Sunday, March 21, 2010

Azalea Race Report

This post is WAY longer than it should be, but my first tri was such an awesome experience, I got carried away...

So last week was my first triathlon. It was a (very short) sprint (300 yds swim, 10 mile bike, and a 5k to finish off) so I wasn't too worried about not being able to finish it. Most of my workouts have been longer, so I felt pretty confident in my fitness. I was more worried about the logistics, namely forgetting something crucial. Fortunately, all those years of reading other people' s awesome blogs and triathlon books really helped.

The day before we left for Wilmington, we went shopping and I found a Zoot tri top and tri shorts. It was an impulse purchase but a good one. It saved me the worry of changing clothes in transition. Sadly, the only long shorts they had (I won't wear anything shorter than 8 inches, too much chaffing otherwise) were in XL but I got them anyway.

Our drive to Wilmington was pretty uneventful. Once we got there, my mother-in-law and I went to Walmart and got a pump for the tires (we left ours at my inlaws) and then went to the local bicycle shop to get the race packet. I also got a race belt, and in hindsight, should have gotten one of those for the chip timer as well... Then mom-in-law and I went to the pre-race briefing. They did not discuss much that was not already in the race packet info. One crucial piece of info was that you needed a special sticker in your helmet. My helmet was the "cheapest helmet that Walmart carries", purchased a couple of years ago, so no sticker. So off we went to Walmart again to get a new helmet. It was prettier than the old one, but not much different.
We picked up the men (father-in-law and awesome wubby) and went for dinner to Applebee's, which turned out better than expected.

Saturday, the wubby and I woke up early-ish (6.30 instead of our usual 5.45) and went for breakfast. He then drove me to the UNCW campus and put my bike back together for me. He then walked me to transition, gave me a hearty kiss, and went back to the hotel to work on his dissertation. I found my bike rack and setup my transition. I was pretty early (8.30 for a 9.23 start) so I got to see the fast guys and girls go through transition and learn from them. The transition area had five entry/exit points so it was good to see how they did it. I also practiced finding my rack (third from the back), which turned out to be very helpful. I then went to get body marked and get my chip. I followed the guy's instruction and did not make the band either too tight or too lose. But during the bike and run, the band slid down and started cutting into my foot.

I then followed some people to the pool and did some laps (about 10) in the diving well. I think that was pretty useful, since I had never tried my zoot shorts and top in the water (I wore the shorts on our bike ride the day before). Then I observed the people already swimming. The pool was a 25 yard pool and you had to start in lane 2, then change to lane 3 and do two laps, then switch to lane 4, do another 2 laps... The last lane was a one way swim to the finish. Some people were doing flip turns to switch from one lane to the other, but since I had not practiced it, I decided against it. I had entered a 100 yd time of 1:42 (I think) so I was seeded #282 out of 600+. I was a bit worried that the person behind me was going to catch up, but I was lucky that #281 and #283 did not show up, so I had a 30 second window on each side. I can do 100 yds in 1:30 and until then, my best 300 yds time in the pool this semester had been 5:08. So I knew 1:42 was good but I was worried about how the nerves would treat me. Well I should have not worried...

At 9:22:45 I entered the starting lane and the guy there counted the last 5 seconds down. I said thank you and was off... The adrenaline kicked in big time and I was just going. I started really strong, breathing every four strokes. I had a fleeting thought of "what if I blow up?" but then quickly dashed it with "it's only 300 yds, whatever". I quickly caught up to the women ahead of me, despite the 30 second gap. The girl that started 30 seconds in front of me had passed #279, but must have blown up because I got stuck behind them both. While #279 very politely yielded for me at the wall, #280 did not so I had to pass her on the last 25 yds. I finished the swim in a very surprising 4:58, 10 seconds that my fastest pool swim to date...

The run from the pool to the transition involved a bunch of stairs (with very nice volunteers telling us to slow down) and a 0.25 mile run. I was worried about running barefoot and wet (never attempted before) but it was a piece of cake. I even passed someone. The transition practice really helped because I found my bike straight away. I had a lot of trouble fastening my helmet (shaking hands) but was wiping my feet on the towel at the same time. So as soon as I got the helmet finally fastened, I put on my socks and shoes and was on my merry way. I don't know how I managed to run with my bike, but it worked out great. My time for T1 (including the 0.25 mile run) was 2:24. The tri outfit really helped to keep this to a minimum.

At the mount line, I got one, and was super excited to have made it that far without any problems. And then I got stuck behind the bus... There was a bus ahead of me, going slow because of the speed bumps. I needed to turn right, but was petrified to pass the bus on its right. Two people passed me, and I thought "here we go". Knowing that I was a relatively fast swimmer (compared to my bike and run), I expected to be passed (a lot) on the bike. But that was a bit too soon. Finally the bus went straight and I turned left. I started picking up some speed, when I realized the bike computer was not working. That did not bother me too much, since I knew this was about having fun, and not performance. Yet, this was one of my first flat bike rides (central PA can be pretty hilly) and I was curious to know how fast I could go. I started pretty slow, and kept on picking up speed. I could see the woman that had passed me far ahead and made a mental note to try to keep up. After a while I felt I could go faster so I started pedaling harder. I started catching up to her, so I decided to pick up the pace even further. She passed someone. I quickly got on that someone's back. Since I was not too familiar with passing under the non-drafting rules, I slowed down and kept at least 3 (more like 5) bike lengths behind that person. Then I picked up speed and past them really really fast (very scared of that 15 second passing rule you see...). I liked that speed and kept it up. Then I passed someone else and sped up even more. That kept happening until I was going all out. I was having an awesome time, The weather was great, the turns well indicated, the volunteers encouraging. I finally passed the woman I was eying. She told me afterwards that she was hoping to keep up with me but I was going pretty fast. That was the best "tri-compliment" I have gotten so far :-)

I then proceeded to get stuck in a traffic jam.... Most of the course was closed off, but not that last part. So I got stuck behind five cars. I wasn't sure what I was supposed (and allowed) to do. So I slowly passed them on the right. There was no referee around, so I did not get in trouble. Then I started hammering again. By then, I felt I should almost be done (it was after all only 10 miles) but the time was too short (my watch said I had been at it for 30 minutes). I got stuck behind one last person. I stayed a respectable 4 bike lengths behind, pondering whether to try and pass, or was I too close to transition? Both of us got passed by a fast lady, took a turn, and were back at transition. My time for the bike was 30:21.

I dismounted at the line, ran my bike to the bike rack, took my helmet off and put on my hat (I have this awesome life is good hat that I thought would keep my hair out of the way) and raced away. My time for T2 was 48 seconds.

I realized I probably had pushed it a bit too much on the bike very quickly. I was completely hot and out of breath. I slowed down to get some water, realized I could not drink and run at the same time (skill to be worked on) so started walking. I was still too much out of breath to drink, so I doused the water over me and started running again. I thought I was going pretty slow, trying to keep up with a shirtless guy in front of me. He had a nice pace, so I kept trying to keep up with him. Early enough in the run I saw my in-laws, waving. That was such a great moment. I picked up the speed a bit and yelled at them "I went too fast on the bike, I'm going to crash soon" and they laughed. And so did everyone else around me. I guess that was a very newbie thing to do/say. I had estimated it would take me 1:20 to finish the triathlon. So, given my start time of 09:23, I told my wubby to wait for me at the finish line between 10:30 (very optimistic time) and 10:55. I was on pace to go faster than that, but I did not know by how much. Luckily, my in-laws called the awesome wubby and told him to get there fast. I did not know that, so I was still fretting "what if I get there too early, will he be upset?". I would not have been upset, had he not been there, since I had miscalculated, but I did not want him to be disappointed.

I kept on following Mr. Shirtless Guy. We passed a few more people. I apologized to all of them for sounding like a steam engine. I had forgotten to use my asthma inhaler and was breathing pretty loudly. I think I was a bit too happy and chirpy, some people might have not appreciated being complimented on various things (mostly awesome outfits) and told they are "almost there". But I was having such a great time, I had to share! I was starting to think the turnaround point would never come. Luckily, I was wrong. I went around it, thanked the volunteer and remarked that she must be everyone's favorite person. By then the bracelet around my chip was really hurting, but I did not want to slow down and adjust it. I kept running, still behind shirtless guy but he was pulling away. I thought I'd rather not push it, since there was still a mile to go. I finally saw the blue tent and picked up the pace. Whoops, that wasn't it. Still 1/2 mile to go... Finally, I saw the end. I picked up the pace, raced to the finish. A kind volunteer reminded me to put my race number to the front (it kept sliding to my back, the race belt was not tight enough) and I crossed the finish! Yeah! I looked down at my watch and it said 1:04. I thought the watch must have malfunctioned but still thought I had gone pretty fast. My time for the run was 25:48. I don't think I have ever gone that fast. Ever!

I collapsed into awesome wubby's arms. He really lived up to his title! I also chatted with the lady I had passed on the bike earlier. She was in the 40-44 category. She was actually 44 but she looked so much younger. If that is what triathlon does to a person, I'm sticking with it!!! I got an Orange Sunkist. That was really yummy. I could not stay around sadly, we still had a long drive ahead of us. I retrieved my bike from transition and gave it to wubby, who took it apart and put it in the car. He also went to get gas while I was showering. We then "refueled" at Starbucks and were on our way.

My first triathlon was an amazing experience and I had so much fun. Everything went really well. My family was very supportive. The race was well organized and he volunteers were fantastic. I also went so much faster than I thought I could which was an amazing feeling. I still have a lot of work ahead of me to be truly comfortable. This was a short race so it was ok to go all out and see what happens. But there are many things I need to learn before the half ironman in August. Eating. Drinking. Pacing. I think it's not surprising that this week (right after we got back) I did the most training I have so far. But that is for another post. This one is already WAY too long! But that's how much fun I had!

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