Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Tri in the Books

I competed in my first triathlon this past Sunday.  I raced the inaugural Curt Gowdy Xterra. Xterra's are off-road triathlons, so unlike regular Tris, the bike and run are on trails.  The distances for Xterra's usually don't fit into the neat little categories like road triathlons; my race was in between a Sprint distance and an Olympic distance event.

My race went well I think for my first Tri.  Bottom line - I had a ton of fun and felt like I learned a lot.  I got 2nd in my age group.  I finished 99th out of a total of 201 racers; 24th out of 57 women.  My time was 3:06:37.

Here's the breakdown of my race:

1200 meter Open Water Swim (23:10): I feel pretty good about my first foray into open water competition. The water was COLD - about 60, but a nice little warm up before the race got me comfortable.  I started in the second wave, predominately based on my mountain biking skills and not my swimming prowess.  I was a bit anxious during the first lap, but I didn't freak out and I actually enjoyed the second 600 meter lap, once the butterflies were gone!  I swam into a few people and a few people swam into me, but no horrible encounters.  I even drafted for awhile!  I finished 29th out of the 57 women - 116th out of 201 total and feel I could push the swim more next time.  

That's me starting out the swim! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Swim-to-Bike Transition (3:01):  Three minutes, REALLY?!?! I certainly could have been faster on this transition.  The top women were all under or around 2 minutes.  And while a lot of racers had similar times to mine, I can be faster by simply practicing more (especially taking the wetsuit off quickly).

14.2 mile Bike (1:33:03): The bike section was fantastic and I really enjoyed it; I think I smiled the whole time!  The trail was hilly and technical/rocky with some fast swoopy and loose sections, which many a roadie turned weekend Xterra athlete was not happy about.  I saw several endos!   I finished 20th out of the 57 women and 89th out of the 201 total of men and women.  Although my bike was super solid, there are ways I can improve.   I had a bottle with fuel but couldn't find good places to grab it; either the trail was too technical to take a hand off the bar or if it was flat, I was gunning it to get past people or not be passed. It was mostly tight single track, so really tough to let your guard down.  Unlike the bike leg on a road Tri, the bike leg on an Xterra is NOT a place to relax and fuel I learned!  There were plenty of aid stations, but I ended up slugging large amounts of fluids at only a few times, vs. sipping my fluids and fuel over the hour and a half for the ride.  Next time I will wear a little camel bak type pack on the bike. 

 Enjoying the bike leg! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Bike-to-Swim Transition (1:47): This was a decent transition and fairly close to the times for the fast girls.  

Bike-to-Run transition going smoothly (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

5.3 mile Run (1:05:38):  The run was F'ing BRUTAL.  It was very hot (over 90) with not much wind.  The first part of the run was mostly uphill for about 3 miles.  My legs were heavy and my stomach was not happy with the deluge of fluids from the aid stations on the bike leg (hence my thought to wear a hydration pack next time for the bike).  Once I got to the flat, rolly and downhill part of the run, life was much better, but I couldn't make up the lost time.  I finished the run 36th out of the 57 women (ouch!) and 126th out of the 201 total.  Not so good...

 Happy to be finishing the run! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

What Went Well:  I feel like my general planning was pretty good for my first time. My Tri shorts and top, while not the most flattering, were very comfortable for the entire race, as was my choice of socks and hat.  My pre-race breakfast sat well on my stomach.  Due to my anal-retentive attention to lists, I didn't forget a THING!  My bike, which I had cleaned and tuned prior to the race, worked like a charm.  I felt as prepared as possible for the swim, due to the many lessons I've had over the last year plus and to my recent open water practice. I followed good advice to keep things simple and I didn't throw in any new shit right before the race (like the brand new spiffy biking shoes I bought a few days before the race...).

I received many tips from triathlete friends and family, all of which were helpful.  One of the last tips was from a friend with loads of Triathlon experience (age group winner at Hawaii numerous times):
  • Focus on the Swim during the Swim
  • Focus on the Bike during the Bike, and 
  • Focus on the Finish Line during the Run
This was very helpful! I felt like I was in the moment during each leg (a perspective I have been known to lose in previous races).  Even if it didn't make me faster, this perspective made the race more enjoyable!  I had FUN almost the entire time (except for a couple/few miles of the run...).

Lessons Learned: Clearly my run is my weak link!  Who'd have thunk?!?!?  I need to do more bike-to-run sessions to get used to running on tired legs.  I need to run more fast, tempo sets (I get stuck in a rut running an easy pace with Strelka).  I should do more hills.  I could also lean up a bit without losing muscle mass to improve my running economy (just a few pounds would do the trick).

I can certainly improve my swim-to-bike transition with practice and familiarity. 

Although I had ridden the trails before, it had been years.  So, while I had a general familiarity with them, I didn't have intimate knowledge of them.  I think pre-riding the trails closer to the race date would help me shave off a few minutes from the bike.

On the fueling and hydrating side, I feel like I ate just enough - 6 Gu packets - and drank barely enough (if that).  If I wore a pack on the bike, I could bring in even more calories and fluids comfortably by drinking Endurox and be set up better for the run.

So, if I swim a minute or two faster, take off a minute from my swim-to-bike transition, bike a tad faster by wearing a pack and doing a real pre-ride, and knock off a few minutes from my run time, I should be able to do this race next year under 3 hours.  

I'm not disappointed about my race at all, but I have a goal for next time!!!  

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