back out and I felt good. I think my run was around 25-26 minutes. My final time was 1 hour 40 minutes and I was pretty happy about that, especially considering 5 minutes into the swim I was struggling just to move forward. I finished feeling strong and of course wanting to do it again in the future to improve on my performance. I can already think of ways to take a minute off my time here and a minute there.
Pretty cool journey. Still have a ways to go I think, but 4-5 months ago I know I couldn’t have done what I did today. I watched one of these exact races back in February and I vividly remember thinking, “No way I could do this”. Today I did that same race. And I intend to do it again. The Guam Triathlon Federation has some duathlons in October and November (run/bike/run) and then picks back up with a sprint tri series in January (3 races in about 2 months). It would be cool to be able to do those. Of course I need to swim, swim, swim before then and get into the ocean more. I can also improve my overall conditioning with more running and biking. My transitions were pretty slow (deliberately so) and they can be improved too. I trained a lot these last few months, but in all honesty I could have done a lot more. I took weeks off at a time when I went to Australia and went to Texas. There were times when I could have gone to run and didn’t….for a few days or more. Life has a way of getting in the way of things like “triathlon training”. Especially when you are 41 years old with 2 small kids at home. I know I am not heading to Rio in 2016 for the Olympics, but I do want to improve on this time I had today. And I want to just stay active for my overall health and for my kids to see how fun beiong active can be. Maybe I can get down to 1 hour 30 minutes or better by January. Who knows. That’s the fun part. It is a journey.
I will post a few more blogs in the next week as I reflect back on the race and the way ahead, but for now I will sign off. Fatigue has set in. The pic below is me during the bike portion of the race. I have more pics on my facebook page and will post a few more on future blogs.