Triathlon Virgin No More!

I did it!!!

May 14, 2011, I completed my first triathlon!!! The Portland Triathlon Club‘s Mock-Tri at Vancouver Lake in Vancouver, Washington.

The PTC puts this on every year to kick off the triathlon season and to give newbies like me a chance to put their training to the test, as well as their gear and organization. It was billed as a Sprint or Olympic event but with an abbreviated swim of 750 meters for both…turns out it was a bit longer (more on that in a bit).

My transition spot all set up with OJ.

The weather was perfect, 51 degrees air temp as I was driving out. I arrived at 7 AM to pick up my packet and set up my transition area. The PTC was able to use the Portland Triathlon’s bamboo bike racks for the event, which made it spot-on realistic. From 8:15 to 9 AM we had clinics, really a quick briefing, on all segments of the race, which included handouts for future reference. Great information, did wish we had a little more time between the end of the clinics and start of the race because I learned some things that I wanted to change to include in this event, but only had enough time to run (literally) for a bathroom break, slather on Glide to neck, arms, and legs, put on my race belt with my race bib, get into my wetsuit, pose for the team picture, and do a short 5 minute warmup swim before the race started!

The Swim – 16:54 – 0.46 miles

Swim portion of the Mock Tri from my Garmin.

I brought my neoprene swim cap, but during the warmup I realized that the chin strap was too constricting and that the water was not really all that cold to me, so I left it on a piece of driftwood to pick up after the race and went with my silicon cap only. Air temp at race start was 59 degrees, partly sunny. So, at mass start, I started on the far left, mid-pack so I could swim a diagonal toward the first buoy (a kayak) and reduce my turn angle. The clinic I had two weeks ago really eased my nerves about the mass start, and I had no problem with other swimmers’ arms, legs, feet. What I did have a problem with was my wetsuit…so frickin’ constricting! I had mentally prepared myself for this, knew that everyone initially hyperventilates at the start of the swim due to the constriction on your chest from the suit, but it took all the mental talk I could muster to deal with it. This was the first time I had done an open water swim in my wetsuit, due to my own scheduling problems, so I was learning about swimming in it at my event… I could not get comfortable enough to keep my face in the water, so ended up swimming heads-up freestyle the entire course, which creates a lot of drag and, while I knew it was harder, was all I could do. Occasionally, for a break, I rolled over and did a few strokes of backstroke and returned to freestyle again. About 3/4 of the way I caught up with another swimmer, who I later found out was one of my Tornadoes teammates, and drafted off him to the end (thanks Corey!!). I got up when my hands grabbed sand, and probably should have swam about 25 feet closer to the exit point, but I was ready to get out of the water, exhausted…

T1 – 2:25

So, we’ve all seen images of triathletes running out of the water and up into the transition area…I was not one of those…I walked! A couple other people passed me, I didn’t care! I did manage to get out of my wetsuit top and then out of my tri-sleeves under it by the time I got to my bike. Being barefoot didn’t even bother me, like I feared it might. I grabbed the waist of my suit and pulled it straight down, did the “poopy pants” step to get my suit inside out at my ankles and easily pulled the suit off with one finger on each side, just like I learned in the clinic. I put on my helmet and snapped the clasp (either of which you forget can get you disqualified at the start of the bike), put on my sunglasses, put on my shorty bike socks, slipped on my shoes, decided to forgo gloves, got my bike off the rack, and ran it to the bike mount area. I was energized again!!

The Bike – 47:51 – 13.5 miles

Bike portion of the Mock Tri from my Garmin.

I love this bike course, I’ve done it many, many times, which was a huge mental boost! It’s flat, and on the weekends, not a lot of traffic (this was not a true race event so traffic was not shut down). Remember the people that passed me out of the water, well I passed them on the bike. I passed a bunch of people who passed me in the swim, too. They say you never win a triathlon in the swim, and I get that now. The bike is my forte and I was able to use that to my advantage and make up time lost in the swim. I had my bike set in middle gearing for the start, which was perfect, and quickly geared up to higher end for speed. Not much to add here other than for the first time ever, my feet started to fall asleep 3/4 of the way through the ride. I need to research that. Otherwise my ride was fantastic, great pace.

T2 – 1:26

I ran my bike back into the transition area, and remembering my clinic two weeks prior, ran my bike straight in and threw the front wheel over the bike rack as a time saver…to be told by a course judge “You can’t do that!!” so I had to remove it, wheel the bike to the other side of the rack and return it hanging by the saddle like the start. A little time lost and a lesson learned. Off came the helmet, on with Dad’s old cap, slipped out of my bike shoes that I hadn’t tightened all the way on purpose, slipped on my running shoes, grabbed a sip of water, unrolled my race bib on my race belt I had donned over my trisuit and under my wetsuit at the beginning, and ran out of the transition area to start the run.

The Run – 36:11 – 3.5 miles

Run portion of the Mock Tri from my Garmin.

So my feet are slightly asleep, a big surprise…haven’t had that happen before on a ride and didn’t have that happen on any of my brick practices. The run starts on a trail, which is great! I grab a cup of water at the water station for a drink. I can feel my throat closing and do some mental talk to calm down. I walked about ten steps to stop hyperventilating, and it works, and I start up running again, no problem. I passed a couple people on the run, which helped mentally too. My Garmin Forerunner lost GPS signal during my swim (I had it on my wrist instead of my swim cap) so I didn’t have my normal 0.25 mile indicator. Run went from trail to road at about 0.5 mile, I think. The run out was way harder than the run back, mostly because I didn’t have my quarter-mile notification and therefore no idea where I was in the run–all mental. Once I hit the turnaround I was much better. No pain at all during the run. Walked a couple paces during the run, but kept that to a minimum. Best sound in the world? Cowbell at the finish line!

I felt great at the end! No pain, no cramps, so happy! It didn’t matter that the swim sucked!

So, how did this compare to a Sprint Triathlon? It was LONGER than a normal sprint tri!!!

Normal Sprint: 750 meter (0.46 mile) swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
Mock Tri : 750 – meter (0.46 mile) swim, 13.5 mile bike, 3.5 mile run

Woo Hoo! And I did it at 1:44:49, under my predicted 2 hours! My new PR (Personal Record)!

Lessons Learned:

  • Time to do a lot more open water swimming. It’s not too cold to do it.
  • Figure out if the sleeveless wetsuit with tri-sleeves underneath is too constricting with all that bulk at my chest. Try a rental long sleeved suit and see if that makes a difference.
  • More nutrition beforehand. At the Tri Clinic two weeks ago I was in the middle of a juice cleanse and my performance was great during the 5 hour workout. I decided that juice would be good race day nutrition, which it was, I just didn’t have enough of it. Need at least another quart.
  • Forget neoprene cap and bike gloves.
  • Get a quick-release system for my Garmin Forerunner to go from cap, bike, to wrist. (Thanks to my friend, Zach Wiens for the screenshots from his Garmin).
  • Figure out how to keep feet from falling asleep on the bike.
  • Do more bike to run bricks, with longer bike to simulate stacked effect from swim and bike before the run, to train not to hyperventilate at the start of the run.
  • Put bike back as you found it!!

All in all, an awesome experience! Can’t wait to do it again…June 11, 2011, Blue Lake Triathlon, Fairview, Oregon!

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