Monday, May 30, 2011

Swim, Bike, Run = Triathlon

Last weekend I did the Women of Steel Triathlon in American Fork, Utah. It was the biggest triathlon I've ever competed in, with nearly 800 women participating. So many people was intimidating! The route was 300 m swim in a pool, 12+ mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run. I didn't know what times I should be aiming for, so I decided to set my goals a little differently. My conservative goals were: I wanted to finish the race and finish in the top half of my age group. To push myself, I decided on two more goals: I wanted to finish in the top third of my age group and do the run in under 30 minutes.

 The transition area had many bike racks set up, so I parked my bike, towel, biking shoes, running shoes, etc. all there. Then I had to memorize where it was so I could find it again. Some of the more experienced women brought helium balloons and tied them to the bike rack. I knew I was near the yellow balloon.

 Next it was time to go to the pool. It was a chilly morning, so I kept on a jacket and pants over my swim suit, as I figured I might have to wait awhile to start. And I couldn't resist taking a couple photos with my little point and shoot!

The pool was 50m long. They had it set up so every 12 seconds a swimmer would enter at either end of the pool and then do three laps (three down-and-backs), one each in three different lanes to swim 300 m. We self-seeded, or got into groups based on what we thought we would swim. I had timed myself a few weeks before on a 200 m swim (because that's what I thought it was!). When I found out it was longer, I had to adjust and thought I could swim 300 m in about 5 minutes. I've learned from previous triathlons that it's better not to swim all out, but swim at a nice steady pace so I don't cramp up afterwards. I was concerned that 5 minutes wasn't so fast (after all, I used to swim long distance in high school and competed competitively in summer swim team from age 6-18), but kept telling myself that 5 minutes really wasn't that long in the whole scope of the triathlon.

Then, when I got to the pool and saw that the self-seeding was every minute from 4 to 10 minutes, I realized I was doing better than I thought!

 Even in the 5 minute group, these were all the women ahead of me--just on my side of the pool! I watched the swimmers ahead of me to see how it all worked, as I had never done this pool start before. I saw that passing wasn't so easy, but could be done.

 Just before I got in, I gave my husband my extra clothes. That's me in the purple (eggplant) jacket and the crazy hair.

The swim went well. The water was pleasantly warm, and I swam strong but not too hard. Soon I realized there was a problem--a lady had gone who shouldn't be in the group, and she was backing up swimmers. I decided to pass, and that took a little time and a near head-on collision, but I managed to get around four swimmers. I also had one person pass me at the same time. Talk about a little confusing! After the passing there was a big gap in front of me and no one right behind me, and I was feeling a little tired because I wasn't really able to train for the swim, so I flipped over on my back and did some backstroke. It's always been my best stroke and I can do it with little exertion, so it worked out great.

 After the swim I ran to the transition area, found my bike, and donned a shirt (I swam in my tri shorts, which are bike shorts with a little less padding so it dries out faster), bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses. I was a little slow in the transition (it's not easy putting on socks when you're breathing hard!), but got out and was feeling good.

I had only had the road bike a couple weeks and had used the clip-in shoes three times before the race, so I was a little nervous. But the bike felt great, and I was cruising along with little effort. In fact, I probably cruised a little too much and didn't race enough, as I went from 14th in my age group after the swim to 71st after the bike. But I didn't know that at the time, as with the staggered start it's hard to really feel like you're competing. The good part was I didn't crash.

That meant I got back into transition and then changed into running shoes and started running. It's never fun to run after biking, so I had practiced that transition a little. After about a mile my legs stopped feeling like jello.

And then finally it was the finish line! I made up some time on the run, finishing 49th out of 153 in my age group. And my run time was 26:57, so I met all my goals. I was very happy about that. But I realized my competitive side was coming out--I wanted to do better. Surely I could make faster transitions and ride faster on my bike!

I will get to find out next weekend, when I try another triathlon. This one has a big group start in a pond (which requires a wetsuit). It has a longer swim but the same length bike and run. It's a lot smaller (only about 300 competitors). That might partly be because there are two other triathlons in Utah next weekend, plus two 100-mile bike ride events, a half marathon, and several shorter running and biking races. And two mud runs. If you want to compete, there are plenty of places to do it!

Thanks to Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa David who came and helped watch the kids. Afterwards we went to a playground so the kids and dogs could play. The weather couldn't have been better. Now if it would just stop snowing so I could train for next weekend!


jendoop said...

Congratulations! That is awesome!

It does sound like they overbooked the race, I've heard of doing the swim portion in a pool, but 800?! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

phil said...

thats a good result. I remember those summer meets oh so many years ago

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