After several months of training and hard work I was able to put it all together on Saturday at the Beaches Fine Art Series Triathlon #1. My first triathlon!! It was pretty exciting, I was pretty excited, maybe a little too excited, but we’ll get to that.
I probably slept better before this event than I have slept on the night before a race in a long time. Not a lot of pressure, just trying to go out and have fun and get a better sense for what it feels like to swim and then bike and then run and do it all as quickly as you can.
I got up at 4:30 and showered and threw on my tri shorts and a jersey and my flops. I had loaded the car up the night before with my bike and transition bag and only had to grab my bottles and gatorade on my way out the door. I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and grabbed two Sausage McMuffins to once again test my iron stomach. I scarfed those down on my way to NAS Mayport. A very nice soldier with an assault rifle checked my ID and pass and waved me through the gate onto the base. This was at about 5:30 and it was still quite dark out. I turned too soon and then turned too late and nearly made a U-turn on a runway, whoops. Eventually I made it safely to the designated parking lot. I hopped out of the car and got my bike out and all of my other stuff. Julie pulled up at that point and got her stuff out. As I was checking the pressure in my tires the valve core came out of the back tire along with all of the air in the tire. I used some choice words as I assessed the situation. Happily I was able to find the core and got it re-installed and the tire pumped back up. I popped my bottles into my cages, slung my bag over my shoulder and wandered off to put my stuff in the transition area.
I laid out my towel first then parked my helmet with gloves and sunglasses in it in one corner next to my cycling shoes and next to those my running shoes and my Hawaiian shirt to run in and the second goPro case mounted on the chest harness. I loaded the goPro into the case on my bike and made sure it was set right. I am regretting not trying to take pictures during the swim, oh well, they probably wouldn’t have turned out wonderfully anyways.
I wandered down to the beach to watch them tow the buoys for the swim. Someone told me the water was a balmy 74 degrees and there was a pretty strong wind coming out of the North. I got to see the sun rise over the ocean, which was cool.
At about 7:00 we wandered down to the beach with everyone else for the race meeting and to get ready for the start. We were going off in the fifth wave, the newbie group, bringing up the rear. That meant that we got to see which line the other groups took to the first buoy, several in the first wave didn’t allow enough for the current and had to swim backwards to make the turn. When our horn sounded we were off in a less than explosive fashion, not the same kind of urgency as in a running event where you only have one discipline to complete. Happily the water felt really nice from a temperature perspective and I was soon stroking my way ever closer to T1. I wasn’t particularly quick through the water but felt comfortable and steady as I alternated between breast stroke and freestyle. I did manage to avoid getting kicked in my first event, which I thought was a big bonus. Rounding the first buoy and heading down the coast for the second turn I began to see some different colored swim caps from swimmers that started in the waves before us. Julie was up there somewhere as well. I was starting to feel good halfway through knowing that my stronger disciplines were waiting for me. I didn’t really have a good sense of my time in the water, didn’t want to fiddle with looking down at my watch to see how much time had elapsed. I was expecting that the swim in to shore would be easier than the swim out, that wasn’t really the case as wave action kept slowing me up a bit. Finally I could stand and began to step my way in. Others exiting the water around me were not really moving forward with a lot of determination. I kicked my legs high and got out of the water and up the beach, pulling off cap and goggles and running back to T1 to get ready to cycle.
I caught up with Julie in T1, scrambling around to get ready to bike. Shoes on and helmet and sunglasses, grabbed the bike and my gloves and turned on the goPro. Critically I did not put my gloves on yet, arriving at the mount line and not really thinking that gloves are a bit of a challenge for me to don while pedaling.
I also learned that the tube in my front tire had given up the ghost while I was swimming, apparently letting go loud enough for the bike tech to hear it and come over and find my bike in the rack. Happily this stellar individual took it upon himself to replace the tube and get my ready to go all completely unbeknownst to me. One of the race officials told me while I was getting ready about the Good Samaritan.
I launched myself and then realized I didn’t have my gloves on yet. The process of trying to put them on while pedaling into a headwind was perilous and I felt like bad things were going to happen. A few moments later they did. A gust or something twisted my handlebars and soon I was no longer in any semblance of control over my destiny. Down I went, feet came unclipped, bottles came out of my cages and one of my handlebar plugs popped out. I got up quickly making sure everything still worked. Popped my bottles back in their cages and replaced my handlebar plug. Toted the bike to the side of the road and put my gloves on before getting back on. I remounted and was off, again, with a bit of a twinge in my back. I had some work to do, but didn’t want to overdo it on the bike. The wind was a bit of a factor throughout the ride and that combined with my new uncertainty around my bike handling made for a less than relaxing ride. I passed a good number of people though, dutifully calling out, “On your left,” for each one. Likewise getting passed by people in jazzy aero helmets on very nice looking bikes. I talked to some people as I went by, offering encouragement in places or cheering if they had on a fun jersey. As I finished my first lap I was all too happy to put the spot of pavement where I ate it behind me again. The second lap seemed faster than the first and then I was coming up on the dismount line. Unclipping my left and then right foot, differently than I normally do, I somehow reclipped my left foot and when I stepped off and lifted my left leg, everything came with it. Over I went again, my poor bike. I told the official I was just going to leave it there, I couldn’t be trusted. He laughed. I got up and picked my bike up and hobbled to T2. Despite all of my gravitational challenges I still made it through the bike section in less time than I was hoping to finish.
I racked my bike, popped off my helmet and pulled off my shoes. Threw on my running shoes and double knotted them then donned my Dad’s Hawaiian shirt that I’ve worn in every race this year. Julie wasn’t back from the ride yet. I snuck out of T2 in less than 4 minutes and now only had to contend with the intense soreness in my back. The pounding of the run was not making my life comfortable, I altered my gait to a bit more upright position and plodded onward. I thought I sounded like a horse, clopping along further back on my foot than I would have liked. Several volunteers urged me onward offering encouragement on the way. I got around the quiet of not running with music in my ears by talking to pretty much everyone I came across on the course. Offering more encouragement or making quips. While the run wasn’t comfortable it wasn’t as slow as it could have been either, so I was happy about that. As I came back up to the sandy path that took us out on the running course and would take me to the finish I was pretty excited. Before I knew it the finish line was looming large in front of me. I didn’t have much left for a good kick at the finish on a soft surface, just happy to be across the line.
And then it was done… I grabbed a water and got my finisher medal and wandered over to where Clinton was waiting to see Julie come in. She came running by in strong form shortly thereafter and our first triathlon was done.
We grabbed some snacks after the race and stood around talking for a little while before wandering back over to the transition area to collect up all of our stuff.
I stopped off and talked to the guys from the Trek Store to thank them for fixing my tire and to see if I could do anything for them. Then we loaded our stuff up and were on our way. My back tightened up a bit on the drive home and I didn’t get a whole lot of stuff done for the rest of the day, but I was okay with that.