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How race day really went

September 20, 2009

It was quite an ordeal getting my late night shift on Friday night covered at work but it all worked out in the end. I drove to Rome GA Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet and hopefully get a peak at the course while on my way to a hotel. After getting my packet and seeing the transition area and swim I began to get really excited. By the time I layed down for bed I couldn’t sleep I was so excited. It probably didn’t hurt that I’m used to putting my head down at 4am and was now trying to count sheep at 10pm. I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours and got a few quality winks in.

I awoke at 5am and started getting ready. This was it, my first triathlon would be starting in a few hours. As I went through my mental checklist and secured all the items necessary to achieve my soon approaching goal, my anxiety and trepidation faded and I got into for lack of a better term “the zone”. By the time we reached the start and began laying out materials for the transitions and watching the other racers do the same I was ready for it to start, but not in an anxious way, instead in a calm calculated way that put me at ease, I guess I felt prepared. From here on out I felt great, not at all scared or insecure, it probably helped to see all the other racers, some old, some young, some a little more out of shape than others. This variety is what made me feel more prepared. I mean I’ve trained for the last few months and am always pretty active, if they can do it so can I!

My swim wave would be the 4th, this put me two waves and 6 minutes behind my friends who were also participating. The first wave started and off they went including my favorite triathlete of all. He was tan, long haired and bearded, wearing cargo shorts and his swim cap pulled over the top of his head with his hair hanging out the bottom with no attempt to tuck it in. In a sport that’s full of slightly necessary and often unnecessary gear, this guy just said “screw it” and wore whatever he had on hand and showed up, later I’d pass him on his children’s bike. Starting in the first swim group with all the hot shots was the greatest part about this guy it’s like he just said “what’s the fastest swim time?” (the waves were determined by your estimated swim time) “yeah that’s how fast I’ll go.” I watched that group blast around the bouys in no time but then begin to slow a little, this made me more confident. The next group went and I felt like a few more people on my level were in that group, then the third which I think I could have been in. This was it I’m in the water now and about to embark on my journey. I pushed my way to the back of the pack still a little unsure of my swimming abilities. I didn’t want to be holding anyone back or getting trampled by the rest of the group and disrupting my already poor rhythm. I began with my crawl stroke and kept that up to the first bouy, I was not only holding my own I was passing a few people. I didn’t want to go crazy so I let off and breast stroked for a while, which I knew I could keep up for a long time. At this point others were getting a little tired too and slowing down putting me solidly in the first half of my swim group. I alternated between breaststroke and crawl the rest of the way and finished in what seemed like no time. There was about a quarter mile run from the water to the transition area where I made up a little time passing a lot of the faster swimmers who’d worn themselves out and were walking to the transition.

I didn’t really anticipate how long it would take me to put all my cycling gear on, but I think I did it as quickly as I could have. Putting socks on over wet grass covered feet isn’t an easy task. I just kept thinking of the penalty I’d get if I didn’t have my helmet on and buckled before grabbing my bike so as soon as I got my shirt on I put my helmet on and secured the strap around my chin. Now I was off with the fading cheers of my girlfriend in my head as I left the transition area.

I’d driven the bike course the night before and knew that there were a few small hills but nothing substantial and that the first mile was a steady uphill. I’d planned to take it easy and just make sure I had some energy left for the upcoming run. Machismo got the better of me and I pushed pretty hard through the bike passing 10 or more people and keeping a steady pace, averaging 18 mph, my hope was to stay above 15mph. I wanted to conserve energy but every time I saw someone ahead I felt like I had to pass them. The hard part was that this race had relay teams, so you didn’t just have to worry that someone you were pushing hard to get by was a already a swim group ahead and therefore already trailing you by 3 minutes but also that someone may just be doing the bike portion and giving it their all since they’d be done after. I thought of none of this while riding just that I wanted to pass anyone in front of me and that I needed to stay with the one person who passed me a woman in all pink struggling to stay ahead of me on her time trial style tri bike with all the bells and whistles. This is always when I feel like I have something to prove. I really want to be the guy on a steel touring bike flying past geared out triathletes with the hottest new carbon fiber bikes. I do believe that this stuff helps the best athletes but not your normal run of the mill weekender with money to blow. But I had this woman in my sights but just told myself she must be a few minutes behind me anyway to keep from expelling more energy than I should have just to prove a point. The bike leg was also done much quicker than I expected with no opportunity to show off my sprinting skills I eased into the transition in an easy gear stretching my legs out a little for the run.

The bike to run transition was much faster than the swim to bike had been, especially with my yankz laces. All I had to do was rack my bike, take off my shoes and slip on my running shoes, pull my helmet gloves and sunglasses off while clipping on my race belt. I took a quick gulp of water from my bike water bottle and ran off.

The run too started uphill and I immediately passed an older man sweating and grunting along. I looked over and said hello, this seemed to infuriate him so I sped off. I’d been saying hello to everyone I came across while biking and some seemed to be annoyed by it. I was just trying to enjoy myself and make this a fun experience but I think for some people this is serious business and fun is the last thing they’re thinking about here. After the uphill the run went flat for about a ¼ miles or less and I heard the inspirational music coming from the finish line below. Chariots of fire played as I ran by and I couldn’t keep from laughing out loud at how funny this was and my mind wandered off imagining myself starring in a drawn out montage scene with my struggles throughout life passing by as I strove toward greatness. Later I’d also hear such runner’s favorites as “we are the champions” by Queen and Tom Petty’s “ running down a dream”. After this brief and triumphant moment the course headed down a steep rocky path into the woods. I think for serious runners this was tough because it messed up your rhythm and made it hard to keep a consistent pace but for me, other than the possibility of a broken ankle, it was enjoyable because it made things a little more interesting and kept my mind off the fact that I was running. The trail climbed up another hill where I saw a lot of people walking. This gave me a boost of confidence again because I wasn’t yet feeling tired and climbed the hill without breaking stride. At the point where the course wound back onto pavement I could see the bridge to the finish line and thought it was almost over, I couldn’t believe it, the run went by so fast. This is when I saw the lady in pink again, the one who passed me in the bike leg. I knew I had to pass her now or I wouldn’t get a chance on the bridge that was too narrow to pass. As I passed her is when I realized that the course took a left back into the woods and winded around a smaller lake before coming back out onto the road and across the bridge to the finish. I actually had about a mile left. Luckily I still felt fine and passed a few more racers around the lake before a tough climb on the far side of the lake. As I came out of the trees and onto the pavement again I saw the finish line and the long bridge before it with one big guy ahead of me about to hop on the bridge as well. It was too far to catch him before the bridge and I knew there was no chance of safely passing anyone on the bridge so I just stayed where I was and excitedly sped up once he’d crossed the finish line and ran off the last bit of energy in my tired legs.

I felt great and a lot less tired than I’d expected. My final time overall was 1:22:31 according to my rough calculations. I’m pretty happy with my time and had a great experience.

My official times

time   swim   T1       bike     MPH       T2       run
1:22:31 11:44 2:03 38:39 18.6 0.56 29:10

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