This past Saturday I participated in the Army Strong Triathlon here on Fort Rucker. It was my 3rd tri, but my first with an open water swim. The morning started early with me getting up around 5 to get ready. I had my English muffin with peanut butter and made my Pom-Blue Generation UCAN to take with me. I grabbed my bike water bottle out of the freezer and my bottle of UCAN and headed out the door.
I arrived at Lake Tholocco and easily found a parking spot. I got my bike and backpack out of my van and headed to the transition area and got everything all set up and drank my UCAN before heading to body marking. Everything was a very smooth process; all the races that MWR puts on here on post are very well run. I hit the bathroom one last time and headed back to the transition area for the pre-race briefing and then it was down to the lake for the swim start. I got in the water a little to check the temperature – I was very surprised to find the lake WARM!!!
Soon it was time for my wave (women 30+ – the smallest of the waves with only 20-30 of us!) to start and I began my first open-water swim. The lake was dark and murky and there was some seaweed kicked up at the start and I forgot about my breathing and had a mild panic attack about 100 yards or so in. I switched to breaststroke for a little bit and gave myself a pep talk – "You've swam in lake hundreds of times (I grew up on a lake). You are a strong swimmer. You can do this – just get your breathing under control." That got me squared away and I got my breathing to where I needed it and then I was fine. During the course of the 1/4 mile swim, I passed probably 20 or so of the age 30+ men from the wave that started 3 minutes before ours. That was a good feeling!! I got kicked a few times and I kicked a few people, but that is to be expected in a triathlon. Overall the swim went really well and I exited the water in 9:43, right under my goal time of 10:00!
Transition 1 was 4:13, a little long but I couldn't get the sand off my feet. I need to remember a small bucket of water next time. I got my bike shorts on and socks, cycling shoes, helmet, and sunglasses on, unracked my bike and headed to the bike mount area.
I got clipped in on my bike and got a drink of water and went to check my Garmin. That's when I discovered that it wasn't working right and I only had total time elapsed, time of the current leg, and calories burned on the current leg. There was no pace or distance data! Way to go $300 watch. (I've already sent an email to Garmin to hopefully get this figured out.) I knew that the bike course was hilly, and I was a little nervous, but I did fine, especially when it sunk in that I have leg power on the upstroke as well as the downstroke of my pedaling!! Since I'm clipped in, I'm one with my bike and I need to remember to use my strong quads on the hills. Boy, once I figured that out, the hills were a *little* easier to climb. I also decided that my bike needs to go in the shop for a tune up. On the way out, just 5th gear was slipping, but on the way back, pretty much all the gears were slipping. That was fun. But I finished strong and I feel that I had a great ride! My goal time for the 10.6 miles was 45-50 minutes, and I was happy to finish in 45:46! And I even remembered to unclip at the end and I didn't fall off my bike. 🙂
Transition 2 was 2:41 – not bad, but it could have been quicker. I switched out my bike shorts for my sparkly skirt which had my race number already pinned to it. I got my running shoes on and headed out on the run course.
The run course had some hills on it, but not too bad, and I've run this route several times before so there were no surprises in that aspect. Again, I had no pace or distance data on my Garmin, but I could kind of judge my pace since they had all the miles marked. I think I might have started out a little too fast out of transition and about 1/2 mile in, my right leg really cramped up. I was able to walk and stretch it out and then I was fine. There was a water stop at the turn around point, and I grabbed a cup of gatorade (very watered down). I headed back and soon the finish line was just off in the distance. I picked up the pace and had a really strong finish! My goal time was 28 minutes and I finished in 29:51.
My overall finish time was 1:32:14, and I finished 4th in my age group (Again. And awards only go to 3rd.) I was 141 overall out of 195 – not bad considering the lack of training I did on the bike!! I'm really happy with the race and I learned a few things for next time. . .
— I need a swim warm up. Had I gotten in the lake prior and swam a little, I would have seen how dark & murky the water was.
— I need to invest in a tri suit so that I don't have to change clothes during transitions. I could probably take 3 or 4 minutes off my total transition times.
— I need to ride more so I can get better at climbing hills and I need to learn to use my big gear. I only used 7 of my available 14 gears.
— I need to remember to not go out too fast on the run.