Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First Triathlon

Yes, I know - it's a little ridiculous that I'm writing about doing triathlons. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I've hated running for a lot longer than I've loved cycling. Moreover, it's a little weird that I'm just now even remotely interested in the sport, given that my dad raced pretty seriously for much of my childhood (and yes, I know that my lifestyle quickly approaching "I might as well just join the Navy" similarity with my father's...)

So here's the breakdown: because I saw an out of shape woman with an Ironman tattoo on her leg (and was subsequently infuriated that, despite me being fitter by leaps and bounds, she wore the "cooler athlete" crown at that soiree), and because when I called all of my athlete friends one of them thought that it might actually be "fun" (thanks Eric), I signed up for the 2011 Coeur D'Alene Ironman Triathlon. Dumb, probably, but I need to prove that a.) I'm a cooler athlete than that one lady and b.) when I tell my body to shut up and do what I tell it to, it will listen. What better way to accomplish those things than by running a 140.6 with just this one triathlon under my belt (so far). Side note: I actually signed up for the Ironman before I signed up for this past weekend's sprint tri. I'm a weird guy.

For those of your not in the know, an Ironman triathlon is composed of a 2.4 mile open-water swim, a 112 mile bike leg, and a 26.2 mile run (yes, a full marathon at the end.) Back to back to back. The winners times are usually under 9 hours (think about that for one second - it makes no sense). My goals are (in no specific order):

- survive the swim (I'll elaborate on this later)
- ride a sub-5:36 bike leg (avg. 20 mph or better)
- finish.
- finish.
- finish.
- finish upright and coherent enough to talk with the volunteers at the finish line and hug my mom (you're coming, right, Mom?)
- finish in under 12 hours (this may change as I get more involved with the training process this winter)
- beat Eric (hey, one of us has to finish faster than the other, and you're nuts if you think I'm going to concede defeat before we even toe up at the start line. We're athletes, remember?)

So, to recap: I'm signed up with an Ironman next year with my friend, and I've got this one tri under my belt. What did I learn at the race this past weekend?

Well, I am awful at competitive swimming. I mean I'm aggressively bad. Fortunately, I have lots of time to get better, and I'll be spending 2 months training with my dad (I should hope that during his storied tenure as a competitive swimmer he picked up a few things that he can contribute as advice). I had one of the worst swim times in the race, and breast-stroked my way to the shore after blowing up in the water. If I swam even an average time, I would have gotten top 5. I suppose that's why they make you race all 3 disciplines. I got by in this shorter race, but I need to learn how to swim more efficiently, more effectively, and more under control by the June 2011.

I can ride my bike fast. Although I didn't get the goal time I set for myself, I didn't take into account how wrecked my body would be coming out of the water. It took me a good 5 minutes on the bike for my muscles to shift into gear and for me to actually get up to race speed. It was a pretty weird feeling to have my muscles just not work. I gained a lot of respect for what makes triathlon harder than just swimming, cycling, and running in that moment. I did have the 3rd fastest bike time in the race, but the two guys that beat me came in first and second overall and rolled up to the race with $10K+ bikes and Ironman finisher's jackets on. So (sorry, mom) screw them.

Although I still don't "enjoy" running (I've yet to think "Let's go out for a run!", and still think "Let's go out for a ride!" 1,367 times per day), it's something that I'm better at than I thought I'd be. My aerobic fitness from cycling crosses over well, and I ran a respectable 5K at the tri.

Final results: 10th overall and 3rd in my age group. Pretty cool considering it was my first one. I even won a wine glass for placing in my age group (photo above).

The other photos above are of the race venue (pretty, huh?), my race number, and my friend Mark's dog, Charlie. She's a sweetheart.

I've got a much more acute awareness of what this IM is going to take, and I'm looking forward to seeing just how strong of an athlete I can become this winter/spring. After all, isn't IM triathlon the "ultimate human endurance test"? (Their words, not mine.)

If you know of a more ridiculous athletic event, other than this (which I'm doing next Sept.), let me know. I'll play.

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