||Action Packed First Triathlon - Race Report.
I thought it'd be fun and maybe even informative to post a report of my first triathlon.
First off, I'd like to give a shout out to all the great workouts that LA Tri provides. Just to name a few that I do as often as possible: Jamie's awesome Track workouts on Tues, Konrads killer Ocean Speed Circuit on Wed mornings, and PV with Fory.
So, I took the advice of a very talented and experienced TriClub member who suggested I do the LA Tri Express Series in San Dimas as my first race. This is a short and fast "mini" sprint made up of a 400m swim, 13.5k bike, and a 4k run. This seemed like a good race for me to start with since my background is in short competitive running races. Also, I'm still learning the art of endurance and pacing, so I figure my first season is best spent focusing on sprints.
Arriving early at the race, I picked up my bib number, goody bag, etc.. and proceeded to T1 to set up and warm up. It was first come, first serve so I chose a spot on the end of an aisle so as to have a little extra space and I figured it'd be easier to find my spot coming in and out.
OK, my biggest challenge with triathlon is the swim. For me, water is a new element in racing. Everyone I spoke with and everything I read regarding the swim, advised me against going out with the lead pack for your first race.
"Stay to the side.... find your own pace... race your own race... " But, for better or worse, I promptly and foolishly disregarded all of this and thought:
"Ah... whatever, I'll just go out with the lead pack and see what it's like. At the very least, I'll get the experience and a feel for what its like to swim with the strongest swimmers."
I can see all you experinced swimmers cringing right about now. What can I say? I like to learn the hard way. Beside, what's the worst that can happen? Read on...
The air-horn blasts and off we go! I immediately feel this unexpected surge and attack from all sides. Whoa! Just a minute ago, we were all best friends, laughing, cracking jokes, and chatting and now its like Armageddon. Every man for himself. Arms and legs flailing. Heads bobbing, water splashing, bodies disappearing.
The "washing machine" analogy I so often heard is surprisingly very accurate. Trying to keep up, I promptly get elbowed and kicked in the head a few times. I got climbed over and pushed down a couple times too. A very disorienting experience to say the least. It took me about 200 yards to really settle in, at which point we were about half way done and I was already feeling exhausted from the amount of struggling I found myself doing.
Swimming is sooooo counter-intuitive.
If at any point I felt tired and made the mistake of lifting my head, I would immediately start to sink and struggle, which would quickly deplete me of so much energy, I'd start doubting if I'd even be able to finish. With running or cycling, if you get tired, you can always just slow down, recover, no problem. With swimming, if you get tired and slow down, you sink, then struggle, then sink more... Add in a hundred people around you trying to pass and climb over you and well... you get the picture.
So, in order to relax, I knew I would have to keep my face down in the water, stay long in my stroke, glide and ROLL as much as possible to one side to get more air. At times I found myself rolling so much I was looking straight up at the sky. Any less of a roll and I would be swallowing nasty lake water (which I still managed to do pretty much the whole time anyways).
Suddenly I felt sand and I could stand up! I probably should've keep swimming a bit more but I was so happy to be able to stand that I just decided to trudge through the rest of the way to shore. I ended up finishing the swim leg 6th in my division, which was an unexpected surprise.
Into T1 and with all the care i took to make it as easy as possible to find my bike, I still had trouble. I came up on a spot that I thought was mine but there was no bike! I thought someone had taken my bike. No way! Looking around a bit more I finally found it. Whew!
- One thing I didn't realize was how different the transition area looks once you enter it after the swim. What I mean is, when you leave to start your swim, T1 is filled with bags and bikes all racked up and has a certain look to it. When you enter after the swim, T1 looks very different because by now many of the bikes are gone and the aisles just don't look familiar. Its like an organism that has changed it shape while you were away. I realize now how important it is to come up with an easily identifiable way to find your spot that works for you.
I transitioned as quick as I knew how and clippity-clopped out of T1, snapped into my pedals and started off.
The first part of the bike was a steep hill out of T1 so I made sure before hand to have my bike in a very high, easy gear. Up I went...
The bike leg went well for the most part and I felt fast and pretty good except for one little incident...
During the bike, I was happy to see the familiar colors of the LA TriClub on a rider just up ahead! I roll up and had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Ku who was doing the Olympic distance and who was riding strong. We say hi and his first words were "Let's get 'em!"
This got me going and I thought "heck ya, man, let's do this!" We rode together for a while and hit some pretty good speeds. At one point, I give Jeff a heads up about some climbing that's coming up. He tells me too about a hair-pin turn coming up.
But in my race haze, I didn't actually realize that he meant the very NEXT turn was a hairpin turn. So I came into the turn at what felt like 50mph, hit the brakes, skidded, and promptly slammed into the sidewalk causing my chain to derail... urgh.. Immediately, five or more riders fly past me with a Whooooshh....and I hear Jeff holler "You OK?!" "I'm OK!" I holler back and quickly re-set my chain and off I go, trying my best to make up for lost time. Coming out of the bike leg, I was 5th in my division.
This went smoothly. Off the bike, clippity-clop to my spot, into my shoes, off I went. I probably should've hydrated a bit but I just figured there would be some hydration on the run so I just took off. I was hoping for some gatorade but they just had water. Beggars can't be choosers right? Next time I'll suck down a gel as I end my bike leg.
Not a very fast run but I felt pretty good coming into it at first. Less than a mile in though something unexpected happened: tight calves and leg cramps. Whoa, I didn't see that one coming... I had to hold back since I didn't know if this would get worse or just go away after a mile or so. It was a hilly race too and tougher than I thought it'd be. I eventually managed to get into a comfortable pace and near the end felt good enough to push it a bit more.
That's when I heard the ridiculously fast pace of someone truckin' behind me coming up faster and faster. Being so close to the finish now, I decided I might as well give it a good strong sprint and give 'em a run for his money.
Before I knew it, we were side by side in a full sprint to the finish with the crowd cheering (all for him of course. He was a local guy with one of the local teams). I heard people cheering him on yelling "Take 'em, Take 'em!!" Referring to me! I was thinking "Man, this is a tough crowd."
We came in so fast we both unavoidably crashed into a few innocent bystanders who went flying off to the side lines with ice cream cones and fruit drinks getting air-borne all over the place! It was awesome. I felt like a linebacker clearing a path for a touchdown. In the end, it was close and he caught me at the line. I came in 5th in my division on the run.
Overall, I finished 5th in my division with time of 1:04:31. I was really happy with that since this was my very first triathlon. I learned a bunch, met some great people, and had a great time.
Next up, Strawberry Fields!