I am a triathlete!
I finished my first swim, bike, and run event ever. A half mile swim, 16.5 mile bike, and 5 mile run were served up on a pretty near perfect weather day on Saturday. Square Lake Short Course got started with a day in the mid-50’s as I drove to the race and it warmed up as the day went on. The water was smooth and a perfect temperature and there was no wind on the course to affect bike or running times. The only obstacle – having been sick all week.
As I thought about my goals for the race during the last month I had decided on two:
- Finish – always a good goal for any first time event especially one like a triathlon or marathon.
- Break 2 hours – I figured about 15-20 minute swim, about an hour bike, and 45 minute run (all seemed reasonable) would give me a good chance of getting under two hours.
I was feeling confident in my training and then on Tuesday I started getting that flu/aching feeling in my back. I took Wednesday and the morning of Thursday off work and was feeling pretty good. By the end of a full work day on Friday I was feeling worse. I wrote to some friends on Facebook that I was 95% sure I wasn’t going to race. I set my alarm for 5am Saturday hoping and praying for that 5%. After hitting snooze once (who really wants to get up at 5am) I decided that I would pack my gear and see how I felt. I wasn’t feeling perfect but I decided to go for it and see what would happen. I walked into the race with no expectations, just hoping to finish.
I picked up my number, shirt, and swim cap; got my race number markings and setup my transition area. And waited. I finally decided it was time to get ready, figured out the borrowed wetsuit. I had planned on trying it out once during my last swim, but getting sick didn’t allow for that. I had to ask for help in zipping it, because the zipper started at the top. Once on it was very snug. After the final instructions, we watched the elite wave go off. Wait for 3 more minutes.
I positioned myself at the back of the wave, my calves barely wet (knee deep was where most people were). After he shouted go I waded and then jumped in. What a weird feeling wearing a swim cap and wet suit. I’ve never actually worn either! I had some problems with my goggles sealing on my face. But did finally get them settled on properly. I wasn’t pushing super hard, I knew the swim would be the hardest and most punishing for my sick body. I felt almost like I was floating through the water (not quite like a torpedo). Some guy went back and forth in front of me a few times which was annoying and I slowly made my way to the first turn. The course was pretty much a square. I don’t think I swam the most direct route possible, but did a fairly good job of sighting. The short top part and then turning to shore. My friend Mike and warned me that the sun would make it hard to sight on the way back to shore, but to keep using the buoy to sight instead of the beach. At some point some guy tried to swim over top of me, probably from the wave behind. I started seeing swim caps from the wave before and the wave behind me. As I started being able to see the floor of the lake again a guy from the wave behind me started passing on my left (my breathing side) so I watched to see when he would stand up and did about the same thing. Jogged out of the water, hit the mat (about 16:45 on my watch), and started taking my wet suit off.
I had planned on using my Ironman timex to at least roughly get my splits throughout the morning. But it appears I didn’t actually hit the “split” button until the end of my bike leg. So that was a little frustrating to realize afterwards.
I hadn’t planned on super quick transitions so I took my time climbing the steps to the transition area. Switched into my bike gear and headed out!
I didn’t use my Garmin, but created course maps using Dailymile. The race distances seemed pretty accurate.
I didn’t do any fancy mount or dismount for the bike, I just wanted to make sure I got on and off! I did blow a nice snot rocket full of snot and lake water shortly after starting the ride. I felt surprisingly good on the bike as we went up and down the hills. I shifted gears a lot and caught people on the uphills, some would pass me back on the downhills. The course was pretty straightforward. It was fun to watch the faster people go past and check out their bikes and also to see how the rode as they got into groups and rode several wide. Most of the ride was on county back roads, but the section along MN-95 was awesome. Newer pavement means faster riding! Except for the big hill at about mile 14. The scenery could have been beautiful, but was mostly unexciting (its been a little dry) and you couldn’t see the St. Croix River through the trees. At a couple of points volunteers were stationed to specifically tell us to slow down. One was a big hill with turns at the bottom and the second was a smaller hill that ended with some turns going under a train trestle.
I stayed hydrated drinking most of 2 bottles (water and Nuun-filled water). And I took one gu while on the bike. I probably didn’t need that much nutrition/hydration but I wanted to stay on top of things since I was still sick. I was quite pleased with how I felt overall. The road from 95 back to the transition area was a beat up old road with lots of cracks, dips, and crevices. It made for a little more work coming back.
My “split” for this part of the race was under an hour. My watch says 1:15 for the combined swim, T1, and bike legs. (as of this moment results haven’t been posted). The only time besides coming out of the water that I looked at my watch was for mile splits during the run. I did use my bike computer, but that just showed speed and distance.
The run was going to be interesting. I took a pull of water from my bottle before throwing back on my transition towel and jogged to the exit. Crossed the line – grabbed a cup of water and left the park onto the roads. The first mile was on a paved road before turning off onto a gravel road. It was gravel for a little bit and then was pavement the rest of the way. There were water stations setup near miles 1, 2, and 3 and mile markers setup for those miles as well. Mile marker 4 seemed to be missing. The run had a couple of hills, nothing super hard but enough to make you change your stride and focus on the hill.
I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be able to finish the run. I started out slow letting the blood move around and the muscles to get used to the idea of running again. I also had some weird pains in my side and back that hung around for most of the run. I came through the first mile at 8:43 and felt really comfortable. I took water at every aid station, took a sip and threw the rest on my head to cool off – it wasn’t super hot, but warm enough. At the second aid station, the kids were filling the cups all the way to the top. This made it a little messy, but you can’t complain about cool water splashing around! I came through mile 2 at 8:26. I still felt pretty comfortable and started thinking about trying to average 8:30 pace for the run. There was one hill on a nice shaded part that hurt a little more and slowed my third mile down to 8:41. From here we turned back onto the main road. It wasn’t really shaded but I didn’t feel super hot or like I was baking. At about mile 4 I caught up to my friend Mike.
I caught up to him and said “good job Mike.” He looked at me for a second and said, “Damn you caught me.” I apologized and continued running. Some where in here a lady’s Garmin beeped the 4 mile mark though it wasn’t marked. My watch said 8:43 or something like that! I don’t really remember picking up the pace but steadily continuing towards the finish. Mike passed me back and we kind of ran together-ish for the rest of the race. As we turned back into the transition area we had a little hill to go up and then downhill to the finish. I passed Mike on the up-hill and opened up the legs for the down-hill finish. The last 50-75 yards were fairly steep and I was gaining on a guy so I kicked it down another notch and passed the guy with like 10 yards to go. I heard my name announced, heard the finish line beep, and I was a triathlete.
I saw 2:01:19 when I crossed the finish line and thought, crap so close to the 2 hour goal. Then I looked at my watch 1:58:21. Oh yea, 3 minute difference from the clock for the wave start. Awesome!! That made me feel even better!
I ended Saturday still feeling under the weather, but being a triathlete makes it ok! My support crew was also sick so there aren’t any pictures of me from the race. Just the few I snapped before hand (and my transition area afterwards). I’ll see about the race photos! Nadia even had a cute “triathlete” shirt that she was ready to wear.