This was it. My first triathlon. Almost a year’s worth of training was coming to conclusion. It was time t see what this was really all about. Having given up on actually getting a good time due to my horrible swimming, I was relaxed. I felt almost free. Tim has cancelled at the last moment and so I was going at it alone.
There are a big advantage to racing in your own city. you know the terrain, you can easily practice the route and the registration station is close by. I cycled there early to pick up my racing plate and went back home to get everything ready. My bag was already packed so it was a question of doing a last check and heading for the start for warm up.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the order of things, and still I managed to make mistakes. I knew the warm up order should be reversed to the order in the race. Running -> Cycling -> Swimming. I don’t know if its normal to triathlon or not, but this race had 2 different transition zones for biking and running. For some reason I started by laying down my running transition, even though It should have been my first warm up.
Half way to the bike transition area I realised I was doing it wrong but figured I’d just put the bike at the bike transition area and go back to my running shoes later. Only once I was in the bike transition zone I saw you cant actually get material out before the race. So I had to live the bike there, with the bike shoes and the only pair of socks I had. No warming up then.
Lesson 1: Set up your transition after you warmed up.
Lesson 2: Have a pair of sock per transition point.
I walked barefoot back to the running transition. Luckily it was on grass so I could run barefoot. I managed to get a bit of a warmup in the transition area running barefoot. It was actually quite relaxing to run like that.
About 10 minutes before the start we gathered at the entrance to the water and got a short briefing. The water was quite cold when we got in, colder than it was tuesday when Tim and I swam in the canal. Listening to the advice in the Triathlete Training Bible I settled somewhere at the back and to the side. A few more seconds and then the gun shot.
Even though I was at the back it was still one big mess. People swam over me, I swam over other people. It took a few minutes for everything to calm down. As I expected I was in the back. I was going slow, and not in a straight line. I was in damage control mode. Half way through, I was the last, and by a big margin. about 300m before the finish, I switched over to breaststroke. That’s the one swimming style I actually learned as a kid. I managed to pass 2 people just before getting out of the water. At least I wasn’t last man out. My swim time was 178 from the 182. Bad.
Climbing the stairs up I was feeling dizzy for a moment. Luckily there was a volunteer there to give me a hand and help me with the last two steps. I wanted to run to the transition area. To my surprise everything felt stiff. It was like I was going through jelly. Slow and tiring. Never had this feeling before. I got to my spot and took a gel. Then it hit me.
My stomach all of a sudden blew like a ballon and it hurt. A lot. It was difficult to move form the pain. I took my time at T1 trying to manage the pain. I figured I would best put the cycling gloves on while running to the exit. Bad idea. I had to stop twice as my bike almost fell.
Lesson 3: Either get completely dressed before leaving your transition spot, or put it on while riding.
Biking is what I knew best. Its also where I was hoping to climb up in position. My stomach unfortunately had other ideas. It was hurting a lot. It was difficult to remain in aero position, and it was hard to push. Time trial riding is a lot about managing the pain in your legs. With my stomach hurting so much it was hard to push my legs to hurt. I was also unable to drink. Every time I drank I almost threw up. I had to accept I was not going to get a lot in and just make with what I have.
The biking part was made of a 10km course we had to lap four times. The first lap I took it easy, adjusting to the change in sport and doing mental damage control. The second lap I was able to speed up and lap three was even faster. In preparation for running I reduced the speed slightly in lap 4, getting ready for the switch to running
I got of the bike and took a step. My stomach exploded in pain. No way I was going to be able to run 10k like this. I walked slowly to my transition spot and took my time changing shoes. I tried to run and had to stop again. To much pain. The thought of dropping out crossed my mind. Just for a second. Enough for me to know I was not quitting no matter what.
I started with the light jog. The pain was there but it was bearable. As I took a gel out of my pocket and slowly started sipping from it. As I got more into the run the stomach pain was getting to more manageable levels. Again it was hard to push with the pain. I was passing people, but not as fast as I had hoped. halfway round 2 I spotted a group of about 8 men about 200m ahead of me. I really wanted to pass them so I sped up. My body would have non of it. My legs protested, as you’d expect, but this time my stomach was supporting them. I was not going to catch them. That broke my spirit and my speed dropped. I just wanted to finish the race. It felt a relief crossing the finish line.
I finished 144 of 182. Not great. However considering my swimming performance I am not unhappy. The experience was not what I expected. A triathlon is quite different from a duathlon. Swimming really has a big impact on how the race feels. It might be that as I grow in distance that impact will lessen as the percentage of total race time decreases. I will have to wait and see. I learned a lot from this race and I am looking forward to my next triathlon.