After 9 straight months of my Ironman training program, it was finally race day!
My first (and shortest) race of 3 in this program, was an Olympic distance triathlon:
- .98mi Swim
- 27mi Bike
- 10k Run
To find a race that fit in with my schedule, I had to travel to Williamsburg, VA (about 3 hours away) to compete in the Rev3 Olympic Triathlon. Thankfully, I had some company with me as my Mom made the trip to support my insanity (she also drove, which was great). This race was meant to be a “tune-up” as my training distances have far surpassed the race distances and the main goal of this race, was simply to get accustom to racing.
I’ll take you through my day, expectations, results, and general takeaways from my first ever triathlon!
My alarm goes off, and I smack my phone to make it stop. 4:30am seems early to most, but it’s become a normal wakeup time for me over the last several months. It also will give me about an hour to drink some coffee, eat breakfast, get dressed, pack the car, and make it to T1 by 5:30-6:00am to get settled in.
I woke up with a fair amount more butterflies in my stomach than I had anticipated. Not because I was nervous for the physical aspect of the race (considering I’d been training longer distances for some time), but because I was anxious about the little things: forgetting something, blowing a tire, battling a ton of people in the water during the swim, etc.
Brushing those thoughts aside, I enjoyed some hotel coffee (yay), ate, threw my kit and some clothes on, got my number tattoos on, and packed the car.
We drove the 10 minutes from the hotel to the parking area just between T1 and the finish line, greeted with a line of traffic waiting to get into the venue.
I had checked my bike in the previous night, so all I really had with me at this point were water bottles, shoes (bike and running), nutrition, and miscellaneous items like my race belt, swim goggles, tire pump, etc.
We parked and I made my way into T1 to set up my transition area. I had several items on my to-do list, including :
- Mounting my water bottles
- Filling my bottle between my aero bars
- Checking my tire pressure
- Packing nutrition
- Laying out shoes & socks
- Positioning my helmet & sunglasses for easy access post swim
- And doing it all on a bright pink towel so I could find everything
This took much less time than the time I had allotted for it, which meant it was now time to sit and wait around for our 7:20 start time.
There were actually 2 races happening this day, my Olympic distance race, and a half iron-distance race, a 70.3. Because of this, there was a staggered start between the races. The half was going to go first, at 6:45am, and they did, in fact, go off right on time.
2 by 2, swimmers for the half distance race entered the water, and slowly funneled their way down the dock until all were making their way to the first set of buoys.
This served as a timing cue for those of us doing the Olympic distance to begin lining up for the swim.
They had everyone line up according to our 100yd swim pace, with the goal of sending everyone into the water with other people who swam a similar pace, reducing the chance of people getting swam on top of (safety first kids).
So between 6:45 and 7:00am, those of us doing the Olympic distance race made our way into line.
We heard over the loud speaker that we were set to go on time at 7:20, and to simply stand by.
7:20am, however, came and went. Then so did 7:30, 7:40, 7:50, 8:00 and 8:10am. We kept getting vague messages from the loud speaker that they were simply waiting on half swimmers who were extra slow to clear out of our way.
Great. Glad we warmed up 😐
1 hour after our scheduled start time, the first Olympic swimmers hit the water. We were off.
The swim was fast, very fast. Mainly because of the current helping on the first ~1,000m of the 1,500m course.
What I anticipated taking 30 minutes, actually only took 20:46. 1/3 less than expected… thank you current!
The current made for a pretty wavy swim, constantly going up and down, sometimes barely being able to see in front of you thanks to the next wave incoming.
That changed drastically after the turn buoy, where the water became swimming-pool-level-calm, as we worked our way to the swim exit. As I mentioned, most of our added speed came from those first 1,000, the last 500 were much more “normal”.
After exiting the water, we had a quarter mile jog back to T1 on a black top. Not the best feeling surface after being in the water for 20+ minutes, but not the worst either.
Arriving back in T1, I navigated my way to my bright pink towel and bike, and began to swap my swim gear for my bike gear.
Since the water temperature was in the mid 80s (read: bath water), no wetsuits were permitted, which meant I didn’t have to fuss with getting one off either. I simply removed my cap & goggles, threw on my shades & helmet, stepped into my bike shoes and ran out of T1.
Just out of T1 I mounted the bike, and made my way out of the park to the road where the bike course would begin.
The first half mile of the bike went over a bridge that crossed above the water where we had just swam. That was nice, and not nice all at the same time.
The view of the surrounding water as beautiful, the 4% grade up the bridge in the first 3 minutes of the bike, was not as pretty.
Either way, what goes up must come down, so after enjoying a steady downhill immediately following the bridge, I was able to settle into aero and plot on ahead.
The straightaway you see on the bottom left of the bike course on the map, was a beautiful, paved surface, made for fast and smooth riding. Basically every other part of this course, was not. Once we made our right hand turn behind Chickahominy, things got bumpy, really bumpy. For the next, probably 10 miles, we experienced some rolling hills, very few straights, and plenty of bumps and rough terrain before coming back on the highway to return to T2.
I had anticipated averaging somewhere around 17mph for the bike, given thats what I had experienced in training. Thanks to no stop signs, or pedestrians, however, I was able to actually average roughly 19mph, and finished the bike faster than expected, in 1:26, putting me at 1:49 in total race time thus far (including the transition).
With the longest part of the race now behind me, it was time to push the last 6.2 miles on the run.
After coming in from the bike into T2, I was able to quickly rack the bike, rip off my helmet, swap shoes, and dash out of the transition area to begin the run.
I had been running double the distance of this run for some time, so I wanted to push it here and see if I could set a new 10k PR, despite the swim & bike coming earlier.
The run was flat, very flat, which is a HUGE contrast to what I’m used to running on here at home. That meant the run was fast, very fast.
I opened, and stayed right around a 6:20/mi pace, just about 1:10 faster than my average training pace.
I passed some familiar competitors who had passed me on the bike, as well as some I hadn’t seen, all in route to a 10k PR of 38:39, well surpassing my expectations for this portion of the race.
I crossed the finish line.
2:31 was my time, when my original goal was sub-3 hours. I’d say I hit it.
Still feeling relatively fresh thanks to the “short” distance, I jogged through the finish, collected my medal, a cold towel, some Gatorade, and made my way out of the corral.
There it was, I had finished my first ever triathlon. I felt good, the race went according to plan, I stuck to my nutrition schedule, and felt very much in control the whole time! I couldn’t have been happier… until.
An unexpected surprise
I met up with my mom and we made our way to the timing tent. There we could print out a piece of paper that had my splits, transition time, and placement among the field, both by age, gender, and overall.
To my surprise, not only had I exceeded my own expectations, but I actually placed 3rd in my age group!
We hung around for a few minutes to be a part of the award ceremony (above-left), where I, and the winner of our age group collected our awards (above-right). The 2nd place guy had already left.
At this particular moment, I couldn’t had been happier. I had exceeded my own expectations, felt energized and healthy, and even managed to bring home some additional hardware. All pretty cool for my first ever race.
Naturally though, all this did was make me start thinking… I wonder how well I can do in my half?
Be back in a few weeks to recap that race!