On Again, Off Again, On Again – Never Again

I signed up for what was to be my first triathlon back in November during a Black Friday deal.  The triathlon was to take place in June and consist of a 1/2 mile swim.  Early June I knew that I would not be ready and emailed the race organization and asked if I could change my registration to a similar race but one that takes part in September.  They allowed me to do this.

The race took place on September 6th, Square Lake Triathlon – Short Course.  Even though this was not much longer than my first triathlon the 1/2 mile swim still intimidated me.  How much?  A month prior to the triathlon I decided not do it.  I was OK with this.  It allowed me to celebrate the completion of the triathlon that I finished in July and focus on becoming a better swimmer rather than just a swimmer that can swim further.

Then I was laying in bed the Wednesday before the race having issues with the fact that I was quitting.  I may not always succeed at things but I don’t quit things.  So I woke up Thursday morning and informed my wife that I was doing the triathlon.  I could see the concern in her eyes but she knew that I was determined and supported me.

Saturday morning arrived, I packed up like I usually do and hit the road.  There was one very important thing not in the van with me this morning, my family.  This was the first race that I have done where we decided the kids wouldn’t join me.  We had a busy weekend scheduled and with my daughter just going into her second week of school and my son starting preschool on Monday we decided that the sleep was more important.

So I arrived, got my number, got marked, finalized my transition area, and walked down to the lake.  Second thoughts immediately started to fill my head when I saw how far out the buoys were.

Half-Mile Swim

As I was lining up for the race my thoughts were filled with doubt.  Up until I hit the water I continued to wonder if I should just disappear into the background and become a spectator.  In the end, would finishing a race really prove anything?  My heat took off and into the water I went.  With my head games going on I immediately had troubles and couldn’t get into a freestyle zone.  I pretty much went right into the breast stroke and soon after the back stroke.  I was only about 150 yards into the swim.  I knew that it was going to be a long swim at this point.  I also knew that I had time because there were some 6 or 7 heats behind me.

At the half-way point I came across another fellow back-stroker and we shared a couple of encouraging words.  I am now half-way done, have fogged up goggles, and swimming into the sun.  I heard one of the life-guards yell that I was way off course and they helped direct me on the right track.

Still on my back I am now starting to get tired and feel my body sinking further and further into the water.  The waves were starting to roll over my head as I continue.  Suddenly I notice it getting harder and harder to breathe.  At a time I started to wonder if I could unzip my wetsuit to loosen things up to help me breathe.  At this time I knew it was more than just being tired.  I think that I realized that I was slowly starting to panic.  Remembering my promise to my wife that if there was any risk to my health that I would take the appropriate precautions, “life guard, LIFE GUARD, I need a break over here.”  He quickly rowed over and threw me a floaty.  I sat there for a minute or two and off I went.  As I fluttered away he yelled, are you sure you are OK.  I yelled back and reassured him.  After all I only had about 150 yards to go.

Trying to stay parallel to the buoys I was keeping my eye out at the swimmers swimming next to me.  I had my eye on one guy that kept lifting his head to view, more often than normal, and thought to myself – we have to be close.  Suddenly I see him stand up and I wanted to sing for joy.  But then I started to wonder, what if I have a drop-off or this guy is like 7 feet tall so I make a few more strokes and attempt to stand up with success.  My nightmare is over.  I get out having the 4th slowest time in the water out of nearly 300 swimmers.

Nothing too much to report on the bike.  It took me about 4 miles to get my head in the game and get over what just happened in the water.  Then I tried to simply enjoy the scenic bike through the country roads of Minnesota.

As I approached the last transition I felt a slight need to use the urinal.  I have never needed to use the urinal during a race so I started to talk myself out of it.  As you run out of transition you run right next to the port-a- potties.  They pulled me in and I am so glad they did.  Once I got in there my bladder was about to explode and I had one of those epic 40 second peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.  Not good for my transition time but happy I didn’t have to hold all of that in for the 5 mile run that was ahead.

I probably passed about 15 people on the run, mostly on the hills.  I have been doing 1 to 2 hill workouts each week so my hill running is in tip-top shape.

I finished the race and even though I was happy to be done I did not have the same feeling that I had at the first triathlon that I did this summer.  If this would have been my first triathlon I can promise you that it would have been my first and last.  Thankfully it wasn’t, and I am looking forward to doing them next year.  One thing that I will not budge on though is that I will only do triathlons with swims of 1/4 mile or shorter.

STATS

1/2 mile swim – 30:19 or pace of 3:27

T1 – 2:54

16.5 mile bike – 1:09:42 or 15.5 mph pace

T2 – 1:29 (not bad considering my pit stop)

5 mile run – 45:18 or 9:04 pace

Total – 2:29:40

I could sit here and beat myself up over the performance, but I will not.  I could be mad about how little I have progressed over the years, but I wont.  What I got out of this experience was perspective, simply perspective.

Proof:

Square Lake

 

Next up is a duathlon relay – I will be doing the running and thank goodness there will be no swimming.

 

 

My First Triathlon – Bike Summary

As I run into the first transition and hear the announcer saying something like “here comes the first place athlete” I took one brief moment to pretend it was me even though I was well aware that the first place athlete was coming in off of the bike just as I was about to begin. 

I still had to do a double take to verify that there was another swimmer behind me though because there was one lonely bike sitting in transition, mine.  After getting over the fact that my bike was the only one sitting there I quickly realized that this was not the worst part, the worst part was not having anyone to follow out of transition – which way was I suppose to go.

I found my way out and off I went.  After biking just a short distance I saw two women biking together.  That was my first target.  I got up to them and as I passed them they both said something like “just out for a country ride on our bikes.”  What a great attitude to have.

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Shortly after this I spotted a man wearing a black shirt probably a half mile ahead.  Why is the black shirt relevant?  I had a coworker who started swimming 3 seconds before me who I knew was wearing a black shirt.  Is that him?  After pushing it and getting closer I knew it was.  Hey Mark, have a nice ride, I said as I biked by.  We had a little bet to see who would win.  I knew that he would beat me in the swim and that I would win in the run but the bike was the unknown. 

After passing others and having a few quick casual conversations I came across a woman that had a picture of a woman pinned on to her back.  As I rode by I asked if she was riding with her mom and she confirmed that she was.  I felt a little bad because I couldn’t come up with any words to expand on the conversation – is she sick, just because, did she pass away – nothing.  Looking back at the race I probably think of this more than anything else.  After all, people are much more important than some meaningless hobby.  I pray that whatever the reason she had her mom with her that she truly felt her presence that day biking on those peaceful country roads.

After that it was actually a very lonely ride to the point I was starting to wonder if I took a wrong turn somewhere.  Thankfully, I finally came across another intersection where there were some volunteers.  It was good to know that I was still on the correct route but just had a large distance between me and anyone in front of or behind me.

The final hill that goes into town was a nice one.  I do not have a speedometer on my bike but from experience riding with my Garmin I would bet that I topped off at around 30 – 35 mph.  That was fun but then you had to hit the breaks hard for a quick left turn, that was disappointing.

I finally rolled into transition 2 and happy to say that I was not the last bike in.

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One thing that I really enjoy about not being the best athlete out there are the conversations that take place while out on the open rode.  I am pretty sure this doesn’t happy to the top racers and even though every race needs those people I would not trade anything to switch positions with them.  I look forward to the many more conversation that take place with complete strangers while biking on the country roads that take us home.

 

My First Triathlon = Swim Summary

This triathlon was a time trial triathlon which means they start one person at a time.  The time between racers was to be around 3-4 seconds.  For a first triathlon this is a great way to start rather than the crowds and nerves of a mass wave start.  The only problem for me was that my number was about 10 people from the very back.  Not a good number for someone who is afraid of being last and a very slow swimmer.

After waiting for some time it was finally time for me to step into the water.  Not long before I stepped up to the line the race direct said those word, “go.”  Amazingly enough I didn’t even think twice.  I took several steps into the water and right into my swim.

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The first few strokes were actually very enjoyable.  Being that I have never been a swimmer I have never seen lakes from this point of view.  Even though no one wants a green lake the green plants flowing in the water a few feet below me were actually quite beautiful.  Knowing that my biggest concern in the water was being able to relax I tried to relax like those relaxed flowing plants.

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No luck.  About 100 yards into this 580 yard swim I quickly got tired.  My breathing was really heavy.  I could see my wife and kids along the shore and tried my best to impress them but I had to bail.  No, not from the race but from doing the freestyle form.  I went to my back.  I can only imagine what my wife was thinking since I was doing this so early, “oh boy.”

After a short time I decided to try freestyle again only to last a few more minutes.  My initial goal was to get at least to the halfway point before trying something else to catch my breath.  At this time I could see a good triathlon buddy yelling some sort of advice but no idea what he was saying.

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During my second try at freestyle I recall someone touching my foot.  Reading books on triathlon I knew this was their polite way of telling me to get out of the way, so I did.  Not long after this I hit someone’s foot.  I had no intention on telling the person that just passed me that I wanted to pass them.  I think there needs to be an etiquette added saying “sorry man, didn’t mean to tap your foot – keep moving on.”  Maybe a rub of the foot – that would be weird.

After a lot of swimming I finally got to the turnaround buoy.  As I turned, still on my back, I asked the lifeguard if I was the last one.  She said no and out of the corner of my eye I could see one last person about 50 yards behind me.  I knew that spending a lot of time on my back was not going to work for the rest of the race if I didn’t want to be the last person out of the water.

I tried freestyle again only to bail out after a few short strokes.  Then I got the idea of doing what I call lifeguard freestyle.  It is freestyle but you never put your eyes in the water – lifeguards need to keep their eyes on the target.

This was the best choice as I was finally moving and able to see where I was going at the same time.  I saw one person in front of me that I really wanted to catch – no luck.

After doing this for about five minutes my arms were burning.  I had to keep this up though so I pushed through that.  I finally exited the water to two awesome high-fives from my daughter and my son.

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I did look back to confirm that there was still one more swimmer in the water and there was.  I was a little confused though as I got to the transition and only saw one bike – mine.  I think the announcer was a little confused when I came into transition though because as I came running in he said “and here comes the leader.”

My First Triathon = Complete

So I finally did it.  I finished my first triathlon which took me two years to accomplish.  This last Saturday I finished the Chaska Triathlon.  The triathlon consisted of a .3 mile swim, ~16 mile bike and 3.1 mile run.  I will be doing a total of five posts summarizing the triathlon.

Summary – This post

Swim

Bike

Run

Overall Experience

Going into the triathlon I had two simple goals – finish and have fun.  Jumping to the chase I will tell you that I both finished and had fun.

Swim – The swim was 1/3 of a mile and was in a very small lake also known as a clay hole.  My goal pace was 2:30/100 yards.  My overall time was 18:00 minutes which equates to a pace of 3:16.

T1 – 1:52

Bike – The bike was to be 16 miles but was cut a little short this year because of flooding.  I believe the official distance this year was about 15.8.  My time was 1:01:03 which equates to a 15.7 mph pace.

T2 – 1:08

Run – The run was a typical 5k or 3.1 miles.  The first mile is literally all up hill.  My time was 25:42 which equates to a pace of 8:17 per mile.

Total Time – 1:47:43

Place 162 of 222 overall.

Place 108 of 129 for males.

Place 19 of 20 in age group.

Here is the proof!

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More details about the experience coming in the other posts.

My First Tri – Will you help?

 

This weekend I will be doing my first ever triathlon. It has been two years in the making. It all started while watching my kids at swimming lessons and encouraging them on when I realized what a hypocrite I was since I couldn’t even put my head under water. Saturday I prove to myself that I can now say that I am a swimmer.

More importantly though, I will be wearing Team Compassion gear hoping to have the chance to share about Compassion International to others out at the race course. My goal for partnering with Team Compassion and Compassion International isn’t to raise a ton of money (even though that would be cool) but to simply encourage a single child to get sponsored.

Compassion

My wife and I have been sponsoring children since the day we were married. When it all started we thought that we were simply helping a child that had great needs get simple needs like food, water, clothing, education, etc. Little did we know that over the years we would be encouraged in amazing ways by the letters we receive from our sponsored children.

So as I try not to die this weekend (half serious) think about those kids that truly may be wondering where their next meal may come from and if they may die an early death (fully serious). If you have a little compassion and a little extra money please consider making a difference in a child’s life and sponsor a child through Compassion International.

http://www.compassion.com/

Not ready for such a commitment yet. Feel free to donate to Compassion International through Team Compassion – MN.

http://team.compassion.com/site/TR?team_id=1380&fr_id=1070&pg=team

T Minus 2 Weeks

My first triathlon is in two-weeks.  This week has been very eventful in getting ready.  I did my first open water swim and went to visit the site of the triathlon.  Both things that I wanted to do before the big day arrives.

The open water swim was short but I felt that it was far enough to understand my mental readiness.  I swam about 100 – 125 yards in green water (important because you can’t see the bottom) that was over my head.  I may have tightened up a bit but no panic.  I rolled on my back and then back to freestyle just to know that I was able to do this in the middle of a lake if need be.  No issues.

Then as a family we decided to head over to Fireman’s Park which is the site of the triathlon.  As the kids played on the equipment I visualized the start of the race.  The “lake” is not very threatening.  Pretty sure I could swim to the edge in 30-seconds or less.  To me this is a perfect first triathlon site.

Here is a quick snapshot of the start location.

Firemans Lake

A friend of mine emailed me this week and asked what my biggest concern was.  I have been thinking about that all weekend and what was once an easy decision, the swim, is now not as easy.  I would say it is between the swim and the heat.  After all, the triathlon is on a day that averages out to be the hottest day of the year.  Having two concerns is a good thing, this tells me that there is no clear concern – meaning the swimming is not as big of a concern as it once was.

Two-weeks and counting.

If Only…

If I would have stuck to my original plan (who am I kidding my third or forth plan) I would have completed Manitou Triathlon this last weekend. I decided a few months ago that this would not be my first triathlon and signed up for one that has a shorter swim.

I did decide to go out and cheer for a friend that was doing the race and just to take in the mornings atmosphere without the nervousness of knowing I was about to start swimming.

I am very thankful that I made the plans that I did. White Bear Lake is one of the largest lakes in the area and the swim was straight out and straight back. I think the size of the lake and the route of the swim would have beat me up mentally. For any seasoned triathlete though I think the weather was just about perfect.

I did notice a couple of swimmers getting pulled in by the lifeguards and making the walk of shame. Two things that this made me think of 1) I sure hope that isn’t me in a few weeks and 2)I hope that if I need to be pulled in due to safety concerns that I do not let my pride win out – after all it is simply a race.

A quick swimming note: I did my first swim of 450 yards straight using just the freestyle form. I also went swimming at the beach with the kids and went for a couple of very brief open water swims. This was more to practice sighting and get a little used to swimming in the lake. I hope to get a real open water swim in real soon.