"A blog post?! I thought this blog was dead?" you say. Well, it was, and I have brought it back from the dead. It is now undead. Paladins now receive an attack bonus against trolls on this blog.
Last weekend I participated in my first triathlon with Courtney, who was participating in her second. (I would have done the one she did back in June, but the registration filled up really fast, and then fifty people didn't show up on race day. I was very annoyed.) The Warrenton Triathlon took place at the Warrenton Athletic and Recreation Facility (or WARF) on Waterloo road, and we stayed at my aunt and uncle's place in Haymarket so that we wouldn't have to get up an hour earlier to drive there from Gaithersburg.
The race was a 300 yard (Meter? I saw different numbers in different places. It's almost always meters, but for some reason this was advertised in yards.) swim, an 11 mile bike, and a 5k run. As sprint triathlons go, it's probably middle of the pack in terms of distance, so it should have been a pretty good race to participate in for my first triathlon.
However, I knew as soon as I saw how the swim was set up that the swim portion would be a disaster, and it was. They took over six lanes of the indoor pool at the facility, and everyone had to swim a lap in each lane, ducking under the rope to move to the next. That doesn't sound bad until you learn that they started racers every ten seconds, and the lanes are only two persons wide, so you can't really pass anyone. Not only that, but each racer had the responsibility of estimating their swim time to determine swimming order, and I'm sure 80% of the people did not do it properly.
When I got in the pool and started the swim, it was like swimming in the ocean. I was number 140, so there were at least 30 to 40 other people in the pool at the same time as me, and everyone's strokes and kicks made the pool water extremely choppy. This gave an advantage to those who started in front, now that I think about it. By the end of my swim, there were six of us lined up head to toe trying to finish the last half of the last lap. We couldn't pass because there were people coming at us on the other side of the lane, so we just swam as fast as the guy at the front of the line.
Basically, whoever designed this swim is an idiot. I was forced to swim faster than I wanted to because I felt bad holding up people behind me (who obviously did not time their swim with a stopwatch like I did). I had planned to do the swim in seven to eight minutes, and I did it in 5:29. This, of course, made me very tired coming out of the pool. I took a little extra time during the first transition, trying to catch my breath. I had to dry my feet off and put on socks and shoes, my basketball jersey, my camelbak, my helmet, and my glasses. I made it out of the transition area in 2:05.
The bike had us coming out of the pool facility onto 211, the beginning of which is some rolling hills. Since the swim wore me out so much, it took more energy than it should have for me to do these first hills. Also, my bike is not the best for racing; more on that later. By the time I got to the long, extended hills in the middle, I was dead, and I had to stop and walk midway up a couple of them. A few people passed me at this point, but I passed most of them later on in the bike, once my legs were fully in bike mode. By the end of the bike, I was feeling good and ready to run the 5k. I finished the bike in 53:19, which is near the bottom of the men's group. This is not unexpected, since I had to stop and walk in a couple of places.
My second transition was lightning fast. I ran in, put my bike on the rack, and ran out. It was 42 seconds long, the number on my basketball jersey I was wearing that day. I was the eighteenth fastest person in transition two.
As I ran out of the transition area, I realized I was not in as great a shape for the run as I thought. I wasn't tired, but my back muscles were killing me. Like I mentioned before, I don't have the greatest bike for racing. It's not a mountain bike, but it only has seven gears, and the handle bars are horizontal, so I can't lean over and take pressure off of my back muscles. As I started to run, my back muscles were just throbbing. I made it maybe a half mile before I had to walk and stretch them until the pain subsided.
After that, I thought I would be fine for the rest of the run. I was wrong. See, I thought I had been doing well keeping hydrated on the bike. When I checked my camelbak after the race was over, I realized that it was still 3/4 full. I had drunk only ten fluid ounces since the start of the race... So, it should come as no surprise that in mile two of the run BOTH of my quads cramped up at the same time. This, of course, happened while I was on the opposite side of the track from the water table. Go me. I immediately stopped and stretched them, and I had to walk the next half mile or so to the water table to get some hydration. It took a while for the water to take effect, so I was only able to run out the last three tenths of a mile or so, but I was able to do that at basically a full sprint, resulting in this photo (may not show up in Facebook, but it's my profile picture):
Despite all of these problems, I finished the 5k in 38:45 and had a total race time of 1:40:18. Going into this race, my personal goals were a must finish of under two hours and a like to finish goal of under 1h 45m. I beat my main goal by almost five minutes, even with the problems I had. This leads me to believe that what I am doing in my training is correct, and that I could have a really great final time in my next race if I change some things:
1) If the next swim is done in the way the Warrenton race organized it, I will place myself further back in the group. I am a strong swimmer, but that setup was horrible and cost me a lot of energy. I would rather swim at a slower pace and have the energy to make up time on the bike and run.
2) I need to force myself to drink more on the bike. I think I may need to switch to a water bottle for this, so I can see exactly how much I have consumed. The camelbak is convenient, but psychologically I am fooling myself into thinking I am drinking more than I really am.
3) I need to upgrade my bike or get a new one. If I keep the bike I have, I will get new handlebars, and I also plan to get new pedals with shoes that clip on. The bike I have now doesn't even have straps on the pedals, so my pedaling is very inefficient.
I think that if I can change those things up, I will be in great shape for my next race. We are done with races for 2010, but we are planning on doing a couple in 2011, giving me all winter to train. I've started lifting weights again, with a main goal of building more arm and shoulder muscle for the swim portion of the race. If I can make it so that I don't have to kick as much, that will make the transition to the bike all the better in my next event.