ZMan the Triathlete

Not content with the title of marathon runner and male gigolo this weekend after much swim training I finished my first triathlon.

We travelled out to Lake Chelan on Thursday afternoon - a nice 3.5 hour drive over 2 mountain passes. For once I was a passenger so I got to check out the scenery and not worry about the 200ft RVs driving at 40mph. In the UK you would need a special license to drive something that big - in the US they let the folk with the worst eyesight and slowest reactions drive them.

Anyway we arrived in Chelan on Thursday - man it was hot.... I was not looking forward to the race already. I'm a pale skinned Brit - we rarely see the sun and exercising in it is something we try to avoid. Checked into the Riverwalk inn and got ourselves a very nice pizza from Local Myth. Friday morning we had a quick swim in the lake followed by a short run/walk around the river walk trail then picked up the race packets and timing chips. I did try to get my wetsuit off quickly and slipped on the grass and almost broke my back - doesn't bode well for the transition tomorrow. I don't know if the chips were special ones but they were huge - maybe from the 1920's Big Smile. There were no lines so we had plenty of time so we visited some wineries and local tourist spots... more on that in another post though.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for breakfast followed by a short walk with our bikes to the setup area. J likes to be early for everything so we had an hour in the sun while we waited for the start. J also hates being in the sun so she spent most of it standing in my shadow. Its nice to feel useful. We were most upset to find that according to USAT rules our ages are based on our age on Dec 31st 2007 so I had a rather impromptu 40th birthday party as they marked my leg.

As you may recall I am not a swimmer. The 800m (half mile) swim route didn't look very long from the lake side but I knew the fastest I had ever swum was around 21 minutes which would put me near the back of the swim leg. Of course that was in a pool without a wetsuit or a cap and with some big old heavy swim shorts. Today I have the suit, a nice green cap and some sleek tight, thin (yes ladies I look good!) swim/run shorts. The ladies went off first and it seemed to take them ages to reach the 1st buoy and turn so we could start. I started from the back since I knew I wouldn't be fast. The 1st side of the rectangle was pretty hectic - lots of arms and legs but not as bad as I had imagined. Once we made the first turn then the pack spread out and it was much easier. Well almost - I appeared to be swimming with some guys who couldn't decide if they should swim freestyle or breaststroke. One of them was switching every 10 strokes and annoying the hell out of me. I was pleased to see I swam in a very good line but he was all over the place and breaststroke is not something to switch to when you are along side someone. If *I* can learn to swim 800m freestyle then so should the rest of you dammit. Sure breaststroke was my plan B if things went wrong but make sure you are out of arms reach of people when you switch. I hit the second buoy in under 8 minutes. Based on my times I figured that it was less than half way which was almost as annoying as breaststroke boy. Down the back straight he continued to meander around and at the 3rd buoy he cut right in front of me as did 3 other people. Turning into the final side I could see the end and I passed the lot of them. Getting out of the water I looked at my watch and just about died because I was under 17 minutes. I glanced over my shoulder to see a LOT of green hats still in the water. I could have stopped at this point and been very happy but then I realised that people were passing me. I was walking pretty slowly up the hill to the transition. God knows how many places I lost there.

Still in a euphoria I entered the transition area. I really had not practised this and it showed. The wetsuit came off quickly with no injuries but I failed to dry my feet well and couldn't get my socks on. This took me several minutes to get sorted and it was almost 6 minutes before I was on the bike and heading out into the sun.

In training we had not done 13 miles flat out - instead doing half at a normal pace and then coming back at speed. I felt pretty good around 19mph so I was hoping to maintain that for the race even though there were a few small hills. However my bike computer wasn't working (turns out i had nudged the sensor in the bike rack and it was not close enough to the receiver) so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going. I started well by passing several folk including one guy on a very nice tri bike. I'm sure he wasn't happy being passed by someone on a heavy old mountain bike. This was short lived though as the good cyclists who didn't have such a good swim started to catch up. I tried to keep up as best I could  but most of them lost me pretty quickly. Eventually I settled to a pace I thought I could hold and plugged on. Some subtle uphills where you could feel you had to push harder. Eventually spotted J on her way back. I have no clue how far I am from the turnaround but she did. Turns out I was pretty close and I was catching up. As I passed I yelled '17 minutes' - yes I was still over the moon about the swim and since J had been helping me a lot with that she needed to know. I hit the turnaround quickly and realised I was only about 5-6 minutes behind her and that meant I might be able to catch up. Unfortunately she had also realised this as we crossed and had picked it up. The competition probably helped both of our times. The return trip seemed to take much less time and soon I was back at the transition area again and there was her bike. Turns out I had averaged over 20mph - also much better than I expected.

This change over went much better and I headed out into 90 degree heat for a 5k.

Its well known that the bike to run is the hard one and sure enough my legs feel very odd. Not what I expected though - no ache or tiredness just numb. I knew my legs were moving but I didn't feel like I had much control over what they were doing or what pace they were going. I figured I would just have to keep up whatever pace I was going until they felt better. Around half a mile in I caught up to J and exchanged some pleasantries about the state of our legs and then I headed off. Apparently I was doing a pretty good pace even though it didn't feel like it to me. About half way in I finally felt more normal but now I could feel the fatigue and also the potential for aggravating my leg injury. There were no mile markers until mile 2 so I had no idea of pace but I was surprised to get there and find I was running 9 minute miles. They had plenty of water stops but I didn't feel like I had much left to pick up the pace so I just stuck to what I was doing. Lots of slower people to pass and its always nice to see they are younger than you by reading their legs. Then you see the park and the finish line and in one final insult they turn you off and make you run around the car park instead of directly to the line in front of you. I managed a short sprint the last 100 yards and was VERY happy to see the water and bagel stand. A quick look at my watch and I was just over 28 minutes. Not my fastest time for 5k but only 2 minutes off my recent 5k races and pretty good for the 3rd part of a triathlon.

Final time 1:30:36 - I think I'm more proud of my swim than anything else. I was 39th out of 85 men out of the water, 76th in the bike and 66th in the run. To my surprise its the bike and run that need work compared to my peers. Though I'm not in as good running shape as I was last year the marathon stamina helped no end and I have recovered very quickly. My injured leg was a little sore the next day but other than that I feel great.



Published 23 July 2007 10:53 PM by zman


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