So, I heard about this mini triathlon at the base and I thought to myself, "That doesn't seem too bad, I can do that" The distances weren't very intimidating. It was only 200 yards swimming, and only 9 miles on the bike followed by just 2 miles running. I haven't swam very much, but I have ridden up to 30 miles and I have ran more than 6 so surely I can do these short distances, right?
I will say this before I go any farther, there is a difference between being able to do any one component of a triathlon well, and being able to complete all 3.
It was a beautiful day for my first triathlon it was a little brisk but sunny, weather was not an issue. We showed up about an hour early to get our place in the bike rack and sit our stuff up to transition between events. Once I had my towel and my change of socks and shoes laid out by my bike I went to get signed in. Unlike a road race there are no numbered bibs, instead a young lady took a magic marker and wrote the number 118 very large on my right arm and on my left leg.
The next few minutes were spent socializing and getting ready for the event. I was surprised to see so many people I know, there were 7 or 8 people competing from my church plus some folks from other races.
As time began to approach I begin to notice some fluttering in my stomach as I was getting nervous of the pool. I stood and looked at it and tried not too be intimidated. It was a standard 50 yard pool and I was only going to have to make 4 total laps. the longer I waited the more nervous I became.
It was finally time to get started and the way things were going to work is one person in each lane would start swimming then 30 seconds later another person would start. I was the 18th person to start in my lane. This was probably a good thing for me as I got to watch several other people struggle in the pool before I had my turn, I now knew I wasn't in the pool with a bunch of Michael Phelpses.
Finally My turn to swim and I was starting at the exact same time as my friend Gerry who was in the next lane over. AS we got started I noticed I was keeping a good pace Gerry and I were side by side for the first 25 yards or so. It wasn't long after that that he began to pull away and I began to struggle. Actually, the first 50 yards weren't too bad, but then there were the next 150. About 15 to 20 yards into my return lap I begin to feel myself really struggle and actually took a glance to make sure there were actually life guards on duty. a few more yards and I felt like my form had gone completely away and I was just flailing away. A sideways glance revealed to me that I was in an area that I could stand in and I took the opportunity to stand and walk for a few yards while trying to catch my breath and recover my form. I was swimming at the turn around when one of the competitors tried to encourage me by shouting, come on man, you are half way there" Unfortunately what I heard was "dang man, you are only half way there, you aren't going to make it
I would up walking a bit more before I reached the deep part and then I swam to the turn around and was making my way back quite nicely. I was struggling, but I was making progress. The thoughts of drowning had left my head and had been replaced by thoughts of how close I was to finishing the toughest part. I did succumb once more and take a few steps walking when I was about 20 yards away from finishing. An encouraging word from the competitor behind me and I was back in the water stretching for the last wall.
Finally Out of the pool, but feeling a bit queasy(not sure how much pool water I actually swallowed), I made my way to my bike. The transition was relatively uneventful, I dried off, slipped my socks, shoes, helmet, and shirt on and began to walk my bike to the riding area, this is where I made a mistake. They had given us a small packet that had some sort of energy bar in it and I thought I would take this transition time to consume this little bar to help me make it through the rest of the event. What i didn't plan for was that about the time I tried to swallow the 2nd bite of this thing, I would start to cough up water from the pool. This led to me losing the contents of my stomach right as I was about to take off for my ride.
The 9 mile ride was actually a great opportunity to recover from the pool, I passed a few people and was passed by a few people, but overall felt the ride went well. The only snag was around the 2.5 or 3 mile mark when my left calf muscle began to cramp. I slipped my leg from the toe clips a few times and tried to stretch the cramps out, I know this hurt my speed. Around the 5 miles mark, I was wishing I could get off the bike and quit, but that wasn't going to happen. By mile 6 the cramps had eased up enough and I felt like I was making up some time. I felt the best during the last 3 miles of the ride and I was looking forward to getting back and starting the run.
I have done a couple of brick workouts to try to simulate the transition from biking to running, but for some reason I still was not ready. I got too the start of the run and I knew I only had 2 miles to go and I was really trying to motivate myself to finish strong. All the motivation in the world is little match for cramps in both legs . Not to mention how heavy your legs feel after the ride. Like many of the other competitors I was running for a few steps then walking a few, this is how I spent the first half mile. I maintained a good job for about a 1/4 of a mile before having to fight the cramps again. I finally got to the the turnaround and something inside of my seemed to scream. I only had one mile left and I could claim to be a triathlete. I was not going to walk the last mile.
"Chariots of Fire" was not playing in the background, and there was no chance I was going to be mistaken for Roger Bannister, but for the next 8 minutes or so I ran. I finished the race running!
I was shocked at how difficult the pool turned out to be and at how much it took out of me for the later events, but I am thrilled to say that "I DID IT!"
I finished 14th in my age group... only 2 in my age group finished behind me... But I Finished... and I loved it!
14. Eric Collum 1:05:43
Thanks to Nova Cross for the pictures as well as for the cheering and encouragement!
I am trying to decided now If I think I can compete in the Paddle Pant Pedal Oct 22 like I had planned, I don't Know that I can paddle as far as I need to and the bike and run portions are much longer than this one... Maybe I can get a relay team together... anyone interested?