A couple Sunday ago was my last scheduled triathlon of the summer. I may do one or two more, but as of right now, I have not committed to anything.
Sunday’s tri was not like any of the other ones I have done before. Instead of a road bike course, this was off road for mountain bikes. Instead of running on roads and other paved surfaces, I was trail running, more cross-country style.
Saturday Alexis, Ace and I headed out to the lake where the race was to be held to get in some open water swim practice and see what I would be up against the next day. The open water swim practice went well and I felt really prepared for the race the next day.
Sunday morning didn’t start quite like I wanted it to. I planned on getting up around 3:30, getting ready, having coffee and then leaving the house around 5:15. But I forgot to turn on my alarm and at about 4:30 I just happened to wake up. I was an hour behind schedule.
Despite the late start, we made it to the park with a little time to prepare for the race. This tri was a ¼ mile swim, 12 mile trail bike, and a 5k cross country style run. I asked Alexis to time me and let me know what my times were as I entered the transition area after each part. Just before the swim started she told me that one of the race officials said that fast riders would finish the bike portion in about an hour and the slow riders would take two hours. This was great info. I had been planning on taking about 50 minutes. I adjusted my plan in my head accordingly.
The swim was an Ironman type start. Meaning that everyone in your wave runs into the water at once and fights for position, kicks, grabs, and does whatever one needs to do to separate from the pack. The key is to stay away from the slow, non-confident swimmers. They are dangerous. They get in the way, they flail, and they stop for no apparent reason. Unless you are an elite swimmer, the middle is the best place to be. The elite swimmers swim away quickly and the slow swimmers are behind you. Middle of the pack is usually pretty safe since the skill levels are about even.
However, if you are in the middle you will more than likely catch up with the heat that went before yours. This is bad, now the slow swimmers from the previous heat are in full survival mode. They are out of gas (with 100 yards to go) and they will hold onto anything that their flailing limbs can get a hold of. This includes faster swimmers who have caught them, buoys, boats and pelicans.
After making it out of the water it was time to transition to the bike. Many racers overlook the transitions. But you can waste a lot of time in transition. I do not waste time, this is not the time to catch your breath. This is the time to quickly get out of the transition area. Here’s how the transition goes: Once you get to your bike, put on your cycling shoes, put on your glasses, buckle your helmet, take your bike of the rack and get the hell out of the transition area. Notice there is no mention of dry off, have some water, get the water out of your ear. That wastes time.
Thanks to Alexis’ advice I was prepares for a long slow ride. And that’s what I got. Usually on my road bike I average around 20 mph, on the mountain bike I was at about 12 mph. The tough part about mountain biking is that it is not a smooth motion like on a road bike. Its very jarring. You have to hold onto your bars with white knuckles or else be thrown to the ground. Some parts of the trail were sand. Sand is the nemesis of your tires. Sand is very good at grabbing your front or rear tire and not letting go. This means a fall for you. Which I did. But only once. There is a good side to sand; it is very soft to land on. It may have been my most comfortable fall ever.
While I was blazing through the transition after the bike, Alexis told me about how long I had spent on the bike. I had done well. Now all I needed to do was run 3.1 miles on the same trail I just got off of. I was covered in dirt and mud from the dust and from the fall I took, but I looked like a bad-ass. The run was an out-and-back run, meaning I was able to keep track of how many people were on their way back in, and then gauge about how many people were in front of me; and there weren’t many. I managed to pass two of the guys in my age group on the run. Everyone has their age written in thick, black permanent marker on the back of their right calf. Things were going well, no one was passing me, I was doing the passing!
But then disaster…my belly decided it needed to throw up. I had to stop, grab a tree and hurl. I didn’t have much to hurl though, just a little water and some bile. But two people did pass me while I was doing this, however they were not from my age group so I didn’t mind. After a brief time-out, I was back to running. I didn’t have far to go, but I felt much better.
I crossed the finish line and was greeted by Alexis. She is always a sight for sore eyes and always has a cup of water waiting for me at the finish line.
Unofficial results are posted about every 15 minutes after a few racers make it back in. When I finished I noticed that there were not too many people who had finished. After a little while, they posted the first batch of results. I had finished 29th! Alexis asked me how I did in my age group, but I didn’t check. She went to check and as it turns out, I finished 2nd among 25-29 year olds! Not too bad, there’s nothing wrong with silver!
It wasn’t my fastest race, and maybe since it was off road aspect made it my most challenging race.
Here are my times:
400M Swim: 8:37
T1 (this is how long it took me to switch from swim to bike, this was fastest for my age group): 1:35
20K Bike: 1:01:17, 12.1 MPH Avg.
T2 (this is how long it took to go from bike to run): .42
5k Run: 23:47, 7:37/mile
For a total time of 1:36.00