Monday, June 6, 2011

Officially a triathlete

The road to recovery from my hip replacement in April, 2009, has seemed like a long one, but in reality I'm barely past two years post-op and have just completed my first triathlon - an Olympic distance, even. Most people who delve into triathlons start with a "sprint" tri, which varies in distance from 300-700 yard swim, 10-15 mile bike and 2-3 mile run. Not me, I wanted to go bigger. The Olympic distance is .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.2 mile run (1.5K/40K/10K in metric). No sense in messing around with the small stuff :)

The event was the Kansas City Triathlon which was centered around Longview Lake just southeast of KC. I drove up the day before to get signed in and picked up my race packet. Did a short run to keep the legs loose. Spent the night in Overland Park, Kansas, just 10 minutes from the race site.

This tri was a warm-up for my big event coming up on June 12 - the Ironman Kansas 70.3 (half Ironman) in Lawrence, Kansas. The good thing is that I now know what to expect, especially on the swim. The bad thing is the the half ironman is more than double the distance of the Olympic distance. I feel like I'm prepared, because I've done the training but am nervous.

That being said, below is a recap of my day at the KC Tri. Sorry for the length, I'm a bit wordy sometimes :)

Swim Time
Swim Pace2:46
Tran 11:59
Bike Rate21.2
Tran 21:55
Run Pace8:12

Pre-race routine:

This was my first tri, so I did my best to read existing information about how to best prepare. I bought a fairly large transition bag(Zoot) which I was able to get everything in except for some extra water bottles. I ended up not needing the extra bottles but better safe than sorry.

I attempted to get a good night's sleep going to bed at 9 the prior night, but woke up at 2am and couldn't go back to sleep. I rarely sleep well in hotels, so no surprise there. So much for a good plan.

Got up, had some coffee and a bagel, put on sunscreen, got dressed and left for the park. Arrived plenty early. Easy process to get marked and find my transition area. I had everything fairly well prepped already, so it really took very little time to get my area setup, including plastic bags to cover things in case of rain.

Then it was just a waiting game. I was done with my area a good 1.5 hours ahead of time. I walked around and just took it all in and got to use the bathroom a couple of times, so I wasn't concerned about any issues on the course.

Event warmup:

Felt no need to ride or run prior to the event. I knew swimming would get everything going. Good thing on the bike, since once your bike was in transition, you weren't allowed to take it out. No big deal to me but I heard others complaining.

30 minutes before the start, I got my wetsuit on and was able to acclimate to the water and practice a bit, since this was my FIRST open water swim! I was glad to be able to do this as the water was between 60-64 degrees, depending on who you listened to.



This was an awful, horrifying experience. I knew it was a possibility, because it was my first OWS. I had planned on getting some OWS in prior to this event, but with all the flooding we've had in the area I live, it just hasn't been possible.

I did get to warm up some before the start, so I thought I could handle it, even thought it is disturbing looking down into the water and not being able to see anything.

I was not worried about the distance per se, because I've done this distance many times in the pool. I was worried a bit about the current and of course the craziness of the chaos. There were 165 in my wave (M30-44). I got started off somewhere in the middle toward the outside. Got going and within 100 yards I was panicking, and I mean panicking in a way that I thought I needed to quit or risk dying. I was really scared.

I was just completely out of breath. I had to turn over and do backstroke for a bit and then turn back over and dog paddle until I got my senses about me. Still I was unable to just put my head in the water and go. I was just totally freaked out and couldn't do it, so I swam forward with my head above the water then entire way to the first turn. I even stopped at a couple of intermediate buoys along the way to hang on for a few moments. I did see other struggling as bad or worse than me, so I knew I wasn't alone. Was even pretty close to a guy who called for (and received) help.

I finally made it to the first turn. It had to have taken 20-25 minutes. The first leg was against a pretty strong crosswind, so that probably didn't help matters. When I made the turn I was officially downwind and I told myself that I HAD to get over this stupid fear and go. So I did. I just put my head in and started going.

I almost always breathe bilaterally in the pool, but I found that breathing to one side helped me get going. I actually got into a groove and started feeling good about myself. I kept going off-course but was sighting frequently to get back on track. The distance to the last buoy wasn't very far, maybe a couple hundred yards, so I got there in a reasonable time and then headed back toward the beach.

The trip in was rough because I was going back into the wind. The waves were choppy at times, so I had to switch breathing to the other side. That threw me for a bit and it was quite a fight to stay straight, but I finally made it.

I was very proud to have fought through it and felt like I had conquered a big demon when I touched the beach.

I had targeted 30 minutes for the swim, which I'm capable of doing, but had no idea the struggle I would encounter. I'm not disappointed, though.

What would you do differently?:

Practice OWS. Practice OWS. Practice OWS. In fairness, I had planned to do so, but the flooding where I live made it impossible.

Trade my Garmin 305 for a 310XT so I can track my swims and have a good laugh or cry, or actually figure out how to get better.



I felt well prepared for the transition. Had just a slight trouble getting my right foot out but that was minor. I was not very dizzy from the swim, which was a concern going in.

What would you do differently?:




The bike is my strongest discipline. My main concern was going out too hard and killing my run because of it. I knew I could make up some of the time I lost on my swim and I did. I was 22/45 on the bike compared to 41/45 on the swim. I passed a lot of people and didn't "burn all my matches."

The course had no major climbs but a couple of decent ones and several up and downs. It had rained the night before, so I was cautious about cornering too fast. The roads were rough, as they typically are around a lake. Chip 'n seal for the most part with thousands of tar-covered seams in certain sections. Not a bad course at all but certainly not a smooth ride.

Pretty decent wind throughout. Probably 15 MPH with some gusts. The one positive is that heading into the wind was mostly through the technical areas, so the wind wasn't as negatively impacting as it would've been on straights. The tailwind was on the longest straight stretch, so I made up a lot of my speed there. That was fun!

Had targeted 1:10 and hit it. Very happy with this.

What would you do differently?:

Not much. I fueled well on the ride. Didn't get into LT very much.



I was going sock-less on bike and run and was using quick laces, so getting out of bike shoes and into running shoes was quick. I could've been faster here, but I took off running the wrong direction out of transition. Idiot move.

What would you do differently?:

Pay closer attention to which end the run started.



The run always concerns me, because I had an artificial hip that I got implanted two years ago. I was unable to run for 15 months and even though I feel reasonably comfortable now, I'm afraid to really test the limits. I have recently done a 10K (44 min) and a half marathon (1:42) and felt good after both races, but the fear of doing damage is always in the back of my mind.

I've done quite a number of bricks in training and feel okay doing the transition. Actually, I usually start out faster than I intend even though I have the dead-leg feeling for a while after the bike. I did exactly that and my HR jumped pretty good the first mile. I finally got settled in to a nice pace after that, at least going by RPE since I haven't looked at the data yet.

Felt pretty solid going into the second loop. I took a gel at :15 and :40 and got water or Gatorade at every stop, even walking through the station to make sure I got enough.

Around 4.5 miles I started getting a twinge in my quad, a precursor to bad cramps. I backed off just a bit and it got no worse. At .3 miles to go the hamstrings both started the twinge. I knew I was borderline going into bad cramps, so I shortened my stride to keep the speed. I had a goal of 50 minutes and knew I was close.

As I got closer and closer to the finish that time was terrorizing me, because it was in reach but I risked some serious pain by pushing too hard. I said screw it and went hard for the final bit and made it just under my goal by 4 seconds! It wouldn't have been the end of the world had I not made it but it's nice to meet your goals.

What would you do differently?:

Nothing really. I probably could've run just a bit faster but the risk of getting cramps was very possible, so I'm glad I paced the way I did.

Post race

Warm down:

I was pretty spent when I finished, although not totally, so I probably could've pushed a little harder somewhere, but it's nice not to feel borderline sick and dizzy like after an all-out effort. I just got some Gatorade and water and tried to cool down.

By the time I got to the run it was getting pretty muggy, so it was a bit miserable trying to cool off. I can never eat directly after a race, so I went back to transition, packed up and left. Had a 3.5 hour trip home, so I stopped a few times to stretch and once to get a well-deserved cheeseburger :)

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Crappy swim. Fake hip.

Event comments:

I've attended many races (bike, run and motocross) over the past ten 10 years. This was by far the most organized, well-run race I've attended. They used this Ultramax timing system thing and I was able to get a printout immediately after my race with all my times and finishing position (although they are preliminary and my final results did change slightly). That was extremely cool. Maybe a lot of triathlons do this same thing, but it is a great touch.

Everything - registration, parking, body marking, aid stations, on-time start - all very smooth.

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