Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The reality of a "real" triathlon

Well, my first "real" triathlon (swim, bike, run) is in the books. Last Saturday I completed the sprint distance tri in the Tri for the Y in Freeport, Maine. Now some of you know that I'm no stranger to triathlons, but the swim, bike, run version is new to me.

I started training for the Tri for the Y in January, but I'll be the first to tell you that I didn't even come close to putting in the work required to be stellar for this. I started swimming in January and just couldn't motivate to get to the pool more than twice a week. Swimming sucks, plain and simple. But I gotta say that my form improved dramatically from the first day in the pool to tri time. Actually, one of the swim coaches at the YMCA in Portland told me that I "looked like a completely different swimmer" since the day I started. Either way, swimming still sucks.

I've always been a good biker. I grew up on a mountain bike and have ridden one ever since. Whether it be on the roads or on some muddy trail somewhere, mountain biking and I go way back. Road biking, however, is a different story. Never having owned a road bike, I searched for one for months. It couldn't be too cheap but it couldn't be too expensive. It couldn't be too flashy but it couldn't be too plain. It couldn't blah, blah, blah. I eventually settled on a bike from Road Bike Outlet, where they sent me a "black" bike that was actually more of a really dark purple. Great. My first road bike was stupid looking. Whatever. As long as it performed who really cared what it looks like, right? I won my age group at the Great Adventure Challenge on a mid-90's Trek 830 that has rust on every metal part on it. So maybe people wouldn't take me seriously if I show up on a purple bike? Besides, the boys at Road Bike Outlet have outstanding customer service reps who sent me some aero bars for the color trouble. It's not so bad now... But anyways, the bike ride leg shouldn't be bad. It's by far my second best event...

Then there's the run. Anyone who knows me knows this is my cup of tea. My cream of the crop. My cherry on top. A week before the Tri for the Y I ran my fastest 5k race since high school (almost 13 years...13 YEARS!!!) My training runs have been great as have my track workouts. I haven't felt this good one the pavement in years. The run would be a breeze. I knew it and everyone I knew at the Tri for the Y knew it.

The Tri for the Y was a brilliant event. Beautifully organized, it brought out a few pros and a lot of tri virgins. The volunteers were primarily staff, many of them fellow employees at the Y in Portland. This was nice because it created an immediate sense of comfort for me, and a lot of the participants were fellow staff or members who I knew pretty well too. I was hoping to put on a show for the people...

Enter the swim. I was in wave 6 so as soon as wave 5 hit the water I got up and got ready. My strategy was to combine some freestyle with some side-stroke. My time would be right around 7:30 for the 325-yard swim, and because this wasn't my best event, I wanted to conserve energy here. Once wave 5 was out of the water, I plopped myself in. Bam! Next thing I know I'm splashing my way towards the far of the pool. Man, I was actually doing this! I felt great! I tapped the wall, turned around, and pushed off, crawling back towards the starting end. Still good. By the time I hit the starting end (50 yards down) I started to panic. Side-stroke to the rescue! I coughed and hacked and side-stroked my way the next 275 yards. Seven minutes and fifty-eight seconds and I was done and one of the last in my wave. I pulled myself out and ran outside to where my "Purple People Eater" was waiting.

This is where things started getting screwy. My transition time (time from the end of the run to the beginning of the bike ride) turned out to be as slow as death and I'm not really sure why. It seemed like I was hurrying with the towel and my shoes and helmet and gloves. Why the hell did it take over 2 minutes then? Regardless, I was on the bike and blasting out of there...

Forty-four minutes later and I was done the 13-mile bike ride. This was extremely disappointing. I had a goal time of 39 minutes so needless to say I was pissed. I felt good on the bike which may have been my problem. In retrospect I didn't push hard enough in some areas, but it felt like I was dying in others. Either way, not happy.

So I racked my bike, threw off my helmet and gloves, and took off on the run like a bat out of hell. Except one problem...anyone who knows what it feels like to go immediately from a bike ride to a run knows that there is no such thing as "bat out of hell." My legs were like jello. But I moved those jello-y legs just as fast as they could muster. After about a mile I started to find my rhythm and began picking people off like apples from a tree. One, by one, by one they were falling prey. The run was an out-and-back, so I could see who I wanted to target for when I hit the turn around. People later said that it looked like I was "flying" when I blew by them, and that I looked like I was "sprinting." Well as long as it looked like it! I finished the 5k run right around where I expected (20:05).

Of a total of 135 people and teams, I had the 110th fastest swim time, the 50th fastest bike time, and the 3rd fastest run time. Somehow and 100% miraculously I ended up 3rd in my age group only--ONLY--because of my saving grace of a run. Obviously there's a TON of work to be done to get better for my next tri. As an idol of mine once said, "You only get better at the things you work at often."

Time to do just that.


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