My First Real Triathlon

On Saturday, May 17, 2003, I completed the Yuba Rock and Road Triathlon. It was an Xterra-point event, which means that some of the athletes did an off-road mountain bike course instead of a road bike course. Every athlete (the Xterra, Olympic, and Sprint men and women) swam in Yuba Lake, then we divided into the roadies and mountain bikers, and came back together for the off-road, dirt-trail, mountainous run (more on that later).

I participated in the Olympic event: 1.5 K (0.93 mile) swim, 40 K (25 mile) road bike ride, and 10 K (6.2 mile) run. I will now report on the Good, the Bad, and What I Learned.

The Good

  1. I finished. That was my main goal. And I finished healthy. That was my second goal.
  2. I finished first  in my age group (AG), 55-59, and received a little blue ribbon. (What?! No two-foot trophy?) Actually, there were only two men over the age of 40--one guy 47 and me at 58--in the entire Olympic division. But hey, a first place AG is a first place AG.
  3. I didn't drown during the swim. I wasn't even the last person out of the water. Of the 200 athletes, I think five or six people were behind me in the swim.
  4. I achieved my goal of averaging 20 mph (actually I average 20.1) for the bike. After learning about the course, I actually didn't think I'd be able to do it, because the bike leg had many long hills, rough roads, and wind.
  5. I knew about six of the other athletes and was able to share war stories with them afterwards. That was fun.
  6. The race used ChampionChip timing. We got accurate results of every leg and transition immediately after we finished the race.
  7. Overall, the event was well organized with plenty of aid stations and lots of food afterwards. The course was well marked and had volunteers help direct the athletes.
  8. I worried about the minor injury of ball of my left foot (it didn't bother me at all, except walking to and from the swim area!), about my goggle fogging up in the cold water (they didn't) or getting kicked off (I got kicked elsewhere), about getting a flat tire (the tires were fine), and of course about drowning in the lake (I survived).
  9. The new equipment I about about 2 weeks ago--a wet suit and aero bars for my bike--worked well for me.

The Bad

  1. Here are my official times (I consider them pretty bad, except for maybe the bike leg): Swim 43:46 (by comparison, the guy who won it did the swim in 19 minutes!), T1 (that's transition 1, the time between the swim and the bike legs) 4:26, Bike 1:17:46 (20.1 mph), T2 1:41, Run 1:02:07.
  2. I finished 50th of 60 men in the Olympic-length race. 'Course most of the men were young bucks (20-35 years old) with expensive tri bikes and, get this, the ability to swim in liquid water, so I guess I shouldn't feel badly about my finish.
  3. Coming out of the water, I couldn't keep my balanced and weaved my way up the boat ramp like a drunken sailor. I was worried about being so dizzy that I'd fall off the bike, so at the start of the bike leg, I just spun in a low gear until the blood reached my brain, my ears cleared, and I felt safe. That took me only about 2 minutes.
  4. During the swim, I had to stop and float on my back (the wet suit buoyed me up) several times to catch my breath.
  5. Boy, was I surprised by the run leg! I don't know what I was thinking, but I had no idea that it would be a mountain run, with many huge hills. It wound its way from the lake up to a peak that appeared to be about 37,000 feet above the lake. Okay, so it was only a hill and not Mt. Everest, but it was about a thousand feet above the lake, with lots of ups and down in between. Having run a 10K at 7:07 pace about a year ago, I was shooting for about an 8:00 pace at this race. But pushing too hard on the bike, the hilly course, the heat (see the next paragraph), and my lack of run training (I've been nursing an injury since December and running less than 20 miles total most weeks), I averaged exactly 10:00 min per mile on the run leg.
  6. The heat was something I expected, but I didn't realize the effect it would have on me during the run. I haven't done a training run (well, maybe two or three) in temperatures above 50 degrees since the summer of '02, so my body wasn't prepared for the 70 degree weather.

What I Learned

  1. I'm going to wear my heart-rate monitor on the next triathlon to improve my pacing during the cycling let. Hopefully, that will help prevent the melt-down during the run.
  2. I need to do brick work so that my body is more accustomed to the bike-run transition.
  3. I need more pool time. In fact, I'm going to try to sign up for swimming lessons so a coach can help me with my stroke.
  4. I need to do more running in the heat. Or more running.
  5. The triathlon culture (if I can judge it from this one triathlon) is quite different from the marathon culture. I think this is due to the expense and commitment involved in training for and participating in triathlon. You have not only the expense of a bike (usually in the range of $1000-$4000) and a wet suit (usually in the range of $200-$300), but entrance fees for triathlons are three to five times those of marathons. For example, the St. George Marathon entrance fee is $40, whereas the Utah Half Ironman is $200.
  6. I enjoy triathloning. I will love triathloning when I become a better swimmer.

Overall, the Yuba Triathlon was a great experience. I'm looking forward to the Utah Half Ironman (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles) in two weeks.