Today was the Tri Del Sol triathlon in Middleville. It was my first triathlon, and I have been training for it since May.
The morning started with a 5:30 am rising. I had a quick breakfast of yogurt, animal crackers, and Gatorade before doing a triple check of my all my gear to make sure I had everything. I had loaded pretty much everything in the car the night before, but still had a few last minute things to take care of. We were on the road a little after 6:00 am and to Camp Manitou-Lin before 7:00 am. It was very well organized from the get-go with easy to find parking that was only about a 5 minute walk from the transition area.
Transition areas were organized by race number and even though we got there fairly early, my rack was pretty much full. So, instead of trying to squeeze in, I put my bike on the overflow rack, which was pretty much empty. I was sort of glad to be on the overflow rack rather than my assigned rack because it seemed like there were more beginners on that rack. It was also the first rack inside the transition area, so it was easy to find. I got all of my stuff organized next to my bike, and then headed to the registration area to get marked up (number written on my arms and legs) and to get my timing chip. Shortly after arriving, the race director announced that the water temperature was 78 degrees, which meant that wetsuits were allowed. (They were technically allowed up to 84 degrees, but if worn between 78 and 84 degrees, you don’t qualify for any awards).
Everyone had to be out of the transition area by 7:30 am; so with one last check of my gear, a couple Shot Blocks (they taste awful, but they work), it was down to the starting line. The start was broken up into about 8 waves with about 50 people in each wave. At 7:45 am, the myTeam Triumph started. "myTeam Triumph is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races." After that, the first wave went out at 8:00am and then another one every 4 minutes with mine starting at 8:08am.
The swim was the portion of the race I was most concerned about because it is my weakest of the three activities. From my training at the pool, I figured I could do the half mile swim in about 20 minutes. My times at the pool ranged between 21-22 minutes, but I thought that the wetsuit would shave off a couple minutes. The water was a great temperature and very clean. The starting area was very sandy with only a few rocks. I made sure to stay on the outside near the back at the start so that I wouldn’t get trampled by the stronger swimmers. It was definitely a change having to swim with a couple dozen other people, but once we got away from the start, it spread out quite a bit. I found it sort of difficult to position myself in the water and felt like I was zigzagging too much without the blue line of the pool bottom to keep me going straight. I did have a few occasions were I was bumping into someone or getting bumped into and ended up swallowing a mouthful of water, but other than that, it went very smoothly. I ended up making it out of the water in 16:43 – much better than I had planned.
The run from the swim to the transition area was a bit longer and more uphill than expected, which wasn’t the greatest thing as I didn’t really have my land legs yet and was still getting oriented. Even though the path to the transition area was carpeted, I was glad to have a towel and water to rinse the sand off my feet when I got to my bike (thanks Matt). It was a quick removal of the wetsuit and putting on my bike shoes before heading out on the bike. My Transition 1 took a little over 3 and half minutes, which looks like it was a little below average and definitely something I can improve on with practice.
The bike portion of the race went much better than I had planned. In all of my training, I averaged about 16-17 mph on my long rides. However, those all involved stops for traffic, stop lights, etc. so not a great indication of what I could do on the open road. I ended up doing the 18 miles in 56:44, a 19 mph average! Not too bad for a 30 year Fuji. I felt like I was flying throughout the bike ride and was passing quite a few people along the way. At first, I felt like I was going out too strong, but I wasn’t hurting too bad, so I kept pushing the pace. The course was rolling hills, with only one really steep one, but plenty of small ones. It was nice though because all of the uphills had a downhill immediately afterwards, so it didn’t feel like I was going up, up, up. When I got to the dismount point, I popped out of my pedals and headed off to the transition area to switch to my running shoes.
The second transition only took 1:20, which was much shorter than the first one, but there was obviously less to do in this one. I threw on my running shoes, grabbed my hat, took a Gu and washed it down with some water before heading out. Because running is my strongest ability, I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too tired to take advantage of that fact.
I immediately began passing people as I started the run, but my legs still felt pretty heavy. It took nearly the first 2 miles to find my legs and settle in. The next 2.5 miles went by very quickly, and I ended up finishing the run in 35:29 – under an 8:00 minute/mile pace, so I was very happy about that. I almost felt like I could have pushed myself a bit harder at the end, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much farther I had to go.
I crossed the finish line at 1:53:44, which put me pretty much in the middle of the pack – 11th out of 20 in my age group, and 162nd out of 335 overall. Overall, I was very happy with my time, and it was much better than I had anticipated. They had lots of goodies at the finish line – cold towels to put on your neck/head, fresh fruit, bagels, live band, etc. We stayed around for a bit, but didn’t wait around for the awards ceremony. Overall, the race was very well organized, and I will probably do it again next year.
Next up, the Millennium Triathlon at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids on August 9th. This one is going to be a bit shorter: 500m swim, 24k bike, and 5k run.
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