It’s been far too long since an update here, and now all of a sudden it’s like, wait, what, triathlon? That’s right, dear reader, triathlon. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? In the summer of ’97 I participated in my first triathlon at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT. At the time, the format was a 1/4 mile pond swim, roughly 8 mile bike ride, then 5K trail run. The weekly summer race series is still going strong, though they’ve switched up the bike to a 5 mile trail ride. All the same, pretty neat that the tradition lives on these many, many years later. At the time of these races not only did I not have a wetsuit (though most racers weren’t using them in the fairly warm water), not have a road bike, instead using my Mongoose mountain bike, but I was running in long mesh shorts and a cotton tank. That’s right. Frickin’ COTTON. I shudder at the thought. It would be a long time before I embraced the split short as anything but a cross country race piece of apparel. But, embrace it I have since then. About the only “legit” gear I had was were my trusty Nike Zoom Country racing flats. Through the magic of technology, I have been able to take what were once actual physical photographs from those races that could be held in one’s hands and converted them into “digital files,” that I might share them with you.
Sigh, look at that fine head of hair. Also, please note the old school TYR swim briefs in the middle picture. Cool briefs, bro. I’m sorry if that came off as sarcastic, I really do think that dude rocks the grape-smuggler look with panache.
Between those heady high school days and this past weekend, despite having a love affair with road bikes and roughly a dozen solid intentions to get into triathloning, I only followed the sport from the sidelines while concentrating on road racing, geeking out over bike tech, and swimming every now and then for a couple weeks when injured. Case in point, I purchased a Zoot wetsuit in November 2012 but did not open it until June 2014. And so, I existed as a pure runner, at least until my wife and I decided to each get bikes.
After a number of test rides and trips to bike shops, which was very difficult work, let me tell you, I finally decided on a Cannondale CAAD8 bike, which seemed to be a good compromise between an “endurance” bike and a “racing” bike in terms of comfort and geometry. Sure, I could be making that up, but it sounds right at least in my head. Also, it’s pretty, don’t you think?
I…like taking pictures of my bike.
I joined up with local triathlon club Zoom Multisport and starting joining them for Track Tuezday workouts at the Harvard Track and gorgeous Walden Wednezday open water swims (OWSs) at Walden Pond in Concord, starting to get used to swimming in my wetsuit and the difference between pool swimming and non-pool swimming.
I mean, beautiful, right? Not the worst way to start a day, if I do say so myself.
Now that we’ve established that I had a modicum of training under my belt in the three ancient disciplines of triathlon, let’s get onto the race recap of this past weekend’s Dam Triathlon. That Dam race (I feel it necessary to overuse the Dam/damn thing as the race itself certainly did) consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, “13” mile bike leg, and “5K” run. I use quotes to indicate that although the race may have said one thing about the distances, my Garmin said otherwise, as did others’. In the end, the bike was likely more like 12.5 miles and the run 2.9.
Alright, let’s finally get to the race. Friend and Zoom teammate Jocelyn picked me up bright and early and we loaded up her Subaru with my bike alongside hers, because taking anything other than a Subaru to a race involving bikes would be a USAT violation. Arriving in Amesbury, I was downright giddy to go through the pre-race procedures of getting Sharpie’d up with my number and getting my ankle timing chip. Then it was time to set up my transition spot, which just happened to be right next to another Zoomer, Greg. Now, I’ve seen transition set-ups before, but somehow trying to do my own filled me with anxiety. Above all, I didn’t want commit any newbie faux-passes. Here’s what I ended up with.
I even managed to do that nifty thing where you hook your bike onto the rack using the saddle…and it didn’t fall down!
And for my fellow shoe geeks, shoes.
Headed to the shore for the start of the race, Rebecca flagged me down and gave me some last minute words of encouragement. She also got a pre-race shot.
My swim wave was second in the water behind the elites and was to be a “waist-deep” start, which I didn’t know existed until that day. I tried to relax a little bit before the start by joking around with my fellow swimmers to calm my nerves and it must have worked because, for my first time in open-water swimming, I didn’t have any moment of panic when I got into the actual swim.
My only strategy on the swim itself was to survive and maintain forward momentum. I achieved the forward momentum goal, and survived as well, but definitely could have done a lot better job when it came to sighting, not that it likely would have done anything to change the fact that I left the water second to last in my age group (12/13) and behind a number of athletes that started 6 minutes after I did. But, hey, I swam a half mile both without drowning and without collapsing on the beach in a huffing mess after it was over. Final time for the swim was 17:49, which I’m pretty sure is a time I should be happy with given my training paces.
It would be fair to say that my first transition was glacial in pace. In fact, it took a whole 5:01.6. I should have listened to J’s advice to put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit and swam with them and I should have gone sockless rather than spending the time to dry off my feet, quite deliberately it would seem given the time. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure what I could have done to get through the transition faster, but I’m sure as I get some more tris under my belt it’ll just…happen. Finally, all set up, I made my out of T1.
On to the bike! I figured I’d be able to make up some time here and set off to do just that. Then I missed the second turn, roughly 1/8 mile into the leg. Oops. Backtracking, I made it onto the real course and set my sights on the cyclists ahead of me. Riding in the drops, I got into a good rhythm, focusing on keeping my cadence up and “spinning” rather than “pushing” the pedals. Soon I was making up ground on, and then passing, other competitors, eventually settling in with about 4 or 5 other cyclists that I would trade spots with throughout the remainder of the leg. I have to say that there was a moment around Mile 8 where I just had to smile, thinking “I’m racing on a bike right now, and that’s pretty neat.” It was a truly unique moment in my pursuit of athletics, and one I enjoyed tremendously. My final time on the bike was 39:24, good for a 19.1 MPH average according to Strava, my best MPH average over any distance to date, and 7/13 for my age group. Speaking of Strava, here’s your Dam bike route map and elevation chart.
Sadly the official race photographer didn’t get any shots of the bike leg, but thankfully Rebecca was on the spot and got some!
And then it was into T2, which I managed to navigate a lot faster than T1, likely because it mostly involved changing shoes and taking off my helmet.
And then onto the run, which I hoped would be my best showing. I slipped on the trial pair of Hoka One One Conquests the Hoka rep procured for me and made my way out to the course. Although perhaps a bit heavier than the shoes I would normally race a 5K in, I was looking forward to the cushioning that the Hokas would give my legs and the Speed Laces were perfect in aiding my attempt to speed up my transition. Also, they matched my Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, which is very important.
Almost immediately, I was hit with the exact same problem I would have way back in high school switching over from the bike to the run…calf cramping. Also, that whole legs feeling like “bricks” thing was exactly on-point. I stopped at the side of the road to stretch out my calves whereupon Zoomer Lindsey came up on me and encouraged me to get going. Thankfully that bit of stretching did the trick and I didn’t have any other issues with them.
The run course was about as hilly a”5K” course as I’ve run, which hills definitely took their toll on my already beaten legs. I tried to keep my sights set on the runners ahead of me and do my best to pick them off as I could. Given that I’ve run, and written about, my fair share of road races, I can’t say there was a lot to blog home about when it came to the run leg other than to note that, even in the heat, my Pearl Izumi tri shorts and Zoot tri top were both comfortable to run in.
After one last uphill push, there was a quick corner to turn before finally hitting the finish line, 1:25:48 after I started with a 20:53 run split, which was 5/13 in my age group. Here’s the pace and elevation chart.
And then, I was done, with a neat and glittery medal in hand.
Flush with excitement, I met up with Rebecca and my fellow Zoomers whereupon we all helped ourselves to the Kegs and Eggs that makes the Dam Triathlon such an appealing race, i.e. one local beer plus some eggs, sausage and blueberry muffin.
The Dam Triathlon was a Dam good way to start my Dam life as a triathlete, or at least an adult triathlete. Many lessons were learned, and there are many more to come, no doubt. I’m very grateful for my supportive wife being there to not just cheer me on and take great action shots, but keep me posted on how I’m doing in the field. Coming out of the water she told me “there are white caps behind you,” which was not quite technically true as there was only one white cap behind me, but it made me feel better nonetheless. Also thankful for my Zoom teammates, in particular J, who helped me with innumerable training and race-day questions, and then provided more encouragement on the course.
Next up, the Borderline Running Club Triathlon, a 5 mile bike to a pond, 500 yard swim, 5 mile bike back to the start, then a 5K run and then, at the end of September, the Pilgrimman Triathlon, my attempt at the Olympic Distance!
Run, and tri, happy!