Thursday, September 1, 2011

August and My First Triathlon

It's been a busy August and the weather has been just like summer should be - hot and sunny.  I decide that it's time to do a bit more writing as lots of things have been happening.  Besides, my back is killing me and there isn't much else I can do except sit at my computer and type away.

First things first...... Why is my back causing me grief this time?  Well, a week or so ago I was doing a lot of running, and also painting my basement, generally pushing my body a bit too hard maybe.  Anyway, it got a bit sore and I took about 3 days off.  I figured by then it would be pretty well healed and ready to get back to  business.  After all, I do have an Xterra to prepare for (Sept. 11).  So yesterday Rob Swan (coach and Xterra organizer) and I headed out to the Nordic cross country trails to prepare them for the race.  We spent about 7 hours out there grooming the trails with vicious, powerful, (and progressively more heavy) weed wackers.  Unfortunately, my back had had enough after 4 hours.  Regrettably, I chose not to listen to it and pushed it harder than I should.  When I got home I "crawled" my way to the couch and watched US Open tennis for the next few hours while drinking beer and pigging out on nacho chips, salsa, sour cream, and Ibuprofen.  I had a pretty decent night except for the pee break episode in the middle of it when I had to not only deal with a spasmodic back, but also (at the same time) had to negotiate my way through the chocolate lab, golden retriever, and Zoe cat maze on our bedroom floor.  I constantly had to remind myself that what doesn't kill me will ultimately make me stronger.

Anyhow, back to writing about end of July and August.  On July 27 Barb, Jesse, and I flew down to San Francisco for a bit of a vacation, and to participate in the San Francisco Half Marathon.  We had a great time, visiting the Santa Cruz-Monterey area for a few days and then exploring San Francisco for a few more.  On July 31 Barb and I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon (which was the primary reason that we headed down in the first place)  It was a rather cool experience getting to run across the Golden Gate Bridge with thousands of other athletes.

On arriving back home in Kelowna and reminiscing about the 2 half marathons (Osoyoos and SF) I had done in July, I set a new tentative summer goal for myself (as I was feeling real good about my running and biking).  I decided to work on my almost non-existent swimming skills and prepare myself for the Kelowna Apple Try-a-Tri (August 20).  For the next couple of weeks I swam 4 or 5 times a week(initially at the pool and later in the lake) to find out if my goal was a reasonable one.  During this time I was hoping to become more comfortable in the water and and work primarily on my "breathing".  I'd be a great swimmer if I didn't have to breathe while I swam (I think they should have a snorkeling triathlon category).  On August 12 I phoned the Apple Triathlon people and asked them how deep the water would be for the Try-a-Tri.  After they told me it was 3 feet to 4 feet, and realizing that I would therefore probably survive the swim, I promptly registered with a renewed sense of optimism.

On August 20 Barb and I arose at the ungodly hour of 4:30 in order to get organized and ready for the 7:15 or so race start.  I really was rather calm as I knew that even though my 300 m swim would be embarrassingly slow,  I could stand up anytime I wanted and consequently would not drown.  I also knew that once the swim was done I would likely be able to make up the time lost on the swim during the bike and the run.  There were a total of 110 starters in the Try-a-Tri and they were going to start us in 4 waves, 10 minutes apart.  The first 2 waves were the men, and I made sure I was in the first, as I wanted to get this over as quickly (or should I say least slowly) as possible.  My goal was to relax in the water so that I would feel good at the end of the swim, but at the same time I had the lofty goal of beating at least 5 of the other 109 "swimmers".  At the gun I sputtered out of the starting gate, bumped around a little and eventually settled into position fourth from the end.  I was pretty pleased as I was ahead of 3 other people, and this was just the first of four waves.  I only had to stop and briefly rest once during the first 100 metres just to get my bearings.  I really was glad to get that first 100 over with and head into the middle third.  I think I stopped once during this section as well, but still managed to maintain my lofty position.  It was a relief to get into the last 100 as I knew I was almost there, and then the fun would start.  I didn't stop during the last 100, but instead rested by doing the sidestroke or paddling away on my back, conserving energy for the bike ride.

I also talked a bit to the lifeguards on paddle-boards who seemed to be watching me fairly closely, probably curious to know what unique stroke I would next be incorporating into my journey.  Finally, after 10:48, I stumbled out of the water and across the timing mat, joyfully heading for my eagerly waiting bike in transition.

After a fairly quick transition (2:31) I got on my bike and got up to speed as quickly as I could.  I knew there were about 21 riders in front of me, and I was going to reel in as many of them as I could (kind of "the tortoise awakes" scenario after lulling them all into a false sense of security).  I found that it took about a kilometre to get up to speed (30+) as there were a few initial corners to deal with.  After that though I put the hammer down and was not concerned at all with leaving anything in the tank for the run.  My thinking was that this would be the section where I would make up time, and I would worry about the run when I got to it.  I started closing in on and passing people fairly quickly.  It seemed to me that the others were slowing down far too much during the turns.  Logic dictates that you have to regain any momentum sacrificed during the turns and that just takes extra energy.  On a flat course like this one you should be constant and smooth.  There was only one 180 degree turn where I found I had to slow down significantly.  There were a couple of locations on this 5k circuit where I passed (going the other way) cyclists I was chasing.  One that I focused on specifically was a young fellow (from my perspective they were all young) who was wearing the same tri top as me.  He was three and a half minutes ahead of me going into the bike and I passed him on the third lap, near the end of the ride.  I find that little goals along the way motivate me.  One good thing about being so slow in the water was that there was always someone to chase while I was on the bike.  Overall I was really pleased with my 15k bike ride (26:38).

 After a 1:22 transition I was out on the final section - a 3k run.  My ideal goal during this portion was to average a pace of 5min/k, with a total time of 15 minutes.  I found that, once again, the first little bit of the section was the slowest.  It always takes a bit of time to get into the "rhythm".  It seems the guy that I passed on the bike who was in the same top as me liked to run.  He reeled me in in no time and left me in the dust.  After that, the run was pretty uneventful.  I completed 2 - 1.5 k laps of a beautiful along-the-lake course.  Passed one fellow along the way and was hoping to overtake one other before the finish line.  But it seems he had a bit more left near the finish and I kept dropping a bit farther back.  I was tired when I "ran" (not "plodded")crossed the finish line after a 15:04 run.  Total time for the race 56:21.

Summary
So....how do I feel about my first "experimental" triathlon.  Overall, I am really happy with my performance.  My swim was what I expected.  I came 99/110, developed a bit of confidence and came out of the water chomping at the bit.   I expected to do well on the bike, and did even better, finishing second out of the 110 competitors.  I had hoped to get a time of 28 minutes, but instead got 26:38 with an average speed of 33.8 k/h.  I was also really pleased with my run, finishing 20/110, and basically reaching my optimistic goal, 15:04, with an average pace of 5:02 min/k.
I finished 19th overall out of 110 with a time of 56:21. 

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