Los Angeles Triathlon Club
Race Report
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Club Member: Ellen Demsky
Race: My First Triathlon
Distance: Sprint
Race Date: 06/15/08
Submit Date: 06/20/08

This triathlon odyssey began 2 1/2 mos before the event. Anne (a running friend), Chris (a swimmer) and I attended the Danskin motivational meeting and signed up for the the June 15 Danskin triathlon at Disneyland. I remember fillingout a form asking if I could swim a lap of a pool (I did not know if I could), change bike gears without looking (of course not, I didn't knowanything about gears), change a flat tire (no way - isn't that what bike stores are for) - about the only thing I knew about was running. This was going to be an adventure - learning about competitive swimming - getting a bike ..... I borrowed my son-in-laws old mountain bike (which is lighter than my mountain bike) and my daughter Melinda oiled it and showed me a few things about bike riding. She also gave me a bike helmet, bike shirt and shorts (hey, gotta look the part). She also gave me lots of "be careful" advice and a book (which I had given her a few years ago when she began to train for a tri) called Training for a Triathlon. This book has been well used and the swimming/biking chapters read repeatedly. I remember my first ride around Balboa Park - 5 miles (sore butt) with no clue about what gear to be in - a sharp contrast to two mos. later when I entered the time trials in the Sr. Olympics in Long Beach and raced around the course at 16.7 mph for the 10K. (on a mountain bike - which the other competitors called a tank). Biking improves with "time in the saddle" and I spent a fair amount of my training time biking - it was certainly easier than running/swimming and I found I really enjoyed it. Swimming became (and still is) my biggest challenge. I would ask everyone who could swim for some advice. I remember bothering Michelle, a swimmer, with her two little kids clamoring for her attention, to show me how to get my elbows high and improve my stroke. And Melinda telling me to reach and glide. Rachelle/Chris - everyone gave me hints. I know it will ALL come together soon :-) I found that I had the endurance to swim the distance (600 m) and also that I did not have to do the crawl the whole time. Actually, I was almost as fast doing the side stroke. But I was (and still am) slow and wanted to improve my crawl so I could become faster. The week before the tri I swam in a 50m pool rather smoothly (some of the advice clicked) and did an open water swim in Long Beach (thanks Ken who came along to watch over me) which really boosted my confidence that I could do the distance in the tri. Running was ok. I did Senior Olympic state qualifying track & field events the week before the Tri - did well (qualified for Nationals in the four events I entered)- but my ankle became swollen (I have achilles tendonitis in one ankle)- so I did not run the week before the event. The run distance was under a 5K so I thought I could do it easily (I did not count on "cement-like" legs after pedaling on the bike for 40min) Training - I worked pretty hard starting with 5 - 6 hrs trainings sessions per week and quickly moved toward doing 9 - 13 training sessions per week. It was such a help to have running friends Deb, Katie, Anne and Rachelle to discuss/email and to do practice training sessions. Another running friend Sharon McNary had done triathlons and really helped us all with her wisdom and suggestions. Upon her advice I joined the Tri club and have learned a lot from that organization also. Anne's hubby Rob and cousin Chris, Sharon's friend Gail and numerous others gave us their time and much "advice for newbies". We all became so much more knowledgeable in 2 1/2 mos. Deb/Rachelle & I stayed at the Best Western hotel, a 5 min walk from the start of the event at Cal Adventure park in Disneyland - great location! The day before the event we attended the Expo which included a meeting about the course. About 50% of the 1600 entrants were newbies and the spokesperson was 60 yr. old Sally Edwards, so I was feeling more comfortable. I had seen a few of my son Danny's triathlons and it seemed as if everyone was 30 yrs old and had 0% fat bodies. Speaking of age I was within the top 5 oldest - but I didn't figure that out until after the event -At the Expo I met many women in their 50's so I wasn't age intimidated. After the Expo, Deb/Dave & I investigated the park - saw the lagoon where we would swim and where we would run. I looked at the map of the bike course but did not ride it - pretty heavy traffic and it was a hot day. I found knowing the course a help - on race day. Danny came down the night before and we walked a few miles looking for a good place to eat dinner. (good pasta meal at CA Pizza Kitchen). He did my race markings (numbers on arms), put numbers on helmet and bike and figured out the ankle chip. The alarm went off at 3:30am (got a decent 6 hrs. sleep). Ken drove in from Temecula at 4am to join Danny and I, Deb & Rachelle at 4:30am to walk to the event. Even though we arrived early, there were many people before us and we scrambled for "good spots" to rack our bikes (within a designated area). I got an end spot and even though Danny was not allowed in the transition area he figured out a way of standing near me and giving me tips. He was the official photographer (and did a much better job of photographing me than I did of him in his tris) and I have shots of me at each stage. He even ran ahead of me to get running shots. We started with the swim and I was in the first wave. I had heard of many people panicing about the swim and my mantra was "you CAN do this" and I tried to focus on just getting around the next buoy. As I mentioned having done one open water swim really helped my confidence. It was definitely too crowded a swim situation. The start (about 10 feet wide for 100 starters) and finish (about 6 feet wide) were much too narrow particularly at the end where we bunched up and the volunteers were hauling in two women at a time off the ramp at the finish - very slow). I think they should have separated the waves by more than 3 min. It was like swimming in a mass of bodies, either someone was kicking me or I was kicking someone. And I was in the beginning wave - I can imagine how crowded it was by the time they got to the later waves. I personally did a lot of treading water (my new BEST swim stroke:-) trying to figure out the course and I even asked a spectator where the finish was! Everyone I spoke to said they had a difficult time with the swim - even good swimmers. It was a (long) 20 min event for me but I felt strong afterwards and started running to the bike (most people were walking - I knew my swim time had to be slow and needed to make it up). I probably "fiddled" too much in the transition (according to Danny afterwards) but to me I was moving quickly. I ran to the bike start, pedaled hard for about 40 min. one hill - got passed a lot - realized that I needed a road bike (not a mountain bike) to be more competitve - got passed by speedy Katie (who did it in 30 min) and it was nice to hear my name and "good job" yelled on the course. I averaged 14.7 mph which was ok for me. When I arrived at the finish Danny was there - I was going to chat awhile and tell him how tired my legs were - but he yelled "run mom - get moving" He got teased by the surrounding spectators for speaking to his mother that way - but it DID get me moving. My legs were really heavy but according to Danny I was "moving". Again I "fiddled" too long in the transition in re-racking my bike. Finally just gave up and put up the kick stand and took off. The run was interesting, through CA Adventure Park where Deb/Dave and I had wandered the day before. A lot of the people were walking by now. It was very curvey and I tried to run in a straight line which I think helped my time. I passed a lot of people (finally) and even though I felt I was going slowly, particularly for the first mile, I averaged 9:2X min miles. Crossing the finish line was a kick. I yelled "Yeah, I am a triathlete!" to Danny/Ken. Deb and Katie had crossed a few minutes before me. Deb/Dave were there for sweaty hugs! I was so excited that I forgot to return my chip. Deb noticed and Danny ran back later. I do not know if this is typical of triathlons but there was no food (like in marathons) afterwards. Anne/Chris Rachelle were a relay division which started later so we did not see them. We went back to the hotel, showered and ate. Everyone complained about the dirty water from the lagoon but as I had a wetsuit on I didn't get the scum on me directly. We all met for breakfast in downtown Disneyland later. Danny had gone home and phoned us our results. I won my age group (there were 3 of us) and placed 800 or so, about midway, overall. Our little tri group all placed within 13 min of each other. I was proud to have stayed within the time range of such a good/competitive group of ladies! We all did well with some things and will know better for next time with others. Next time being the Hansen Dam tri in mid Aug. YES, I'm adicted!! Thanks for reading all this and for much help/encouragement and support.from so many people....Ellen

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