Saturday, June 4, 2011

My * First * Tri!

4 AM came awfully early this morning.

The sky was just beginning to lighten and the birds were waking up. My alarm woke everyone in the house up. Well, it woke the dog up and he started barking at it and THAT woke everyone. I had been porpoising the waters of unconsciousness all night and his barking still came as a shock. I could barely move.

All my packing was done the night before and all I needed to do was to wake up, have breakfast, and do some other stuff best not mentioned (like putting on a rash guard). My feet did not want to hit the floor but I eventually found myself shuffling the dog around the block in an attempt to clear my head and to allow him to clear his you know what. That and listening to the birds singing something like "Why are you awake? Why are you awake? Why are you awake?" (not an imaginative song I know.)

"Bye" to the DW and the FFF's (Four Footed Fiends) and at 4:45 I began the 40-minute drive to Issaquah. Packet pickup, body marking, and the transition areas were to open at 5:30 and the anal retentive man in me wanted to be there early enough to get a good rack position. 30-minute drive under cloudless skies on barely trafficked roads.

It is an odd thing to be "body marked." Number "119" on my left calf and left shoulder and "my age" on my right calf but there it is. This would come in handy later on as I could tell how old people were when I was passing them (the obverse for those who passed me is also true). I wonder how many people pay attention to this and think "Hah! I just passed a 25 year old!"

Standing in line to get into the Transition area I saw D a few spots ahead. Iron Man D, a strong swimmer who is known for bombing hills on his bike, turning around and climbing back up just so he can bomb it again. By the looks of it he was there even earlier than I. It took a while but I finally got a good position on the end of the first "my age" rack and got my gear together only to change it when CL came over to give me some pointers about where I should place my towel and my gear so that people wouldn't trample it AND I would have lots of room when changing. She also aired up my tires and suggested that I walk the transition route from the swim to my rack and then from the bike return to the rack and figure out where to go for the run. Do this without your glasses for the swim to bike.

Talked a bit with M too, who was doing his first tri as well.

Good advice. Past the Port-O-Potties (and the lengthening line) and the 8th rack on the right. Others were doing likewise so this seems a good practice.

Mandatory meeting at the beach at 6:45 found me in my wetsuit asking a woman if she could "zip me up." I wonder how many times in my life I have actually said that to a total stranger. Then a thinly sung "Star Spangled Banner" (why must they always be sung so) during which someone standing next to me grunted when the word "free" came up.

Tri's are more complicated than foot races and so I listened extra carefully:
Keep the yellow buoys to the left at all times. Check!

We'll be starting in waves. Check!

Elites start at 7 and we'll call the waves out so you can get on deck. Check!

Make sure to wear your assigned color swimming cap. Check! (Mine was something like the consistency and color of those cheap yellow dish washing gloves.)
Then I just stood there beginning to boil in my wetsuit as wave after wave of "young" people went off and, as I did so, I noticed two things. First, the swimmers seemed to be going so slowly but I knew they were actually traveling quite fast. Second, my stomach was beginning to go all liquid on me. I was nervous. Very nervous. More so as my wave start got closer and closer.

The Swim:

Stood rather quietly at the right front of my group. There didn't seem to be as many yellow heads as there had been other colors in the other waves and so we were all going out together. The water was cold but, compared to Lake Chelan a few weeks ago, seemed quite warm. I dunked under to get my face wet and felt the odd sensation of a single trickle of water making its way down the inside of my suit. There was nervous joking going on around me and no little amount of griping about how cold the water was.

The siren went off and I dove into a thrashing the likes of which I've not experienced before. There were people all around me. I could sense them, feel their turbulence, and see the bubbles from their passing. It was hard to get into that rhythm that I had been practicing: Face down in the water, one, two, three, breathe, sight, face down, etc... Instead I started swimming with my head up because that is what everyone else was doing and it was slowing things down and because I was starting to panic. I aspirated some water and came up coughing. The guy swimming next to me kept stopping and bobbing vertically. Why I do not know.

I decided to calm myself and get back to training—focus, stroke, breathe, sight—started playing music in my head (the Prophecy Theme from Dune), and just swam.

The last yellow buoy seemed to come rather quickly and I turned towards the beach. After a few minutes I noticed that people were standing up and that I was catching mud with my hands. I stood up too. "This cannot be the end!?" I thought and sure enough it wasn't.


The bottom slopped away and I started swimming again to the beach feeling a bit bewildered and looking a bit like a well-stuffed sausage but with a smile on my face. Why a smile? I had done it AND CL was there cheering for me. It felt nice.


300 yards to the transition area from the beach? Sounds about right although it might have been shorter.

I was wobbling around feeling really unbalanced as I trotted along trying to find my wetsuit cord and not run into anyone (or off the path as it were).

Found my bike but discovered that someone had knocked my helmet off and my glasses were on the ground as well. Had they been crushed that would have been the end of my race and the beginning of that little bit of Hell I call not being quite able to see well enough to do much except play Angry Birds at close range. They were OK. Stripping out of my wetsuit I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out and it took a bit to clear. I have to find out what this is. I asked another friend, M, about this and it happens to her too. She puts her helmet on first so if she falls down her head will be protected. Good thinking.

Don't remember much about this transition. I think CL was talking with me nothing is clear. I changed my shirt and got my cycling shoes on and started trotting for the bike start. There was PuddleThumper with a big smile on her face egging me on as she manned the bike out gate. Yay!

Got on my bike and started riding in the middle ring right behind a guy struggling to move a mountain bike 5 mph. It was too tight to pass him and the guys behind me were getting verbally impatient. I worked my way around, ate some Clif Blocs which I also started aspirating and sputtering pieces of all over my bars (there is a lesson here), and then started riding in earnest.

The Bike:

A very fun and mostly flat out-and-back course that was narrow and twisty at the beginning. Shifted into the big ring and just went. My legs were feeling very strong and I was breathing well. Rode in the upper-teens once we got on the main road.

Another cyclist and I were trading off during the early moments and he joked that it was going to be "that kind of day" as he went past me. I caught and passed him and jokingly introduced myself as we would be spending a bit of time with each other. He didn't get the humor I think and I didn't see him until well after I had turned around.

Then it was just riding, passing and getting passed by riders who seemed to have rockets attached to their bikes. Some people warned about passing. Most of the fast ones did not. One one curve I saw a cyclist sitting down with blood everywhere. A course volunteer was with him. He looked done. Wonder what happened.

The first big climb took the mickey out of lots of people and they started getting wobbly in front of me (even the fast movers). I shifted into the second ring and spun my way up. Indeed, my focus was on keeping my cadence up regardless of gear. The first descent was a blast. Big ring, hard gear, and an almost 35 mph chase down. I could not believe how fast the miles were ticking by. Every once in a while I'd glance at my HR. Way up there, in my road race band, but I was not feeling like the effort was hard. All this training is paying off I thought.

The return was also fun. Big climb at 9 went well and then I bombed the downhill and kept up the pace all the way back to the park.

Came in to the dismount line (didn't see the touch line and was not reminded to do so by the volunteers) and got off my bike. A rider ahead of me almost fell over. I trotted past and with a much clearer head found my station, racked my bike, and started getting ready for the run.


This time I remember that CL was talking with me about how I was feeling. I got my shoes on, changed my Garmin from bike to run, and said to her that using two Garmins in future might be the way to go. Grabbed a couple of Clif Blocs and headed out for the run.

The wrong way. :-P

CL gently directed me the right way (thanks!).

The Run:

Going from the bike to the run has been the part I hate the most (although the swim to bike transition might take that dubious position after today) but today everything felt good. I was warmed up and using short quick steps to get my legs turning over.

There was a moment where I thought "Nuts! I forgot my inhaler." I generally need that when running but realized that it would not be necessary today. My watch reported something like a 9:19 pace and I knew that it would be good.

Neat course. A mixture of concrete, XC trails, shaded areas, and full sun.

My metronomic machine was on and the time and miles ticked away. I just felt good. Not too hot or cold or anything, just good and solid. Well-hydrated and fed from the bike (fueling strategy seems to be working) meant I didn't need to grab water on the course. Trail running skills helped in the muddy and uneven areas. Just a nice run.

I kept on hearing my name and high-fiving other CL athletes as they went past the other direction. Another runner remarked upon this as I passed him. "You are a popular guy" he said. "It's about time too!" I replied and wished him luck. It was nice to see all kinds of friends, acquaintances, and training partners out there. Usually I am out there all by myself.

The end nearing I kicked up my pace a notch or two and got into something of a sprint with another runner. She was not going to be passed and gave it everything. I crossed the mat just after her to the cheers of the assembled CL athletes (thanks guys). BIG SMILE! (Though the pictures I've seen of all this on Facebook show me looking like I am at the edge of death).

I guess I am a triathlete now. :-)

Feels good.

But . . .

The Fretting:

. . . now I am fretting about two things. Bike things.

Triathlons have SO MANY RULES.

First, did I draft? There were moments where I was within a bike length of a rider in front of me. Trying to pass or stuck there while we were passed. Did that break the rules?

Second, I saw no touch down line, nor signs, nor was I warned that it was coming up by the volunteers, at least I think not but here is the rule. It was in the briefing and I was thinking about it but just missed it and kept rolling slowly while clipped in.

So, while I may have completed my first triathlon I may also have been DQ'd especially if I did this in front of a sharp-eyed course marshal.

Kind of a sour note to what has been a most wonderful day but we'll see when the results come out and, if so, lesson learned. Not the first time something like this has happened to me (losing my timing chip during my first marathon was a hard one too).

Things I Learned:
  • My body and mind reacts in strange ways to rapid shifts in activities
  • I can calm myself down and focus when needed
  • I need to find something to eat that I will be less likely to aspirate or change the way I take what I do have in
  • Keeping a clear head is hyper-critical. Noticing signs and obeying instructions is something I have to work on
  • Bill The Butcher has some of the best hot dogs I have EVER tasted
  • This was a very fun way to spend a morning and I think I am hooked
Well, there it is.

Time to get ready for the ballet. Giselle at PNB this evening.

Oh yes. I think I did all this in about 2:15:xx but I really am not sure.


PuddleThumper said...

Great Job!

1. everyone looks like a stuffed sausage.

2. there was no line. there were only volunteers yelling to get off bikes and sign which said to do so.

3. Stop fretting and enjoy the accomplishment. :)

Mel said...

Hey, Robin (Mel here) - how do you figure 2:15:xx? Results show a solid 1:36:xx, and your swim & bike splits were almost the same as mine :)

rpd said...

@PT Tee Hee! Thanks for the assurance. I AM enjoying this accomplishment.

@Mel. I looked at the race clock as I came in and saw something like 2:15. Have had a look at the actual results (thanks for the link) and see the actual splits. T1 and T2 killed me. More lessons for next time. :-)