There I was, floating in the water, waiting for my race to start. One yellow dome, bobbing in the dark water. How did I get here? Why was I doing this? Let's go back a bit before we head forward.
University, while great for my mind, had been not-so-kind to my body. Hours of studying late at night, ordering pizza and heading out for fast food had turned me from a high school athletic award winner into a pudgy engineer. I joined a gym following my undergrad, but what I needed was a goal, something to train *for*. I heard a cyclist friend at school talking about triathlons one day, and for some reason the idea stuck. I was going to do a triathlon. A quick search online (ok, an afternoon of dodging work) showed that there was a triathlon on Labour Day weekend, 7 weeks away. They had a division called "Try-a-Tri", and I thought "why not?". 200m swim, 15km bike and a 5km run - seemed do-able to me. The next longest race was the sprint - 500m swim, 30km bike and 5km run...maybe a little long for me given that I had no experience biking or swimming.
Before signing up though, I needed a bike. So I searched around some of the LBS's here and found a used, yellow and red Nishiki for fairly cheap. It had aerobars on it already and looked like it would do the job. When the guy at the LBS asked me about my race, I told him I was thinking about doing the "Try-a-Tri". He said he thought it was great that I was giving tri's a try, but that I should think about the sprint instead. I said I would and went on my way with my "new" bike.
The other problem I had was that I hadn't done any swimming for 10+ years. Fortunately, my girlfriend Kim was a very successful competitive swimmer in high school and agreed to teach me the basics. So now I had swim coaching, a source of cycling information, and a track background - I made up my mind to do the sprint instead!
Fast forward through the 7 weeks of training to race day. I arrived at the site at 8am - 90 minutes before my 9:30 start time. I was amazed at how many people there were - over 1000 according to the race director! The first thing I did was take my bike into the transition area to find a spot that I would remember. I chose a place at the end of a rack, near the porto-potties - I figured if I couldn't see where my bike was, I'd be able to smell it! I laid out a towel with my shoes, shirt, and water bottle (for washing off my feet) on it. I placed my helmet and sunglasses in the aero bars, reset my bike computer, and put my bag next to my bike. I grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed to get my championchip timing chip and marked.
I checked in at the chip tent and was given my velcro strap. With the strap around my right ankle, I headed over to the marking table. Kim wrote my number on both my arms and thighs, and my age and division on my right and left calves, respectively. After that was done we headed over to the marina to watch the start of the 1/2 IM and await the start of my race.
It all happened so fast - I was floating around in the water, positioning myself at the back of the pack, and then BANG! We were off!
I got into a rhythm quickly and tried to maintain good form out to the halfway point. Sighting was a bit tricky as I could never manage to avoid a mouthful of water when looking up. I noticed a few sets of feet, but for the most part I wasn't bothered by anyone. By the time I hit the buoy, I was feeling a little tired and decided to breast stroke a bit to catch my breath and get my bearings. The thought of 250 metres still to go was a bit daunting, but I kept going (what other choice did I have?). I mixed freestyle and breast stroke as best I could on the way in. Just as I was reaching shore, the leader from the next age group passed me. I was just happy to get out of the water. I could hear Kim cheering for me, and that got me up on my feet and headed up the hill to T1.
I found my bike pretty easily. I washed off my feet, put on my socks and shoes, and then tried to put my top on. It was a sleeveless dri-fit/lycra top, and when I put it on, it got all rolled up around my chest. Getting it untangled was a bit of a chore, but I managed to get that done, put on my helmet and glasses, and was off for 30km of cycling. Total time for the swim and T1 was 17:06.
The only memories I have from the bike are getting passed (a lot), and Kim cheering for me. Everytime I saw her, my energy level skyrocketed. As for my bike performance, I concluded that someday I'll have to invest in clipless pedals...or maybe a new bike. The course was pretty flat, an out-and-back loop covering 15km. During my ride, the 1/2 IM, sprint age groupers and all try-a-tri'ers were on the course, so it was a bit congested. At the end of my 2nd lap, I geared down and tried to work some of the lactic acid out of my legs in preparation for the run. I hopped off the bike, racked it, took off my helmet, grabbed a swig of water, and I was off on the run. Total time for bike leg and T2 - 1:00:13.
To my surprise, I felt great heading out on the run. My legs didn't feel nearly as brick-ish as they had during training. I was feeling good for about 3/4km, then my calves started to tighten up. I pulled over and stretched them out on a lamp post. That seemed to do the trick, as they were no trouble for the remainder of the race.
I got back up to speed quickly and started passing people - what a different feeling! All in all, I felt great on the run. I stopped at the turnaround to take in some Gatorade, and then I headed home. I got a burst of energy rounding the final bend, and got more when I saw Kim cheering for me at the finish line. The announcer said my name when I crossed - and that was it! I had finished! Total run time - 26:33, for a grand total time of 1:43:52.
A volunteer took my timing chip off my ankle and handed me some Gatorade. Then Kim came over, offering a big hug and congratulations. I talked to family on the phone, letting them know that I'd made it, then packed up and headed home.
All in all, a wonderful day. In fact, Kim enjoyed the atmosphere so much that we're both training to do some tri's next summer! I want to thank everyone involved with beginnertriathlete.com - you were a source of invaluable information and inspiration.
Thanks for reading my little spiel here, and good luck in your future races!