I completed my first triathlon on Sunday July 21, 2019. Here is the play-by-play of how the day went:
I woke up at about 5am; got dressed; took my vitamins and a caffeine pill; grabbed a water bottle packed with ice, water, and a Nuun tablet; I also took a sharpie, my flip belt, and some race food. I had chosen to eat bulk natural food energy bars I bought at my local market. My goal was to complete the Sprint distance in under 2 hours. The race start is about 2 miles from my house, so I decided to walk there. I left the house around 5:40am.
It was a nice walk, but it was hot and humid even with the sun down. The sun rose while I was walking. I jogged part of the way because it was taking forever to get there, and I had a lot of nervous energy. I got to T1 around 6:20am. I had placed my bike and gear bag there the day before, and had deflated my tires so they wouldn't pop in the sun. I inflated my tires to ~100 PSI, pinned my bib to my flip belt, hung my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses on the bike, took off my running shoes and socks and laid them out, stuck on my ankle time tracker, grabbed my goggles and swim caps (I wore mine under the race cap), put in my swimming ear plugs, and walked down to my swim corral.
When I got down to the water (about 200m away), they were letting athletes acclimate to the water. I walked down and hopped in. The water was very warm. I think they said it was 84 degrees. Also, I was expecting it to be gross, but it wasn't. It was nice and clean smelling. The race was to start at 7, but they were starting swimmers in groups of 10, and I was in corral D. So I didn't get in the water till after 7:30am. I spend most of the time not worrying too much and just waiting by myself. There were over 1000 participants, but I only knew one person doing it and she was nowhere near me. I didn't chat up the other racers nearby. Any time I got nervous I just told myself it was another practice day, but this time I was going to practice in open water... followed by the rest of the race.
I may have been in the last group of people signed up for the Sprint distance. The swim course was a triangle. So, I had 2 turns. I breathe to both sides and mostly sighted off the kayaks on my right and other swimmers to my left and in front of me. The first turn I made clean and tight. Then the water got real shallow, and as stupid as it sounds I got super distracted and stressed out by how close I was to all the plants on the bottom. I can't really explain why it bothered me, but I kept fixating on how I didn't want to put my feet down even though I didn't need to put my feet down. I kept a decently straight line, but on the next turn I didn't turn enough and ended up swimming way out off the line. I'm sure this added a minute or two to my swim.
The whole swim I tried to bring my focus back to swimming exactly as I had in practice. Catch, body rotation, relaxed breathing, posture (no sinky feet), relaxed kick, and follow through to the thigh. Slow and steady. Don't panic. Don't speed up.
I made it out of the swim with no breaks. The bike was about 200m away up an asphalt hill. I came out of the water and started jogging. I kept my jog up the hill and grabbed water at the aid station. Got to my bike and did the expected wiping my feet off on the towel, putting on socks and shoes, flipbelt and bib, helmet, gloves, and sunglasses. I did spend too long trying to stuff food in my face so I wouldn't have to take any food with me on the bike because I didn't have a container or a plan. I was basically choking on it and gluing my mouth shut. I ended up stuffing some of the bar chunks into my flip belt, and getting out of there. Ran out of the transition, mounted the bike and rode off.
I don't have clips or clipless or power straps or anything. I wasn't willing to invest. So I was biking with my running shoes on the pedals and no way to pull up on the pedal. This is how my practices were, so there was a lot of focus on not fighting myself and lifting the weight of my foot off the back pedal. I was trying not to push hard to save some energy for the run, but was passing people constantly. I chalk that up to having a nice bike. No interesting events occurred on the bike. Just remembered to drink before I ever got thirsty. Finished my 24oz bottle probably over 2 miles before the dismount line. I made a point of thanking any volunteer I thought might hear me.
My dismount went flawlessly, but the guy right in front of me wiped out. I had to pick up my bike and hop over his legs. I didn't stop, but looked back to see if he was ok. He was up in seconds, jarred for sure, probably embarrassed, but he seemed fine. I ran in, hung up my bike, tore off the helmet and gloves, and ran out.
The Run (walk)
I've practiced bike to run and the first quarter to half mile is pretty tough, but this day was like 90 degrees. And I didn't gain speed or relief after running for a bit. Instead I got extremely hot and thirsty and wanted to know how far the first aid station was. I ended up walking a lot. The fatigue was extremely heavy.
I wish I had taken Gatorade at the first two aid stations. I turned it down because I just hate how sticky and syrupy it is from the store and I had been drinking electrolytes the whole time on the bike. By the third aid station I felt waterlogged in the tummy and still thirsty, so I took the Gatorade. It was watered down appropriately and actually refreshing. I continued to take it at the following 3 aid stations. After the second dose I felt some energy returning and I could keep a run going. Somewhere in there I heard the bells ring for the half hour mark, I assume it was marking 9:30am, and I was sure I had missed my 2 hour goal.
At the last aid station it was right before the finish, but they were pushing water hard because of how hot it was. I took the water even though I didn't want it. I went to take a drink and instead inhaled a whole lung full of water. I choked and walked for the next 50m. Then some stranger running by said, "come on, we're almost there, you can run the rest." So I bucked up and ran it in right behind her.
I met my friend right past the finish and chatted for a whopping 3 minutes before my husband and daughter walked up. My daughter (age 4.5) was dying because of the heat, so forget the celebration or free food, we had to leave. I immediately got in line to get my gear bag and bike and went home. I even forgot to get a completion medal. Came home, chugged an iced coffee I had in the fridge, got extremely sick to my stomach, passed out on the couch for about 2 hours, woke up and checked my time to discover that I had beat my 2 hour goal! I binged on vegan pizza that night, and have been ravenously hungry ever since.
Next up in my endeavors: heart rate training.