I actually had goals going into this race. Although my perception of my fitness was that I wouldn’t be able to achieve them. I knew that, as my dad used to say, though… “Ain’t nuthin’ to it but to do it”. So with doubts in mind but bike in hand I rolled out of bed at 3:30 this morning and officially started triathlon season.
I volunteered for a couple of hours yesterday to help the race organizers set up. Since this is a local race, the organizers have gracefully offered to donate money to our club for each volunteer as well as give the volunteers discounts to other events put on by them. This is a great deal, great idea and, for me anyway, a great motivator to help out. I also volunteered this morning to body mark athletes as they came in. Which is why I needed to be there so early. Body marking started at 4:45 and the transition area opened at 5:00am. With a record breaking field of over 850 (remember, this is a POOL swim race), I knew they were going to need all the help they could get!
The course is a serpentine swim at the fabulous Mizzou rec center pool. It is about 450 yards and after the elites go off, the rest of us are to organize ourselves by our predicted swim time and then go off every 10 seconds. You duck under the lane lines at the end of each 50M lap.
The transition area this year was crazy… but I kinda liked it. You run out the door of the rec center and then you used to head down onto an astroturf field where the transition was set up. But Mizzou put in new turf and with it came new rules. No bikes, racks or other sharp, pointy bits on the turf. Also, from what I understand, the turf is granular and is worse than running in sand if barefoot (but great for everything else) because your feet pick it up and it gets in everything. I don’t know because I’ve never run on it barefoot. Anyway, this meant that we had to set up transition on the jogging track around the turf. Imagine a square jogging track about 500M around, with bike racks set up two deep in rows ALL THE WAY AROUND. It was amazing. This made for HUGE transition times as you had to run nearly a quarter of a mile from the pool to your bike, but it didn’t matter since everybody had to do it. I did tease the organizers about why they didn’t put an aid station about half way through the transition area since it was so long.
The bike course is two loops of 7 miles each. You get a coned off lane of several major roads, two decent hills, but lots of tight turns as you weave your way around. Tends to slow times down a bit, but again, it’s that way for everybody. Columbia is pretty, though, so it’s always a nice ride.
The run winds through the Mizzou campus. It’s pretty flat and is on a combination of roads, sidewalks and paths. Nothing remarkable but well marked and safe.
Since I got there early I just racked my bike in a spot that would be easy to find. I picked a corner because it had more room between racks and I picked close to “bike out” so that I wouldn’t have to run very far in bare feet and with the bike.
Then I went back to body marking and stayed there until about 6:30. I went back to finalize my set up and run through my routine. I got everything out and started a using a new checklist.
- Helmet- present AND fits. I bumped the headlock at Maxtrax and when I tried to put it on it sat on top of my head like a beanie. Lesson learned.
- Shoes- Clipped in to THE RIGHT CLEATS… I’m so ashamed… But at least I’m learning… right?
- Front brake hooked up.
- Gearing set to an EASY combo to start.
- Swim goggles in hand.
- Shoes off of my feet (yes, I wore them to the swim start at a race last year) with race belt tucked in to one of them.
Just as I was finishing my routine, I got shoo’d out of transition and it was off to the pool.
What a huge difference a year makes. I was simply excited to start this race. I had none of the shear terror that accompanied this race (my first ever) last year. I knew what to expect so I just wandered in and sat on the bleachers and watched and chatted with other racers. It was really nice. I was TERRIFIED last year and wanted the race to be over. This year I was ashamed of my swim preparation but knew I would get through it and spent most of my time daydreaming about actually knowing how to swim…!
After watching some of my fellow CMC’ers swim with their jerseys on, I decided that it wouldn’t slow me down that much to do the same so instead of tucking mine into my shorts to pull out on the run to transition, I just wore it. We didn’t have to wear swim caps so I just waited until they said go and jumped in!
I spent the entire race just thinking about being smooth, relaxing and trying to stay flat and at the surface. I really enjoyed this swim and looked around a lot as I was swimming. I breathed on both sides to make sure I knew when I was being passed (once) or was passing (once) and did my best to hose every frickin’ turn, but I didn’t care. I even jumped on the guy that passed me and drafted on him for the last 3 laps. I don’t know who you were, but thanks for the pull! I came to the stairs for the climb out quicker than I expected, but knew the swim was below average. I know it’s a weakness and I will have to work on it. I was just very pleased that it went so smoothly and that I never felt crowded or panicked. I climbed out of the pool and ran for the door.
I swear it was a quarter of a mile to my bike! I actually had time to calm my breathing down and look around a bit. T1 comes out of the pool, winds around a beach volleyball pit and then through an Ultramax arch into the actual transition area. Then around the track to your bike. Even though it’s a track, it’s slightly downhill. I got to my bike and got set up quickly. All I do at the rack is put my lid and sunglasses on. The shoes are already clipped in. I run to the mount line (and usually past it to get out of the way) and hop on the bike. I get into my shoes while riding. In looking at the transition times, I did a pretty good job this year.
It took a while to get into my shoes because the ride has a lot of twists, turns and corners in the first mile or two. I just relaxed, tried to get my breathing squared and waited until I had clear space and a decent straightaway and finally got in. The bike was managed and pleasurable. I hit it hard when I knew I could, tried to keep my cadence up and crunched the hills. There was lots of passing and being passed so I don’t remember much, but I know I gained more than I lost.
Have I mentioned how amazing my bike is? Just sayin’…
All too soon the ride was over, I unstrapped my shoes and stepped out down the last little hill to bike in. I stepped off and noticed that my legs felt much better than I thought they would. Another positive that I attribute to my bike… Did I mention how amazing it is?
I ran to my spot, racked my bike, dropped off my helmet and took off while clipping it on. Two decent transitions! Yay!
OK… The run felt… REALLY good. I settled in to a pace quickly and waited for the heavy legs to subside and my breathing to regulate. As I ran by Ted Z., a friend from the club, he barked out “Relax! Your legs will come back to you!” I did just that and set my sights on the first person in front of me… and the next one… and… Oh you get my point. I was passed twice and must have passed at least 20 people. I wasn’t sure what my time was but I was secretly hoping to beat the 7:54 pace I ran last year.
Yes, I did.
Although I was nowhere near an age group award, I met all my goals and significantly improved my time. My swim was only about 8 seconds faster than last year and still DOG (paddle) slow. But my comfort in the water and how I felt coming out made it feel like a big improvement.
My transitions were pretty fast. Very few people in my age group or beyond were faster. And I didn’t make any stupid mistakes. I call that a win.
The bike was only about a half mile an hour faster than last year. A little disappointing, but looking at the times, I was in the top 30%. With time, miles and weight loss, this will be better.
The run was a shock. I averaged 7:11 per mile! A forty second per mile improvement over last year! That REALLY made me feel good. I was worried my overall fitness was worse than last year. But to run this fast after a bike and run? I’m doing alright…
The glaring weaknesses in my game became glaring… er. I need to get better in the water. I need to ride… a lot! I need to lose weight… But hopefully if I work on the first two things, the third one will follow.
Thanks to Mark and the crew at Ultramax for putting on a great event. The season is off to a pretty decent start!