800meter swim, 18.8mile bike, 3.3mile run
Prep for this race started off with me making alteration to one of my new triathlon singlet’s. The bands on the legs were just too tight once my thigh muscles got pumped up. This was why my legs were in so much pain during the second run of the duathlon I did last month. I had worn it during training early in the year to make sure I was comfortable in it but after a few months of training my legs are bigger. It was like putting rubber bands around my thighs then running a race. So I removed the bands then sewed the bottoms up without them (yes, I own a sewing machine and know how to sew). After slipping it on the spandex material flexed enough for comfort but still be snug enough to hold without riding up my legs.
I packed my race stuff in the car the night before knowing that I would be getting up at 4:30am so I could be out the door by 5am. When I left the house it was still dark and the car temp read 48 degrees. As I drove to the park the sun began to rise but the temp was going down. As the sun was breaking the horizon in the distance it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Surly it would warm up once the sun was high in the sky. When I arrived at the park just before 6am I took a look at the temp…43 degrees…brr I said as I got out of the car. It was also a little windy but I thought things would get better now that the sun is out. Unfortunately just as the sun was rising in the east clouds were rolling in from the west. With only a few breaks of sun there would be no big warm up by the time the race got started. Word from the race director was that the water temp was 61 degrees (well at least that’s what it was the day before). I’d packed my full sleeve wet suite so I was ready for it. After getting my transition area setup I slipped on my running shoes to go get my warm up done. Because it was so cool I left my sweatpants and sweatshirt on. I ran a little over a mile and my hands were cold so I cut it short. After I got back to the transition area it was time to take in my nutrition. Because I normally forget to take my gel’s when I’m on the bike I was going to take them all before the race. I took 3 gel’s and water 25 minutes before race start time.
The beach was opening soon for swim practice so I slipped on my wet suite to go down for practice. When the water is this cold you want to get in and get that shock to your body over with and not do it at the start of the race. That water was COLD! I walked in and my feet were instantly freezing. I’ve been in 60 degree water before and this seemed colder. After wading out to my waist I dove in and immediately came back up. Whoa that’s cold, so cold I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep my face in the water. I dove back under and took shot at swimming. I free styled a few strokes then went into a breaststroke to get my face out of the water. I stopped and turned around and headed back to the shore. I got a mild headache from the coldness of the water. This was going to be a tough swim!
The race director announced that if there was anyone who didn’t want to do the swim they could tap out and would still be allowed to do the bike and run. There were several people who took him up on it with some who had planned to swim without wet suites.
After wading back into the water for the start it didn’t seem as bad as it did when I first got in so I guess there’s something too that “getting your feet wet first” strategy. Maybe it’s just getting your core temperate down in order to get acclimated.
At the horn I took off. My feet, hands and face were cold but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I never stopped my stroke or took my face out of the water except to breath and site. The further I got from the shore the colder the water got but I was swimming well and kept the buoys in my site. It didn’t take long to start passing swimmers in white caps that had started in the group ahead of us. Some were swimming on their backs, some breast stroking and some just stopped waiting on a marshal in a canoe to help them get back to shore. I could tell that I was catching swimmers that were slowing as we got out into choppier water. I bumped into someone and took a foot to my chest. That didn’t slow me but I was glad that foot didn’t get me in the face. I bumped into whoever it was once more then I picked up my pace to clear whomever it was. On several occasions I caught a swell right in the face…mouth full of water and down it went…lol. I’ve never swallowed so much lake water. After making the turn it was just me and one other guy on our way to the beach. Everyone else was either way ahead or a ways back of us. As I got close to the beach I tried kicking very vigorously to see if my feet would warm up but after I got a slight cramp in my thigh I nixed that idea. Besides, it didn’t seem like it was helping. So I just kept swimming until my hands hit the bottom. After that I stood up and began to unzip my suite. Once the zipper came down I took off running to transition. I was a little worried about whether or not my sleeves would come off easy because this was a new wet suite and the arms were tight. I didn’t have any issues getting my arms out as I ran.
My feet and hands were freezing so my time in T1 had to be slow. The timing company doesn’t have splits available yet so I don’t have that info yet but I felt like I took my time getting my suite off, running shoes on and I felt like I fumbled with my helmet clip a bit. As I was running out of transition with my bike all I could think was this is going to be cold because I was dripping wet, no sun and probably only about 50 degrees.
My feet didn’t feel all that bad running to the parking lot to mount the bike. Once I got to the mounting line I jumped on the bike, planted my feet on top of my shoes and started peddling. Great start to the ride until I went to slip my feet in my shoes…oh no, I forgot to undo the Velcro straps! Dammit, I’m going to lose some time here. So I had to fumble around to get the straps off then get my feet in then strap them back up. While I was doing this a guy powered by me. He seemed like he was going to be a fast guy as he went by so I thought okay, let me see if I could stick with him. After I fastened my last strap I could see that the rubber bands holding my shoes did not snap. They don’t hinder pedaling but you don’t want the one near the chain to be flopping around and get caught and cause the chain to come off. I had to reach down and snap them with my hand. One popped me on my still freezing finger and would give me a nagging pain thought out the whole ride. Once I cleared up my issues I got on the gas. I caught back up to the guy that past me just as we got out of the park. It didn’t take me long to realize this guy was not going to be fast. I power by him and never saw him again. It was cold but my legs felt good and there always seemed like there was a rider ahead of me to target on to catch. As I was climbing the hills on the back section a rider went by me. I knew who he was as we’ve exchange pleasantries in races before. He’s older than I am and in a different age group but I know he’s a good rider. I knew that if I kept site of him that would mean my riding had improved as normally he’d power away and leave me behind. We both passed several other riders but once we got to another hilly section some of them went back by me but I kept them all insight until we got to the down hill. Now I was in my element. I caught the group again then went by them then set my sights on the guy that passed me early on. I blew by him on the downhill section at the top of the bike course loop. But we had to do 2 loops on this course and a few of them caught back up to me when we got back to the hills. The sun finally started to peak through the clouds and the warmth felt great. I was hopping my feet would warm up because my toes were numb. My shoes are open on the top to allow air in but unfortunately you don’t want that on a cold day like today. I had been wiggling my toes trying to get the blood flowing but it wasn’t working. But I had a job to do so I pressed on and as what happened on the first loop, I’d go back by the the guy’s that past me on the downhill sections. However the one guy (the older guy) had enough of a gap on me that he was still way ahead. By the time we got back to the park I had reduced that gap to about a couple hundred yards and could see him as he turned to make his way to transition. It was time for me to setup for my dismount. I unstrapped my shoes and pulled my feet out and rested them on top of them. My toes were still numb so I thought this was not going to feel good when I step off into a run. So I slowed the bike down a little more than I normally do then stepped off and started running slowly. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
After I racked my bike and took off my helmet I sat on the ground to put on my running shoes. I was trying to avoid getting a cramp but found it difficult to get my shoe on from my seated position. So I stood up to finish putting it on then grabbed the other shoe and put it on. I grabbed my hat and race belt and took off. This was going to be another slow transition.
Youch! My feet were in serious pain. I could feel every gap in the soles of my shoes and it felt like I was running barefoot on rocks. Just as I was thinking “well at least I wasn’t cramping” the first wave of calf spasms hit me in both legs. As I ran along slowly they got worse. It was all I could do to will myself to keep going. I almost started to walk as the last of the spasms roller up my right calf. It felt like that thing was twerking! But as suddenly as they started they stopped. My feet were still hurting, mostly my right heel but both were bothering me and was preventing me from running fast. For any runner who wants to see what this feels like go stick your feet in a bucket of cold water then after they feet feel numb go slip your running shoes on and take a run. I don’t know how those other guys were able to do it. After about half way through the run the pain subsided enough for me to manage a 7 minute pace and I was able to finish strong. I didn’t have anyone around me during the second half so I ran in by myself.
So I finished in 1:37:50 in 22nd place out of 155, 1st in my age group out of 12. I’m sure I left about 3-4 minutes out there but I’m still happy with my performance. I improved my time from last year by about two and a half minutes and improved my finishing position 16 spots. I take comfort in the fact that as I get older I’m still getting faster!
P.S. Mother nature showed us a little bit of cruelty as all the clouds were gone by the time I got home and the sun was shinning and my car temp read 68 degrees 🙂