Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thank you Robin!!!

This is a recap of my very first triathlon!!!  It was the Women's Only Triathlon in Sylvania, OH.  A 400 yd swim, 11 mile bike, and 5K run.  (Most sprint triathlons have a longer swim than that).  

Let me start by saying that it was awesome, but harder than I thought it would be.  Major props to all the triathletes out there!  And for the impatient among you, here is my final result: 
Good for a 2nd place Age Group award!  What?!?  
I didn't really feel nervous leading up to the race, at least I didn't think I was.  I just wanted to do it for the experience and to test the triathlon waters.  Plus, I had no previous time to compare to, so there was no pressure to hit any certain paces.  That said, I slept like CRAP last night.  I was up like every 15 minutes, looking at the clock, no joke.  Worse than pre-marathon sleep!  So maybe I was more nervous than I though I was!  I got up a little later than I probably should have, 5am, and didn't leave until 5:30am.  The race started at 7:30 am, but it was about a 45 minute drive.  That would have been fine, but parking was pretty far from the start area, so it was a long walk.  (I had two bags and didn't want to risk trying to bike there with them.)  I didn't get into the transition area to set up until about 6:45am and we had to be out by 7:15am.  Plenty of time, but I like to be a little earlier than that.

Awkward self-taken arm photo, trying to show off my "Ann Arbor Triathlon Club" temporary tattoo, but it's too small to read.  You can clearly see that my number is 34, however.  

"Robin" all set up in my transition zone.  I used the pink bandana up on the seat to help me find my spot. 
My transition neighbor, and the rest of the zone.  

I was uncomfortable in bare feet on the pavement, so I decided to wear my sandals to the swim start, so I could run in them from the swim zone back to the transition.  I left them under a bush by the swim start, where they were well out of the way, but easy to grab on the way out.  

The swim start was really interesting.  It was a "time trial" start?  Apparently that means we each get our own individual start.  We all seeded ourselves based on signs sitting on the side of the steps.  ("less than 8 minutes",  "9-12 minutes", "12-15 minutes", and maybe even more in the back.)  My best guess was about 8:40, or 2:10 per 100 yds.  I did about 2:15 average per 100 yds at the 1 mile open water swim race I did a few weeks ago, and 2:05-2:10 is what I do in the pool, so I figured it was a decent estimate.  It was unclear where I should line up in that case though.  I ended up getting in the "8 minute" deck and moving to the very back, mostly because the 9-12 deck was super crowded.  Also they kind of left 8-9 minutes completely out, so I feel like it was a fine choice.   There was a guy in the front acting like the gate arm at a parking garage, letting the ladies go one at a time, every couple seconds.  Supposedly it was every 4 seconds, but it was probably more like 2.   
You can't see it here, but to the left of these "sand decks" are openings on to concrete stairs, so we could file down to the water.  So the lowest/fastest deck went single file down, then the next deck up, and so on.  It actually went really smoothly!  (Photo source)
This photo (not taken by me) is from a previous year, so you can't see the traffic guy.  There was also a timing mat at one of the lower level stairs.  (Photo source)
It sounds complicated, but the swim start was awesome.  So much better than the mass chaos of a group start!  It went really fast too.   I loved swimming in a quarry.  It was nice and deep and I couldn't see anything gross.  On the last leg I did see two fish and some rocks, but I'm cool with that these days.  :)

I got passed by a couple people on the swim, but not many, maybe 2-3.  I passed about the same number.  It seemed like people did a pretty good job seeding themselves.  My biggest problem was with this girl swimming near me who couldn't swim in a straight line to save her life.  Plus she kept alternating breast stroke and freestyle, and maybe even backstroke once (though that could have been somebody else).  I crashed into her a couple times.  I would argue that she crashed in to me.  I was slightly behind her and to one side most of the time, and then she would veer into me.  That didn't stop her from giving me the stink eye though.  

Swimming is tricky business for me.  I always feel like there's no "happy medium" pace. It's either easy, or I'm drowning.  I find it's best to err on the side of easy and eliminate the panic that comes with gasping for air!  I think the problem is that when I up the pace and get out of breath, I breathe at the same rate as I do when I swim easy, and it's just not enough air anymore (I breathe every 3 strokes, all the time, alternating sides).  Maybe I should work on breathing every 5 strokes on easy pace swims instead, and save every 3 for the faster paces.  Of course then I'd probably just feel like I was drowning ALL the time.  No fun.  

Swim Result:  6th/18 in age group.  11:22 for 400 yd swim + run to the transition area.  I don't know how far the jog I don't know my actual swim pace.  If I take 11:22 that would be 2:51/100 yd pace but I know that's not right.  I walked up the stairs, grabbed my shoes from under the bush (didn't put them on!) and then jogged to the transition zone. 


At this point, I wasn't in too much of a rush.  I wasn't dawdling by any means, but I wasn't really trying to save every second possible either, since I wasn't really concerned with my overall time.  I tried balancing to put on my shoes and socks, but it was taking too long and I kept wobbling, so I just sat down on the pavement to do it.  I put on my running shoes, since I don't have clipless pedals/shoes yet.  I didn't have to untie or tie my laces though!  I do have a tri tank and shorts, so I didn't have to change clothes either.  I put on my race belt with my number already attached (spun it to the back for the bike ride), put on my Halo headband (for sweat), then my helmet, grabbed my bike, jogged it to the mount line and then I was off for the bike ride!  

T1: 14th/18 in age group at 1:58 (whoops).  There's an area for improvement! 


The bike part was great.  It was totally flat.  I only got passed by two people on the bike, and I passed like, a million.  The whole ride was spent saying "passing left!".  I have Robin (my new road bike) to thank for that!  It is so much easier to go fast on it than on my hybrid!  It was ridiculous.  I knew that triathlons are won on the bike though (it's the largest part of the race, time-wise), so I did try to keep the pace up.  My lungs were kind of burning on the bike, but I'm not sure why.  I was working, but I didn't feel like it was that bad.  It might have been shock from the cold air.  (It was in the 50s and I was soaking wet and riding a bike). 

One of my only complaints about this race was from the bike course.  It was a nice flat square, all right turns, but one of the turns was really gravelly.  It would have taken only a few minutes to sweep it clean.  I am not very confident on my new bike yet, so I slowed way down to take the turn through the gravel.  Then I tried to stand up after I was through it to get some speed back and almost crashed!  I haven't been able to stand up on Robin without wobbling everywhere yet.  I'll have to work on that!  I was okay on Clover (I decided on that name for my hybrid/commuter bike), but with the low handlebars on Robin it totally throws off the center of gravity on the bike when I stand up.  I think I just have to focus on not transferring any weight to my arms when I stand up.  Maybe. 

Bike results: 1st/18 in age group.  (say what now??) 11 miles in 35:53 (18.39 mph) 

That cracks me up.  I consider biking my weakest area, so I think it's hilarious that I had the best bike time in my age group.  Fly Robin, fly!  


Coming in to the dismount line I apparently overshot and was coming in too fast because I kinda got yelled at "SLOW DOWN!!".  Sorry!  I did manage to stop in time, barely.  I figured I'd hop of the bike and jog to my transition spot, but my legs weren't having it.  I think "brick" is an inaccurate description.  My legs felt like Jell-o.  This was only 2nd "brick" ever, the first being this past Thursday, which barely even counts since it was after a much gentler bike ride.  Anyway, there was no running through transition.  I walked my bike to my spot.  I'm lucky I didn't fall right down when I hopped off the bike, honestly!  There wasn't much to do in T2.  Take off my helmet, rack my bike, grab my handheld water bottle, and turn my bib to the front.  Then it was time to run!

T2: 11th/18 in 0:55.  (whoops again!)  I wish I had a magic gear change wand.  Though really it was simply walking through that took the time.  


Okay, I was super nervous about this run.  I only just did my FIRST continuous 30 minute run since MAY 3rd three days ago.  (This was also my first brick workout).  That run on Thursday felt hard, and I averaged 10:00 min miles.  My knee was also sore the day after that one, so I put my IT band strap on for the run part of the race today.  I had no idea what to expect at all for a pace, since I haven't raced in forever (Martian was my last actual race effort, though I did put a hard effort in at the Glass City Relay at the end of April too).  I started running and it felt SO HARD!  I had no idea how fast I was going. I didn't have a watch on (my Garmin battery was dead, which is probably for the best, since I don't like to race with it).  I felt like it was much slower than a 10:00 pace, and I was really breathing hard.  I really wished I had music.  The only time I race (on foot) without music is when it's by accident (ie I forgot my ipod) or not allowed (USAT rules don't allow headphones, so this was the case today).   I don't know how strict they are on that though.  I did pass one girl with headphones.  I passed a handful of people on the run, probably less than 5.  I got passed by one, early on, but I kept her in sight the rest of the way.  I kept waiting for the run to get easier, but it really never did.  My legs felt a lot better by mile 2 I'd say (less Jell-o-ey), but I still felt like I was dying and still felt like I was running reallllly slowly.  It was all I could do to put in a teensy little finish kick at the end.  

Run result: 3rd/18 in age group.  5K in 26:26.  8:31 pace.  

I was totally shocked by my run pace!  Mainly because it felt SO MUCH SLOWER, but feelings aside I wasn't really sure I could run sub 9 in my current condition, since I just graduated from a run/walk program 3 days ago.  My 5K PR pace is 7:57 from December 2012, so I'm thrilled with an 8:31 pace AFTER swimming and biking and with no running base at all right now.  The future is bright.  :)


I took a random photo of someone coming in after I was done. 

Foam rollers!  I did partake, not that I think it will do any good.  
There was water when you came through the finish, and a small table of light snacks (watermelon, pretzels).  The main food was to be served later though, apparently provided by Chick-Fil-A.  Anyway, this was actually my proudest part of the race, but first I need to give you a little background.  I went down to this race alone.  I couldn't convince Jeff to come for moral support/photography, and didn't know anybody else who was doing it.  So after the finish is kind of that awkward time where if you're alone you kind of just feel like you should leave, you know?  Anyway, yesterday I posted on the triathlon club's page, asking if any club members were going to the race.  Turns out 4 were, although I had never met any of them.  Luckily, most of the club purchased club jerseys and shorts, so they were easy to identify out on the course.  One of them was one of the two people who passed me on the bike (toward the end of the bike part), and I actually paced off her for a while.  Then I passed her on the run, and decided to find out her name and introduce myself as I did.  Since I knew her name, I was able to cheer for her coming in to the finish (she wasn't very far behind me).  After she finished, she met up with the other 3 club people, and I somehow got the balls to over and introduce myself to ALL of them.  (This is super brave and unheard of for me. ) I said bye and we went our separate ways.  I looked around for a list of times, to see if I had gotten an award.  Because of how many people I was passing on the bike, I actually thought I might have a chance.  I actually wasn't sure if they were even giving out awards though, or how many deep in each age group if they were.  I never did find a list, but an announcer directed us into "the amphitheater" for awards and food, so I figured I should check it out.


As I made my way through the tables to the food line, I *thought* I saw the four ladies from the tri club at a table.  I wasn't sure though, because they had all changed clothes.  After I got my food I saw them getting in line and was able to recognize them (at least the one that still had her club shorts on!).  I totally invited myself to their table, which again was super ballsy of me and hopefully not rude (I asked permission while they were in line!).  It was really nice though to have somebody to talk to, rather than sitting at a table alone.  (Note: I know I recently said I don't like most women, but that rule doesn't apply to female athletes.  We're a different breed!)  Plus, I'll now know 4 more people at the club workouts.  Right now I only know 2.  It's hard to make friends when you're riding a bike!
Setting up the awards on stage. 
The eating area.  

Food!!  They also had chicken salad sandwiches, but I'm not into that!   I apparently missed hot chocolate and tea as well.  
The awards took a little while.  They started with the Duathlon (run, bike, run), in the oldest age group moving younger.  Then the Triathlon, oldest to youngest, so I was near the end.  (There weren't that many young people at this race.  Apparently the majority of participants were 34-50 years old).  The age groups were only 5 year groups, and they gave awards to the top 5 in each group, which is a lot of awards!  I was in the 30-34 group because it goes off your age at the end of the calendar year (I'll be 30 in December).  They gave trophies to the top two or three, and then the 3-5 or 4-5 got medals.  I got second in my age group!  

This is actually my first trophy!  I've gotten age group medals before at running races, but never a trophy.  Actually I got a trophy once in like 2005, but it was at a run called "The Trophy Run" where the race management company got rid of all their unclaimed trophies from the previous year by giving one to all the finishers.  I think that trophy said 2nd place male, 40-44 or something like that, lol.  I don't know what happened to it anyway!  

My second, minor complaint about this race is that they didn't give medals to all the finishers.  The race that I volunteered at last weekend gave finishers' medals, and it was the exact same price as this one.  Obviously I'm thrilled with my trophy, but considering that this race is really geared toward beginning athletes/exercisers and first-time triathletes, I think most of them (us) would appreciate a medal for our accomplishment, even if they didn't finish fast enough for an award.  


It was awesome!  I would highly recommend this race to any first time female triathlete out there.  (And the experienced ones're likely to get an award!)  The individual swim start and swim in the quarry are really nice for those of us leery of mass starts and/or open water swimming.  The bike and run courses were COMPLETELY flat too (probably the flattest 5k I've ever done).  Apparently the wind was an issue on the bike, but I honestly didn't notice at all, probably because I don't have much bike experience.  I got super lucky with the weather today.  It was in the 50s to low 60s throughout the race.  I was still hot on the run, but I would have melted if it was normal July temps!  We all had goose bumps waiting to swim, but the water felt SO nice and warm compared to the air temperature when we finally got in.

Here are the complete results for my age group.

Of course I had to analyze each split and rank myself (see the bold parts of each section above).  That is another great thing about triathlons!  So much extra data to analyze!  Love it! 

Looking at the numbers did kind of bum me out though.  The 1st place girl was 27 seconds faster than me in T1.  She also beat me by exactly 27 seconds overall.  I lost the race in transition!  

Triathlon is definitely hard work!  I completely underestimated how hard it would be to run after biking.  I'm curious if it will get better when I get back into running again?  Who knows.  My right lung was still burning on deep breaths on the whole drive home.  Weird.  It's fine now though.  

Oh, I forgot to mention the race shirt.  It's cute, but super thin and sized weird.  I got a medium, which fits okay but it's super long.  (Update:  It actually fits great; it was only weird because it was wet.  I love it).
I should have probably selected a better backdrop for this photo.  Also, don't look too closely.  It looks like I'm lactating and have really sweaty armpits, but really it's just that I put the T-shirt on over a wet sports bra!  I swear!

I also discovered a minor problem when I got home.  My trophy doesn't fit on my display shelf!  Doh!  Jeff said he'll build an extension off the side.  I definitely want to display my ONLY trophy, damnit!

I'm interested (and dreading) seeing the race photos.  I checked their webpage and there are some photos available, but I'm not in any of them.  You can check them out here if you're interested.  There are some decent photos of the swim start.  

Thanks for reading!  Now, which triathlon should I do next??  Tri Goddess Tri (Last Chance to Tri) or 3 Disciplines in Holly, MI, both on August 25th?  There's also a co-ed one in Sylvania August 11th, probably on the same course as this one (update: nope, it isn't), which would be nice.  Anybody going to any of those?  


  1. Great job! Very impressive to do so well in your first race!

  2. Congratulations!! A tri to me is so impressive. Takes many talents. Anybody can do just one thing for 3 or 4 hours, but this is awesome.

    (btw, no tatts for me. Long story, I do have plans for one.)

    Way to Go, @Ty_Tries.!

  3. Ty, that's so great! Congratulations!

    This was really fun to read and I'm happy to hear you had fun AND did well!

  4. Cynamyn, really? haha sorry not really related to your kicking ass, but that made me giggle anyway!

    Great job Ty! I am SO impressed by you. I'm thinking my first tri will be very similar in some aspects (women's only, first tri, no one coming w/me), but I will DEFINITELY not be that fast. For real, speedy gonzalez!

    I was just talking about quarry swimming this weekend, how funny!

  5. Nice job! I'm so glad your first tri was a great experience & it's awesome that
    you did so well. I don't have bike shoes either & figure my 1st transition will
    always be slower when I have to put on socks & shoes, but it will balance out in
    T2 when others put them on & I don't. Awesome that the course was flat. That
    sure helps make it more enjoyable! Isn't it crazy how much slower you feel
    during the run versus how fast you're actually going? So glad the run went so
    well for you - what a great pace, especially with how little you've been able to
    run lately. Glad to hear you're hooked too. :)

  6. Great job on the race and great recap!


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