This weekend I had my first triathlon race to start my second season of competing… ahem finishing triathlons. Last year I completed three sprint triathlons (300-800 meter swim/12-18 mile bike/5k run) and got to the bike leg of my first Olympic/International distance triathlon(.9 mile swim/24-26 mile bike/10k run) before I blew through three tubes and a disappointing day to end my first season. I figured I have been training big this year and often have trained longer distances than this race required so I felt four Olympic distance races would be a good challenge for my triathlon season goals. Unlike last year I did not need to do a triathlon as soon as one was available and thus I found one that I felt was a good fit, the Tri the Parks Blalock Lakes Intermediate triathlon (yet another name for an Olympic/International distance triathlon, same thing with the same fixed distances).
I was eager to get the first of four races started and to start my second season of triathlons. I had employed my tapering strategy and felt good to go and ready to get moving. I got to the transition zone, got body marked and picked a spot on the bike bar I was assigned and then commenced to set up my transition area. As I put each piece of gear into its place I mentally walked through each phase of the triathlon. This helps to ensure that everything is ready to go and nothing is a surprise, often little things are discovered this way. Then I threw on my singlet, applied sunscreen and began the social adventure that always comes before the race. For a bit I chatted with friends I have met over the past year and just tried to calm down and get ready for the day to come. Eventually we were told it was close to the start time and I moved into the water where I could get my body used to the feel of the water and start to mentally focus on the swim course ahead.
Swim (.9 miles): 0:42:26
This race had offered two categories for me the Clydesdale and Masters Clydesdale. Most races just offers the Clydesdale class and in this case there was one person in that division, the rest, seven of us in total were lumped into the masters big boy class. We were the second to last group to get under way in the swim. The swim entailed a two lap square out and around of 750 meters each. The biggest difficulty was seeing the farthest buoy we were initially swimming to as there were no discernible land features and the sun shined onto the water making sighting it difficult. I tried to stay to the right of the sun reflection and just keep going til it was visible. I felt rusty on the swim and I believe not swimming a day or two before really hurt me on this distance, besides the sighting issues. Just two weeks ago I knocked out a mile in 27 minutes so this was way slow for me. Still I got out of the water and into transition feeling pretty good, albeit a bit dazed at how slow it went.
Transition 1: 0:01:37
Got into transition and dried feet up in a hurry then got shoes and helmet on and was off. Forgot about my gloves and it took an extra second or two to wrangle these on. Not a bad transition for being a bit out of practice.
First off this course was super hilly with some really tough climbs and fewer level and downhill sections. As I realized the difficulties of this bike I hunkered down and settled into a 8-12 mph pace on the uphill and an all out on the down hill legs. If it got anywhere close to even I pushed. I also started my hydration on the bike working through an electrolyte beverage and water as well as cliff shots with extra salt. I knew it would get hot out and I knew if I was going to have a good run without getting dehydrated I needed to start early. I worked through eleven or so miles of this feeling pretty good and in control of my bike leg when dissaster struck.
On mile 12-13 I encountered a pretty steep climb, I slowly began to work my way up the climb but kept feeling like I was getting pulled back. Also I kept feeling like the harder I pushed the more difficult it was to get the bike up the hill. I even had to get off and push the bike up the hill. I was working so hard my legs were hurting more than usual and my stomach went south and felt like puking. At this point I realized something was pulling the back tire to a stop every other rotation or so and this was making my bike stop, causing me to work harder to propel it forward as I was fighting the break. I was unsure what was going on and feared the tire was toast. It was probably one of the larger pot holes hidden in the shadows I did not miss, but I knew that I was on mile 13 of a 25 mile course, I had 12 miles to go and some super steep hills ahead. I decided I was not going to let my bike take me out and I would just have to push uphill slower and more deliberate. I was also aware that this was causing the quads above my knees on the inside to get more sore than I have gotten it in a long time, slowly pushing them beyond exhaustion.
Video taken after I got home of my bike tire issue:
I pushed on and took each climb with the tug backwards and jarring slow down at 3-4 miles per hour. Every hill was a sheer fight to get up as I had to pull hard to get up each one. As I crowned a climb I felt my stomach go south with a ferocious determination to remove itself from my body and my quads and glutes pulsed with shooting pain caused from the extra effort. As I counted down the miles I just kept telling myself I just had to get to the run and all would be good, just x more miles and I would be on the run. But the hills and climbs did not stop and I controlled the only factors I could, moving forward and staying hydrated.
By the time I re-entered the transition area and got off my bike I knew I was beyond exhausted and whatever had happened to the rear wheel and brake it had taken its toll on my entire body. I almost fell as my legs touched the ground, every inch of my legs were trashed… but I knew to finish I had to push on and complete only six more miles to make it to the finish line.
Transition 2: 0:01:47
Because of the fight I had on the bike this transition was slower than it should have been, I put on my shoes, grabbed some extra chews, race belt and hat and headed out. I had to run back quickly to grab my water bottle. Otherwise this transition was not terrible, I just knew everything was hurting and I sensed that this was going to be a very difficult 10k. As I headed out of the transition I just walked and tried to get a sense of what was working and not working right at this point.
Run(10k/6.2 miles): 1:42:10
I knew I was I would not be able to complete this triathlon in four hours or less, but there was no time limit on this race so I put my head down and walked out of transition. I took a brief assessment of where things were and figured I would just try for a 1:1 run t0 walk ratio. The extra effort on the bike had destroyed my legs and pushed my system beyond simple exhaustion. The run course provided the last brutal elements of torture as it progressed up and down hills, causing my exhausted leg muscles (especially the glutes and quads) to throb with pain as I pushed a light jog down each one.
After a mile a representative of the race pulled up next to me on a mountain bike and let me know that they were pulling the volunteers and that I was the last person on the course. As they did not have a cutoff time he would follow with me as long as I wanted to stay and finish and make sure aid stations had enough water and electrolyte mix. A person or two behind me had quit due to cramps and dehydration so it was just me and my handler. He asked me if I wanted to stay and finish first and how I was feeling, more importantly did I feel dehydrated. I looked at him and clearly stated that I had five miles to go. I let him know I was not quitting and that what he could do was make sure there was a finish line when I got to the end. I then told him clearly every muscle in my legs were in agony, something went wrong with my bike, and that I felt like throwing up, but hydration and quitting were not issues.
Me and my handler(wish I could have remembered his name, he was super nice and kept me side tracked enough to not care how much pain I was in) moved on, I ran when I felt the throbbing in my quads recede enough to push the run again, otherwise I walked and dreamed of the finish line. When there was an aid station he pushed ahead to make sure there was electrolyte mix and enough water to douse my head to stay cool. As I ticked down the miles slowly every muscle in my legs persisted to shoot with enough pain to slow me back down, the bike leg had really done a number but I only had so many miles to go.
Eventually I came to the last quarter mile and I could see the top of the finish line. I zipped up my singlet, straightened my race number bib and made sure I looked as good as I could. I did not figure a photographer would have stuck around or many spectators, but I believe looking good at the finish is always worthwhile. I pushed all the pain into the back of my mind and began a steady jog for the finish line. As I got within eye shot of the finish line I saw they left the chute leading to the finish line up. I had a true finish line finish even though I came in twenty minutes after the person before me. All the volunteers and some of the participants were there to cheer me on and give high fives as I crossed the finish line. I saw my wife and a good friend, was handed a bottle of water and I found the first patch of shade and melted into it.
Total Time: 4:35:06
I hugged my wife and good friend and took off my sweat soaked singlet, not caring who saw the flab that still rings my mid torso. At that point nobody knew what I had gone through on the bike, they were cheering me for finishing well after a normal four hour finish and pushing when others were quitting. I hurt everywhere but I still felt victorious. I had a horrendous bike issue and I pushed my body to a level that hurt so bad I wanted to throw up numerous times, but I kept pushing forward. I am not certain if those people were cheering because I pushed on and it was obvious I was hurting or if they were just happy that the day was finally over. I knew I had won a huge personal victory in finishing with such overwhelming odds. The cheering volunteers and the race representatives made me feel special, even though I was the last person to cross the finish line with a whopping four hours and thirty five minutes. While I had last place, they made me feel like I was victorious regardless and it truly was a special moment.
I got up from my shady spot and saw the All3Sports sponsor tent were finishing their little picnic. I ambled over and asked if I could have some of their food and they said to take what I want and offered me a beer. I took the beer and a huge chunk of cookie and walked down to the lake where I walked in and took a loud sigh of relief… it was over, what should have been done in less than four hours was finally over. I had finished my first Olympic distance triathlon and first triathlon of my second season and I know that my next big goal was to beat this time and finish this distance without my bike blowing up on me. In the end I won the day and found how hard I could push myself. Til next time.