My First Triathlon - Gabriel Mac

author : Team BT
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This is my story and I closed it with something that came from my heart. I hope it encourages anybody to help to make the decision of participating in a triathlon.

Dear unknown reader:

This is my story and I closed it with something that came from my heart. I hope it encourages anybody to help to make the decision of participating in a Triathlon , to follow your heart and the awesome techniques & tips this website has to give.

Well...out of 600 competitors I ranked 303 rd place with 1hs 31min 21sec ( winner only 55 min)

A very good start for me considering the following facts: a rookie, confused at times where to go & what to do after swimming in freezing cold water from the sound and last but not least riding in a mountain bike. Though it worked like a champ....not a good idea for a tri... Ill let you know why.

Before we get there here is my personal/physical data: I am 35, 6,2, 175 lbs, athletic and toned, very fit through swimming & weight workout (no Schwarzeneeger type by any means) and trained for this 1st tri for a month only.

 1/2  mile Swimming:

8AM on Fathers day. I am with my green latex cap -my age group colour-and my wetsuit. Very cold water and non existent sun. Instead of a beach (one normally thinks sand) this was disgusting & dangerous mix of algae, deep mud, open conchs and sharp edged rocks the size of baseballs. Water totally black. All competitors trying to make it to the water and looking like walking on broken glass, people slipping & falling They scream "green caps...5 minutes to launch" At this point I am thinking "What in the world am I doing here? Why did I sign up in the 1st place? I should be sipping coffee with a croissant in a cozy cafe" Too late for that now .

So....horn I go....the 1st one to make it to the red buoy. Turn right and almost 200 yds in I could not breathe due to water temp and heart rate probably 170. Stopped to hover, looked back and what I saw was like "Gral. Custer & 7th Cavalry coming at full speed towards me" Almost 80 swimmers. I try to move to the side...does not work. Got run over. People touching & kicking my head, legs, arms, hands and "derriere". I just let them pass but start to catch up before I got run over "again" by "Custer's friends" ...another 100 swimmers with the orange caps. I start to hurry up. Water still too cold, hands & feet turning numb, hard to breath and impossible to do bilateral in those conditions. Therefore I am trying to keep my mind on the strokes...just count 100 strokes and look....another 100...look again. Focusing that way I made it finally to the shore.  Shivering cold, out of air & tired already I reached for the zipper chord of my wetsuit....gone.

So I turn for help to the 1st human being I see ( a 30'ish lady spectator)  to help me. Wrong lady. She was not very smart. Why? Since I could not talk properly because my "jaw froze" I just smile at her, point to my wetsuit zipper  and mumbled "help". She looked at me like I just got out  of a  spaceship from Mars.

Turned around again and yelled "help me please" as competitors kept passing me.

If you were her...what would you think I want? A pat on my back? A neck massage? to get my hair trimmed?  Some samaritan & smart soul nearby realized what needed to be done...helped me...and I went to T1. So I think again "great Gabriel...this is just the beginning. Still 12 miles bike + 3 to run...why did you sign up? Why why why why????!!!!!!!" Grin & bear...I kept going.

Times: I took me 15 minutes (versus on the pool only 10'25'')

Lessons learned: As a strong & decent swimmer..I can handle wind & currents/drifts and other swimmers "smacking" you everywhere but not the very cold temperatures. Dirty & cold water is not what you find in a normal pool. Try to get to swim at least once where are you going to compete...otherwise you are about to get a rude awakening..just like mine. Oh....and if asking for help...check the face 1st...if he/she looks at you like you are "glowing and have 2 green antennas" ...ask somebody else.

 12 miles Bike:

At T1....I was so tired & confused that all the bikes looked the same to me. After 1 min of looking finally found it. Before we launched I saw a great number of people carrying trays with water and putting them next to their bikes....I though " we might have plenty of cooked turkeys to celebrate? Is this for food? They are just being flashy" Wrong.

 While having a hard time trying to get the sand off my wet feet at T1, noticed other competitors put their feet on the water trays...and voila! Sand is gone, shoes on and kept going. I though " Ah. ha! that’s how it works." Since I had no water tray, grabbed my Gatorade and used 1/2 of it to splash my feet. Sand was gone quickly but my feet were getting sticky and had a pleasant "lemon-lime" smell for a week. Riding my mountain bike I felt I was flying a little Cessna and everybody else was flying Navy F-18's. I lost count of how many people "zoomed" by me. I pressed on and pedaled like crazy against all odds despite the hills & wind & my "tractor" tires.

Psychological factor: warning since this ( believe it or not) works against you. People with $ 3000 bikes and very fit passed me all the time....BUT ...even though I knew biking like this was going to be hard on me ...saw ladies & gentlemen with big "bellys & derrieres" probably 2 times my weight (I am 175) passing me like I was standing still. My inner voice started "see that? you are too slow...even THEY are passing you! You are a worthless biker". Wrong.

These people belong to "relay teams" and they do not swim nor run and they trained only for this part.  Its sometimes very frustrating to see this happening to you, especially when you know you are strong & trained...careful with the inner voice.

Times: I took me 50 minutes (versus on the gym only 33) thanks to my 2 friends :the wind + my "tractor" bike.

Lessons learned: Just go full throttle and ride your bike. Watch out for the inner voice and do not let her undermine your tremendous effort. Instead of a water tray, have a bottle of bottle ready next to your bike to wash your feet quickly (takes less space and it’s easier than the water tray). Train with your bike outside (the gym bike can simulate hills but NOT the wind). Wind is a BIG BIG factor. While in training doing the 30 sec pedaling left leg only, then 30 sec with the right + 1 min with both at full speed IS A MUST DO. It helped me tremendously to pedal uphill and  to have that burst of energy the last 60 yds to make it to the top. Then you recuperate and can even stretch standing on the bike while downhill. Worked very good. Oh...I you can borrow a road bike....please do it. I could have easily stayed within training times.

 3.1 mile run:

At T2..left the bike and started running. No big deal except what this site tells you to do is true regarding "BRICK ONCE A WEEK" meaning train for the transition from bike to run as fast as possible. Your legs feel like bricks but if you train for the just feels " more time we do this" and even though your legs might be a little stiff on the beginning...the brick technique works beautifully.

Times: I took me 26 minutes (versus at the gym 29)

Lessons learned: do the brick works. Also stand on your bike to stretch your legs while approaching T2 and start the run with short quick strides...3 min into it you will catch your own normal speed.

 It was a lot of fun and a very rewarding experience. I met a gentleman in his late 60's and it was his 139 th triathlon ( read correctly) . I have a lot of respect for that. Plenty of solo & relay teams, families, kids....very nice relaxed atmosphere.

 I am originally from Argentina and a friend who is like a brother to me send me this words in Spanish & I felt they are very appropriate to close this story and encouraging to any seasoned or rookie athlete like myself so I translated it for everybody to read.

There are people who always wear the same clothes,

Those who carry lucky charms

Those who make promises all the time

Those who believe in superstition.

And there are those who keep running despite their pain

Those who keep going despite their lack of air

Those who keep fighting when everything seems to be lost

Like if every time would be the last time, totally convinced that life itself is a challenge.

They suffer, but they do not complain because they know in their hearts that pain will go away, sweat will dry, and exhaustion & fatigue will end. But there is something that will never go away…the sense of accomplishment…satisfaction that comes from “making it”

Their bodies carry the same amount of muscles, blood & veins.

What makes them different is their “spirit” that never ever EVER quits and the

determination to reach the goal.

They also know in their hearts that the goal is reached not striving to be better than the rest but to be better than one itself overcoming your own fears and limits.

I dedicate my “inner victory” with all my love to my daughter Liria  Anna Capdevila and I will do it again… anyday, anytime, anywhere.

- Gabriel

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date: September 5, 2004

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