How do you know someone is a triathlete?
..... They tell you.
Today I did my first triathlon and had a total blast! I'm hooked. It was a perfect 'first-timer' race in that the event hosted a 'mini' sprint as well as the sprint distance. I still don't feel comfortable with the swim, and this let me really practice the whole event end to end in more of a complete time trial fashion. Make no mistake - I still made all three components 'hurt'.
I had heard before that triathlon is 'one sport' not just a combination of three. I finally 'got that' today while I was racing. I've raced bikes for a number of years (although I haven't slapped a bib on my seatpost for about 13 years now). I've also been a competitive runner now across a variety of distances. While both the bike and the run had that familiar feel to them, there was something different. It was more than just fatigue - it was about how they blend together into a 'single' effort. Still have to work it all out in my head. For now, I'm just digging being back on the bike again.
Transitions were a new thing for me so I practiced them with Paige's expertise on Friday night. Set up in the driveway and went through them until they felt pretty automatic. Even with that, I got into T1, a little blurry from the last 50yds of the swim and felt a bit confused. It sorted out in about 5 or 6 seconds, but it's a whole different thing to do them in your driveway, and then during a race.
My goal in the swim was just to swim a solid, even effort - which I did. I ended up a bit faster than my predicted / practice time and felt good throughout. Had to breast-stroke a couple times because there was a teenager in my lane that kept drifting down the middle. Just wanted to let him slide by - no reason for any collisions. Other than that, the swim was uneventful. I think I was most worried about counting my lengths properly, but that turned out to be pretty straight-forward as well.
On the final 25yds of the swim, I just started drooling for the bike. I knew once I hopped on it, I'd feel 'home' - and I did. As I rolled out of the winding parking lot chutes and wound up on the first descent, I was grinning ear to ear. At the bottom of the hill, there was a big sweeping left hand turn. The cop was waving me through and I never touched the brakes. Just buried the outside pedal and swept through at about 35mph. Almost carried me to the top of the next little rise. Man it felt good to be racing on the bike again.
The bike course was VERY hilly - which actually worked to my advantage. I love the hills and seem to thrive in them; mostly going up. I would see a pack of riders plastered against a big hill in the distance and I would just start chasing. Once I hit the hill I buried it further. Kicked over every crest and on the backsides. By the turn back towards the start/finish area, the road was pretty clear in front of me.
The last 3/4 mile is a steady uphill back to transition. I was out of the saddle most of the way. I could feel that familiar burn in my quads, my mouth wide open and tongue wagging in the air as fast as my lungs would process it.
I wound to the dismount area and executed a pretty clean moving dismount to run without slowing down too much. That's a familiar move from my mt. bike racing days where we used to practice cyclocross style dismounts - only this time I didn't have to shoulder the bike in one move. But I'm not sure I could safely running mount my road bike, even if I tried. On the way out I had just mounted it standing still and clipped in. No reason to add risk.
A little slow in T2 - not sure why. Then out on the run. I knew from my brick workouts that running off the bike has that 1/3mi rubbery feel to it. This run course was a little cruel in that you climb a pretty decent hill right from the get go. I knew I was running slower than I normally would be able to - partly the swim/bike behind me, partly probably Boulder still hanging in my legs.
When I hit the loop around the lake I only saw one relay running in front. I could see around the lake and didn't see another soul. That wasn't surprising because of the way they let the swim waves out (slower ones first). I knew I had to keep pushing because there were other runners behind me that were technically ahead of me. I passed the relay runner and made my way around the lake and back towards the finish line. The hill I had to run out was now a descent, and I felt a little less animosity towards it in that direction than I had with rubbery legs heading up it on the way out.
I heard Paige shout, "Go Kevin" and that gave me a little kick up a slight hill to cross the finish line. In fact, the whole course was peppered with a bunch of Paige's team mates that knew this was my maiden voyage and cheered me on.
So on to the results. I was second overall, about 20 seconds behind Paige's coaches husband who had the second fastest swim split (mine was 13th). I had the fastest bike split overall (1:15 over him at #2) and he had the faster run split on me by 3.5 seconds. I noticed that I left 20 seconds exactly in T2 to his time. That's close. I won my age group. I think that's pretty good for a first attempt - even for a 'min-sprint' distance.
The coolest thing, is that the 3rd place overall was an old guy like the two of us as well. So the top three overall racers were 50, 48 and 51 respectfully. Number 4 was 32. Old guys rule :-)
Anyway - it was a small race, and I know I have my work cut out for me, especially in the swim. But I'm pretty geeked about my next race which will be a full sprint on June 30th. Lots of hills again on the bike and run - just the way I like it. I'll then have my first open water event on Sept 9th - a month before Chicago.
Sitting on the porch at dusk, watching Luke play in the grass with the dog while I'm drinking a glass of wine and feeling my muscles starting to let down and relax - I realized how lucky I am to experience the life I have.
I could not be happier.