Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Strokes, Spokes, Strides Sprint Triathlon - June 10, 2017

I completed a sprint distance triathlon last weekend with a 300 meter swim, 11.8 mile bike, 5k run.  I finished in 1:22:04, 23rd of 40. Swim 9:18, transition 1 in 2:18, bike 44:33, transition 2 in 0:36, run 25:23.  As the only person in my age group I was both first and last.  This was my first triathlon as well as my first swim or bike event.

The big question mark for me with the triathlon was the swim portion.  I never had swim training or participated in anything more than fun swimming in pools, creeks and ponds.  Riding a bicycle and running don't have the same breathing challenge as swimming.  And in a race swimmers are not supposed to just stop and stand up when out of breath.

Poster that Matt and Katherine (and grandbaby) gave to cheer me on
So after my spring marathon (Boston) I began swimming twice a week.  After about a month it seemed I would be ready for the Waynesboro YMCA's Strokes, Spokes and Strides triathlon June 10th.  After registering for the race, I did a race rehearsal in Waynesboro with training partners Monique and Gene.  I had a surprisingly difficult time with the swim that day, including panicky hyperventilation.  This prompted me to begin swimming in a deeper pool and to research the mental part of completing the swim.  I prayed a lot too.  On race day, I arrived early so I could do a practice swim before the race.  Happily it went well.

Based on predicted swim times, we were arranged with faster swimmers first.  The swim would go in a serpentine fashion through 6 lanes, with a new swimmer starting every 15 seconds.  I was lined up near the end of the swimmers 5 or 6 from last.  I had estimated a 10 minute swim time based on my

It seemed like a long wait at poolside until my turn came to cross the timing mat and jump in at the deep end to start my swim.  While waiting I noticed some swimmers not doing so well and thought about not being the only one like that.  My swim started as planned, counting my strokes, focusing on
kicking, exhaling, relaxed breathing and rolling a little further to breathe in. 

YMCA photo
Shortly after the first turn I was closing in on the lady swimming in front of me.  Before the end of that lap I had to slow to not swim over her and that really disrupted my rhythm.  I forgot to tap her foot to indicate I want to pass, but I pushed hard off the wall and swam strongly until I passed her.  I tried to settle back into a relaxed stroke and the swim methods already mentioned.  There were a couple times I took in some water when breathing and paused to cough and clear my throat.

After another lap a male swimmer was resting at the wall and let me pass.  From then on it was just a matter of continuing to complete laps, looking ahead for other swimmers and checking progress toward the end.  It felt like I should be closer to done.  I remember noticing a shapely lady in the next lane and her two piece swimsuit and immediately wished such sights didn't distract me - I still had to survive my swim!  Finally only one length remained and I tried swimming faster but soon had to settle back into my standard rhythm.  I remember noticing the lifeguard standing at the side of the last lane.  I had decided one of my goals was to finish the swim without lifeguard assistance and it seemed I would make it.

At the end of the pool I scooted over to the ladder to get out, leave the building and run to the transition area to prepare for the bike.

I sat down to dry my feet and put on socks and shoes.  I took a swallow of my coffee and honey mix and then some water.  There was a shirt to put on, then race belt with number, helmet, glasses, adjust my mirror and push the bike out to the road.  Once on the bike I started my watch and thanked the police officer who stopped traffic for each of us crossing the main road.  At the first turn several friends were waiting to offer encouragement.

For the most part the bike portion was uneventful.  I passed a few people on the out part of the course.  But at the one sharp turn I heard a scuffing sound, then saw a bike go down and the cyclist tumble across the lane.  He got up right away and was picking up the bike as I approached.  I asked if he would be ok and he said he would.  Every turn had a volunteer stopping traffic and directing riders along the course.  I drank regularly from my bottle with sport drink. 


After the turnaround (almost a mile short due to bridge work) the course was mostly downhill and I picked up some speed.  I passed a couple more and was passed once myself.  There were a couple times I stopping pressing the pace to rest my bottom which was getting sore or to drink from my bottle.  At one spot on the return I was checking my turn sheet and a car passed surprisingly close - I had drifted out near the center of the lane without noticing them approaching.  I should have paid better attention.  Soon I was approaching the main hill near the end and shifted to the smallest front chainring and the chain came off.  I had to stop and get it back on before I could continue.  The brief rest made the climb easier than I remembered from previous times.

Once over the hill I saw the same friends again and began thinking of making the transition to run.  Cross the main street and thank the officer again.  Stop on the street and push the bike into transition.  The run motion there was really awkward after pedaling hard on the bike.  Park the bike, remove helmet and glasses, take a drink and pick up sunglasses.  I started running out of transition the wrong way but realized it in a few steps.  When out on the course I hit the lap button on my watch and adjusted my race belt so the bib/number was visible in front.


Less than a half mile out I passed the cheering friends again.  One particular phrase I remember hearing was "pace yourself".  I was already breathing hard due to the adjustment from bike to run and the hill at that point.  But I don't think I took that advice seriously.  I remember thinking it was less than a 3 mile run from here, I've done this before.  Soon I realized I was overexerting and had to ease the pace.  There was a water station with a little girl offering water before the 1 mile mark.  I didn't want any yet but thought I'd be sure to accept the offer on the way back - just to be nice.

Johna, Brenda, Rebecca, Amy
I had passed one runner by this point and had seen several coming back the other way finishing their run.  I was struck by what seemed like less than impressive paces.  Shortly before the halfway turnaround I saw Monique coming back and then saw Gene making the turnaround ahead of me.  There is a bit of a hill approaching the 2 mile mark and I walked some of that.  I was now demonstrating some unimpressive run paces myself.  There were a couple of corners to turn then a half mile downhill/uphill section.  Back past the cheering friends who were saying ridiculous sounding things like "looking strong".  I was feeling spent.  One more hill and around a curve to the finish.  I usually like pushing to finish lines but I don't think there was any pushing this time.

And I was done.  What a hard thing that was!

The race was done well by the YMCA and Racine MultiSports.  Since the race field was small, the announcer was able to announce each person's name as they entered transition from swim or bike and when coming to the finish line.  That was nice. 

Note: photographer credits to my friend Brenda for race photos.