Trizou: One year later

Jesse Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia
Image by Adam Procter via Flickr

Trizou was my first triathlon.  For those that are unaware, it is held on the University of Missouri, Columbia campus on the first weekend in May.  It is one of the largest pool swim, short course triathlons in the nation and many in the midwest consider it the official start of the season.

Last year was my first season doing triathlons so in the weeks and months working up to this event I was terrified.  I had, at 42, only just learned how to swim.  I had no confidence in my ability or fitness, even though I joined a group and stuck religiously to a training plan.  My mantra for the event was simply “survive the swim”.  I raced on a Frankensteined up cross bike with road tires and clip on aero bars.  The only part I was sure I would be OK with was the run.

My memories of Trizou:

Feeling like I was going to throw up, I was so nervous.  I was overwhelmed by the transition area…  so many bikes, thin and fit people and confusion.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I wandered in and out of transition for no apparent reason.  I wore my running shoes to the pool and had to sprint back to transition before it closed to put them where they belonged.  The noise of 800 people waiting to swim does nothing to calm your nerves.  It takes FOREVER to get 800 people started in a time trial swim start (every 10 seconds).  It’s no wonder people lie about their times and swim early…  Otherwise, if you think you are going to swim 440 yards in 8:30, you will wait upwards of an hour and a half before you get to go!  The swim didn’t take as long as I thought it would but it was very chaotic.  I didn’t scrape my back on the lane lines (hint: dive DEEP when you go under… they really hurt if you hit them).  Even though I was slower than I thought I would be, the swim seemed to go really fast.  It took a LONG time to run from the pool back to the transition area.  My shirt got stuck half way on (never put a tight shirt on a fat, wet body!) and I did the “I can’t get my shirt on” dance in transition for what seemed like FOREVER.  I don’t remember the ride at ALL.  My run transition was fast.  There are stairs at the top end of Stankowski field (where the transition area is) that I nearly did a faceplant into because my legs were so dead from the ride I couldn’t lift them high enough to get up.  The first run mile felt like crap.  Tate Cooper, 12 year old triathlete extraordinaire from our club, was already done and was standing by himself cheering for the rest of us about a quarter mile from the finish.  It’s odd what sticks with you…

When I crossed the finish line I knew:

  1. I sucked
  2. I was hooked on triathlons
  3. I needed a million miles in the pool/any other water I could find
  4. I needed a better bike.
  5. I’m fat

One year, 6 triathlons, a bike crash, a fall filled with falling off the fitness wagon and a REALLY crappy winter later, I stand poised for my second Trizou.  And the feeling this time is much different.

After last year, I did one to two triathlons per month from may to the first of October.  My first open water swim triathlon was at Innsbrook, a beautiful and challenging venue.  I learned that I loved open water, as long as I could wear a wetsuit…!  My Sundays were filled with half mile to mile open water swims, culminating in the most frightening swim I had ever done.  Alone, in open water, at dusk.  I know I swam 5 minutes faster than usual because, in my mind, I was about to be eaten… the entire swim.  Even though I am still very slow, I really like swimming now.  But mostly I see it as the event standing between me and the bike so I just try to get it over with as quickly as I can.

My suggestion for first timers at Trizou… be ACCURATE with your swim time estimate.  NOTHING will slow you down or put you in a worse mood than coming to the wall for a turn with 4 of your closest friends.  You don’t want to be too slow or too fast with your guess.  It will make you grumpy coming out of the water.

I am going to swim with my shirt tucked in my tri-shorts this year.  It doesn’t add too much bulk and since the jersey is already on, you just pull it up and slip your arms in while you are running to transition.

I have learned so much (and made sooooo many mistakes) in the last year.  About half way through last year I started clipping my shoes into my bike and just running barefoot to the mount line and jumping on.  This works well for me and gets me out of transition quickly.  This year I plan on trying a running mount.

The big addition for me was a bike upgrade.  I went from riding a rock to flying a rocket and it really has made a difference.  Now my fitness is the only thing slowing me down on the bike.  I’m not a gear junkie but I do find it kind of funny that people are calling MY bike one of the “good” ones on the rack this year…

The route has tight turns in a couple of spots (mostly under the Stadium tunnel at Maryland) and the two real hills are not difficult but must be planned for because you do each one twice.  I ride one of them 3 times a week to work, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier…!

The run never changes for me.  I am slowly getting better but will probably run about the same time I did last year.  In all, I think a reasonable goal for me this year is anything under 1:20:00.  I was at 1:22:00 (ish) last year, but I’m not as ready this year as I was last.  I am relying on my run fitness and new bike for the difference…  We’ll see!

Tips for first timers:

  • Get there early
  • Parking sucks
  • The steps in race day set up.
    • Put all appropriate numbers on or have them ready
    • Get body marked FIRST.
    • Rack your bike and drop your stuff
    • Get your timing chip
    • Set up your transition area
    • Rehearse your transitions
  • Last year, you racked your bike by matching your swim cap color to the ones on the ends of the racks and then you put your bike anywhere on one of those racks.  There are no assigned spaces.
  • DON’T park in the hospital parking structure.  You WILL get a ticket.
  • Pre run into and out of transition from the run AND bike side.  It really helps you remember where your rack is when you are delirious.
  • Unless you swim 440 in 6 or 7 minutes, you WILL wait… Up to an hour.
  • Unless you swim with the elites or in the 5-7 minute time groups, do NOT warm up in the pool.  By the time you get in the water for real you will be cold again and you will just be wet and cold sitting in the bleachers while you wait.
  • Manage your intake.  Yes, there are bathrooms in the pool area.  Timing is everything…  if you know what I mean.
  • Thank every volunteer you see.
  • Rehearse your transitions (I know… I said that already).  The transition area this year is going to be WEIRD.  Know what you need to do and practice it a couple of times.
  • The run course is a bit winding as it goes through campus.  It is well marked and has good volunteer support, but there will be times when you are convinced you are lost.  Just keep going.

Good luck and I’ll see you there!  I’ll be the fat guy on the fast bike!

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