In case you missed it you may want to start with the previous 2 posts about the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon (my first tri!):
So, when we last left off Pat and I were standing on the beach ready for our swim start…
I should probably mention that I went into this race with the attitude and expectation that it was 100% a learning experience. I hadn’t trained quite as much as I would have liked and there were a lot of unknowns with doing a triathlon for the first time. I had no goals other than to finish the race.
Also, please excuse the lack of pictures, but I wasn’t exactly swimming or biking with my camera!
THE SWIM (1/4 mile)
Going into the race I knew I probably hadn’t trained for the swim quite as much as I should have, but having been a lifeguard through high school and college I like to think of myself as a fairly strong swimmer and I knew I could get through the distance even if I had to mix a little breast stroke in with my freestyle.
The horn blew and we were off! I dove into the water and began to swim.
I have swam many laps in a pool wearing goggles and opening my eyes. I have swam in many oceans – clear blue ones where I’ve worn goggles and admired the pretty fish, and darker murky ones where who on earth is going to want to open their eyes??!
I have never worn goggles in dark, cloudy, “can’t see my hand right below the surface” water and opened my eyes and attempted to swim a pretty, yet efficient freestyle.
So, back to where I dove in and began to swim. I opened my eyes and it was black. (And was it me or was my wetsuit actually getting tighter?!? And choking me!) I immediately lifted my head out of the water, took a few deep breaths and tried again…
My mind flashed to the chapter in a book I read by triathlete blogger Swim, Bike, Mom (aka Meredith) where she does her first open water swim in a wetsuit. She got claustrophobic and had a panic attack.
I am claustrophobic. I was having a panic attack.
I can’t think of a better way to explain how I felt other than to borrow Swim Bike Mom’s description, “I suddenly have the distinct feeling that I am burying myself alive.”
It was momentarily terrifying, but fortunately because I knew what was going on I was able to channel my inner yogi and lifeguard and relax myself enough to think through a logical next step. I flipped over onto my back and took a few deep breaths.
I realized there was no way I was going to be able to swim with my face in the water so I managed a not-so-pretty, yet somewhat efficient combination of breast stroke, side stroke and back stroke (which combined with the wetsuit probably made me look like a flailing, injured and vulnerable baby seal – aka shark bait).
I focused on taking deep breaths and just making progress forward so I could be done with the swim and get out of the water (just keep swimming, just keep swimming…), but you can sure as hell bet I kept an eye on where the closest lifeguard on a paddleboard was!
It was 9 of the longest minutes of my life, but I finally made it to shore, and for someone who was looking forward to the bike leg of the triathlon the least, I couldn’t have been happier to see my bike.
Swim Time – 9:02
I ran up the beach and toward the transition area. On the way I grabbed a cup of water (to get rid of the salt water taste in my mouth!) and dipped my feet in the kiddie pools they had set up to get the sand off.
I peeled off my wetsuit (god was I glad to get that thing off!), threw down my swim cap and goggles, put my helmet, socks and sneakers on and I was off! (**Newbie Note: Make sure you put your helmet on before you even touch your bike and do not get on your bike until you are out of the transition area or you can be disqualified!)
T1 Time – 2:30
THE BIKE (10 miles)
Fortunately I can say there was nothing eventful about the 10 mile bike ride. There were a few rolling hills and it went as well as can be expected – I didn’t fall off and I didn’t get a flat so I’d call that a success.
I was passed by a few people, but I also noted that everyone that passed me had a road bike vs. a hybrid so I chalked it up to the fact that a) they were hard core bikers or b) their bike was just faster! (Although the having your age written on your calf thing is kind of annoying because instead of just being passed by “an older dude” I immediately knew I had just gotten passed by a 76 year old…)
There were no mile markers so my biggest frustration on the bike was having no idea how much more I had to go the entire time! (I should note that although I had my GPS watch with me in my transition bag, after the disastrous swim I opted not to wear it since I figured the last think I should be worried about was my time for anything, in the future I’d bring it just to know my mileage!)
Bike Time – 42:46
I dismounted my bike before pulling into the transition area (**Newbie Note: You must get off your bike at the designated dismount area or you can be disqualified!), ran towards my bike rack area, hooked my bike on, left my helmet and headed off for the run…
T2 Time – 1:02
THE RUN (3.5 miles)
…ahhh, the run. Finally something I was comfortable with!
My legs felt a little heavy at the start and I took a short walk break at the 1 mile mark (thankfully the run course had mile markers!). I figured since I wasn’t concerned about my time and breathing wasn’t exactly pleasant in 98% humidity (oh, did I not mention the humidity yet?? Yeah, it was humid.) I would take a 30 second walk break at each mile marker…however, to my surprise once I sort of shook off the heavy “bike legs” the run felt pretty good and I didn’t take any more breaks.
For the last 2 miles I passed a few people (probably about the same # of people that passed me on the bike – ha!) and I finally made the turn for the last 100 yard run on the beach towards the finish!
Run Time – 32:46
I grabbed my phone and ran back to the finish line to hopefully see Pat finish and not 30 seconds later there he was!
We had assumed that since I was (in theory) the stronger swimmer (clearly that was not necessarily true), and Pat was the stronger biker and runner that he would catch me once he was on the bike, but unfortunately he ended up having some bike issues that held him back a little so he was right behind me at the finish!
Wow. So many thoughts about this. And my response to anyone who asked me “how was it?” right after I finished was, “I think I need some time to process it…”
So, I’ve processed for a few days and here’s what I’ve come up with – I’m glad I got my first triathlon done because the fear of the unknown that comes with doing anything new is gone. I’m disappointed in how the swim turned out, but at the same time knowing I’m claustrophobic and prone to panic attacks I really should have listened to everything I read and done an open water swim BEFORE race day, so when it comes down to it that one is totally my fault.
(**Please note that I am not telling you all of this to discourage or scare anyone from doing a triathlon, but rather to share my mistakes so you can learn from them!**)
When I registered for this race I registered for the whole 3 race summer series so I have two more to go – 1 in July and 1 in September and while my immediate post-race thought was “crap, why did I think that was a good idea?!?”, now I’m glad that I have another one coming up otherwise I may not be as motivated as I am to go work on the open water swim.
Overall it was a good experience. This race in particular was very first timer friendly and I never felt out of place or uncomfortable, plus it really helped having Pat there doing his first triathlon too!
I’m planning on writing another post with some more overall thoughts and tips for doing your first triathlon (from both Pat & I!), so if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to address please feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!