Assessing My Last Triathlon and Looking to the Next

pts_allatoona2011In only three weeks I will tackle my second triathlon of the season and my second one ever.  Hard to believe I have completed one triathlon and now I am preparing for the second.  Unlike the first the event is no longer a series of unknown parts.  Now its a series of trainable components that can be analyzed and digested and planned for.  Looking back at the first race there are definite areas of improvement that can be made and they don’t involve increasing fitness only.

In my first race my initial goal was to finish.  Finish is what I did, in two hours and 3 minutes and thirty seconds, the second slowest person to finish the race.  At the end of the race I should have been happy to finish but I worked hard and knew what I was capable of doing.  I allowed myself the joy of victory for the moment, but now that time is over and its time to look at what needs to be addressed and improved on for the next race.

Here is a comparison of my first race back in April – the Early Bird Triathlon and my next race the Allatoona Triathlon which is on June 23rd.  This comparison is just regarding the distances and other features, I will further critique my first race following the course comparisons.

Early Bird Triathlon: April

  • 400 Meter Pool Swim: 11:40 : Snaking pool swim with very deep water.
  • 20K or 12 mile bike : 59:21: Rolling hills, some longish climbs but mostly short steep climbs and fast downs.
  • 5k run: 45:42 : Lightly rolling terrain and a mile or so on smooth trails.

Allatoona Triathlon: June 23 (next race)

  • 500 meter open water swim – witnessed this last year and will have a chance to swim it next week.
  • 18 mile bike ride.  I have ridden the last part of this course and there is a monster 200 foot ascent over 1 mile long that is brutal
  • 5k on very rolling hills.  I walked parts of this last year and its pretty intimidating.  Will get a chance to run it this weekend.
PTS Sports hosted a fun Memorial Day open water swim and 30 mile bike.

The finish line of the Allatoona triathlon and home of PTS Sports.

Thats pretty much the break down. Overall the first triathlon was much easier in distance and hills.  While it had some climbs on the bike, it was pretty much rolling fast hills and not long climbs.  The run was pretty mild and did not seem overly up hill all that often.  This next race has a long bike ride and some monster topography on the bike and during the run.

The other aspect I have to examine further is the race itself as I made numerous errors and mistakes that I need to work towards correcting as I progress through my season.

Issues to Address:

  • Nutrition: I have said this over and over again on this blog, but I doomed myself with a really poor nutrition strategy.  As I was staying at a hotel I figured what I secured would work for race day.  I had several yogurts and a couple of chocolate and chocolate chip muffins as well as a little bit of oatmeal.  I am a big guy and find I burn through some calories fast.  This was not the proper food for me to eat and did not give me enough fuel.  The muffins actually were loaded with sugar which lead to a major bonking shortly after starting.    I need to eat a better breakfast of safe foods and eat often leading up to my race.  On my recent Tour De Cure event I ate some biscuits and gravy, some oatmeal, some sausage and I sipped on sports drink two to three hours before the event.  Basically I grazed on carb rich foods that were not full of sugars.  Then an hour before I ate a cliff bar and finished the sports drink.  Fifteen minutes before the start I took a gel.  This strategy worked awesomely.
  • Water: I was so afraid of being dehydrated I drank way too much water.  This mixed with the sugar bonk destroyed my swim and left my stomach in knots half way through the swim.  I only partially recovered from this on the bike, but by then the damage was done.
  • Transitions: I need to practice these, they were terrible. My t1 was 4 minutes and t2 was 2 and a half minutes long.  This just needs some practice to get smoother.  Some of this time was controllable as I was trying to recuperate from the pain I was in while swimming.  This just needs some practice and should allow me to shave off a few minutes from my time.
  • Running : this is a hold over issue from the swim cramps/bonk, but I need to run off the bike and not walk the bulk of the run course.  I have been focusing a bit on the bike to run transition and I am feeling a bit more confident in my ability to run off the bike.
  • Tapering: apparently this is unique and individual.  For my first race I tried cutting race week back to a few really super light workouts:thirty minutes on the spin bike with my heart rate barely elevated, a couple of lazy pool laps…  On race day I felt too rested and did not feel like I had an edge going into the race.  At my recent Tour De Cure I experimented with a strategy of cutting 60-80% back two weeks before and on race week I cut back 40-60% volume.  So on race week I went for a semi-long slightly challenging route on the bike, I went for a four mile run and I swam a vigorous intense swim workout.  Then I took two days before off.  All workouts were short but intense.  This worked ok, but it felt like the muscles still took a bit to warm up.  Next race I am going to do the same except on Saturday or Friday of race week I am going to run a mile or bike a few just to get the legs loose.
  • Efficiency: Just need to be more efficient in all aspects of the race.

So based on my times for the last triathlon and based on current training efforts of similar distances here is my large scale if all else fails goal times for my upcoming race:

  • Swim (500 Meters Open Water) -12 minutes.  Based on 2 minute or so 100 meter time.
  • T1: 1:30 – would love to have sub one minute but I think even getting below 2 minutes is a win.
  • Bike: (18 miles) 1:30:00 .  Hopefully this will take less time than this but currently my riding time for a 20 mile ride over some pretty good climbs is taking a bit longer than this.
  • T2: 1:00 minute.  I have been practicing this in my weekly brick and have seen the time drop as I have gotten more comfortable with the process.
  • Run (5k rolling hills):45 minutes.  Might take more time, but I am running a 5k on fresh legs in less time.  Combined with a weekly brick workout running off the bike and additional running work I am expecting to finish this faster or at this time.
  • Total 2:29:30 This would put in me in the average finishing time for the back of the pack.  Based on last years numbers most of the back of the pack racers finished this race in two to two and a half hours.  There were a few people closer to three hours, but if I run my race and pace it, I should be in at or before 2:30.  I will be happy with any number around there as this is a physically demanding race with a semi-challenging bike course that is long and a very hilly run course.

This coming weekend PTS Sports will be hosting a clinic for participants of the race where we will get to swim the course and then run the route.  I really want to push myself in this event.  Of course I was aware this would be a challenging event ahead of time as I live close by and know the terrain.  So that is my goals for the next race and what I hope to achieve for that race. Til next time.



  1. My Tri is a half mile open water swim and I’m wondering if i should have tackled one with a pool swim as my first Tri like you did. Thanks for the reminder about nutrition! I’ll be staying at a hotel so it won’t be like I have my fridge as a backup, I’ll really have to plan and hadn’t thought about it very much yet.

    As for transition, I can’t even imagine a 1:30 transition – that’s a great goal!

    1. Transitions should not be a focus for a first tri as its different in a race compared to practice and it helps to get a feel for them. I might be a bit ambitious with the time, but one can hope. One thing I have found helps is the warm-non refrigerated milk products like almond milk in the health section of the grocery store and some protein powder work wonderful to start,then just grab a couple packets of oatmeal and sip on a sports drink. An hour before race grab a cliff bar and you are set. You will have to figure out what works though through trial and error. Good luck.

      1. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Excellent thinking and I can almost guarantee your goals are too low. You’ll find a night and day difference from your first to second triathlon just based off the experience and lessons learned (many you’ve pointed out for us). My guess is you’ll blow away the bike and run times you’ve set. Enjoy this second one as you’ve literally worked you butt off for it.

    1. I hope to blow the times away a little bit, just tried to set the bar at a bit lower than the middle. I know this race has a long bike course with some difficulty and the run is brutal in its hills, tried to use that to estimate time. Only three more weeks and then we will see!! Thanks.

  3. kruzmeister · · Reply

    Great goals Chatter and I agree with Bob, I think you will ROCK this race because now you know what to expect you can push yourself that much harder. It was definitely that way for me, my second tri was longer than my first also, but my paces were much improved and my mental attitude was much more positive. I did a LOT of positive self talk on the bike during my second one, whereas during the first all I heard in my head was, ‘this hurts’.. My first race was about survival but my second I pushed hard the whole way. I trusted my training and felt in control. I think you will have a much better time of it, good luck with the lead up too!

    1. For now the lead up has been fun. I know I will enjoy this race as my brother will be participating and many of the people I have met in my open water swims are in this race. I am sure this will be fun though. Thanks

  4. […] Assessing My Last Triathlon and Looking to the Next ( […]

  5. Quite an honest assessment – I think you have learned much, grasshopper. You will do very well.
    And, no matter what, you’re wise to remember that the different course conditions (and weather) will play into all this.
    No matter what, enjoy the race and smile through the finish line chute!

  6. […] Assessing My Last Triathlon and Looking to the Next ( […]

  7. […] triathlon.  A couple of weeks I assessed my last triathlon and set some goals for this triathlon (here).  Basically my two big goals were to ride the 18 mile bike in less than an hour and thirty […]

  8. […] Assessing My Last Triathlon and Looking to the Next ( […]

  9. […] Assessing My Last Triathlon and Looking to the Next ( […]

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