Ten Things I Learned From Doing A Triathlon:
1. You can never train enough for the swim.
2. Training for the swim in a pool (when the swim is in a lake/pond) is ineffective. Also, see #1.
3. Don’t shift too fast into your big ring on the front lest you have the chain completely fall off your bike.
4. If the hill you’re biking up is too steep, just get off and walk it up. Nobody’s going to penalize you for it. Plus, your legs will thank you.
5. Hydrate hydrate hydrate.
6. Gu packs are your friend.
7. People are willing to shit themselves and keep going rather than stop and not shit themselves. (from observation, not practice – I’m not THAT hardcore!)
8. Planning your race pace ahead of time is useful in making sure you have enough “gas in the tank” once you get to the run.
9. Swimming sucks. It really, really does.
10. That I’ll never do another one ever again.
The sprint triathlon (0.25 mi swim/12 mi bike/3.1mi run) I did on Sunday was my first and will be my last. Why? I hate swimming.
As a kid, I loved to swim. But, in the 30-some years since then, I have fallen out of love with it – especially swimming in a lake. I can’t fathom how much fish poop is floating around in that water and when you’re swimming in a race, there’s a high probability that you’re going to get some in your mouth. ICK!
Anyway, back to the story. Since I don’t like swimming, I made sure that I would train to swim twice the distance non-stop (i.e. 0.5mi) in a lap pool. Aside from the turnarounds (where I didn’t hang on the edge or touch the bottom of the pool), I didn’t stop once. I had a good time split and I felt great. I’m a pretty experienced cyclist and I know what my pace times are for running, so I found a tri pace calculator online to plug in what my finish time would be.
Note: I’m slow. Really slow. I know this. But my goal was to finish and not kill myself.
Using my various paces – and generously estimating that my transitions would take 4 minutes because I had no idea – I came up with a race pace time of 1:43:46:
– Swim: 13:40
– T1: 4:00
– Bike: 46:27
– T2: 4:00
– Run: 35:39
I felt confident.
Until race day.
It was so hot and humid – even at 6:30am – I was sweating buckets just standing there. I was really glad I had the foresight to set up 5-1L bottles of water in my transition station/bike and had 4 Gu packs and one of the bottles of water with a Gu electrolyte tablet for the bike ride. Saved my butt.
What didn’t save my butt was the swim. Dear gawd that sucked. Let’s just say it felt WAY longer than a quarter mile. But, I only got kicked once! Go me!
Actual swim time: 16:45
I was already a full 3 minutes off pace! That must’ve made me hustle, because my T1 time was 1:59! Woot! I give credit to my sockless Keen bike shoes. Quick on/off.
The biking was awesome. I wanted to just go out and crush those 12 miles, but I held back because I knew I had a 5k ahead of me after the bike and if I blew out my legs now, I wouldn’t be able to run. But damn that was so difficult to do!
A note: halfway through this bike leg – which went through rolling hills that meant a lot of shifting gears – was a MONSTER Category 5 hill. I went and scoped it out the day before, and it was ~0.6mi long…and STEEP. Yikes.
Speaking of shifting, my chain fell off my bike on a nice, flat straightaway!!! I wanted to go faster than the 20mph I was managing on my middle ring, so in my enthusiasm, I shifted to the big ring too fast and my chain fell right off.
I had to do some quick side-of-the-road bike repair, getting covered in chain grease in the process. I think it took all of 2-3 minutes to fix it, but that and the loss of momentum really wrecked my time for a good 5-6 minutes.
Back to the recap. When I got to the monster hill, I went up approximately a quarter of it, then I said “fuck this” and got off and walked the bike up the rest of the way. The funny thing is that my walking was only a tenth of a mph slower than my biking speed. Plus, my legs got a much-needed stretching out. The rest of the ride, other than me passing a bunch of people, was uneventful. Time: 51:42.
T2 was just as fast as T1: 2:00 flat
The run! By then the sun was scorching and the heat index was well into the 90s. I had a bottle of water that I froze the night before and by the time of the run had melted, but was still cool. Between that and the water stops, I dumped more water on my head and neck than I ingested (I did empty two bottles of water on the bike, though, so I was hydrated). My plan was to run for 1:30-2:00 minutes and walk for 30 seconds and it was the best decision I made as I was passing a lot of other people who just ran out of gas and could only manage a walk.
Total time: 1:47:20
Just shy of 4 minutes slower than my guess – and if I hadn’t lost the chain on my bike, I would’ve beat that time. But since my goal was to finish: mission accomplished.
Also, I wasn’t last! I beat eight other people! 🙂
Now I can check it off my list and not have to do one ever again. Unless I do a team tri where I can do the bike (preferred) or run leg. Otherwise, I’m going to stick to running.
I am looking into doing some duathlons (run/bike/run) in the future! Always a glutton for punishment.
My nephew told my husband a story this weekend about a friend of his that rides quads (a four-wheel off road vehicle) who is immensely talented and races semi-pro, however, he also has MS. When asked why he still rides, my nephew said “it’s because one day, he won’t be able to and he wants to do it while he still can.”
It’s similar to why I do these things: to not only prove to myself that I can, but because I can. There’ll be a time when I’m unable to do these things and I don’t want to have any regrets as to the things I should’ve done when I had the chance.
As my friend Meredith says, “just keep moving forward!”
Next up: half-marathon training!