Sunday, March 8, 2009

Report: IronBruin Triathlon 2009

My first triathlon was a blast!


I left the house at 5am and got to UCLA in plenty of time. There wasn't anybody directing people to the right parking lot and the one we were supposed to use had a "Do Not Use" sign in front of it, so it was the blind leading the blind for a while. After I parked I took my backpack up to T2 but left my bike on the car since I didn't need my bike in T2, right? I get there and select a choice spot (3rd rack on the left, right on the aisle). With that out of the way and over two hours until I start the swim, things get a little boring. Something I'm noticing right away, though, is that I've lost enough weight that the shorts I have on over my tri suit are falling off all the time and I didn't bring a belt. I also notice that everyone is bringing their bikes into T2 so they have it handy when it's time to go to the pool. Sounds like a good idea so I get mine. There's still nothing to do until after 7 so I wait around.

About 7:10 I start getting serious about setting up T2 and packing for T1. I strip down to my tri suit and a t-shirt, no shoes, and walk my bike up the hill. On the way up a guy tells me about two people who have already crashed doing the left turn at the bottom of the big hill. Point taken.

The Swim

I get set up in T1. There aren't really any choice spots but I take one that is easy to find. It's a time trial swimming start in order of your number. I do a quick calculation and figure I have plenty of time so I head over to the warm up pool. I do my two 50s and one 100. Do I do another one? Nah, I'll down an energy gel then head over and wait for my turn. It turns out my turn is about 30 seconds after I get in line! Not such a great calculation.

The swim goes well. I get passed by a couple of guys (one of whom I catch later) but I'm the one that's doing most of the passing. Towards the end of the 400 meters the turns start getting crowded but that's okay (all that water polo in high school pays off here). At the end I walk up the steps and jog into transition.


I was expecting to have really heavy legs or something like that when I got out of the pool and started jogging. What I experienced was sort of surreal: I'm swimming then I'm running now I'm going to get on a bike and why is everybody so slow? It was all odd. I'm one of the very few with a tri suit and one of the even fewer who already has his shoes on the bike so my T1 is really fast. Should it be that fast? I'm looking around at how casually people are transitioning. What's up with that? Practice a few times in a parking lot and boom, you're faster in T1. It's like finding free money. My goggles and cap are off, I get to the bike and toss them in my bag. I put my helmet on, put my transition towel in the bag and close it, then grab the bike and I'm off. That's it!

The Bike

I hop on the bike while jogging and get in the first shoe before I have to make a turn to go downhill. At the bottom of the hill I get into the other shoe, just as planned, and I'm good to go. My legs take a little bit to warm up but just before the big hill I'm all set. I get passed while going uphill, which is to be expected, but I'm surprised that I'm passing people going downhill (I peaked at 33.2 mph). Guess all those downhills that have been getting faster and faster have paid off, too. And last week's ride where I practiced getting out of the saddle worked out well, too. On the fourth lap I notice that there are a lot fewer people on the road and I wonder if anybody cuts their ride short and only does three laps. Just a thought.


I forgot to get out of my shoes early but, thankfully, all that practice helped me get out of them in a hurry and I jogged barefoot into T2. I rack my bike and put the race belt on. Unfortunately, I should have pinned my race number on the race belt when it was stretched out on me instead of relaxed because when I put it on it pops when the belt is stretched. Lesson learned. I fiddle with it for a few seconds, take my helmet off, get my shoes on, and take a big breath because the run is the big question mark. I jog out of T2 and get some water from the helpful water girls (I'm surprisingly thirsty by this time).

The Run

I'm a slow runner right now. I'm big and this race is my fourth run of the year (fourth run in two years, actually) so I know I'm going to get passed. A lot. However my goal is not to run fast. My goal is to finish the 5K without walking because my calves seize up. All week they have been feeling worn out from last weekend's ride so I have been really nervous about the run. I practice good form, don't run too fast, suck it in for the photographers :-), and run my race. I am passed, to be sure, but it's not the torrent I was expecting. I reach the halfway point and all is well. I have one mile to go and I decide I can run a little bit faster. Gotta remember to keep my form up. 1K to go and I can run a little bit faster, which is about as fast as I can go at this point in my training. I finish not with a sprint (which I think is lame--if you can sprint at the end then you weren't running hard enough during the rest of the race) but I do finish strong, which I am happy about.

Overall and Lessons Learned

I was pleased with how well-prepared I was. I swam my own race, T1 was awesome, the bike went well, I thought, T2 was okay given my trepidation but will be even better next time, and I ran the whole 5K without stopping. The only way the race could have been better is if I placed in the top three (and well all knew that was not going to happen).

I always have to warm up on the swim. Always, always, always. It really helps.

Someday I'll get tri shoes for the bike but I'm doing great with what I have.

Remember that the end of the bike isn't just a relief, it means I have to get out of my shoes while still riding.

Put my race belt on, then pin my number to it, then take it off and set it up in T2.

Lose more weight to I can go faster up hills.

Lose more weight so I can go faster and train more on the run.

All in all, the event rocked and I can tell by the fatigue that is overtaking me while I write this that I gave it a good shot. I hope I can do it next year.

Photos and times will be available later this week so I will post about them in several days.

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