Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I DID IT!!!

I finished my first triathlon! It took me 3:30:39 according to the official timing, but I made it!

Now for the race report. This should be interesting as its my first race and therefore my first report.

I had planned on going to bed early on Friday evening to be well rested for the event on Saturday. My plan was to get up about 5:00 and head off to Boulder City. Well, I didn’t get to bed until midnight and was up by 4:30. I was nervous and excited and sleep just didn’t seem to be an option at this point. So I got up and got dressed and triple checked that I had everything ready.

Camelbak – Check!
Jersey – Check!
GUU – Check!
Towel – Check!
Shoes and Socks – Check!
Race numbers – Check!
Swim Goggles – Check!
Swim Cap – Check!

I had dropped off my hat, another GUU and some Powerade for T2 the day before at packet pick-up.

I figured I was ready to go. I just needed to throw my bike in the van and head out. Ok, one more trip to the bathroom before heading out.

As it was I got to Boulder Beach at Lake Mead at 5:35, just 5 minutes after transition opened. I knew I still had a few details to attend to. I had to mount my race number on my bike, affix my bib number to my jersey and make sure my tires were properly inflated. I accomplished all of these tasks and them took everything over to the transition area.


It was a very long and narrow transition area as it extended up the boat launch ramp for a good 150 yards. I was number 873 so I was over half way up the transition area. Once I found the correct rack, I racked my bike, set out my shoes, towel and Camelbak in preparation for the transition from the swim.
It was now 6:02 and I wasn’t scheduled to hit the water until 7:35.

I walked back to the van and decided I should have something to eat before the race. In the goodie bag from packet pickup was a Cliff Bar and some all natural chocolate granola. I ate about half the granola and the cliff bar but decided I definitely didn’t want to eat too much before the race.

While I was waiting they took the official water temperature and announced that it was 66 degrees. That was a significant change as the temperature the week before had been 78 degrees. It was interesting how many cell phone conversations I heard shortly after the announcement with athletes trying to get people to bring them their wetsuits. No wet suit for me. I knew how cold the water was as I had taken a practice swim just 2 days ago in this very water. I had thought it a little cool, but didn’t realize it was that cool!

My parents drove all the way from Michigan to support me in the race. My brother and his wife flew in the night before as well. I was waiting for all of them plus my wife and daughter to arrive to cheer me on. It was getting close to 7:00 which was the starting time for the long course athletes. I headed down towards the water to watch the start.

At 7:00 the race was on with the long course men heading out on their swim. At 7:05 the long course women started their race. Now it was only 30 minutes to go and it was going to be my turn. I was in the second wave for the sprint distance, the first wave being the men 39 & under.

Michele, Ilana, Mom, Dad, Bryon and Debbie arrived and I was glad to see they made it. There I was in my tri shorts, crocs, a Tigger t-shirt and my swim cap. Quite the fashion Icon.

The wind kicked up a bit and everyone else was cold, but I wasn’t feeling it. I have to believe it was the adrenaline flowing as I was just a bit nervous. Not nearly as nervous as I thought I was going to be though.

It was getting close to time and I thought one more trip to the porta potty was in order just to make sure. As I was waiting in line there was a mini crisis as several of them ran out of toilet paper. I was fortunate enough to find one with a limited supply left on the roll.

It was now almost 7:30 and the first wave of men was in the water preparing for the start. I knew I needed to start heading that way as my turn was next.

As the starter told the first wave to go, I started heading out into the water. The starting area was horrible. The bottom was uneven with rocks up to 8 or 10 inches in diameter hiding under one to two feet of soft muck and silt. It was almost impossible to walk out to a swimming depth. Most people got out to about 2 feet of water and sort of crawled or pulled themselves along with their hands until it got deep enough to swim.


As we waited they gave us our instructions – swim out to the first green buoy make a left swim over to the last orange buoy and then head back into shore. I stayed in the back of the field and a bit to the outside not wanting to get in anyone else’s way. I knew I wasn’t going to be fast and didn’t want to cause anyone else grief.


And then the countdown 5…4…3…2…1…GO!


There was a great thrashing and splashing and the swim was on. I started with a nice and easy freestyle for about 6 or 7 strokes and then popped me head out of the water as I still had no coordination when it came to breathing and swimming. I decided that no matter what I was doing I was going to keep moving forward. Weather it was a modified breast stroke, a back stroke, or swimming the freestyle with my head out of the water, I was just going to keep moving. I noticed that there were others near me in the water taking their time, resting not swimming nearly as fast as most so I took heart from the fact.


As I was concentrating on my own race I was a little surprised to hear the next wave start behind me. It was the Sprint distance women under 40. This meant I was already 5 minutes into my swim. I was pleasantly surprised that I appeared to be about halfway to the green buoy when they started. The first strong swimmers from the women reached me in short order and most of them were by me by the time the last of the Sprint distance waves started. There was a good deal of traffic around the buoy as I made the first turn and I made sure to swim out away from the buoy so as not to impede anyone else with my slow pace.


I was actually enjoying the swim. It wasn’t nearly as chaotic in the water as I had feared or heard, I think largely due to my choice of starting position and line around the course. Sure, there were a few times when I bumped into people or they bumped into me, but it wasn’t the free for all I’d read about.


I did notice a few people needing to stop and rest by holding onto the support kayaks and a couple of the kayakers asked if I was OK. I assured them I was and kept my slow pace forward.
I started looking ahead and noticing that I was getting closer to shore and it seemed like it was faster than it should have been. Then I could see and feel the bottom and I tried walking in through the very rocky and mucky shallows.


I almost fell a few times, but them I was out and on shore and there were people cheering for me and congratulating me on finishing the swim. I realized I hadn’t done as bad as I had feared I would because the Olympic distance swimmers hadn’t stated yet. I worked hard on the swim but wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be. That’s a good thing with what was yet to come. My official time for the swim was 27:01. This was the fastest I’d ever swum this distance.


I moved up the transition area to find my bike and was surprised to note that mine was the only one left on that rack section. Apparently everyone else around me had already transitioned and was riding along. I took my time drying off my feet and putting on my shoes and socks, putting on my jersey and my Camelbak and making sure everything was ready to go. I put my towel, goggles and swim cap into the gear bag provided by the organizers and started to leave.


I had forgotten to pull the drinking tube out of the elastic on the front of my Camelbak and so I started struggling trying to get it without taking it off. A woman coming along behind me saw me and stopped to help me with it. She commented that it wasn’t like her time mattered, but she embodied what I started to really notice during the bike and especially on the run – the vast majority of triathletes are really nice people!

I finally got everything sorted out, ate a packet of GUU and headed up the hill walking my bike until the exit from T1. My transition time was 9:54 for T1.


The bike course tend to be challenging right from the start as there is a pretty good uphill from the beach to Lakeshore Drive. I had ridden this myself just the week before so I was prepared for it this time. I had the bike in a low gear and was determined not to stop before the road. I made it onto the road without stopping and with some Support from my family as they drove by on their way up to T2 and the finish line. Here I am at the turn from the boat ramp road onto Lakeshore Drive.



I rode along lakeshore drive on the way to the turn around. Following the maps on the website the week before I figured the turnaround for the Sprint distance should be just after the entrance road to the Alfred Merrit Smith Water Treatment Facility. In fact they had us turn around at the top of the hill before that. I had a feeling this meant there was a change in the course. I had actually passed 2 women on this opening stretch of the bike leg.

It was pleasant going back down the short hill from the turnaround. There were lots of people on the course. As I headed towards the toll booth some of the other distance athletes started passing me. I was really quite amazed at how supportive and encouraging most of them were. Almost every person who passed me, and there were many, gave me at least a good job, or looking good or you can do it. It really did help me through the race.

As I cleared the toll booth and headed for the dreaded 8% climb up to US 93, I noticed there was a woman just ahead of me that we had been trading positions back and forth. At this point she was ahead of me as I had stopped for a quick breather and another GUU.


There was a volunteer in the road at the entrance to the trailhead for the Historic Railroad Trail. The Volunteer stopped traffic and had her go across the street into the trailhead to pick up the trail from this point. I was both relieved and annoyed.

I was relieved because that meant that we were able to avoid the 8% grade for a much more gentle one, but annoyed because I had written to the organizers questioning the accuracy fo the published race maps and was assured that the published maps were correct. They apparently weren’t, as we were picking up the trail much sooner than the map showed. This was a slightly longer route than up the side of US 93 and therefore why the turnaround was sooner than expected.

There were 3 women whom I more or less kept pace with the entire way up the trail from Lakeshore drive until Nevada Way.


I walked my bike up the trail from the underpass to the parking lot at the trailhead where we picked up Nevada Way. Ihad tried riding up it the week before and realized there was just no way I was going to make it. I used this as an opportunity for another GUU and to take a little breather. I then remounted and rode out onto Nevada way.

Heading up the last big hill was very tough. I had to stop several times on the way to catch my breath and again was amazed at how encouraging all of the other athletes were. As they rode by me they kept encouraging me. They didn’t know me but they really wanted to see me succeed. I refused to walk my bike up the hill and the women I had been pacing walked away from me as I stopped to rest going up the hill.


I did it, though. I rode all the way up the hill! There were a number of spectators near the top who were very encouraging as well.

Once I crested the hill there was a short downhill run into the second transition. Here I am coasting down the hill.

Family and friends were there to cheer me on. It felt great.
My time for the Bike was 1:58:20. The week before, it took me 2:20 for a slightly longer route, so I did very well.

I walked my bike into the transition and looked for my bag with my hat, another GUU and some Powerade I had staged the day before. I know it had been on the left side of transition but the numbers on the racks weren’t right. They had apparently rearranged things overnight and my spot was now on the right.


Once I found it and racked the bike, I took off my helmet and gloves, ate a GUU, took a long drink from the Powerade, put on my hat and was off to conquer the run.


One of the women I had been chasing up the hill was leaving transition just in front of me. I had thought I could pace her along the run as I did on the bike, but she had more run in her than I had in me. In fact I had no run at all. I literally walked the whole run course.



As I left the transition area there were my wife, daughter, parents, brother and sister in law cheering me on to the left and there was Mary who had urged me to do this on the right supporting me.

It was on the run that it really hit home how supportive and nice triathletes really are as a group. If I heard great job once, I heard it 200 times on the run portion of the race. There were high fives. There was encouragement. One of the runners even said I was his inspiration as he ran by. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish this with so much good will and support.

I have to admit the run certainly seemed longer and harder that I thought it would be. The course wasn’t quite as flat as it seemed on the maps. I had though the elevation change was under 100 feet when in reality it was about 100 METERS with the largest uphill on the way to the finish line.

With the course being an out and back, I saw the women I had been pacing on the bike after they made the turn around on the run. We gave each other encouragement and support. I know they all finished as they were ahead of me.

As I turned the corner and headed into the final stretch of the run, there were many many people clapping and cheering and yelling their encouragement. I neared the finish line and saw all my supporters cheering me on. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and actually tripped on the timing mat on the road.

Down I went just 20 yards from the finish line. I wasn’t hurt physically except for a bit of road rash on my knee and shoulder. It was my pride that was hurt. I figure it gave everyone something to talk about. In fact, it was just as the announcer mentioned my name that I tripped, so everyone knew who I was.

I picked myself up, put my hat back on and headed towards the finish.


2 of the volunteers from the finish came out to encourage me and tried to get me to run it in, but there was really nothing left in the tank at that point. I did make it across the line. My walk is timed at 55:25, but I think that might also include the second transition as there isn’t a separate time for that.

I did it! I completed the triathlon. Everyone came running over and was hugging me and congratulating me. It was an awesome accomplishment.

My finishing time, as I said before, was 3:30:39.

I do have to say this was the first time in my life I had competed in this type of an activity, let alone exert myself for this amount of time.

I am a triathlete.