“No one kicks me in the face during marathons…” – Charleston Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I know, I suck. I don’t want to hear it. Work has been crazy lately, and as it turns out, training for triathlons takes a considerable amount of time. And did I mention AJ moved in? One day I’ll have time do things like eat and breathe. I’m currently too busy with fantasy football drafts for silly things like that.

Last weekend, I attempted my first ever triathlon – the Charleston County Sprint Triathlon Series Championship. Obviously doing a championship race as my first triathlon seemed like a great idea. What could possibly inspire me more than excellence? …

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Some people are focusing on winning. I’m focusing on not drowning, crashing, or collapsing.

The first thing I noticed about triathlons that I immediately did not like is how much preparation is required for them. It’s not like a marathon where you basically are wearing everything you will need throughout the race, either as clothing or on your fuel belt. No, triathlons require transitions, which require a whole lot of equipment. You start out doing the swim, then have to put on your shoes, helmet, shirt, etc, and hop on your bike. After biking, you might change shoes, take off your helmet, etc, and then take off on the run. All of these items have to be set up before the race in the transition area.

Guess what starts early? The race. That means you have to get there really really early to set up all your crap. As such, Amanda and I woke up at 4:30 in the morning so we would have time to get ready and get to the race with plenty of time to set everything up. This was obviously my nightmare. The race didn’t even start til 7! Insane. I’m used to getting up as late as humanly possible and arriving at the starting line with as little time before the race as possible. Ughhhh.

The first fail of the day occurred when I went to go pick up my packet. I had mailed my driver’s license to Social Security the week before with an application to change my name in the post-divorce era. Guess whose license was still at Social Security? Yup. I don’t usually need it to pick up my packet for marathons, so I didn’t think twice about it. Apparently triathlon people  take the whole packet pick up thing a lot more seriously. Fortunately, we found a guy that Amanda and her uncle knew who was well known in the tri community and was willing to vouch for me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to race! Hmm, maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad.

The swim starts in waves that are determined by age group, and each group has a different color swim cap. We were in the fourth wave, and I was absolutely terrified and really not looking forward to swimming in a lake. Pool, fine. Lake, no. Also, I managed to injure myself BEFORE THE RACE EVEN STARTED when I slipped and fell into the lake trying to wash off my goggles. I can’t make this shit up.

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I’m freaking out. The twelve year old to the left of me is totally cool.

Um, let’s please discuss how swimming in a lake with a bunch of people is totally different from swimming in a pool by yourself. Within the first 20 yards I kicked or was kicked by no less than five people. There were mass collisions. Turns out goggles do you absolutely no good when all you can see is muddy water. I was so nervous before the race started that my heart rate was way up, so trying to swim and not being able to see or breathe was not a good combination. Amanda and I quickly abandoned our plan to swim freestyle and spent the rest of the swim with our heads above water doing breaststroke and side stroke. This prevented us from colliding with people and veering off course unnecessarily.

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Totally killing it somewhere in there

Our goal was to finish the swim in under 15 minutes, and we crossed the mat into the transition area in about 14 minutes! Success. I was unprepared for how quickly we were moving through the transition area. As you might have noticed, I like to take my time during marathons, generally speaking. In this race, we were not taking our time at all. We toweled off and put on our bike stuff as soon as possible and rushed out of the transition. So much for a break! The bike portion was 12 miles long, and our goal was to finish in under 50 minutes, preferably 45 minutes.

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It wouldn’t be a race report if I wasn’t making a cheesy face in every picture.

Amanda and I amazed ourselves by passing quite a few people on the bike portion who were in our age group. They might be fast swimmers, but apparently we are somewhat fast bikers by comparison. Biking is generally the hardest part of training for me, which surprised me because I thought swimming would be the hardest. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the fancy clip-in shoes yet, but I’m just not that good at biking. I therefore found it quite satisfying to pass people on this part. We did get yelled at by a mean woman who told us we weren’t allowed to ride next to each other, even thought we were far over in the lane and everyone else had room to pass. Too bad we blew past her a mile later because she’s slow and mean. Sorry we’re not sorry.

We made it back to the transition area ahead of schedule and quickly changed our shoes and then took off. We started the run portion exactly 1 hour after the start of the race, so we had beaten our bike goal by a solid 6 minutes or so – great success! Amanda and I had both been extremely worried about the run, because to say our runs have sucked lately would be an epic understatement. Yeah, it was only a 5k, but lately running even 3 miles has been a struggle some days. What has become of us? I shame myself.

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Amanda and I do some high quality heel striking.

We set off at what seemed like a comfortable but quick pace. There were 3 water stops during the 5k, which seems excessive, but really isn’t when you consider the fact that we had already been at it for over an hour at this point. We stopped and walked through all the water stops, and I asked Amanda how we were doing. It felt like we were doing awful because even though we didn’t feel all that bad, we were being passed by extremely obnoxious men under the age of 29. In case you were wondering, they were the last age group to start the swim, and they were passing us because they are rude fast. It was a bit demoralizing since usually once you find your pace in a marathon, you don’t get passed very much, but I really didn’t care. As we came to the end of the 5k, Amanda mused that we might be able to finish in under 1:30, which was way faster than we expected.  As we turned towards the finish, Amanda said we had 20 seconds to make it under 1:30, which suddenly became the most important goal we never set, so we set off in a dead sprint.

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Possibly the fastest I’ve ever run. T-Rex doesn’t really sprint. Check out my tiny useless arms!

Amanda and I crossed the finish line in…wait for it…1:29:55!! And then we came dangerously close to throwing up, of course. We collapsed happily and repeatedly high-fived each other for finishing the triathlon way faster than we ever though we could have. Our BEST CASE time goal, if everything went right and we went as fast as possible, was 1:45. Our realistic goal was 2 hours. We crushed both of those goals and finished the run at 9:30 pace, even with walk breaks for the water stops! To say we were thrilled was an understatement.

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It’s hard to see, but Amanda’s cousin gave us tiaras to wear. Obviously I had to rep Missoula during the race as well.

All in all, it was a pretty great experience, although entirely exhausting. Even though a sprint triathlon is the shortest form of a triathlon, I would say the effort level is probably equivalent to about a 10 mile run, so nothing to sneeze at. It took a lot our of us because we actually raced this and tried to go as fast as we could – definitely different than the norm for me! It was kind of cool to actually race, though. I can’t say the experience gave me a whole lot of confidence that  I will be able to finish an Ironman one day, but at least it’s a start, right?

At the very least, I didn’t drown, crash, or collapse. In fact, I kind of killed it. Maybe this triathlon thing isn’t so bad after all.

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