My first taste of a Triathlon

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Alright, for a while I have been playing with the idea of doing a Triathlon. Actually for about a year, maybe too long ago. The thing is that I only know how to do survival swimming and that has always stopped me from considering doing a Triathlon. For the cycling, I know how to do leisure riding and for running, well that is my only “strength”. I love running what can I say.

The training for this was not really that formal. Let me break it down for the three disciplines plus the combine.

Swimming:

I have been going swimming once a week for quite some time at the gym I belonged to. I started doing 250yrds and moving my way up to being able to complete 4000yrds. Now I have to add that it was a combination of freestyle and breaststroke strokes. But mostly Breast since breathing air is too important for me, and breaststroke provided me with good fair time to take in the air. My daughter which is a really good competitive year-round swimmer went with me a couple times to provide a few hints and areas that I should improve. She was really good a providing feedback and I was very grateful that she went to the pool with me to help me out. Thank you Cookie!!!

As for the end of the pool turns, no flip fancy turns and since is in a pool the wall is there for me to push off. One item that I started to practice close to the end, was segments/repeats of 250yrds with minimal rest in between.

Another thing I find out is that on the turn, I needed to go under the line divider into the next lane after the turn. That got me a bit worried, but a couple of the days that I went to practice I was fortunate enough to have the pool mostly empty and to myself. I took two lanes and started to formulate a plan on how I was going to handle the turns and cross under. It took a few attempts, but I was able to find a good strategy to follow to do the turns and being able to go under enough to clear the lane line and cross to the next lane. I did that for both directions just in case.

Cycling:

For cycling, I got with a friend that likes to go ride long distances. I asked for advice and the main thing he mentioned is to start going with a group on a weekly ride. Also to practice getting in and out the bike quickly while using the shoe clips. I went with him to find a few safe routes. I did find a 10-mile loop I could do leaving near my neighborhood.

My friend from work told me the location from where they meet. Every Thursday, they do either a 15 or 20-mile loop. I joined them for a few weeks. I learned a bit about how to stay close to draft a bit. Some of the signaling, basic stuff. Also learned how to quickly change the inner tube, just in case. Also, the different ways to tackle hills and tuck in close the frame of the bike during the downhill to minimize air friction.

Another friend from work taught me a few drills to use my legs on the pull stage of the pedaling. Rather than just the push helping with getting some speed and use different muscles.

Combine:

After a few weeks of just cycling, I decided that after we were done with the route I was going to do a 3 miler to see how the legs were going to react after the bike portion. The ride was a medium effort one at the end I quickly changed into the running shorts, shoes and went off. It took me about a mile for my legs and breathing to feel ok. It was hot and muggy, so I do not know how much was due to the temp and humidity. But at the end of the run, I was feeling ok.

Race:

At race day, I did the usual routine I do for running events, oatmeal, a latte, some water, make sure I went to the bathroom before leaving the house and drove to the event area with plenty of time. I parked about a quarter mile away and rode the bike to the transition area. As I was preparing the transition station I ended up talking to few participants about the event, their previous experiences, and other things. Once ready I just looked around and made my way to the pool area where everyone were lining up in order.

The starting lane will go in order, based on the provided swimming times. So for me, since this was my 1st attempt to swimming event I jotted down 9:38, which put me way-way back at the end of the line. I have to wait for a while to even get in the pool. While waiting a friend of mine showed up to wish me good luck. I was really nice to see him and talk to him for a while. We watch at the different swimmers completing the 250M. There were a lot of different types, age, form, and shape of participants. At a point, I realized that I was going to be able to finish faster than some of them.

I made my way to the waiting lane and closer to the start of the event. One quick look at the event coordinator, which provided a quick nod to let me know that I was good to go, and off I went. I did a mix of freestyle and breaststroke, passing swimmers right from the beginning. My wife who is also a very competitive swimmer warned me about swimmers kicking and hitting other swimmers as they are trying to race. She was concern that since this was my first swimming event dealing with competitive swimmers not to be surprised by it and want it for me to be prepared.

In my case, I did not really want to do that to others. But soon I realized that I was doing the kicking and bumping as I was trying to pass participants. Even with the mixture of styles, the swimming part went into auto mode. I quickly completed the swimming portion, got out of the pool and quickly jog my way to the transition area.

Legs were good, no problem at all, it did take me a while to get ready, helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, connecting pump, checking sugars (They were fine), drink some water mix. A total of 3 minutes to complete the 1st transition. The ride was really exciting and fun. There was a rule about keeping a distance of 3 bike length at all time with the exception when you were going to pass, from which you have about 15 seconds to commit and pass. Another friend of mine which have complete several cycling events and Triathlons provided some advice, I asked how to gauge the 3 bike length. His only advice was “you don’t, you just keep passing people and then you do not have to worry about it”. And that was what I did.

I pressed on for most of the route, 6 miles in and 6 miles back. Lots of up and down. Pedaling most of the way, picking and passing others competitors one by one. All the way to the end of the bike portion I was pressing and passing. Once I got to the transition area got off the bike, jog to the stage area, removed helmet, changed shoes, drink some more and of I went to start the 5k.

Now here is what it was very interesting, my legs were not responding as well as I want it. Every time I want it to speed up, my legs would not respond and felt that I was going really slow. The route was hilly and it took about 2 miles for me to be able to feel well enough to a comfortable run.

I completed the Triathalon in a decent time of 1:16:35. Kind of little bit above average in my age group. Definitely, several areas for me to work on to be able to improve. Transitions were just ok, T1 took too long, T2 was better but still long. The cycling portion was decent. The swimming, I need to improve my time and for the run, I absolutely need to practice more the bike to run feel and get into a comfortable rhythm.

It was an awesome experience and definitely will do, not just one, but many more of these. I hope.