Was at 248 lbs when I signed up for this race five months out. By race day I was 220 lbs... felt better physically, but still not in proper race shape.
I am the King of triathlon rookies. For example, I apparently thought nothing of allowing my teenage son to have a sleep over at our house on race eve. As the party rolled into the wee hours I decided to cut my losses and just drive early from my house in Odenton (MD) to the open parking at Haines Point near the race. Arrived around 0345 hours and was the first one there... except for the occasional Park Police officer that drove around eyeballing me (crazy triathlete or evil-doer?). Alarm clock set, I tried to sleep in the back of my van, but was too amped up. Within an hour the parking lot was full, sectioned off, and was buzzing with anticipation. In preparing for the long walk over to the transition area I just watched others and pretended to know what I was doing.
Pre-race Transition Area. Yep, the size of T1/T2 was the size of Camden Yards. What did I know? I have little triathlon experience and nothing to compare it to. So, I just turned off my mouth and listened to comments from other athletes…… nodding as if I knew things. I did think to practice a few times finding my bike upon exiting the swim and how to re-rack it. So many rows and too few markings. For the rest of the time, I just sat near my simple Trek (road) which was sandwiched between a couple of shiny tri specific missiles. That was okay....... I could just smile and act like one of them were mine.
Pre-Race Goals (in order of importance):
1) First International Distance event. First triathlon in three years. So, do not race…. swim, bike, and run easy at all times.
2) Survive the bike. Translated: Hope for no flat. I carry no tools or spares.
3) Finish the run. Achilles tendon tear in left leg several months out severely hampered training. Best 10K run time just prior to race was 1:06:23.
4) Set a PR. Well, first International Tri... so this should be a lock.
Swim: I am not a swimmer. When I started training for this race I was left grabbing the wall after one lap in a 15 yard indoor pool. On race day, as a 47 year old male (Green Cap), I was in one of the last waves and forced to watch strong athletes skim up the river. I waited until the last possible moment to use the porta johns, and when I got back to the main area I only saw one other guy my age with a green cap on. I guess I waited too long. This other guy and I finally heard the last call for our wave and began a mad sprint to the water’s edge... of course, there were hundreds of other swimmers (other waves) in the chute, so we had to do quite a bit of yelling and shoving. Just as we got to the river the last few athletes in our wave were jumping in. As I jumped in, I concurrently realized two things: first, I saw no one else wearing just bike shorts; second, my feet first entry left me stuck up the lower calf in Potomac mud. As I pulled out of the mud the horn goes off and the water boiled with arms and legs. I had no idea where to go so I just followed at the back. Every time I found my desired cadence I seemed to run into someone that had outright stopped. When that forced me to stop someone would then run into me. I expected bumping and hitting but not stopping. There were more than a few times that I attempted to spot and immediately fatigued doing so. During training, in the pool, I never spotted so I was unfamiliar with this technique. Like most, my goggles were knocked sideways once, but nothing bad because I had the straps secured under the cap (luck). Going out, it seemed to take forever to get past the bridge once I was underneath it. On the way back, I cruised fairly quickly thanks to the current. Once at the steps, I was just happy to have successfully completed the longest swim in my life (wetsuit free) in 32:10... on to the bike.
T1: Took my time at the bike to dry my feet, put on socks, step into my bike shoes, throw on shirt, don cool looking sunglasses, and helmet. Think the transition area is large? It gets simply grows exponentially when you run to the bike start wearing bulky bike shoes. Still, out in 2:27.
Bike: My six year old, 63cm Trek 1000 is a bottom of the line road model... but, a good bike for a rookie like me. Just two wheels, a frame, and ram horn with aero bars slapped on. However, I (even at this writing) have never had a bike fitting and a (later determined) severely erroneous saddle height and cockpit length contributed to the typical pain that I experience during rides. With the first pedal out of transition, I purposefully maintained in the back of my mind that I still had a 10K run to do and that I would stay to the right with the other tourists. To my surprise, I was unable to stay right because my cruising speed was a bit faster. This placed me in the dreaded tweener group... folks fast enough to pass many in the field, but slow enough to be in the way of advanced bikers. Although I spent quite a bit of time looking over my left shoulder for the rockets (Left!!!) I did enjoy the feeling of feeling somewhat competitive. This joy subsided as my back, knees, arms (fingernails?) began to hurt. People can actually eat on the bike? I never thought of that. I spent most of the entire bike course sitting up trying to get comfortable……only going aero when I saw a photographer. In spite of all, finished with a 20mph average in 1:14:29. I had no idea how I did as I returned for T2 nor did I care. Just suddenly remembered that I was wearing those clumsy bike shoes as I quickly waddled through the transition area on cramping hamstrings... searching for my rack row.
T2: Off with the shoes and helmet... kept the cool shades on (at least I look fast). Took time to change shirts and sat down to get my running shoes on properly (I have orthotics). Puffed out my chest and ran with best form out of transition in 3:55 (hey, there might be more photographers!). Once past the thick part of the crowds I settled quickly into my true 10min a mile pace.
Run: Nothing special here. Although I lost 28 pounds training for this race I still REALLY felt like a fat Clydesdale as I plodded along. I just did a Galloway by jogging a mile then walking a minute or two. During the run I did think about previous races that I had done many years earlier around Haines Point. For example, the time I met Bill Rodgers during the 1982 Cherry Blossom 10 miler (I was 19 years old and finished the windy race in 67 min and in top quarter of field). New day, new body, new realities. With my current slow pace, I really did not feel bad (legs) until just past the five mile mark. It was then that I first looked at my watch and noticed that I had a chance to go sub 3 hours. I really did not care about time (any finish would be a PR), but at that point I thought I would give it a try and began running again... I simply let the other athletes and crowd propel me to the finish with a 1:03:11 run split. Had a chance to try goo (etc.) but opted out.
My Takeaway: Yes, the walk from the car was long; yes, the transition area was the size of Camden Yards; yes, there were spots on the bike course that were narrow and appeared to have suffered from a meteor shower; yes, it was eternity before I could get my bike post-race (etc.). For me, these occurrences merely represented the unique personality of the race. I consider these “uncontrollable” as part of a fourth category of the race that also must be negotiated (Quadathlon?). Also, in reviewing my stats and in considering my rookiness, I am VERY excited about my prospects at Nations next year. Properly trained, fueled (during race) and healed up I conservatively estimate that I can knock at least 15 minutes off of my time (sub 2:40 might be possible). I have added a FastForward seat post and an Adamo Saddle to my bike with Christmas money…… I am now riding pain free at a pace quicker than ever before. I am even watching youtube videos and have used them to improve both my swim stroke and spotting techniques. I will even purchase (or at least rent) a wet suit.
I am signed up for Eagleman 2010 and my training has commenced in earnest. No, I will not race it. Just take it easy, gain the experience, and set a first time half ironman PR. But, Eagleman 2011 will be a different matter. :-) LBJ