First Triathlon–Done!: An after-action on the Georgia Veterans Triathlon
I competed in my first triathlon Saturday, the Georgia Veterans Triathlon, in Cordele, Georgia. Let me begin by saying, my goal in this race: not finish last.
Race distances: 400 yard swim, 13.6 mile bike, 5k run.
The race was Saturday morning. I had booked a hotel for Friday night. I planned to work Friday, link up with my son after school, pack up, and the two of us head out in front of the Friday afternoon rush, arrive in time for the 6pm packet pickup, check out the course, check in to the hotel, grab something to eat, pack for the race, and get some rack–in that sequence.
Well, things started to go wrong early that day. Work (that thing we do so we can eat, and sleep out of the rain) started to interfere with my last minute preparations. My son got home, but we ended up needing to wait for my wife, and didn’t get on the road until 4pm–already into the Friday afternoon rush. Long story short, we got caught in traffic out of town, arrived too late for the early packet pickup.
However, we did drive the bike course, and survey the swim and running course, which turned out to be extremely helpful.
The other items in my sequence went more or less according to plan.
I had planned to wake up at 5am, get dressed & loaded up and be at the triathlon site for packet pickup, etc by 6am. Needless to say, my alarm went off at 5am, but my body didn’t get out of bed until 5:38am. We ended up getting to the race site around 6:50am, by which time a long line at packet pick up had formed.
I got my numbers etc, got my body marked, put my numbers on my helmet, bike and race belt, got transition set up, and the stress began to subside with about 20 minutes to start time.
As a kid, I was a strong swimmer. I could swim a mile in a lake. That was many years ago. The swim training was the most difficult logistically and physically, because I was almost starting from scratch, at least conditioning-wise. I had not trained in open water at all.
The swim start was chaotic. Arms and legs everywhere, water splashing up my nose, and down my throat. My breathing became erratic, I quickly got winded, then my arms began to fade. I reflected on all the training, effort and planning that had gone into getting here, and what a shame it would be to not finish. My son was on shore waiting for me–probably the biggest motivation to gut it out–not to disappoint my son.
The first 100 yards were hard. The second 100 yards were absolutely horrible. I tried back stroke, but the choppy water made that impossible to relax. I was able to get my breathing, if not under control, to a steady gasp. I could see people ahead of me walking out of the water. I tried to reach bottom at one point, but there was just water. Swam some more, tried to reach bottom again, my toes felt sand! Relief!
I made it out of the water, trotted up to transition. My wind began to come back.
Transition went fairly quickly. I was worried about sand on my feet, but there wasn’t much and I quickly brushed it off and put my shoes (using the same ultralights for the bike & run), helmet, shades, race belt, and Camel back on. No bike shirt, I’d decided to bike and run shirtless, mainly for budget reasons. And I was off.
The bike wasn’t as eventful, I continued to pass people who had passed me in the water. I was only passed by people on expensive bikes and with at least $200 of triathlon clothes, etc on. I hydrated and refueled as much as I could without turning my stomach. Driving the course the day before proved extremely helpful!
Back in transition, all I had to do was rack my bike, take off my helmet and Camelback. And I was off.
The run was just a gut check. The transition runs, the brutal runs, the canyon runs on vacation, paid off. I continued to pass even more people who’d passed me in the water, and some who’d passed me on the bike. I used the water stations mainly to cool off my head, and rinse the sweat from my face. I found in training, that running shirtless left little options for wiping sweat from my face. Running with hats, visors, head bands etc. give me headaches.
It took about 3/4 mile or so to shake the effects of coming off of the bike. I began to notice some dehydration in the second half of the run, but was actually getting stronger in relation to the other runners. There were some slight hills, which gave me some opportunities to power past some folks. Some people, not many, passed me. And then there was the finish line. I didn’t see or even notice the clock. Many times people will finish the last sprint of the run extremely strong, which means to me, they saved too much. I think I left it all on the course.
Certainly my hardest most taxing effort to date. According to SportsTrack, I expended almost 1500 calories on the course.
- Specifically for Cordele: Bring Skin So Soft. The gnats were OUT OF CONTROL. Mostly not biting gnats, but swarming and absolutely incessant.
- Improving my swim will greatly improve my overall performance. It’ll cut my time a lot. But it’ll also leave me more energy for the bike and run.
- All the hill work I’ve been doing definitely paid off, even though this was a relatively even course. My recovery rate and power in the tough spots was good.
- The transition runs definitely paid off. Especially the confidence that that horrible feeling of getting of the bike and then running, would pass.
- Absolutely test and train in all the clothing, equipment, nutritionals, you plan to use for the race. DO NOT use or introduce any new stuff for race day, no matter how trivial. Train in your back-up equipment.
- Arrive early.
- Have everything packed the day before.
- Get swim training time in open water. There was almost no correlation between the open water swim, and my pool workouts.
Already thinking of which triathlon I’d like to do next. Planning to do a half marathon in the Fall.
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