View of the Olympic Distance swim from the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. I was in the 700m swim that turned just before the train tracks. My friend John's wife Brenna took this photo.
Having never participated in a Triathlon before, I didn’t know what to expect for sure, so I found myself attending a couple of clinics the day before the race to get a better grasp on what to expect; and it was a good thing I did. I found out important rules, such as no drafting allowed and that I was required to wear a race number on my jersey during the bike, and the run.
The clinics were extremely helpful in figuring out exactly what I had to do, from start to finish. I was most worried about the transitions, but both clinics did a great job of explaining the process and gave helpful tips of what to do and what not to do.
Having taken the time to attend the clinics and explore the transition area the day before the race, I felt ready. My only goal was to finish in under two hours. I figured it was an attainable goal, and having beat that time in practice runs I knew I would be able to crush it.
I knew the swim portion of the race was going to be my weakest, so I went in not expecting much, but at the same time was pretty confident I could beat a time of 18 minutes for the 700 meter swim. Two weeks prior I had swam an entire mile in 40 minutes including a rest period. So, I thought with the adrenaline flowing from the race and swimming only 700 meters that time was totally attainable.
I ended up with a swim time of 19:52, so I was a little bit frustrated, but at the same time happy considering it was my first triathlon and I had never swam two months prior to that. My training never focused on form or improving my stroke, just getting through. In the future I hope to improve on my stroke and time.
I feel I made a few mistakes starting out with the swim. First of all I was one of the first ones in the water, which meant I had to wait for A LOT of other swimmers to enter the water, approximately 71 to be exact. This mean I had to tread water until all the swimmers had entered. In the future I will probably be one of the last ones in the water, rather than the first.
My second mistake was not checking my goggles before I started. About 15 meters in my goggles began filling with water, so I had to stop and fix them. Once I put them back on my right eye was smashed in. I Thought I would fight through it at first, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen, so stopped again to fix the right eye.
Seeing how it was my first tri I stayed back from the pack as much as possible to avoid getting kicked in the face or to have to compete for space, I also wanted to pace myself to be sure I didn’t tire out too soon and go faster than I was capable of. Turns out I could have gone faster. I kept noticing my form was bad while doing the breast stroke (which was 75% of my swimming) so would attempt to speed up, but then noticed myself slowing down again. I kept wanting to make sure I had enough energy for the bike.
I never found myself scared or nervous the entire time. I even eventually found myself passing a few swimmers in my wave, but at the same time was getting passed by several swimmers that started in the wave behind me. After rounding the last turn I transitioned into a freestyle stroke to give myself some extra speed at the end. As I got closer to the exit I went back into a breast stroke to make the exit more comfortable. I found getting out more difficult than expected and took the hand of a volunteer to help myself out of the water. I was thankful they were there.
After exiting the water I felt wobbly and found it hard to get into a good stride running into the transition area. But after hobbling around a bit I was jogging behind the racers in front of me and made a 3 minute transition onto the bike. My transition time was a bit longer since I had to put on a jersey and I kept wavering back and forth between wiping off my feet and just putting on my shoes. I also had forgotten to loosen the velcro on my bike shoes, having them open and ready to jump into. But, considering the long run I had to make from the swim exit to my bike, I’m fairly pleased with the time.
I had pretty much ridden the bike course several times commuting around town so I knew a pace of 20mph would be attainable, but we had a lot of wind to contend with. Thankfully the strongest head wind we faced was going downhill, but this made going downhill feel like going uphill. At a place I would probably average 30+MPH I couldn’t break 25 MPH.
One part of the course had a gradual sloping downhill (with wind at your back) that allowed me to make up for lost time on the uphill and windy downhill. It was lots of fun riding a course I would normally get caught at numerous traffic lights. The only real challenge of the course, other than the wind, was navigating around other cyclits.
With a no draft rule, you had to make sure you passed other cyclists if you got within three bike lengths. This proved to be difficult at times, especially when one cyclist in front of you was passing another cyclists to his right. There were also occasions I wanted to pass another cyclist but couldn’t because how tightly other were riding next to them, I also broke the no passing on the right rule a few times because of this. I was even pushed into some road bumps on two occasions in the SAME spot due to riders being tightly packed during a turn. It was also partially the other rider not paying attention as well.
The course was a total of 24km, which was two loops of the same course. The entire time I bordered on 19+ MPH average, but managed to finish strong with a 20mph average. Had we not had any wind I’m sure I would have done even better. But so would everybody else. Another challenge on the course was surprisingly pedestrians trying to cross the street. On a few occasions I thought people were going to jump out in front of me. At one point a woman crossed at a 90 degree turn and was almost run over by myself and two other cyclists.
A couple times during the ride I felt like I could have been pushing myself harder, but I never really stuck with hammering hard. I’m sort of glad I didn’t though. It allowed me to truly enjoy the experience and take in my surroundings. It was fun seeing my family and friends along the course cheering me on. Had I been too focused on going fast I might have missed out on that. It was also fun zipping by people ringing cow bells. It created a nice Tour De France like feel, it made me smile!
Transitioning from the bike to the run was a lot easier since I already had my jersey on and number pinned to it. The only difficult part was putting on my Vibram FiveFingers. I had practice this a lot, but still managed to get my toes jammed putting them on. But after getting the proper alignment I was off.
I had my iPhone with me to keep track of my pace, I as I was hoping to run a 7:30 pace. But my legs just wouldn’t allow it. I ended up with a time of 24.43 and a pace of 7:58, but I never felt like I was going that fast. My legs felt like led, and pretty much felt like that the entire run. They had never once felt like that during any of my training sessions, either. So it was a very odd feeling.
I kept looking at my RunKeeper to check my pace but couldn’t even believe I was averaging 7:58 – it felt like I was going SO slow. But, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t go any faster. I also though the GPS had to be malfunctioning because It didn’t feel like I was going that fast, but I was pleased to discover my pace was even faster than the 8:32 average RunKeeper reported.
Around mile 2.5 of the run I noticed I had a small rock in the bottom of my left shoe, but decided to battle through it. I’m surprised it took that long to notice, I had assumed it was there since transition. After the race was over I pulled off the shoe to discover a large blister. So either there was never a rock and it was just a blister that formed, or the rock had moved down in the last section of the race.
Despite the rock in my shoe, I finished with a faster split than my second mile, but slower than my first. Upon entering the finish line I was cheered on by friends and even one pro triathlete I meet the day before that was cheering “Go Bearded Brother”. Upon rounding the final corner into the finish chute I heard my name called over the PA and saw my lovely wife at the end cheering me on. My parents were soon by by side too congratulating me on a strong finish.
The post race festival was one of the best I have seen. There were lots of vendors, plenty of free samples and New Belgium’s beer (Lips of Faith was my favorite), which beats the crummy cheap light beers most races provide. There was also live music, free massages and treatments for injured athletes. My only complaint is that the post race meal provide was cold. Although it tasted good I couldn’t pull myself to finish the cold veggie wrap.
I look forward to participating again next year. I will most likely enter the Olympic Distance as well. I just hope I won’t have to train in such extreme heat next time. Even though most of my training was done early morning, and avoided the 100+ degree days. I was forced to train in the evening at times and found it quite challenging. Hopefully by next years tri I will have entered a few others and improved my swim stroke drastically. But with other goals such as a full marathon, we will see what happens.
Time and Ranking Break Down
Finished 17th in Men 30-34 out of 72
Finished 135th overall, out of 709
Swim Time 19:52
Transition 1 3:26
Bike 50:11 (Average 20 mph)
Transition 2 2:16
Run 24:43 (7:58 pace)
Kristy and I after finishing the race.
Me, with Jon (left) and Ben (right). John and I spent three days a week training together in Barton Springs Pool. John and Ben both are Olympic distance finishers!