My Blazer has a thermostat that's been sticking lately and I haven't taken 15 minutes to replace it, so we held our breathes that we wouldn't have any problems and we didn't. Its also missing its spare tire (don't ask) so just getting to the race was a true blessing. Faithy slept the whole ride while I rambled to Kneesee for the whole 45 minute drive about vehicle maintenance and race expectations.
We arrived, I got set up, I got my warm ups in and even had a few extra minutes to take it all in. I'm still too new at this to be looking for age group wins or even top 3's. My intention is to race as a novice for 3 triathlons this year, the step up as an age grouper next year and do 5. For this event I just wanted to "fix" some things that left me a bit disappointed after the Angels Race Triathlon last month. I wanted to shave a minute off each transition and more importantly I wanted to get out of the pool feeling like I had reflected my best effort. At Angels Race I got out of the pool disoriented, slightly confused and thankful I hadn't just died!
So the starting horn blasts and the swim starts. Right, left, exhale, inhale, right , left, exhale, inhale...or something like that, I don't know what swim technique he was using. Pool swim triathlons start one at a time, so when the starting horn sounded at 7am that just meant I had to wait 20 more minutes in line before my swim started. Eventually it's 7:20:40 and time for me to go...
The 400m swim: This was my first time swimming in a 50m pool and the task at hand was to do a snake swim for 4 laps. I know I passed about 4 to 6 people during the first 250m and I got passed twice during the last 150m. Time was of no consequence for me, I just wanted to feel in control. I think the pool here made a huge difference. The lap lanes were about 2 feet wider than at Angels and it gave people plenty of room to pass. Also, the pool was deep enough that slow swimmers, like me, weren't being held up by non-swimmers who were congesting the wall at Angels and preventing me from doing flip turns. I did have a moment on the 3rd lap where I literally couldn't believe I was doing so well...and in that moment I could feel 39 years worth of self-doubt in my ability to swim telling me "Hey bud...did you forget? You can't swim!" I was like "Oh! Sh#@! The pool is 17 ft deep right here! I can't lose it now!" It only lasted for a second and I just relaxed for a few strokes and snapped right out of it. I got out of the pool knowing I had done what I came to do. I didn't know my time, but it felt right and I was overwhelmed that I had done so well..., but no time for reflections...this thing was just getting started!
T1: I cross the timing mat and run to transition to the bike. I had laid my gear out with better forethought than last time and it paid off. I lost a few seconds fumbling with my Garmin. I might ditch the Garmin next race. I ended up putting it on backwards anyway and in the middle of a race I couldn't focus on it long enough to scroll to the screen I wanted.
The 13.1 mile bike: The course is set up for an immediate uphill right out of transition so I decided to set up in the first gear of the small chain ring. I pulled the first hill and stayed in the big chain ring the rest of the ride. The course was rolling with few hills that required first gear. I mostly remember passing people. I thought I might eventually find someone I couldn't pass, but it never happened. I was like "Where's all the fast people at?" Nobody passed me at all.
T2: I dismount the bike, take it to transition and get ready for the run. Part of my strategy to improve transition time was to ditch socks. The bike ride went well in practice and in the race with no socks. I only did 1 mile sockless practicing for the run and it went well too...
The 3.1 mile run: The out and back run course had one significant hill and other than that was mostly flat. I passed other people frequently and often while I never got passed once. It was almost as if I was the only one having a race and everyone else was just out jogging. Of course I wasn't running at my typical speeds either... it wasn't till I saw the final split times that it really started to sink in what was going on. About halfway into it my sockless strategy bit me in the butt and my left foot developed one large blister and one rub spot that drew blood. Bummer. I guess socks need to be in my game from now on. Still, with the adrenaline rushing I didn't let it slow me down much and I kept passing people including 2 right before the finish line.
So the race ends. The post race food is excellent, pasta and barbecue. The overall results get posted, I pick up a 2nd place among male novices trophy (missing first by 5 seconds), and I'm left anxiously awaiting my split times to get posted, which they eventually did around noon of the following day. Now I realize what I had begun to suspect during the race. Starting in the back at a pool swim triathlon completely changes the race environment. I had even begun to feel it at Angels, but I never put it into words. Statistics don't lie. In this race, as well as at Angels I was the fastest male novice cyclist and runner. I keep getting 2nd because I haven't taken transitions seriously enough to practice and because I'm a below average swimmer. By the time I get out of the pool the people I'm really competing with are half way through their bike ride and I will always be playing catch up. In a foot race people always fall into a pack or group or order, but that's not going to happen at pool swim triathlons, for me anyways, until I become a better swimmer.
Final Results: 31/121 men, 2/24 novice men, Swim: 9:35, T1: 2:51, Bike: 39.25, T2: 2:00, Run: 22:51, Overall Time: 1:16:40