Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jim McDonnell Lake Swim

I realized today that this triathlon thing has become extremely addicting and all I did was an open water swim today. It's also expensive, much more expensive than running. Although, the expenses are more than worth it and I'm not struggling to pay for anything. I'll gladly pay the Ironman entry fees when I'm ready for one. I think I went a little overboard with buying things at first and didn't care what it costs but I've calmed down and I'm planning out my purchases.

This morning I went to the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim in Reston, VA, put on by Reston Masters Swimming, at Lake Audubon. Today was the swim clinic and one mile practice swim. At the time I signed up I wasn't sure about my ability to swim a mile in open water so, I opted for only the practice swim. There are 1 and 2 mile races tomorrow. After the way the swim last weekend in the Hilton Head Triathlon (still waiting on pictures before I make the post) and the way the practice swim went today, I'm kicking myself for not signing up for at least the 1 mile swim.
It's a gorgeous lake which sits in a neighborhood in the DC suburbs. I had no idea there was a lake with houses on it that you can "boat in" this close to DC. Notice my shadow in the picture. If you click on the picture you can probably see a couple of the buoys. The turn is much to far out to be able to see.

The swim clinic was a good brush up on things I learned recently. It was also amazing to hear the races the clinic presenters have done. One of them finished first in a 24 MILE swim, yes TWENTY FOUR MILES. I have no idea how fast this guy swims but since the best 10K swim is completed in just over 2 hours, I'm going to assume 25 minutes a mile. That comes out to 10 hours of swimming! When I started swimming in January I had doubts about being able to make 800 meters so, I suppose anything is possible.

The course layout isn't very complicated, it's basically a modified oval with a dogleg right. It's also fun swimming in places that are marked no swimming. I'm still on the fence about swimming in the Potomac in a few weeks.

After the clinic I wetsuited up!...can you really not love How I Met Your Mother? Then went to stand in line. I was surprised about how concerned they are for your safety compared to a triathlon. They wouldn't let each of the swim waves into the water until they made sure everyone was accounted for. They also verified you were out of the water by making you turn in your bib number which was folded and stuffed in your swim cap. I suppose in triathlons they have the timing chip but who knows how well they keep track. While waiting I was talking with a gentleman who said he always likes to see big weightlifters, like myself, at these events. He was a decently big guy but said he stopped lifting weights a few years ago. I told him I'm just working on maintenance right now since endurance events are hard enough for me as it is and the added muscle mass would only make things worse.

The practice swim wasn't timed but the first swim wave entered the water at 10am at the earliest. I was in the 6th wave so I figured I started at 10:06-10:08. I don't have a waterproof watch so I didn't have my own time. Before we got in the water it was obvious people were nervous because of what they were saying. Over half the crowd at the clinic had never done an OWS. I got into the water and everyone kept saying the were going to start towards the back so, I decided to start up front since I felt 900% more comfortable in open water this time. Then we were off. The dogleg is only about 150 yards away so I figured I would try and stay as close to shore as possible. This wasn't a bad idea since I had a good rhythm going, the wave was small and no one was bumping into me. My swimming lines were horrible the majority of the race, around the first turn I felt a rock with my hand and was swimming towards a docked boat after the first turn. I started trying to sight more often but, I don't think it helped enough.

After coming back from the dogleg I started passing some people who had a better line to the first turn buoy. I managed to freestyle the whole time except for using breaststroke to change directions. It was difficult to sight since the next turn buoys were far away. There are two buoys in the bottom left of the picture, I was swimming towards the one closest to the corner. Luckily I don't think I was that far off from a straight line but, I'd still love to see what my swim line looks like on GPS. Hopefully, I can buy a a waterproof Garmin before the DC Tri. It was smooth sailing the rest of the way and I had a great rhythm going. I did drift off to the right on the long straightaway but, I realized all I needed to do was stay out of the shadows of the trees. This was easy since it was darker underwater in the shadows. Oh, my swim cap also felt like it was coming off at a couple points so, I did a deadmans float while I fixed it...probably not the best idea. Hopefully I didn't freak the kayakers out. We rounded a giant drain and headed back to the boat launch. I picked up my pace considerably after the drain for the last hundred yards or so.
I got out of the water and asked the woman collecting numbers what time it was, she said it was 10:43. Not bad I thought, given the 6-8 minutes after the first wave, I swam the mile in 35-38 minutes. I'm pretty pleased since I was expecting 40 minutes. If you factor in my horrible lines, it was more than a mile.

I went and threw my swim cap in my bag, pulled my wetsuit halfway off and went to watch the rest of the bunch swim. I'm guessing I finished towards the front of my wave, #s 126-150, since a lot of the people coming out of the water had these numbers. I also saw a good number of people from the 5th wave and one from the 4th come out of the water after me. I was very pleased with the swim and also upset I'm not swimming tomorrow. It's funny, there is a 50 minute time limit for the 1 mile swim tomorrow and the director said this should be more than enough time. However, for a 750 meter tri swim we had over an hour.

When the swim was almost over I felt fine and wouldn't have had any problems swimming farther. I'm confident I can do a half iron I just need to worry about the biking and running after the swim.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

CAL U Hilton Head Triathlon...Finally

This weekend, as you can tell from my last blog, I did my third sprint Tri in three weeks. At first I was addicted to running but, I've become addicted to triathlons very quickly. I finally bought an Xterra Vortex 3 Fullsuit Wetsuit and couldn't be happier with it. I had a sleeveless rental wetsuit for the first two tris and wasn't very happy with it. I might even go as far as saying that the lack of arms made it difficult to swim since my arms, along with the rest of my upper body, are very large and I didn't have enough buoyancy in my upperbody with the sleeveless wetsuit.

This triathlon was the result of a vacation I took with my girlfriend to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Like any dedicated runner or triathlete, I decided to look to see if there were any races going on while we were there...and there was one :-) It was a 500m swim, 20K bike and 5K run. I figured racing while at the beach would be perfect. I could get in an ocean swim the day before the triathlon and be comfortable in the water.

All the courses were very straight forward and the bike and run course were pancake flat. The swim course was 500m with the current.

The bike and run course were around the same loop. The bike route was 4 loops and the run was one.

We got to Hilton Head on Thursday, went to the beach for a bit on Friday and rented beach cruiser bikes for the week. We rode these to packet pick up and I tried to talk my girlfriend into doing the tri with the beach cruiser since she didn't have her bike. She has never done a triathlon but she taught me how to swim and she also bikes and runs. It's probably a good thing she didn't go the beach cruiser route since they were one gear and running after riding one for 12 miles would more than likely suck. Strangely enough there were 2 girls who rode beach cruiser rental bikes in the race. Packet Pick Up was very small, no bag for my number or swim cap. Since it was a mass start they let everyone pick their own swim cap colors. I considered going with hot pink but decided against it and went with blue. This turned out to be a great decision since not many of the women went with hot pink...or maybe that would have been a plus. Maybe someday I'll have a pink swim cap in my collection and it won't be by choice.

The race started at 7 on Saturday and I decided to wake up at 5:20 or so and the g/f slept in. Our condo couldn't have been in a better place for getting to the race. We were a block away. If you look closely at the bottom right corner of the bike route you can see a traffic circle. The condo is right on the opposite side of the circle...beach front of course. I got to transition right around 6 and picked up my chip as soon as I got there. I bought a new timing chip band since the first one I bought didn't have a slot on the padded strap for the chip to rest in so it's not directly touching your skin. I'm not sure if this made a difference since I doubt I noticed it during the previous races. Either way it helped me mentally before the race and I didn't have to think about it. I took the picture below as soon as I racked my bike.

The gentleman in the left of the picture did not seem very happy that I was taking a picture of (I'm assuming) him and his wife. His fault, he wasn't racing so he shouldn't have been in the transition area. On that note, I've been very displeased with the lack of security at the transition areas during the last two races. The first race had stellar security I saw them stop a few people to make sure they were racing. The second and third let anyone in...strollers, dogs, little kids...probably not the ideal place to let your kids run around in. I don't think anything was stolen and I didn't see anyone get hurt.

I set up my transition area with my new wetsuit and headed down to check out the water and

the path from the beach...It was a long walk. To get there I had to walk out of the transition area, down a mat across some pine needles and through some trees, across a 4 lane road, at least 100 yards down a parking before I got to the beach. I realize some races have much longer runs from the beach to transition but, this one was across a lot of rough pavement in bare feet.

Not a bad set up, it would get smaller since I hadn't attached my shoes to my bike yet. Notice the blue Gatorade frost trend.

This picture is about 10 feet from the edge of the parking lot we must run across. I'd guess the beach is about 150 yards since the tide is out. Notice the small person and yellow buoy in the distance. He hadn't reached the water at this point.

I walked back to transition to see if my girlfriend had moseyed out of bed yet and down to the action...she hadn't. I can't really blame her, who wants to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and stand around while people place their shoes and put on wetsuit. At this point I had no idea what to do. I should have been tying my shoes in place with dental floss but I wasn't thinking. I spent some time chatting and watching other people. I'm not much of a conversationalist but, I'll talk to you if you talk to me. The race director, or someone, kept announcing what time it was and finally said the water temperature was 74 degrees...time to wetsuit up! Oddly, the water temp was 74 every morning while we were there but one day it felt like bath water.

It was extremely humid and not many people were wearing wetsuits. I had mine half on and some guy noticed I broke a sweat. He said "are you sure you want to wear that, you're not supposed to be that sweaty until after the race." "You're telling should have seen me the time this guy at the store told me I would wear a large wetsuit. (I wear and XXL) It's half way on so I might as well wear it" I replied. Then I walked down to the beach and over to the start. The girlfriend found me right after I stepped on the beach. She zipped me up and wished me luck.

We walked down shore and I was wondering how the mass swim start would go. I didn't come up with a strategy since the last two times didn't work out at all and decided to wing it. Strangely, I was not comfortable in the water during my warm up swim and was worried I was going to have a three peat. I stood on the shore and waited for the mass start. I didn't have a swim plan per se, other than not running out with the lead group. The horn went off and I hung back and slowly made my way into the water. Using my amazing logic abilities...I decided I was going to quickly move farther into the ocean and wait until almost everyone in front of me started swimming. Right before I started swimming I decided I was going to breaststroke out to the first buoy since it would be easier and not as tiring to get through the ocean waves this way. I made it to the first turn buoy and had to tread water since there was a ton of bunching. After the turn I pointed myself where I wanted to go and freestyled. I swam along with a decent amount of room at a comfortable pace and just waited for my breathing to get out of control. IT NEVER HAPPENED! I just cruised along stopping to breaststroke a few strokes every minute or so to see if I veered off course since I was passing some people and didn't trust their (or my own) open water navigational skills. The rest of the swim was as smooth as I could have hoped for, I managed to roll with the swells in the ocean and control my breathing. When I made the last turn it became very crowded and I had to stand up sooner than I wanted to. I got about thigh deep and decided it was time to unzip so I didn't overheat on the run to transition. I had a minor problem. A while ago I watched a very nicely done transition video on Youtube. The person in the video suggested unzipping your wetsuit while running out of the water then taking off your goggles and swim cap. Next you're supposed to take the wetsuit top off while holding the items in one hand and letting them get caught in the arm of your wetsuit so you don't have to carry them. I tried this technique and had no problem getting my wetsuit off and leaving the swim cap and goggles in the arm but, when I checked a couple seconds later my goggles were gone. They only cost $15 so I decided it wasn't worth the time loss and definitely wasn't worth pissing a bunch of people off...I still wonder if anyone found them on the beach later that day. I ran up the beach, across the parking lot, across the road and to transition. Not an easy task, if I had a heart rate monitor I'm sure it would have been off the charts.

Total Swim Time: 14:30 which includes the 300-400 yard run. 110/154 for the men.

T1 time was pretty slow as usual...1:57...Everything goes smoothly except I can't do it quickly since my heart is racing. I managed a flying squirrel mount and was off. The first mile was decently slow since I had problems getting my shoes on. Speedplay shoe cleats on Shimano tri shoes are next to impossible to run in.

Once I got my feet in my shoes I picked up speed very quickly. Since the course was flat I figured this would be my fastest bike ride yet. The first loop went by pretty quickly and I passed a good number of people. I was also lapped on the first loop by a decent number of people. I'd love to know how fast they were riding. I averaged 20 mph but hit 25 mph at a few points and still wasn't able to keep up with people on tri bikes. The bike part of the race is probably my least favorite of the three. I have very strong legs but, I'm weak on turns and hills. I probably just need to get out and ride more often rather than taking spin class twice a week. The second and third loops went by a bit slower than the first. Most of my time was spent either passing people smoothly or slowly passing someone and having them pass me after making a turn. I was very pissed off on the second loop when someone decided to pass me on the right side during a turn. He had enough room on either side but, I'd never expect someone to cut me off on a turn from the right side. No one had a penalty assessed the whole race. On the third loop I had just passed someone and I suppose he didn't like this and started to speed up after I passed him but hadn't gone all the way back to the right. There was another group coming to lap up and he sped up and yelled "on your right." I don't think I'll repeat what I yelled back but, he stopped trying to pass me. No one needs to be passed on the left and the right at the same time. Then, the fourth loop seemed like forever but, I did pass one of the girls on the beach cruiser whose chain had come off. I felt pretty bad for her but what can you do.

Total bike time: 38:34 and 100/154

T2 was much slower than T1 considering I had problems getting both my socks and shoes on. The Yankz really help save time but I've decided I have them too tight.

T2: 2:39...WTF was I doing? I could have made lunch faster than that.

I don't have a lot to say about the run other than it was boring and I ran it. I said "good job" to everyone I passed and everyone who passed me. One guy about my size but a bit taller said " You too! It's hard for us big guys." FINALLY! Someone set me up..."It's hard carrying around all this muscle" I said as I passed. Then the last person to pass me told me about how he had been picturing in the finish line in his mind since he got off the bike. I told him I just hope it comes sooner than I think it will.

I rounded the turn for the finish and heard "Here comes Brian J from Alexandria, VA and crossed the finish line in 1:29:07. I tried to talk my body into sprinting to make it under 1:29:00 but my body said Hell No and I slogged along, I should have transitioned faster. Not bad, 10 minutes faster than my previous two. Considering the run on the last tri was .4 miles too long. (Admitted in a reply from the race director to an email I sent about the problems with the course)

Run time: 31:29...much slower than I thought it would be and 127/156 for the men.

Total Time: 1:29:07 -126/154 and 4th (last) in the clydesdales

If I knocked a minute off each transition my place would have only dropped two spots. I was very happy with this race and feel much more confident about doing an Olympic distance in July...Rockett's Landing in Richmond, VA.

I wear Tri Tats during the race since I think they look much better in pictures than magic marker. I'd advise taking them off after the triathlon if you're going to spend anytime in the sun the beach.

Otherwise you'll have 16 year old playboy bunny sticker-like tan lines.

It's still there as of this one has asked about it...other than people who do triathlons

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Thoughts on Open Water Swimming

In my opinion the swim can be the most dangerous part of a triathlon. You can tire yourself out since you normally can't touch bottom and have to keep swimming or get knocked out by a foot and potentially drown. If you panic you're going to exert a hell of a lot more energy than while swimming. The bike and the run portions are not similar and could be considered opposite in terms of energy exertion since you can simply slow down and not exert as much energy. I realize you can crash on the bike but, you're still on land and medical attention is easy to get. If you don't read past this point and you're doing your first triathlon...DO A COUPLE PRACTICE OPEN WATER SWIMS! You'll thank everyone who has ever told you to do one.

This weekend I went on vacation to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. I have never been there before even though I lived in Charlotte, NC for 10 years which is about 4 hours away. FYI: driving in SC is extremely boring, it's mostly tree lined interstates the whole way with nothing to see. Unless you're on I-95 heading towards the NC/SC state line...then the South of the Border billboards provide some comic relief. I'm writing this blog mainly because of the seemingly instantaneous change in my open water swimming abilities.

Anyways, while I was there the Cal U Sprint Triathlon was going on. Needless to say I decided to do it. The race report will come later when I get some pictures. This was my 3rd triathlon and 3rd open water swim. The first two swims went horribly (I can say they were a success since I didn't turn back and I'm still alive) but, this one was much different. I did not have any problems at all...other then this guy floating on his back who kept bumping into me and I eventually pushed him away.

First off, I started swimming laps in January and did not have the slightest idea how to perform rotary breathing and it seems most people struggle with this at first. I would guess it takes 4 or 5 times of swimming at least 500 meters each time to become comfortable with rotary breathing. Bilateral breathing is also very beneficial but, it's similar to trying to write with your opposite hand. I still haven't become comfortable with bilateral breathing after 4 months.

When I signed up for the DC Triathlon, I started reading every article about training for and racing a triathlon I could find. I now have a bookmark tab labeled triathlons which runs the length of the screen when opened. All of the articles about swimming in a triathlon seemed to suggest the same thing. YOU NEED TO DO A PRACTICE OPEN WATER SWIM! I completely agree with this statement. I did not do a practice open water swim mainly because I managed to not be in DC every weekend an open water swim was taking place. If you're doing your first triathlon you need to plan a practice open water swim, preferably with as many other people as possible.

My first triathlon swim was trial by fire. I was accustomed to swimming in a pool and being able to see the bottom. This time the swim was in a lake in North Carolina. If you've spent a decent amount of time in NC you know the soil many areas is clay. Meaning, the bottom of the lake I swam in was clay making it hard to see anything in the water. I was not very nervous before the swim since my swim wave was fairly small. However, I got in the water to warm up, made it about waist deep and pushed off to swim...I immediately stood...I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face in the water and I was not happy about this. I tried to accept the fact that I wasn't going to be able to see at all during the swim but, it wasn't happening. Eventually after swimming around for a minute I realized I didn't have a choice.

The race started and I threw pacing out the window and ran into the lake. I stayed to the outside and only had to deal with a few people around me. Not being able to see the bottom didn't bother me that much until I started to get farther out and could actually see the bottom. (I guess the lake bottom was being churned up near shore from everyone being in the water.) I started to freak out a little for some reason when I could see tree stumps (man made lake) and was apparently terrified of stopping to stand up on these since I could still touch the bottom. My pace was far to quick and I couldn't calm down or control my breathing. As stated in the previous blog, I swam the first 250 meters faster than planned and panicked when I nearly couldn't breathe. It took a long time to calm down after looking around wondering how the kayaks or boats would spot me and make it to me in time and then thinking I was going to drown. Not soon enough I remembered I had a wetsuit on and could pretty much float. I still couldn't regulate my breathing the rest of the race and probably only managed to freestyle 50 meters at a time. Based on some blogs I've read this is very common during a first triathlon. DC Rainmaker's First Tri

The second triathlon swim was also my second open water swim. This time it was in the Chesapeake Bay which had small swells to deal with. It was basically the same deal as the first swim except I tried to start out in back and pace myself. This didn't work and I ended up swimming the same way. I think the "swells" may have tired me out more since I was trying to fight them rather than roll with them.

The third swim makes it seems like my open water swimming abilities have progressed light years virtually overnight. I got one pool swim in between triathlons and some messing around in the ocean the day before the Tri. By messing around I mean diving into waves and breast stroking...sounds a little dirty. I don't know if this helped or not but, the next day the swim went surprisingly well.

I walked down to the beach in my wetsuit along with everyone else, walked the 500 meters to the start and got in the water for a bit. Strangely, I was not comfortable in the water during my warm up swim and was worried I was going to have a three peat. (In case you're curious, Firefox suggests threesome if you type threepeat. Still not sure which spelling is correct. Did the Bulls ever manage to trademark that term? I should know considering I work at the Patent and Trademark Office. I just hope they comeback against the Heat.) I stood on the shore and waited for the mass start. I didn't have a swim plan per se, other than not running out with the lead group. The horn went off and I hung back and slowly made my way into the water. Using my amazing logic abilities...I decided I was going to quickly move farther into the ocean and wait until almost everyone in front of me started swimming. Right before I started swimming I decided I was going to breaststroke out to the first buoy since it would be easier and not as tiring to get through the ocean waves this way. I finally made it to the first turn buoy and had to tread water since there was a ton of bunching. After the turn I pointed myself where I wanted to go and freestyled. I swam along with a decent amount of room at a comfortable pace and just waited for my breathing to get out of control. IT NEVER HAPPENED! I just cruised along stopping to breaststroke a few strokes every minute or so to see if I veered off course since I was passing some people and didn't trust their open water navigational skills. The rest of the swim was as smooth as I could have hoped for, I managed to roll with the swells in the ocean and control my breathing. I was as calm as a clam and comfortably did about a 500 meter swim in the ocean (with the current) each of the next two days. I tried going against the current but this proved very difficult especially the second non tri swim. The current was extremely strong and it felt as if I had swam 100 meters and I probably swam 25 meters judging by the lifeguard stands.

To sum things up, it took me three open water swims before I was comfortable swimming in open water and you could say I learned the hard way...don't learn the hard way, it's scary. However, it may be different since my three swims were during triathlons and a practice swim might be much more relaxed. At least you'll be used to water that is dirty and moving at the same time. To quote Hitchhiker's Guide..."Don't Panic!" (Written in Large Friendly Letters)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Second Tri...TriRock Annapolis

With the first race out of the way I figured the second one should be a little easier. I was partially right. For the second weekend in a row I was going to do my second triathlon. This one was in Annapolis, Maryland with the swim being in the Chesapeake Bay. Below is a picture of Main Street in Annapolis. It leads right down to the water...I apologize in advance for all the complaining.

This is the Maryland State Capitol building which was right across the street from my hotel.

Even though I'm only about an hour from Annapolis, waking up before 4am and then driving an hour, finding parking and walking to transition did not sound fun at all. On top of that there was the drive to packet pickup and back. That's 3 hours of driving, probably more because one trip would definitely be in traffic, before I even get to the race. Needless to say, I decided to stay in a hotel...the Historic Inns of Annapolis. These are a series of buildings throughout "downtown" Annapolis which are considered historic some of which are haunted. I stayed in the one below.

I got to packet pick up about 90 minutes into it and it was pretty dead. I picked up my packet and met Ann Wessling who is on the cover of Competitor Magazine. She even signed a copy for me and thanked me for believing it was actually her on the cover. Before the swim next morning she had on a flowered swim cap.

I sat around in the hotel and loaded up my new transition bag, which is much better than my regular backpack I used for the last tri. Everything easily fit and it had a spot for a wet wetsuit. During any race longer than 10 miles, I usually eat pasta in the late afternoon and pizza around 7:30 or 8, it seems to work pretty well. I don't have an eating plan for the night before sprint triathlons since they only take about as long as a 10 miler. I ate my pasta down by the water and had a slice of pizza. After that I decided I wasn't going to eat pizza that night, so I went back to the hotel and watched tv. The water in the Bay was decently high and a parking lot near the docks was flooded. I figured this was due to all the rain we've been getting recently but, I was wrong. According to the news in Annapolis, this is due to the winds...interesting. Then later I realized not eating pizza was a bad idea since I was starving and searched for the subway on the street behind me. Luckily this didn't turn out to be a bad decision, like the time my marathon coach ate Indian food before a half marathon and didn't run a PR because he needed a bathroom break.
I rolled into the transition area around 5:45 and it wasn't very busy yet...the race started at 7. I like the way they have this set up, there was a lot of space and having a tire slot makes it a lot easier. Each slot was marked with out names. I don't know if this is always the case since the last tri was pretty low budget. Luckily I was on the end and had all the space I needed.
I got everything laid out some what neatly and went to look at the water. It was 6am and they hadn't put the buoys out yet nor did anyone know what the water temperature was...60s was their best estimate.

I stood around for a bit and chatted, there were a lot of first timers and I felt cool since it wasn't my first time. I signed up for the Clydesdales division again since I figured I have the best chance of doing well in this division. I'm 27 so there is no chance in hell of me coming close to winning my age group. Last weekend was probably a fluke since the competition is a bit more stiff in this area. Around 6:30 I threw on my wetsuit and headed over to the water. This race was about 800 people larger than the last but, luckily I was only in the 4th swim wave. Everyone crowded in and we stood there for about 30 minutes. Anxiety kicked in and I kept telling myself I wasn't going to make the same mistake as last weekend at the start.

Keep in mind this is a Tri ROCK race...a horrible electric guitar version of the National Anthem, which Jimi Hendrix could have played better with Parkinson's, the first wave went off. This was an in water start so I'd get to tire myself out by treading water first. Thankfully, my girlfriend is an excellent water treader and we practiced treading water together. Sadly she can tread much longer than I can. I hopped off the dock and into the water making sure to be near the back of the pack. I realized treading water in a wetsuit is easy. The horn went off and it was slow going at first while I waited for everyone to swim through the start buoys. I've never swam distances in the oceans before and boy did it show. The waves tired me out quickly and I only managed to swim to the first buoy before needing a break and did the back float. I felt like an idiot since this was such a short swim and the next wave was already catching up. The second 250m wasn't so bad even though it still took me 17 minutes on the swim. For some reason they decided a four ladder system would be enough to get everyone out of the water. I swam up and saw an open ladder and for some reason there was a wait at the other ones. I climbed out of the water and managed to run to transition this time. I think my first transition took about 3 minutes but it was a long run from the water and a long run to the mount point.

It had started raining at this point but I hopped on my bike and didn't have any problems with my shoes this time. The bike course was two loops using a system which was not explained anywhere on the website or in the pre-race briefing. The first loop was to be done in one EXTREMELY narrow row of cones and the second look was to be done in the lane of cones next to it. The lanes were so narrow it made it very hard to pass at some points. On top of that people didn't seem to understand they needed to stay to the right if they're not passing. I'm a pretty courteous person but ended up yelling at a couple people for blocking the lane too long even after nicely saying "on the left" a phrase I heard yelled constantly. The bike part went fine except for a near crash when my left hand slipped off the handle bars when I came out of the saddle after going around a corner. It's a very good thing my right arm was strong enough to hold me up and keep the bike steady at the same time.

My second transition was a little better even though I decided to wear socks this time for the run. I developed a burn on my foot from my shoes last weekend and didn't feel like making it worse. I've been considering going barefoot for several months...and by barefoot I mean Vibram five maybe this is a good time.

The 5K run went much better this weekend. I decided to carry a water bottle with me on the run which turned out to be a great idea. I was still out of breath the whole time but, I managed to keep it around 9:30 a pace I consider good for someone my size. I finished the race around the same time 1:39:30 and thought this was odd since the run went better and the swim was shorter.
It turns out I was wrong about my pace somehow since the results say 10:40 miles. Then I looked at my watch...I ran 3.55 miles, even with accounting for shortest route and the margin of error being that far off seems impossible. I mapped the run on gmap from memory and it said around 3.6 miles. Then I looked at the map on the Tri Rock website and the run was different from the run we actually did. Sooo....Tri Rock, your 5K is not a 5K. It's not surprising since the majority of the volunteers didn't seem to be able to answer any questions. Oh well, I still had fun and got this nifty medal.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Tri

Congrats to me, I finished my first triathlon and didn't drown.

Overall the Jetton Park Triathlon went very well. My parents came to watch and my mom was am excellent cheerleader. I finished in 1:39 and some seconds and managed to come in 3rd in the Clydesdale division...3rd out of 6 people...

The swim was the most difficult part since I wasn't able to do a practice open water swim. I had no idea what I was in for or how goofy I look in a swim cap. Maybe it's my stupid smile in the picture. I got everything set up, didn't break a sweat while putting on my wetsuit, which was fairly tight, and got to the water and swam for a couple minutes. I freaked out at first since I couldn't see anything in the water, but didn't realize it was because everyone was walking around and churning up the clay ground. All of my swimming has been done in a 25 yard lap pool and swam for about 40 minutes continuously being able to touch the bottom the whole 25 yards. I got out of the water and stood for the National Anthem then waited for my wave.

The swim was 750 meters and I was in the 4th wave with each wave going off three minutes apart. I was never nervous during the wait which worried me since I thought I should have been. It sort of felt like a running race and I'm used to those, little did I know what I was in for. The three waves went off and I tried to see how people were getting into the water. I lined up with my group and kept telling myself to stay in the back and pace myself...Then the horn went off and I ran into the water and was in front of a good number of people...crap...not what I planned at all. The first 150 meters or so was fine and wasn't paying attention to how fast I was swimming. I figured a good number of people were swimming fairly slow. After about 25 meters I could see the bottom of the lake and was not comfortable with that since it didn't closely resemble a tile bottom with a blue line. I read a lot about the swim but nothing can really prepare you for it.

I stayed with a pack for awhile, which was a mistake since when I was 25-50 meters away from the first turn at 250 meters and heard the horn and realized I was having trouble breathing. This meant I swam 200 meters in 3 minutes which was much faster then my planned pace of 250 meters in about 5 minutes, I knew I was in trouble. When I hit the turn I was not breathing well at all and started to panic. I don't know if it was because I barely fit in my wetsuit and was having trouble breathing or if it was just because I was swimming too fast. I couldn't breaststroke and ended up doggy paddling for 15 seconds or so and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I finally flipped over on my back and pushed myself along while floating on my back. It took a couple minutes for me to calm down and towards the second turn people from the second wave started to pass me. The rest of the race was freestyle and the back float.

I made it out of the water and was not in any mood to run to my bike. After the swim the rest was a breeze...when compared to the swim. I got my wetsuit off in a flash, put my helmet, sunglasses and gloves on then ran to the mount line. The bike start was uphill and I decided to clip my shoes in and put my feet in them while riding, not a good idea but I can't run with speedplay cleats. It took forever to get my feet in my shoes since I couldn't get enough speed uphill. I finally got them in and was off.

The bike portion went slower than I thought it would mainly because it was a bit hilly. I didn't have any problems except for almost running off the road when I was trying to get my water bottle back in.

I got back into the transition area, almost knocked over a bike, threw my shoes on without any socks and was off...Why aren't my legs moving? I had done several transition runs at a decent pace for someone my size...about 9:30 miles...but I couldn't run below 10:30 and was already out of breath. With just a 5K run by itself I can do around 8:30 min/mile...considering I weigh 250, I'd say that's pretty decent. I was shocked as to how slow I had to run. Anyways, up the hill I went trading passes with this woman and a 14 year old girl (Who ended up finishing just behind me) Then back down the hill, along the lake and up another hill struggling to stay under 10 minute miles the whole way. I finally made it to the top of the hill and threw some water on my head to see what that would do. It probably just made me look stupid. I hit the final turn and was down to 9:30 miles. I tried to tell everyone I passed on the way back "good job." Back down the hill I went towards the finish. As I was about to make the last turn for the finish I heard "Here comes Brian...all the way from Alexandria, VA." It's about 6 hours away and this is a very small race. I crossed the finish line and was very glad to be done, but sad at the same time.My parents were waiting for me at the finish and the pictures are courtesy of my mom. They had a blast and stuck around with me for the awards since after looking at the results I realized I was somehow third in the over 200 group. I ended up winning a $10 gift card to one of the Tri stores in Charlotte. Not bad for my first race.

...I've got some weight to lose.

I found out this is only the 3rd year the race has been going on. My parents were telling me about some people they saw during the swim part. The winner was out of the water a good bit before the second person. My mom said one guy in the last wave turned around and came back after a couple minutes. A couple people couldn't walk a straight line when they got out of the water and apparently didn't continue since one of them fell over.

This coming weekend I'll be doing my second sprint tri in Annapolis...luckily the swim will be shorter and I know to not try to get out in front.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm finally going to Tri it!

Sadly, I've been out of commission for awhile. Strangely enough, it was from bad Gatorade. I had no idea this was possible but apparently if you leave an unopened bottle of Gatorade out of the refrigerator for too long bacteria will develop. I did horrible in chemistry and don't know much about biology, or whatever branch of science deals with bacteria, therefore had no idea this would happen. It was a gallon bottle of Gatorade which was too big for the fridge so, I left it on the floor directly in front of a window. I drank from it two Fridays ago and was sick that night. At first I thought it may have been food poisoning from Panera since I was fine the next morning, but missed my long run. In preparation for a long bike ride the next day and because I probably lost a lot of electrolytes from being sick I drank more Gatorade and I got sick again. Before I was heading to bed on Saturday night, I went to drink more Gatorade when I finally noticed something resembling phlegm in the bottle. Right then I realized it was the Gatorade that had been making me sick. I took the next week off since I was sick on and off throughout the week. I've never had it but, I'm guessing it was similar to Montezuma's revenge and the bacteria may still be in my system.

On a brighter note, tonight is track night my first triathlon is this Saturday! I'm doing a sprint triathlon in Lake Norman right outside Charlotte, NC. I tried out my wetsuit in a pool last night. It was the first time I've ever worn a wetsuit and I had no idea I would be able to float on the water. I was told they provide more buoyancy but had no idea they would provide that much. Anyways, I've been ready for this race for a long time and I think I have everything I need for it. According to the times from last year, it's possible that I may come in 2nd or 3rd in the Clydesdale division, but that might be wishful thinking since it is my first race. I think I'll be fine as long as I don't get kicked in the face and drown and hopefully I'll have some pictures to post.