Back in December, before I was having any issues that made me think I was going to have to quit running, I signed up for the Dunedin Rotary Club Triathlon. It would be my first ever Triathlon. (It may end up being my only Triathlon) I set up a Garmin 12-week training plan and, when the time came, I started my training. I was feeling pretty good as the date approached. Unlike many others doing Triathlons, I’ve been swimming my entire life. Not to get ahead of myself, but this is reflected in my 2nd place ranking for the swim portion of the Triathlon.
The most important thing I did was to get my bike ready. I don’t have a hyper-expensive triathlon bike. I just have a hybrid bike, so I bought another one to leave with my parents since I knew I would be doing many (most? all?) of my Triathlons near where they live. The water in the Clearwater, FL area is nice, clear, and clean. The bike is exactly the same one I have at home, so I wrote down all the key measurements before heading out to Florida. On this day I spent a chunk of time getting my new bike ready. I filled the tires with air and checked the brake, pedal, and chain connections. After that I went out on a 30 minute test ride. Everything was great, leaving me happy with the condition of the bike.
I also thought it would be a good idea to do a shake out swim. I haven’t swam in the ocean (other than while lounging around) in decades so I wanted to get my body used to it. Turned out to be a good thing as it definitely feels quite different to swimming in the pool. I gave myself a goal of swimming for 30 minutes at a warm up pace. I ended up swimming about 1500m, or 2 times what I would swim the following day for the triathlon.
After that I went with my mom to go pick up my race packet. The race shirt was very good quality – a technical tee instead of just the cotton tee that I got in last month’s duathlon.
Day Of the Race
Considering that it was the night before a race, I actually slept pretty well. I only really woke up once. In my mind, it felt like just a few minutes later my alarm went off. I don’t know if this is true (I didn’t want to psych myself out by checking the time), but I do know that I was awake before my alarm went off. This made it nicer to wake up as I wasn’t jerked awake.
After my morning tasks (tooth brushing, etc), I went to get my breakfast ready. Since the race wouldn’t be for another 3 hours and it was actually 3 races in one, I opted to have a larger breakfast than I usually have eaten before a running race. I had ¾ cup of Trader Joe’s Pecan Granola cereal, 1 cup of Raisin Bran cereal, and a banana. I also had some tea since my throat was feeling like it could use some hot water.
We left on an assumption it would take us 40 minutes to get to the race venue from my folks’ place. That turned out to be a good thing because, while we got to the gates of the beach in 30 minutes, it took another 15 to get to the parking lot.
After that it was the usual race day routine; everything ends up somehow taking just a little bit longer than you expect it to and, suddenly, it’s race time. I was worried about getting my stuff into transition and then forgetting my swim cap, goggles, or water shoes. But the race was very well run and they marked people before they came into transition. After that I did some stretches and talked with my mom and our family friend who came to cheer me on (thanks, Denny!).
As I expected, based on what I read on the Triathlon subreddit, I killed it in swimming. The subreddit is full of people just learning how to swim in order to do a Triathlon. As I mentioned above, I’ve been swimming my whole life.
It was so odd to have to constantly check my position. There was a slight current pulling to the right and someone in my group had to swim from nearly the middle of the buoys to get back to the right place to go around them. It also seemed to take so much longer for an almost 750m than it does in the pool. I think this is because I had no real frame of reference for how fast I was going. I couldn’t see the pool wall getting closer. The water was clear enough for me to see my hands as I swam, but not the people around me unless I was close enough to just be outside their kick area. The race website had recommended wearing water shoes in order to not have to worry about the shells that made a 2 foot wide line across the shore. My feet felt almost like I was wearing weights on them. And the inner lining got moved about while swimming. So while they were helpful for getting into the water, they were useless for getting out. I saw some folks wearing socks, so I may look into those if I do another Triathlon, an Aquabike, or just an open water swim in the ocean. Also, the shoes got ripped to shreds on the way to the transition area. I expected them to be much more resilient.
My official swim time was 7:42. I then spent 3 minutes in transition while I changed into my socks and shoes and got the bike out of transition.
As expected, based on last month’s duathlon, everyone passed me during the bike portion. I’m not quite sure why, but I just haven’t mastered going fast on the bike. I was averaging somewhere around 15 MPH (at least whenever I would look at my watch). I earned 34th place for the cycling portion. During each of the two laps I consumed one of the two SIS Energy gels I brought. From the satellite photos I thought this was going to be a perfectly flat race, but nearly any bridge, especially one in Florida, has to rise and fall to allow boats to go underneath, creating a man-made hill. I was able to pass most folks on the climb since my neighborhood (where I did most of my practicing) is very hilly. But most of them would re-pass me on the straightaway. I think if I will continue to try and do any cycling, I will probably need to find a place to practice that will give me long straightaways to practice going faster. In my neighborhood I was constantly slowing for stop signs. But there may also be technique changes I need to make in order to go faster.
After that it was time for the run. I’d done lots of brick workouts as part of the training, but it still always feels a bit odd when you go from biking to running. (Again, perhaps because of my technique – heavy on quads – I was even more tired than I could have been with better technique?) Even so, I made good time. As recorded by my Garmin – I did a 7:45/mi pace. And I still had enough energy to do a 5:22/mi pace once the finish line was in my sights. It was awesome to just zoom past about 10 other racers on my way into the finish. The pace was also great considering that a chunk of the race was on a sandy trail – including one portion that was just like trying to run on the beach. Speaking of the trail, it gave me “PTSD” after what happened to me in December at the Big Foot Race (where I turned my ankle repeatedly on the roots). Thankfully, this was a MUCH wider trail and, except for a quick section, it was incredibly easy to avoid any roots. As I did last month during the duathlon, I passed a very good amount of the folks who’d beaten me on the bike. Many were barely running or were walking. If I had been a tad faster on the bike, I think I could have potentially come in at 3rd place (or close to there) for the Novice group. I really am a MUCH better runner than a cyclist. In fact, in the breakout of events, I got 1st place for the novice group for the running portion.
Overall, I had a blast competing and this was a well-run race. In fact, I want to shout-out DRC Sports for putting on such a great race. It was well organized, with lots of nice, informative emails ahead of time. The race itself was well organized and set up. Race director Chris was good at using humor to make sure that everyone understood how the race was going to run (during the race director’s meeting) and did a good job with the awards ceremony. They had a nice variety of energy bars, PB&J sandwiches, and pizzas after the race. (And beer, but I’m practically a teetotaler) Also, I tried to thank every volunteer and cop I saw working the race, but here I’ll give another shoutout to them. They were all so nice and helpful and polite. They made the race nice and safe (like letting us know when a sharp turn was coming) and I thank them for taking their time out for many hours on a Sunday to help the race happen.
Stats and Maps
Because I was in the novice group, the results page doesn’t show my placement as a whole. So here’s a snapshot from the results on the day of the race:
At 151/400, I was very happy with my results for my first ever Triathlon. Just slightly worse than my usual top quarter ranking for a race.
Here’s the results page from the race (which only compares me against other novices):
A much better position when only compared with other novices, despite my piss-poor cycling performance.
A few stats of note, as measure by my Garmin 945:
- max stroke rate: 48/min
- average pace 1:39/100yd
- average heart rate: 134 bpm
- max heart rate: 144 bpm
- average speed: 14.6 MPH
- max speed: 21.5 MPH
- average heart rate: 152 bpm
- max heart rate: 170 bpm
- average pace: 7:43/mi
- max pace: 5:22/mi
- average heart rate: 195 bpm
- max heart rate: 207 bpm
So, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this *might* be my last Triathlon. I have very flat feet and hyper-mobility so it makes it easy for me to injure my feet while running. It appears that I was able to get a good 2 years out of my feet before the injuries caught up with me (I’m sure being in my 40s doesn’t help either). Right now I’m going to give myself a long rest period where I’ll keep the muscles mostly conditioned via the elliptical machine. (It’s not the perfect substitute for running, but it’s the closest one) My orthopedic podiatrist said I should probably be able to manage 1 day a week of running, so after my rest period I’ll try incorporating one run day a week to see if my body can handle that. However, I love multi-sport. So I may consider in the future either putting together a relay team with someone else who is willing to do the running portion. Or I may just do aquabike (Swimming and biking, naturally). That said, I’m composing this blog post the day after the race and my feet feel no worse than they did before the race when under training load. So maybe, as long as I can keep things under control and my training load low, I can occasionally compete in Sprint or Olympic (at most) Triathlons. Time will tell.
Finally, an interesting little tidbit provided by either Google or Amazon photos reminding me, this triathlon took place on the same day as the day as Brooklyn half last year. (The last race I ran before my feet started causing me issues.)