'Tri'ing it out
by leighschvartzJun 23rd 2013
It's official, I have entered into the world of triathlon and have caught the bug - hard. Just completed my first ever race (sprint distance at Henley upon Thames) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am going to use this blog to keep track of my races and my progression through the different disciplines and record the learning points as I attempt to navigate my way through this uncharted territory.
So, signed up for the Henley triathlon at the turn of the year. After 10+ years of karate/kickboxing and various other martial arts I fancied a change. With some prior experience in running & cycling, triathlon seemed like a good new venture. With zero experience in the swimming discipline, I was really starting from scratch here - so most of the years training has gone towards getting that to a passable level!
Training overall went really well, I have had to balance an entirely new training schedule with a busy new job and continuing my weight training (argueably counter productive .. but hey) so I've been getting in the following roughly for the past 4 months (with some minor changes throughout).
M - Strength Training & Swim (at lunch)
T - Run
W - Strength Training
T - Run
F - Strength Training
S - Cycle
S - Swim / Run
Swimming I've gone from sets of 1x25 metres (!!) to 4 sets of 400m by the end of the training, and even threw in an 800m set for good measure the week before the race - so I was feeling good by all accounts for this. Running was also a good one, with my Summer 2012 5k PB standing at 22:30, I had planned another 5k race the week before the triathlon to gauge the progress, and clocked in at 20:22 - so some great gains made. Cycling was more steady, but I managed to add an extra couple of miles per hour on average for the rides which were all around the hilly Richmond park, so I was happy with it all the same.
Race day came (23rd June 2013) - early 6am start .. which the girlfriend wasn't thrilled about .. for a nice drive down to the beautful Henley. Arrived with plenty of time and set up my transition zones (which was all completely new to me) but all without an issue. Waited around a little and then got ready to set up for the first discipline, the swim.
As mentioned, the swim was really the new one for me - and I wasn't sure what to expect. When the chap called me in and counted me down I was feeling a little nervous (given how many people were in the pool!) I started off with a bit of a gap so went for it straight away. Perhaps not the best move, as within 10 seconds I had caught the fella in front and had to scramble around to not take a kick to the face - learning point one (ironic considering my kickboxing background..). I then struggled behind a couple of people for the first 100m and ended up having to breast-stroke for parts, which was not great. When I finally got some room in the second lane, my rhythm was off and I was more set on concentrating not to run into any more traffic than my stroke - which hindered the time here. This continued for the majority of the swim, and although I didn't set the world on fire (or any of my training PBs, for that matter) - I got through it unscaved, which going into it was the plan! I then hopped out of the pool and realised just how much the lack of proper breathing had taken out of me...
T1 & Cycle
T1 was terrible for me, I was (of course) wet, and although I had laid out my things as best I could, it took me far to long to get kitted up. T-Shirt got stuck on my wet back and it took me 30+ seconds to fix it, this put me off the rest so I took my time.. then to make matters worse my feet kept slipping off the cleats and it took me 10+ seconds to clip in to start the ride - not ideal!
I started pedalling and it took me around 5 minutes to catch my breath back from the swim, the route was hilly - not 'flat' as described on the website! Once I got into my rhythm the hills were no bother, from training on the hills of Richmond park over and over and over again every weekend - it was nothing I wasn't used to. I overtook my fair share of people both on the flats and on the hills, and when I was coming into the 2nd lap I was almost thinking in my head that I would rather do another 20 miles on the bike than get off and try to run; but, alas, this came to an end and I pulled into the next transition area for the run - almost wondering if I could have done more.
T2 & Run
Into T2. Cycle racked. Hamstring seizes up with some pretty nasty cramp. I realised shortly after that I had taken onboard little to no water since starting (unless you count pool water) - and with lucazade on my bike, and in my hand for the run, this wasn't going to improve any time soon. I sat down and stretched out my hamstring to try and alleviate the pain which worked in the short term - but it struck again when I went to change shoes - I had to really take 45 seconds or so to stretch it out and 'massage' it (when I say massage, I really just mean smack it a few times). I got my shoes on and ran out to the run start and started steady. For the first 1/4 - 1/2 mile I had continuous cramps in my calves, which was really annoying as I had to alter my running style to avoid it for probably the first lap (of 4) - which didn't do my speed any good. Once I got ran this off (literally) and came into the 2nd lap I churned through the gears and got up to what felt like a good pace, over-taking numerous people on the way through the 2nd and 3rd lap. Coming onto the fourth lap I really wanted to do this - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/23013933 -but I just didn't have it in my cramp ridden legs. I did, however, muster a fast last 1/2 mile and a sprint finish to the line - where the announcer called my name and race number (all pronounced correct .. that made the race fee worth it on it's own). I then proceeded to collapse onto the floor and let my legs spasm out until they were happy to move on (probably 10-15minutes!).
Final time - 1hr 31 (11.26 Swim & T1, 54.47 Bike, 24.59 Run & T2) - I think, not sure where T2 was counted..
Overall Rank - 84th / 300 ish
Age Rank - 5th
All in all it was a fantastic experience, and I learned a lot from 'popping the cherry'. Key learning points for me this time round would be:
1. Wear a zip up t-shirt so I don't have to waste 30seconds trying to get it on over my wet back!
2. Have water on my bike to make sure I stay well hydrated and avoid cramp
3. Concentrate more on technique and breathing in the pool rather than just avoiding an underwater boot to the face
4. Pace faster in the cycle and run, as without the cramp, I would have had some left at the end.
Taking these points on board, it was slightly bitter sweet as I know I could have gone much faster and I know I will do next time. So when I got back home I jumped on the web and found my next challenge - Ely Sprint Triathlon on September 1st. Training will remain constant from now until then, and there I'm looking to duck under 1hr 30 and something more along the lines of 1hr 25 :-)