I completed my first triathlon this weekend: the Lake Samish Sprint Triathlon in Bellingham, WA. Overall it went well, but was a humbling experience.
Night before: My girlfriend and I arrived at my her parents' house in Bellingham around 7:30 on Friday. Her parents, as usual, had gone overboard after our mention of carbo loading, and had cooked up pasta, lasagne, bread, cornbread (for the gluten free crowd), and pie. I tried not to eat too much, but that lasagne was good. Got to bed at a reasonable hour.
Morning of race: Up at 6:00, dressed, had frosted mini-wheats for breakfast (my standard pre-ride fare) and we headed out to the race site. My brother had arrived from Vancouver BC the evening before along with my girlfriend's brother and his fiancee. The 5 of us were competing. We arrived and stood in line for chips and swim caps / body marking. Racked our bikes, then splashed around a little to get a feel for the water. The water was actually warmer than the air at 8:00 in the morning, so there was no difficulty getting back in the water when our waves started.
This triathlon only had 230 participants, so there were just two waves. Boys went first, at 8:30, followed by girls at 8:33. The swim went well, but i quickly fell to the back of the pack. I got passed by the elite women just after passing the first buoy, and by the time I got out i was among the last 8 or so men. So, that was humbling. Swim time: 23:00 for 1/2 mile.
Transition 1 was similarly poor. 3:20 to put on my new biking shoes (yay no laces), shirt, helmet and gloves. i think i'll ditch the gloves next time, and I'll have to get faster at putting on socks.
Finally I get out of T1 and I did okay on the bike. I didn't get passed except by elites on their second lap. I passed around 50 people while on the bike, though many of those were probably the try-a-tri people who had beaten me on their abbreviated swim. I didn't modify my commuter bike for this at all, so I think i can improve my bike time by getting some high test tires (up from the 75 PSI tires currently on it), and by practicing a bit more in the drops. Still, I was satisfied with my performance on the bike. Bike time: 52:51 for 15 hilly miles. Not great, but something to build on.
T2 was similar to T1. 2:00 to change shoes and almost run out of the transition area with my helmet and gloves on. Obviously I was a little distracted, and obviously that time can be improved.
The run went okay. The beginning of the run was up a very big hill, that then we just looped around and went back down. So that was fun. Once we got past that hill, the rest of the course was just reasonably hilly, and i was making fairly good time (for a guy whose fastest 5k is 34:11) until I cramped up. Apparently i need to revisit my hydration / electrolyte procedure because I was cramping up a fair amount on the run. The worst cramp was when my girlfriend's brother, passed me on the last 350 meters of ther run. I had the energy to stay with him and challenge a sprint at the finish line, but a badly cramping hamstring stopped me in my tracks. Run time: 36:23.
In the end, I achieved 1 goal and failed 2:
Finish in less than 2 hours: Achieved. (final time 158:30)
Beat my little brother: failed. (Little bro finished in 138:20 - obviously I misjudged his fitness level).
Beat my girlfriend's brother: failed. (He finished <1 minute ahead of me. I put 9 minutes into him in the swim and bike, only to lose it all in the run).
I'm satisfied because I was second fastest in our group on the swim and bike (I think the right tires puts me at #1 on the bike.), and a close 3rd in our group overall.
1. Obviously my fitness level isn't where it needs to be to make a serious push at being competitive with my little brother. Low hanging fruit are to improve my time in the 5k, and improve my swim, both of which he destroyed me on.
2. Transitions need practice. 3:20 for T1 was among the 15 slowest T1 transitions in the race. That's unacceptable. Even schlubs like me should be able to change shoes on the quick.
3. Hydration needs attention. I would appreciate some advice here. I hate to drink too much on the bike or run because I get an upset stomach from the vibration. Maybe this would be helped by not eating much beforehand. I tried the Clif Bar Shot Blocks, and they taste good, but possibly they're not the most efficient means for getting electrolytes into my system.
4. I think it's time i upgrade to a tri suit for the next race. This race was run with nike running shorts with built in briefs, plus a running shirt that I threw on in T1. I was comfortable enough, but I think i need the extra 30 seconds or so that streamlined clothes would buy me on the swim and the bike.
5. Similarly, it's time to upgrade my bike with racing tires when competing.
Overall i'm glad I got it out of the way, and i'm excited to keep improving for the next one. Anyone with advice on speeding up transitions, helping with my pre-and during-race hydration practices, and any other comments would be appreciated.
Unless the mount line for the bike and the exit for the run were waaaay far away, you should be able to pick up substantial time in transition alone if you practice. I play trainer and mechanic for my son, and to give an example his T1 and T2 respectively this Sunday were 48 and 54 seconds.
He's using single strap (LG brand) tri shoes for the bike, and Zootz tri shoes for the run... and doesn't wear socks. If you can do the no socks thing you'll save substantial time. They're a PITA to get on wet feet. Set the shoes up clipped into the pedals and step into them on the mount line.
As to racing tires dunno what you're riding on. Aero is key in Tri as there's no drafting per USAT regs. Good set of clipon aero bars are a good investment if using a road bike. A tri suit also saves considerable time as you basically come out of the pool to the bike and do helmet and run to the line, and T2 you put your # on a race belt and clip it on and put your running shoes on and you're gone.
And I have it a bit easier as I have a very talented son. He was 2nd overall in his Sun.
congrats to your son! I'll bet he's not as happy as I would be with a 2nd place.
That's a great tip about the shoes. I noticed that was how the olympians were doing it, but wondered if it was something that a low level triathlete would adopt.
My bike is about as un-aero and low tech as you can get. I'm thinking that i'd be well served by getting a set of 25mm high test racing slicks, but beyond that I'm planning to limit expenses until I can get below 1:30:00 consistently. Then, i'll consider upgrading the bike.
I'm definitely getting a tri suit. This swim trunks/shirt thing is going to have to go.
Congratulations on your first triathlon. You learned a lot during the race so don't be hard on yourself. The race is for YOU to have a good time so continue to do so despite what others finishing times are.