It's exciting to be writing my first race report for a triathlon! I'll try and include all the details I can remember...
I slept pretty well the night before - which is strange - but with the kids out of the house I didn't have to get up and banish monsters from closets at 4 am. The alarm went off at 5:30 and I was up. I had packed and organized everything last night, so there was little worry about what I was forgetting. There were some nerves on the ride to Chestermere, but nothing beyond ordinary. I wasn't able to eat very much for breakfast - a small bowl of cereal and an apple - as my stomach wasn't interested. I can see where this may be a problem for longer distance races.
We arrived early at the race (around 7a.m.), which gave me lots of time to rack my bike, set up for transition and get body marked. It was fun setting up in transition for the first time - it's a great opportunity to meet your fellow competitors, and check out how they set their stuff up. There was a huge variety of equipment - from mountain bikes right up to specialty tri-bikes. Getting body marked was cool - as I had seen it on the triathlon events I have watched - like Ironman. I haven't completely washed it off yet!
Weather wise it was perfect - the thunderstorms they had been calling for held off, and the temperature was nice and cool for the event.
At the pre-race briefing I learned another important lesson - courses change! First the order that we were starting was changed slightly. Second, the direction of the swim was changed from counter-clockwise to, you guessed it!, clockwise. Third, the run course was altered. Overall I think the course set up was great! It had just enough hills to be challenging, and some nice downhills to compensate (more on that later...).
After the briefing I went and got into my wetsuit, and my wife and I watched the Olympic distance race start. I then got into the water to test out the wetsuit, and get used to the cold. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be (or should have been according to how I felt during!). Looking back, race morning was not the best time to try the wetsuit out for the first time...
When the horn went off, I stayed near the back and let the strong swimmers head off. I am not nervous about swimming in open water at all, which was my only advantage I think. Growing up at the cottage gave me lots of exposure to swimming in a lake (weeds and all). However, I definitely did not get enough practice in on the swim. I think in the last few months I was in the pool maybe 6 times. And that's a pool!
I immediately started with the front crawl. It was fun trying to work your way around the other competitors - even at the back it was a bit chaotic! But by about half-way to the far buoy, I was completely winded. I think it was a combination of race nerves, swallowing lake water (Yuck!) and not being adequately prepared. At this point my swim went downhill, and I ended up switching mostly to side-stroke, with a little back stroke, modified breaststroke (were "modified" just means bad lol) and back to an attempt at front crawl. It took me forever to finish the swim. It's amazing how far the distance between the buoys seems to increase when you're struggling. My goggles stayed on my head - but fogged up nicely. At one point I even pulled them up just to see. Proper sighting during the swim is a skill, and one that I plan on mastering over the next few months.
Just passed halfway, when I could make out the finish line, I felt totally down. I was really struggling, and had been passed by almost everyone. But then I remembered that I was indeed looking at the finish line! And at that point I didn't care if I had to doggy-paddle the rest! I made it to the end, and out of the water, and regained my composure.
They had some volunteers helping to strip you out of your wetsuit, which was a great help! Funny enough, my timing chip came off and got stuck in the suit. I didn't mind though - I needed the break! (I think I even mentioned that to the volunteer). Into transition I ran a bit to my spot, and then I took my time - I dried off, sat down, put my bike shoes on, attached my HR monitor and watch, made sure I had everything, and left for the bike. I didn't panic in transition. Just got some wind back, and prepped for the bike course...
I really enjoy riding my bike - and it ended up being my strong point of the race. Once I manage to clip my shoes in (still need a little practice on this!), I was off. Right out of town there is a bit of a hill, but it's completely doable - just have to make use of your gears. I immediately started passing some people, which after the swim, was a boost! The bike portion is a really nice ride, with one section running through some canola fields. Along the course, I started being passed by the Olympic distance racers - man they were fast! And the good thing about being passed by these guys was it gave you a bit of encouragement to speed up. The last section of the lap, back into town, has some nice downhill sections, and the volunteers were great at directing you. We had to ride along open roads, which can be intimidating, but all the traffic was great and moved into the opposite lane to give us lots of room.
Rounding the corner and starting my second lap felt great! Big smiles on this course. I felt like I did stronger on the hill out of town this time. The weather was starting to change, and with it we had a bit of a headwind during the second lap, which made it a bit difficult. I also noticed during the second lap, that my butt really started to hurt. A few times I had to stand and re-position. I also felt like I really had to pee, so I planned to stop and the porta-potties prior to starting the run. There is a big difference between tri-short padding and bike short padding! The race officials were fun, and as I came into town from this last lap, they asked me if I wanted to do another, just for fun. Needless to say I declined. When I hopped off the bike, my butt thanked me, and interestingly the feeling of needing to pee disappeared (some weird bike seat thing I guess...)
According to Garmin, my top speed was 39.4km/hr. Not to bad! With a total distance of 23.28kms.
Official Time: 54:31
My second transition was much faster, and I was feeling pretty good off the bike. At the dismount line, my legs were like rubber, but by the time I got to my stall, they felt stronger. I hadn't taken in any calories on the bike, so I grabbed half a goo and some water just in case.
The start of the run was chaotic, as at this point all of the distances were mixed. The run went off into a park, and then up into the subdivision. There was a really decent hill section, which I walked for about 20 seconds each lap, to bring my HR down. The advantage was that there was a really decent downhill section, which helped gain you some speed - lean forward and pick up your pace! Coming into the turnaround point was a great feeling - my wife was there cheating me on! It's funny too - I really wanted to walk again, but with everyone watching, you just keep pushing yourself - one foot, then the other, and repeat. Going out onto my final lap, I felt awesome mentally! I was almost done my first triathlon! The second lap went just as well as the first, and as I came into the finish area I managed to pick up my pace a bit.
They had the banner across for each finisher, which was cool! And before I knew it, I was done! An unbelievable feeling. I hugged my wife, and then went straight for the water, juice, bananas and other goodies - I figured I'd earned it!
Official Time: 27:37
TOTAL TIME: 1:41:56