So I participated in the Harvest Moon Triathlon this past weekend. It was a good event. I am by far, not a seasoned triathlete but I did apply some lessons that I've learned in the past, some new information that I've recently acquired and I learned some new things about how I would approach a long course triathlon in the future.
Here are the distances: Swim = 1.2 miles. Bike = 56 miles. Run = 13.1 miles.
First, my times.
The Swim: 39:40
The Bike: 3:08
The Run: 2:30:27
Finishing Time: 6:26:25
I participated in this same triathlon 10 years ago in 2000. This was the source of some of the things I learned. The biggest thing I learned there was the importance of fueling on the bike. I didn't fuel on the bike nearly enough and as a result, the run was horrible and more like a death march.
Here are my times from my first experience at the Harvest Moon Triathlon back in 2000.
The Swim: 45:49
The Bike: 3:19:10
The Run: 3:27:02
Total Time: 7:32:01
You can see that I cut off over an hour on my total time. I cut a little on the swim, a little on the bike but the biggest was the amount of time I cut off the run. So I was able to take what I learned and apply it this race so I'm pretty happy about that.
Here's a breakdown of the race as it played out for me.
I got to the Aurora Res early. I wasn't surprised to see a long line of cars waiting to get in. It was still dark with the sun just starting to come up. It was a very pretty sunrise with a lot of pink and orange colors in the clouds. I would say the sky was mostly clear, with just a few clouds on the horizon to the East.
I parked my car, made a pit stop at the bathroom and then took my bag and bike over to the transition area to get set up. I got marked, picked up my shirt and picked out good spot that would be easy to locate in transition. I walked through my transition a couple times so I knew exactly what I was going to do and in what order.
I then put on my wetsuit. It's a bit tighter than it was the first time I used it at this same race 10 years ago. My weight is the same but I guess what they say about men putting on weight around their midsection as they get older is true because it was a little snug but not too bad.
I then went down to the beach to get wet and watch the start of the first couple waves. The water was a little cold but I think like cold water and the wet suit started to loosen up a bit. The first couple waves went off and then it was time for the 40+ men to start.
The swim was an out and back course. Keep the buoys on your left the whole time. I think there were a total of about 6 buoys. The start and finish were separated by about 100 yards or so on the beach with the buoys angled in towards the finish so I had my sites set on swimming straight towards the third buoy.
The horn sounded and we all rushed into the water. If you've ever done an open water swim start before, you know it's total chaos in the beginning with some people swimming over you, some people swimming what appears to be totally sideways to the rest of the group and maybe sometimes a few kicks to the face. It took me until about the second buoy to get into a groove where I was feeling pretty good and had a pace I could maintain.
A few people ran into me and sometimes you kinda feel like grabbing on to their leg and pulling them under but I'm proud to say that I resisted that temptation. At one point in time a guy swam right into me, I decided to not let it bother me and kept going but I think I heard that guy yelling at me or something. Whatever, I kept going.
After the turn I swam breast stroke for a little bit to take a short break and get my sighting down. The whole way in I would swim 50 or 60 strokes and then rest with a little breast stroke for about 20 strokes.
I finally got to the beach, looked at my watch and it said 37 min and change. I thought, I wanted it closer to 30 but not too bad.
I walked, jogged ran up the beach, rinsed my feet in the little baby pools they had set out and made my way over to my bike.
I got into the transition area with no problems and found my bike quickly. I had rehearsed what I was going to do so everything was going smoothly. Took off my wet suit, put on my socks and shoes. As I was putting on my cycling jersey, all my food and tools fell out. SHIT! I quickly picked them up put them all back in my pockets, put on my helmet, gloves and sunglasses and I was off.
I headed out of the transition area on my bike with a solid plan for eating on the bike. Here's what I did. First, right out of transition the plan was to eat 2 Pop Tarts. At 200 calories a piece I thought they would be a good jump start to my ride. After that my plan was to drink every 15 minutes and to eat every 30 minutes. I would switch on and off from gels to solid food every time I ate. This plan gave me something to look forward to every 15 minutes. Either just a drink or a drink and some food. This helped to pass the time on what was expected to be about a 3 hour ride.
I remember thinking about my kids when I was out on the ride, talking to them, asking for them to give me strength. It helped to get me through.
I was pretty happy with the ride. Everything went just about to plan. At some points I pulled up next to people and chatted for a bit. There was one guy from Parker that I rode with for a while. It was good to have some company. One thing I noticed on the ride was that it's a long and lonely ride. I really like mixing it up with other riders in a group or pace line. You can't do that in Triathlon. No drafting, no groups, you're out there by yourself. I was thankful for the company when I got it. Another thing I noticed was my triceps started to get a bit sore about 30 miles or so into the ride. This made me think about possible solutions to this for next time but more on that later.
The course is a very rolling course with some long but not steep hills. The scenery along the course is kinda bland which didn't help with the boredom. You can see the front range off in the distance but for the most part it's just farm country.
I also remember at one point in time my calves were starting to get a little tight. This made me a little concerned about the run but I would just have to wait and see.
I rolled back in the transition area just a little over 3 hours.
I racked my bike, took off my helmet and gloves, removed my bike jersey and put on my running shirt with my bib number already attached. I then took off my cycling shoes, put on my running shoes , got a drink and headed out of T2 in what I considered to be a pretty smooth transition.
Just outside the transition area they had a bank of port-potties set up. I thought, perfect timing because I've got to go. I went up to the first potty that had the green color showing, telling my that it was unlocked and opened the door. Inside was a female racer doing her business. I stood there kinda shocked at the unexpected sight for what felt like a couple seconds. Then we both said, Oh I'm sorry and I quickly shut the door.
I moved on to the next potty with the green color showing, knocked on the door, did my business and started my run.
I ran out of the transition are with another racer. She was running at about my pace so we chatted for a little while but I had a plan.
Recently I listened to a podcast where running/marathon trainer/legend, Jeff Galloway was interviewed. He was talking about his run/walk technique that he uses for all of his training plans. The concept is, you run for a few minutes and then walk for a minute. This way, you give you legs time to recover every few minutes. You don't build up miles and miles of fatigue on your legs and they stay fresher, longer Making you feel stronger at the end. This made a lot of sense to me so I thought I would give it a try. So after just a few minutes of talking with my new running partner, I had a walk break and let her run on ahead. Time would tell if this plan would work.
I settled into a 4 minutes running, 1 minute walking routine. I noticed that for every 2 4/1 chunk, I was going just about a mile so I figured that I was moving at a 10 min per mile pace. Not too bad. While I was doing this, I noticed a lot of people passing me. This is typically very hard for me to take but I had a plan and I was going to stick to it. 4 minutes running, 1 minute walking. At about mile 6 I noticed that I was now passing some of those people who had passed me earlier. Hey, the plan was working. I was feeling pretty good. At mile 7 I passed the girl I started with. I think she was very surprised to see me. I continued to pass people and was feeling pretty good. Along the way, I caught up to a friend of mine. We ran together from mile 8 to mile 9. I explained what I was doing and how well it was working. He said, well you're looking good and I kept going. At mile 10 or so I felt a cramp coming on in the lower part of my left leg. Also, I noticed my toes on my left foot were curled up into a fist. UH OH! This is not good. I quickly spread the toes out on my left foot and kept going. The same thing then happened on my right leg. The tight calves from the bike ride started to haunt me. I started to get concerned because I wasn't sure If I was going to be able to maintain my 4/1 strategy that had gotten me to this point. I noticed that this weird cramp in both legs would only happen on the small downhill sections of the course, so I changed my plan to run all the flats and uphills and walk the downhills. This worked for a little while. At this point, I could see and hear the finish only about 2 miles away. I then changed my form a little bit and moved into a 1/1 walk run. This got me home. The run wasn't a great run but I am now 100% sold on Jeff Galloways Run/Walk training programs. I think I may try a marathon in the Spring using this technique. He says he's got people who qualify for Boston using this technique. I'll give it a try.
Right after the finish, the race organizers had a blow up slip and slide that everyone who finished was diving into. I speed up as much as I could and dove in. The water in the slip and slide was very cold and I immediately cramped up everywhere. At the end of the Slip and Slide were two people. One giving you your medal and anther taking your timing chip. They started to do this but I was so cramped up, I could barely move, they helped me out of the little pool at the end and then I got my medal and they took my chip.
I ended up finishing in 6:26 and change. I wanted to finish between 6:00 and 6:30 so I met my goal but I'm thinking those cramps cost me about 10 min or so.
After, my stomach was tied up in knots so I couldn't eat. Also, I felt several times that I was going to pass out. I laid around for a while, got up to the transition area, laid down in there next to my bike. Gathered my stuff and started to move towards my car. About half way to the car I laid down again. Finally made it to the car, put my stuff away and laid down in the car for about 15 min or so. I then drove home. Stopped in Castle Rock for a snack, started to feel much better and then continued on home.
Some Lessons Learned
1. It helped on the bike to break everything down into manageable 15 minute chunks. I had something to do every 15 minutes, be it drinking or eating or both.
2. Some kind of cross training with weights would have helped to improve my muscular endurance to avoid the soreness in my triceps.
3. Some clip on aero-bars would have been a huge help. It would have taken the weight of my upper body off my tricep muscles and put it on the frame of my body.
Had I done all three of these I'm sure I could have knocked 5 or maybe 10 minutes off my bike time.
While I was out there, I really began to think, "Why am I not performing better?". The answer is, I lost motivation in the middle of the summer to train. Maybe I'm a little ADD but all these other events were going on that I wanted to participate in ,we spent an unexpected week in Alabama that really threw me off and I just plain lost interest. Not sure what the deal was. Maybe I was a bit over trained, maybe these longer endurance events just aren't my thing.
In the end, I'm walking away from this triathlon happy that I met my goal, maybe a little wiser but also questioning just what is it that I want to pursue?
Maybe I just need some time off to get back to just having some fun out on the trails.