The Timberman Sprint triathlon race is a 1/3rd mile swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run. This year I ran a half marathon which kept me in good running shape, but without a pool to train in I had less time in water. I bought tri shoes to clip into my bike to improve control and speed. I was looking forward to meeting new goals and feeling more comfortable.
What I love about triathlons is you are constantly thinking of the next thing and so your attention is strong throughout the race. However, having more transitions and several events means more variables that can go wrong. There is a good reason why they run first timer sessions and full events to get you ready for the mayhem.
To give some insight, here are a few good rules for triathletes:
1) Try different drinks and food during training and choose what works best for race day well in advance.
2) Don't change anything race day including food, equipment, drinks, sunscreen, etc. You never know when something won't work well for you.
3) Do not panic in the water. Let others go ahead of you and stay on the outside of the pack.
4) Practice the transition from Bike to Run. Your legs feel much different off the bike into the run - you can imagine why this transition is called a brick.
5) Take your time getting on your equipment. You could be disqualified if you forget something!
Active.com has awesome articles on mental and physical prep for these races too.
The Story of my race ~
Last year I finished in 1: 34: 14. My reach goal was 1: 30 flat. I finished exactly 1 min faster than last year at 1: 33: 14 seconds. I swam and biked faster. I was pleased with that result.
Remember when I said you don't change anything on race day? I didn't listen. The day before the race we had a stressful ride up to NH for registration. What should've taken 2 hours took almost 4.5. I had a mental breakdown in the car thinking about all those who traveled to see my race while the GPS estimated arrival after registration closed.
Luckily we did make it, but we stopped at REI to get a race belt and I saw goggles that Matt recently used and said they were really clear, so I said I will get a pair and try. Bad idea! In warm up I noticed the bridge of them didn't fit my frame of face and the water was flooding in. I thought to go get my old goggles but the transition area was closed. I had to swim with one side flooded with water and one eye open. It was very stressful but part of the reason I swam faster - I wanted out! (I returned them to REI)
After I caught my breath and climbed out of the water, it was onto the bike. Which started off pretty well. I was hoping to push it up to 17mph average but I couldn't quite get there with 16.5. The 31 MPH downhill was awesome though.
On the way into transition I loosened my shoes to help my T time. Crossing over the dismount line I had to stop short and found myself still on my bike - I could not clip out of the pedals and down I went SLAM hard onto the pavement. Ouch! Humiliated and heartbroken I got up and limped as fast as possible into transition. Did I mention I fell on top of another biker? UGH!
I quickly got my sneakers on and ran out for the run where I saw Matt. Quickly I realized he had no idea I fell as he yelled I was close to getting my reach time. I wanted to cry but instead I get into my head that this is just another challenge to overcome and the reason you train so hard.
So, I pick up the pace only to find myself with the painful running cramp halfway through the 5K. All I can think is my whole family is there, I am NOT walking across the finish in tears after all I have been through in this long hour. I have never had to coach myself so hard not to walk. I even yelled pick it up to a guy I passed walking 'cause hell I was dying too and he did! At around minute 1:26 I knew I had less than a mile left and that I could still beat last years PR. So I breathed through the cramp and gave it all I had into the finish with 1 min to spare.
I learned a few things about myself this race. First, I can definitely panic under pressure. Second, If I do I can quickly recover instead of falling to pieces. Third, my family rocks for traveling and cheering us on all weekend (Matt included). They truly were the motivation that kept me from walking during the run. Who says this isn't a team sport? Thank you all!