My first Triathlon – Norway, Maine 2009
Sprint distance: Swim 1K (2/3 miles aka 1000 meters) in a lake - Bike 11.6 miles (hilly) - Run 5K (challenging 3.1 miles)
This was my first big project for 2009 and my goal was to *not* be the last swimmer out of the water and to finish in 2 hours maximum.
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4:30 am, my alarm clock rang and I got up after three hours of sleep only because I was too nervous to fall asleep. I was hoping that I could get some rest in the car riding to Norway but it didn’t happen because I was too nervous. My husband and I had prepared bags and children the evening before so we would only have to load the car in the morning – we made the kids sleep already dressed for the next day so they could sleep a bit longer, and that also would be less chance to leave the house late and even more stressed out.
We drove about an hour and a half to get to our destination. The traffic was not bad that early in the day and we arrived ten minutes after seven o’clock as planned. Lots of competitors were already there but I was still able to pick what I felt was a good spot on the bike racks.
Since I already had picked up my package the day before (also to lighten the stress on race day) the first things left to do when we arrived were:
- To check the pressure into my bike’s tires with my foot pump.
- To locate the Transition area and to set my emplacement.
After having my helmet and handle bars checked, I was admitted in the Transition area where volunteers kindly explained me how to place my bike on the rack and where to place its bib number.
With the help of the checklist that was given to me at Peak Performance when I attended the “Triathlon 101” clinic, tips from my Triathletes Sparky Friends, a useful beginnertriathlete.com’s article and personalized checklist, I was able to set my transition area the way I imagined would work the best for me, and according to my equipment.
On the towel I set on the ground to delimitate my area, I displayed:
- My bike helmet stuffed with my biking gloves and sun glasses.
- My racebelt already holding my bib number, to put on at T1.
- A bucket filled with water to rinse my feet at T1. I was already wearing my clogs because I didn’t want to run that woodchip path from the beach barefoot … Ironic for a wanna-be barefoot runner, no? LOL
- My running cap stuffed with my palm holder bottle filled with water.
- Tissues, Bananas and Pretzels to chew on during transitions and/or after the race.
I also placed a small towel on the bike rack to dry my feet at T1 and a bottle of water in which I poured some Power Bar Electrolytes Drink Mix. One packet is the perfect serving size for my bike bottle (16 oz).
Now looking back, here are the mistakes I made:
- To place that jug of water under the bike because it was in the way when I took the bike off the rack… I should have placed it on the left of my bag.
- I forgot to turn my Garmin on.
I had visualized those transitions so many times in my head that I knew exactly when I would need what. That definitely helped me to accurately install my stuff. I guess I was doing it very meticulously because the lady competitor beside me admitted that she was copying what I was doing because it was her first time. She was very surprised to hear that it was my first time too! LOL
After I was done setting my Transition area, I went to check-in and got marked (on both shoulders, on one upper thigh and on one calf) with my competitor number.
My kiddies liked to see someone writing on me with a marker... I hope it is not going to give them some ideas back home... LOL
At 8:00 am we were called for a pre-race meeting. I put my wetsuit on as I was listening instructions and rules. Then, we all headed to the beach for the swim. Each wave had 44 competitors and I was in the third - and last - wave, which means I left 6 minutes after the beginning of the race.
My water-bug looks… LOL
The swim course was 2/3 mile (1000 meters = 1K) and two buoys had been placed in the water in a triangle position. Looking at them the first time, I thought they looked pretty far from the beach I was standing on… LOL
At the meeting, we were informed that the water temperature was 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit; therefore wearing a wetsuit was not mandatory, but when I went for a warm-up swim in the lake I definitely decided to keep mine on! Some brave competitors didn’t.
As I was stretching, I saw my dear friend, Sharon – from MTC and Spark People - who as promised came to see my race and cheer for me. How sweet of her!
After the white and green waves had been sent it was finally my wave’s turn to go! Go yellow! :-p
I started at the back of the pack because I knew that I was – I am – a slow swimmer, and not very fond of kicks in the face... LOL
It was my plan to maintain the Breaststroke all along, just like I had done many times at the swimming pool during my training, but I soon realized that it was taking me too much energy to get under the water because my wetsuit was making me float and keeping me at the surface of the water...
My shoulder was still sore from all that swimming training I had put myself through over the past weeks and my heart rate was high... I knew that such high energy expenditure this early in the competition could cause me trouble later. I had to manage my energy because after all, I still had a bike and a run legs to go…
Besides, my swimming goggles were not very good protection that day (I was so nervous that I probably had put them on wrong) and water was entering every time that my face was going under water…
So, I swam my way to buoy #1 doing the Brass and thinking that keeping constant pace was what I needed to do. I never stopped swimming. I was trying to keep my mind focused on making my strokes as long and efficient as possible, and away from those dark deep waters underneath me…
I had never looked behind me and I was pretty sure that I was the last swimmer in the race. At that point, I had given up on my goal to not be the last one out of the water, until… I kicked someone! I couldn’t believe that there were actually swimmers slower than me! LOL
- One tried to go Backstroke, starting on my left and crossing in front of me but he went all the way to the right and away from the course! That discouraged me from trying to swim on my back… LOL
- Another made big efforts keeping her Freestyle stroke going and tried to pass me but was never able to… eh eh
After turning around buoy #2, I was still feeling strong. I was breathing heavily but I was in control now that my heart rate had stabilized to an endurance-appropriate rate. As I was getting closer to the beach, I could hear people cheering for us and I saw my friend Sharon’s blue shirt. That gave me extra motivation and I was able to speed up to the beach.
I had covered the 1000 meter distance in 27:30 minutes at the swimming pool during a time trial the week before the race, but I honestly thought it would take me longer in a lake without the wall impulsions at each turnaround, colder water and wetsuit handicap…
So when I saw 32:50 on the clock at my exit of the water, I was disappointed but not really surprised. The big surprise was to see on the results wall after the race that my actual swimming time was 26:50 minutes, which is 6 minutes less than what I saw on the clock – remember those 6 minutes behind at the start? eh eh
That placed me 83rd out of 111 competitors, meaning that I met my goal to not be the last one out of the water! YAY!
There is no photo of me exiting the water because my husband and Sharon were worried that I was that bobbing head in the very back of the swimmers, and they were so surprised to see me running out of the water earlier than they expected that they forgot to use their cameras! LOL
I was so dizzy when I got out of the water that I had trouble walking straight, unzipping my wetsuit and putting my awaiting clogs on either… LOL
Thankfully, I felt better when I started jogging up the path going to T1 and I removed my ear plugs, nose plug, goggles and swimming cap along the way. I was still shaky when I reached “Jolly Jumper” (my bike) but I was able to calm down a bit and to remember to do everything I had planned to, after I was done removing my wetsuit completely.
I remembered to:
- Chew on a PowerBar Energy Bite as I was gearing up
- Put my sunglasses on before putting my helmet on - because of the sports-strap but also because my sunglasses are prescriptions and I would be more efficient if I could see what I was doing... LOL
- Buckle my helmet before unracking the bike (this is disqualifying matter!)
- Open my Clif Shot Blocks package - to make eating on the bike, with only one hand, easier - before putting it in the back pocket of my tri-suit!
Placing the package inside my running shoes to make sure I wouldn’t forget about it was an idea that worked perfectly and that I will use again - I wouldn’t have gone anywhere without my shoes, right?
Putting my biking gloves was challenging because my hands were wet and shaky… LOL
Now, I know this was not the fastest Transition I could have done but I wanted to be comfortable in my shoes because I was going to use them for the bike ride (I have basket pedals) and for the run.
I was thinking of getting those biking shoes that snap on special pedals but I think that having regular pedals is actually an advantage during a triathlon because it makes T2 much faster.
I am so glad I used my birthday money to buy a Tri-suit - MERCI MAMAN & PAPA2! - because it certainly made me gain time to not have to change clothes after the swim!
I lost a bit more time than expected because my Garmin was not turned on (as mentioned previously, I had forgotten...) but it didn’t stress me out. Now, I could have skipped the Garmin step when I saw that it was not on but I knew I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if I had not worn it, so it was worth a few extra seconds - too bad Forerunner 305 is not waterproof…
Now, I have no idea how much time I spent at T1 (probably too long in a competitive athlete's opinion) because it was not a time-chip timed race, but I finally got on my way. Here, walking my bike (I was not sure if I could run or not) out of the Transition area and mounting it.
On the road at last and happy to be because the swim and my fears of open waters were behind me, and I had proudly conquered the lake! eh eh
My goal was to cover the 11.6 miles distance in 60 minutes maximum but I was not sure I would make it because I knew from driving the course the day before that it will be hilly – see for yourself here - and bumpy…
Having my Garmin telling me the distance and my speed was really helpful to manage my race; it made me push when I needed to and I was thrilled when I realized that I made it in 57:38 minutes on such a challenging course! That placed me 91st out of 111 competitors. There is room for improvement here... LOL
As I was advised, I took advantage of the biking to hydrate and refuel on electrolytes. I must have done it right because I didn’t “hit the wall” at any time and on my way back to the Transition area I was still smiling!
- Pre-opening the package of Clif Shot Blocks is a keeper idea because it was easy to reach and to slide a piece in my mouth while riding.
- It didn’t take long for my tri-suit to be completely dry.
Transition #2 went really fast, so fast that I had the feeling that I had forgotten something... LOL
I made sure to rack my bike before removing, or even unbuckling, my helmet (this is another disqualifying matter). Removing my biking gloves was almost as difficult as putting them on because my hands were sweaty.
Note: Maybe I should have kept my biking gloves for running or maybe I should have biked without them... (?)
I put my running cap on, grabbed my palm holder water bottle and I was on my way! :-)
As the photo here above shows, I was not smiling at all when I left T2 and started running... The first reason was that I knew it was going to be a tough run, the second reason was the weather had gotten warmer, and third reason was that reoccuring ankle pain I experienced at the first stride I took… Bummer!
My goal was to cover the 5K (3.1 miles) in 28 minutes but that race was undeniably the hilliest I have ever run - no kidding! Besides, the park trail leading to the road was very muddy due to all the rain we had in Maine over the past weeks (I was glad I had decided to wear my old Nikes) and that slowed me down because I conservatively jogged through that "soup"; last thing I needed was to twist an ankle, I was already in pain enough... Needless to say that I was glad when I finally reached the road!
Despite those crazy-steep long hills and the raising heat, I kept running all along. I didn’t even have to stop for drinking, thanks to my palm-holder water bottle that allowed me to reasonably skip the two water stations that were on the way.
My ankle pain was so bad at the beginning of my run that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do a decent run, but as the minutes were passing by the pain was fading and I became more optimistic that I could push myself and I did, especially in the second part of the race that was all down hill.
My time for the run has ended up to be 29:12 minutes. I haven't reached my goal on that leg, yet I was 65th out of 111 competitors which is not too bad considering the course and my physical condition this year.
I had never practiced swimming/biking/running back to back during my so-called Triathlon Training - a mistake oviously - and I had no clue it would be so hard... LOL
Note: At T2 I forgot to turn my racebelt around so my bib number would show on my front during the run. I fixed it while I was on-the-go and it was matching requirements when I passed the finish line.
At the end of the race, I was smiling again because I saw on the clock that I had done the whole tri in 1:59:42 which meant that I had reached my goal to finish under two hours!!! It was close but I was pleased with that time anyway.
Then, my husband reminded me that I hard started the race six minutes behind swimming wave #1 and that made my official finish time… 1:53:42!!! WOWEEEEE…
I actually did better than just reaching my goal, I have surpassed it!!!
The Norway Triathlon was limited to 125 participants but only 111 showed up. I didn't win one of those cute cow bell rewards but I have built memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life!
This quote says it all: "The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race." -- Author unknown.
I am so glad I didn't give up on doing this race like I wanted to after that traumatic first swim in a lake - I felt chest opressed and I paniqued - but talking to an Athlete who had herself experienced a few scary moments in the water at her beginnings was very motivating! Thanks again, Linda!
As amazing and incredible as it sounds to me, I have become A TRIATHLETE - who still has a lot to learn, but I cannot wait for my next Tri in August... eh eh!!!