|My son took 2nd in his age group|
To celebrate turning 40 this year, I completed my first Olympic-distance (1 mile swim, 20+ mile bike ride, and a 10k run) triathlon. It was my way to try and laugh aging in the face.
This is only my third triathlon, with the last two coming in Aug and Sept last year (2013). I didn't begin training for my first triathlon until July of last year, so I have been participating in the sport for less than 12 months. My first two triathlons were a Sprint-distance, which includes a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and a 5k run. Olympic-distance is basically twice the distance in all of the sports.
A FAMILY SPORT!
My 14-year-old son and I have been planning and training for this race for months. We started within 10 seconds of each other, but he beat me by about 5 minutes and took 2nd place in his age category. I couldn't be happier for him. It seems like he has really caught the "bug" for the sport.
Daybreak, Utah is a community in the southwest part of Salt Lake Valley. It is about a 30 minute drive from our home. The weather was fantastic. Not a cloud in the sky, about 60 degrees when we started the swim and about 75 degrees when we finished the run.
|Setting up in the transition area|
THE SWIM (36:10)
The pre-race meeting was located at the transition area, but the point-to-point swim required us to start at East Lake Beach of the Oquirrh Lake, a man-made lake which is the centerpiece of the Daybreak community. After the pre-race meeting, we walked to the start of the swim (about 10-15 minutes). We waited to put on our wetsuits until we arrived at the swim start, although most of the other participants already had their wetsuits on. The swimming wetsuits are amazing for buoyancy, but they are designed to fit tightly. Sometimes getting one on feels more like a wrestling match than anything else.
The water temperature was in the low 60s and it felt great. We put our swim caps on, then our goggles, and waited in line for our turn to start. Organized as a time-trial start, we waited for our individual start. The organizers were starting swimmers about every 3-4 seconds, so it went fast. My son went ahead of me. After they told him to go, I gave them my race bib number, they entered it into a handheld device, and then hollered "go". About 4 seconds is all the time that it took, and I had officially started my first Olympic-distance triathlon.
My start was less than stylish. I felt awkward with the shallow water start, and it took me several strokes to start to get into a rhythm. Open water swimming presents so many challenges, the most significant for me is the need to "sight". Without a black line on the bottom of a pool to follow in a perfectly straight line, swimmers can get off course pretty quickly. About every 10 strokes I would sneak a peak forward (as opposed to the side when I breath) as my head came out of the water so I could stay on course.
|Oquirrh Lake - part of the swim course|
The first quarter-mile was pretty uneventful, but then other swimmers started bumping into me. I made contact in some way with at least 10 other swimmers. Luckily each incident was minor, all part of the triathlon swim experience.
There were a few sections of the swim that were very shallow, shallow enough that I could reach down during my swim stroke and touch the bottom of the lake. These areas also had underwater plant growth, and a few of them rubbed along my face as I swam by. It was a little distracting, but the race directors warned us to be prepared for it.
At the half-way point I looked at my watch (which I had started at the beginning of the swim) and realized I was going a little slower than I wanted. I kicked it in gear and I ended up happy with my swim time. The water was clean and clear, allowing me to easily see my watch and everything else going on in the lake. Awesome!
The toughest part of the swim was at the end. With one last buoy to round we were headed straight into the sun. I do not have any tint on my goggles, and I could not see where the buoy was. I could, however, see the swimmers immediately in front of me, so I just followed them, hoping they would not lead me astray. Within a few minutes I could see the buoy. I made the last turn, and then gave an extra push to finish strong.
I swam as far as I could into the shore. Then I stood up and began running to the transition area. The other swimmers that exited the water at the same time did not seem to be in much of a hurry. I passed several. I pushed my goggles onto my forehead, then unzipped my wetsuit. By the time I reached the transition area I had pulled my arms out and had it pulled down to my waist. Then, to my surprise, there were two people offering to help remove wetsuits for any of the participants. I sat on the grass and one of them grabbed my suit at the waist and yanked it off with one hard tug while I held my legs in the air. Awesome. Probably saved me at least 30 seconds of trying to step out of the suit and slowly get it off once in the transition area.
|Face painting for the kids|
T1 - TRANSITION FROM SWIM TO BIKE (2:31)
I quickly located my spot in the transition area, threw the wetsuit into its spot, and grabbed the towel to begin drying off my feet. My son was just leaving with his bike. He swims a little faster than me, so he had gained about a minute on me. I put my socks and bike shoes on, pulled on my bike jersey and sunglasses, strapped on my helmet, grabbed my bike, and trotted to the bike mount area. And I was off for the second of three events.
THE BIKE (1:10:53)
I mounted the bike, which I had strategically placed in the easiest gear before the race started. I started to spin to get my legs tuned up while I drank half of the water in my water bottle.
The bike course follows 118th south all the way to the entrance to Kennecott Mines. It was uphill most of the way. The sprint-distance bikers turned around there, but the Olympic-distance rode on for several more miles before turning around at the designated spot. Most of the ride from Kennecott to the turnaround was downhill, which was a welcome reprieve, but that meant I had to ride back up it. Once arriving back at Kennecott, I made up a lot of time on the rest of the downhill.
|More face painting - that's a tiara|
The best part of the bike was hearing the cheers of my family as I returned to the transition area. My wife took some great video clips, that I'll share later. During the ride, I made sure to make a positive comment to anyone that I passed or that passed me. "Good job" and "nice pace" seem to roll off the tongue naturally for me while breathing heavily. I did the same thing on the run.
T2 - TRANSITION FROM BIKE TO RUN (2:03)
Transitioning from the bike to the run was the most frustrating part of the race for me, and it was all my fault. With hundreds of bikes throughout the transition area, it is easy to get lost. I had carefully selected a landmark to help me find the row where I stashed all of my gear. It was a sponsor banner with a bunch of kids on it. What I did not realize, however, was that there were TWO of the exact same banners in the transition area, and I turned at the wrong one. I could not find my spot, and I was lost. I lost at least a minute figuring out where my gear was. My wife and kids were watching the whole thing. Luckily my son had come in about 2 minutes ahead of me. They saw where he parked his bike, and they were able to tell me where to go (since he and I set up next to each other).
Here is a video of how T2 went once I found my spot. I am pleased with how fast I got everything done, not allowing the frustration of getting lost to derail me at all. Please note that my 4-year-old daughter is the one repeating that she loves me, and then she is also the one that tells me that I am not winning. Funny.
THE RUN (1:05:09)
Here is the video of me just after I exit transition and begin the 10k. By the way, thanks to my wife for taking all these awesome video clips.
As I got started, I was tired and my legs felt heavy. I was questioning in my mind my ability to put together an entire 10k run. I was also racing against the time on my watch. I had set a goal to try to finish in 3 hours. As I began the run it was clear that I had a good shot to come in under 3 hours if I could keep a decent pace on the run. I kept an eye on my watch for the rest of the race, using it as motivation to keep pushing even though it was hot and I was tired. I definitely started to doubt myself and all the things I should have done in training but just didn't have time to accomplish.
Nonetheless, I pushed on, now about 2 hours into the race and with 2 of 3 events complete. The run course is a beautiful trail that goes around Oquirrh Lake. It is mostly flat, although there are some uphill and downhill sections over and under the bridges and to compensate for some grade changes around the lake. One time around the lake equals a 5k, so I was on a journey to run around the lake twice before crossing the finish line.
Here is me completing the first lap.
I had my eye out for the two aid stations the race directors told us about in the pre-race meeting. They were located at 1.5 and 3 miles, respectively. I had finished off my water bottle on the bike ride, but I knew I would need a lot more water to stay hydrated and hit my goal. As I came to each one during the first lap, I walked through them, drank two cups of water, and dumped a third one over my head. The water was very cold, and it felt amazingly refreshing when it hit my head and trickled down my face and neck. When your body and mind are suffering, sometimes the little things really make a huge difference. I continued this pattern of hydration during the second lap as well.
A little way into the second lap I started to feel a little weak. I remembered eating a banana for breakfast, but nothing else. I had eaten a bag of GU Chomps while on the bike ride (they are sticky, so I had stuck them to the post of my bike and ate them one by one during the ride). When I transitioned to the run, I put two GU gel packs in the back pocket of my jersey. I consumed them about mile 4. That helped.
Here is me crossing the finish line. You can hear my son barking commands like a drill sergeant. He ran alongside me to the finish.
My final time was just over 2 hours and 56 minutes, beating my goal by more than 3 minutes.
Lest you think my goal of three hours was going to break a world record, please note that the man who took 1st place in my age division had the best time of everyone in the entire race. He finished 50 minutes ahead of me. I was just happy to finish! You can see me above at 8th place out of 9 participants in my age bracket, but the participant number probably grew into the teens because this was printed right after I finished and there were still lots of people out on the course. I will post my final standings as well as the time breakdown for each of the three sports and two transitions when they become available, hopefully in a couple of days.
Here is a quick video of me and some of my kids just after finishing the race.
I think this race was well organized, the course was awesome, and I will definitely do it again. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned and the support of my family to train for and then participate in this race.