I can officially scratch through the word wannabe.  I am now a triathlete.  This past Saturday I participated in the Gary Kirby Sprint Triathlon in Raleigh, NC.  Actually, to be more precise… it was in actually in my neighborhood of Bedford.  How much more convenient could it be?  I put this date on the calendar back during the first week of February.  It was then that I decided to get moving again, to inspire myself to do better – To inspire my kids – To impress my wife – To be a more fit father – but most of all… to be proud of myself by taking control of my life and pushing towards a goal that before seemed out of reach – not because I didn’t think I could do it… but more because I was too lazy to even try.

When contemplating what to do for my “I am no longer lazy” target, I decided to go for a triathlon.  At that time, I didn’t really know anything about them… other than the crazy long Ironman race in Hawaii.  But with a few clicks I could solve that lack of knowledge… I quickly jumped to the Internet for some education.  I came across a great website (www.beginnertriathlete.com) that educated me on all the ins and outs of triathlon.  It was then that I learned that there were such things as a sprint distance triathlon, Olympic distances and even half Ironman distance races… all which cut the insane Ironman distance down to a more reasonable level.  I then decided that my “I am no longer lazy” target was to complete a half Ironman distance triathlon, which is a 1.2 mile open water swim, a 56 mile bike ride followed by a 13.1 mile run sometime before the end of 2013.  The half Ironman distances were all out of reach for my current state of fitness, but I have completed a 13.1 mile (half marathon) run just two years prior, so I felt that I could do that again with some training.  The other disciplines… well, they seemed near impossible back in February.

So, with a target of completing a 70.3 mile race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) in 2013 as my official “I am no longer lazy” target, I built out a plan.  I found out that my neighborhood hosts a sprint race in early June – that would be the perfect first step towards attempting a 70.3 distance race.  That would be a great secondary goal… Complete my first Sprint triathlon before I turn 40 in late August!   Then I found an Olympic distance race in September 2012 to do – check.  Next is identifying additional sprint and Olympic distance races for the spring on 2013 followed by finding the perfect 70.3 for me to do in the later part of 2013.

But let’s get back to the race this weekend.  I have been training for right at four months for this first race.  While it is a short race (300 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 5k run), it still wouldn’t be easy.  So, with much dedication and a lot of support from the family, I trained – and I trained.  I was up at 5:15 many mornings, I was away from the family for my long rides and runs on the weekends, I was probably cranky some days and euphoric on others.  I am certain that my only conversation around the dinner table that I brought up was about my training, my race, my research or something else triathlon related.  So, I greatly appreciate my family bearing with me through these first four months of this journey.  Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

So – let me walk you through the race.

After eating a bagel, I arrived at the race site at 6:45 am, for an 8am start.  It was great to be able to ride my bike for just a couple minutes to reach the race site.  I found my ‘rack’ to place my bike, set up my transition area and went to get my timing chip.   I have read about these things many times on beginnertriathlete.com, now I was doing them.  I strapped on my timing chip, went to get my body marking done and found some friends to hang out with while we waited for the start.  I was number 59 – that means that I had the 59th fastest ‘dial-in’ time for the swim.  (A quick note: this swim was a pool swim, so that meant that each person had to submit a 100 yard time for their swim, which would be used to rank the racers from fastest to slowest.  Your ranking in the swim became your race number and the order that you started the race).

After a short race briefing and acknowledgements, the race began.  One swimmer would start every 15 seconds.  I took advantage of the few minutes before my start time to get in about 50 yards worth of warm-up swimming to shake out any nerves and remind myself to go slow and remain at my pace.

Swim

me — “swimming”

It was then… 8:14.30.  That meant that I had 15 seconds before it was my turn… and suddenly, I was off.  I was most nervous about my swimming skills.  I had felt great up until I started swimming in the 25 meter length pool (as compared to the 25 yard pool I had been training in until 2 weeks ago).  I reminded myself to just keep a nice steady pace, which I did well… until… OUCH!  Yes… I am the one that gets injured during a swim event.  During one of my strokes, my right hand struck the lane divider, which stubbed my fingers pretty hard.  That moment changed my swim.  I suddenly couldn’t breathe, I was all out of whack with my form, and I was a wreck of a swimmer who just wanted out of the water.  I struggled through the last 100 meters and climbed out of the pool, exhausted.

Swim Time: 300 meter swim in 6:30 (2:10/100 meters pace)

Transition 1

My transition from swim to bike went okay.  Not great, but okay.  I was a bit wobbly running between the pool and the bikes, but I found my bike easily.  I, as quickly as possible, through on some socks, slid on my cycling shoes, put on my glasses and helmet and then hustled to the ‘bike out’ end of the transition area.  After mounting my bike at the correct spot, I took off.  It was great to see my good friend and his two boys there at the transition area cheering for me.  That was a nice surprise.

T1 time: 1:37

Bike

Me – biking… I am doing around 33mph in this picture.  I also appear to need to raise my seat!

I was most confident leading into the race with my bike.  I felt that my training in this discipline has shown the greatest improvements and I find that I am enjoying my time in the saddle more than I expected. I had high hopes for my bike leg.  I was hoping to be able to average above 17mph, closer to 18 throughout the full 12 miles.  Just a couple of months ago, I was doing this same loop at only 14.5 miles per hour, and now I was hoping for something close to 17.5mph.  With that 17.5mph goal in my head, I pushed it hard on the bike.  I was having fun.  I passed a few, was passed by a few, but I was having fun.  My favorite part on the bike was when I passed a guy with the classic M-Dot Ironman tattoo on his calf… based on that tattoo I know he completed the full distance Ironman… and here I was passing him on an uphill section on a short sprint triathlon.  I felt good about that.  One of the great things on the bike was seeing my family cheering me on during each lap.  They were great.  They were out there taking pictures, shaking maracas and cheering loudly.  I loved seeing them and it gave me that extra boost each time by.  After doing my four laps on the bike, I made my way back to the transition area to get ready for the run.  I did forget to drink some water during this last section on the bike, and I think that hurt me during the first part of the run.

Bike time: 12 miles in 38:53 (18.5 mph!)

Transition 2

I stumbled a bit getting off the bike, but I don’t think that slowed me down much.  I quickly found my rack again and pulled off the cycling shoes, threw on my running shoes, removed the helmet and glasses, grabbed my cap and race belt and headed out for my 5k run.

T2 time: 0:58

Run

Me – running. I am very happy to see the finish line just 20 feet ahead!

I left the transition area like a bat out of hell.  I have no idea what I was doing, but I was running at a pace 2 minutes per mile faster than I run… I quickly ran out of gas and saw my heartbeat hit the 164bpm range…. I quickly pulled my pace back down to the correct level and focused on breathing and getting my heartbeat under control.  By the time I came to the end of the first road, I was feeling better – plus, it was there that I saw my family again.  They were even louder than before… it was a great boost.  After seeing the family, I knew I was in for about 25 more minutes of effort before I could call myself a triathlete.  I settled in and plodded along at my 10:30min/mile pace.  I experienced a side stich about 0.5 miles into the run, which concerned me, but I focused on deep diaphragm breathing for a short period and was able to keep it at bay.  I was very thirsty by the time I reached the first aid station, so I drank two quick cups of water.  They were very much needed.  Making my way through mile two was uneventful – but after that mile 2 aid station, it was basically uphill all the way to the finish line.  I kept repeating to myself, just 10 more minutes and I am done… push it.  Making my way to the final stretch was great… I heard the music, the crowd cheering and the announcer – it gave me that little bit of a boost to push as hard as I could the remaining few feet.

Run Time: 5k in 31:50 (10:15 min/mile)

Finish

I was greeted at the finish line by my wonderful wife and my four kids.  They were all very proud of what I had done.  I was now a triathlete.  I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and soaked in the atmosphere.  I was proud.  I was tired.

I may have had a slower than anticipated swim due to hurting my hand, but both my bike and my run were better than I expected.  My speed on my bike came in at 18.5mph!  I couldn’t believe it!  Then my run came in at a 10:15min/mile pace.   I had set a personal goal of finishing in 1 hour 25 minutes – with anything below 1 hour 30 minutes being okay.  Well… I crushed that goal.   My official overall time was 1:19:46.  That overall time put me pretty close to the middle of the pack.  I finished in 83rd place out of 154 entrants.

I am very excited that I have completed this first step in my “I am no longer lazy” plan.  I have my next triathlon on my calendar – and a lot of training miles to put in between now and then.  I am going to adjust my training to be a bit more run focused, while still putting in the required time on the swim and bike.  I think I have the greatest opportunity to improve my results by improving my speed on the run.  I was very pleased with my 10:15 pace for this race… but if I could drop that to a 9:15 pace for the Olympic in the fall, it would save me more than 6 minutes right there.  So, I have a new mini-goal.

BTW, my wonderful wife threw a party for me after the race.  She had this wonderful cake made by this amazing baker – check it out.  How cool is that?

Thanks for reading.

– Adam

Saturday’s workout:

Plan: Race Day – beat a time of 1:25:00!

Actual: Race Day – finished with a 1:19:46!

I am a triathlete!  — — — Training for the Olympic distance picks up again on Wednesday.

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