(750M/13.8miles/5k – 17:08/2:17/45:15/1:49/25:42) Total time – 1:32:09
My first true sprint tri. The day had arrived, after weeks of inconsistent training. I was really only worried about the 750-Meter swim. I had never swum that long without a pause, except for the Friday before the race – just to reassure myself that I could. Sure, I’ve swum over a mile in the pool, but that’s with many breaks.
Did my anal checks and re-checks the night before, got up at 5 AM. My wife had the consideration to take my son and stay at her mom’s to allow me to get some rest, but I didn’t get much anyway – nerves, I guess. Scarfed my traditional PB & banana on wheat and drank my Earl Grey. Somewhere along the way, or the day before, I made a digestive mistake. But more on that later.
Arrived without incident, rode the ½ mile there. Walked into transition, thinking I’d set up my stuff and go look for somebody who had handlebar end-caps (which the race instructions demanded), but they were actually checking for it as you enter transition. That’s good, I suppose. Thankfully one of the volunteers walked right up, offering them. So I put ‘em in and taped ‘em with the handy electrical tape that always goes in the T-bag. Helped another guy out with some, too. My good deed for the day.
How do you get used to this with Tris? My stuff was ready after a check and six re-checks, and I had an hour until my wave started. I wanted to do a quick warm-up swim, but I didn’t want to walk around for an hour in just my tri-shorts and bare feet. But what else was there to do, sit there? Of course the urge to – shall we say – unload struck me with half an hour left. Not wanting to use the port-a-potties for my mission (I cringe at having to use even clean public restrooms for this uncomfortable but necessary craptivity), I thought I’d see if the nearest park restroom was open. No dice. Some smart soul had locked it and put a sign on it saying “closed until after the race.” Oh well. It would have to wait.
Waited in line twice to use the port-a-potties for the longer-distance activity of peeing, and, man, the lines were long. Should’ve just used the trees, I guess. Saw Bobby, friend and ex-colleague of mine, which was cool. He was volunteering for the race – I guess a sprint tri is far too short for an Iron Man of his ability. There’s more respect than snark in that comment, really.
Swam out to the first buoy and back as a warm-up. The water was a bit mucky and unnaturally warm, I thought, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Someone had told me that the lake was uniformly shallow and you could touch bottom in most places, so I tried. But they also said that you probably wouldn’t want to stick your feet in the slimy muck down there. So I did. Slimy, indeed. I downed a Gu gel 15 mins before my swim start, which I think was my first mistake. Don’t do anything new on race day, right? Well, I’d tried Gu before – once or twice – and didn’t feel any ill effects. Didn’t feel any effects at all, really. So it couldn’t hurt, right? Well, it didn’t – for a while. As I was standing in the water with the other Clydesdales, blabbing nervously, mostly about the condition of the water, whose first tri it was, etc., etc., the standard stuff, just as I was saying that I had done a warm-up swim and the water wasn’t nearly as bad as its reputation, a blackened, half-disintegrated Styrofoam coffee cup floated by us. “Well, maybe not,” I muttered, or something equally as futile and idiotic.
And we were off. As always, my rhythm was the first thing out the window. I’d been training to do the alternate-side breathing, i.e., once every three strokes. I tried, but mostly I fell back on the every-other-stroke-breathe-on-the-left-side sort of thing. I started at the back and avoided most of the others, making it to the turnaround without much trouble. Then it got harder. Swim. Breathe. Sight. Correction. Swim. Breathe. Sight. Correction. I could not keep myself going in a straight line for any reward. It went on this way for what seemed hours, with the shore getting no closer. Other people with different-color caps would pass me or I would pass them, but I didn’t know if they were from the wave in front of me or behind me. More likely behind me, for I could have sworn the swim was taking me half an hour. (Turned out to be a bad but not THAT bad 17 minutes or so.)
T1, no issues, out to the mounting line, no issues. But here I made a mistake – concentrated too hard on trying to get my feet in the clips and my gloves on my hands. I should have sped up to a decent speed first and done it as opportunities arose. We learn. Several folks passed me here. Then over the little causeway and a slight hill, and all the breath went out of me. Shit! A short ride like this and I’m gonna have trouble with it? I thought. That’s just sad. But I recovered shortly.
I realize I could maybe have kicked it into a faster gear, but I held back a bit, feeling those gut rumblings, overtiredness from only a few hours of sleep, etc. So I rode at maybe 80-85% of effort. I thought a couple of the hills would hurt, but they really weren’t that bad (I spun in a low gear). I passed one guy who had no helmet and earphones, wondering if he had been dq’d and just didn’t care, or what. Every once in a while a hardcore cyclist would whiz by on a whirring tribike, which was disconcerting, but what can you do? I ate a Gu gel about a mile or two before the end, as planned, and that was a mistake. Disgusting. One more note about the bike: I’ve read in many places that it’s not actually 15 miles, and by my computer, they’re right, it was about 13.8. That’s a long way to be off, and apparently it’s been that way for years. Do the organizers even know? I mean, it doesn’t matter, but either correct the course or SAY that it’s 13.8 miles. Hmm.
T2 was no big deal. Since I have clips or cages on my pedals, I use my running shoes to ride in, and don’t have to change them. Maybe the only benefit to not having clipless pedals (yet). Decided to run without a shirt (which I almost never do because of fear of sunburn) because of the oncoming heat. 5 mins or so into the run my stomach started to rebel against the insanely sweet Gu, and I had to slow down and pace myself more evenly. The course was easy, and I saw Bobby 2x more, but I was hurting towards the end and had no gear left to kick it in. Damn, I was happy to see that finish line. My first true sprint tri complete, and really only nutrition mistakes to mention. Could have been much worse! I had wanted a finish in under 1:30, but the official 1:32:09 would have to do.
All in all, the race was well-done, decent course, well-organized. The tons of fruit and bagels and donuts and drinks were great. Complaints? There’ve always gotta be some. Having the pre-race meeting the day before is definitely NOT convenient, but I can understand it with a big race. Not enough port-a-potties, bike course too short, water disgusting. That last one is not the organizer’s fault, of course. Will I do it again next year? Perhaps, but the prospect of swimming in lake Crabtree again is not a nice thought. Next on the agenda: an Olympic or International Tri.