Today I completed my third triathlon. That takes me out of the beginner’s ranks and, I guess, into experienced ranks. I don’t feel experienced yet. This was supposed to be my first triathlon but I started getting antsy to do one in March.
I really debated about going to the Callaway Gardens Sprint. Last week I had another sinus infection and had a pretty lousy week overall. After the tornado I thought I wouldn’t go so I have been back and forth on this one for a while. Sam and I talked about it on Friday though and I decided that I would go ahead and do it.
About a week ago I sat down and looked at the course and thought about my times and strategy. I thought based on my past races that I could finish in 1:35. I was predicting 13 minutes for the swim, 50 minutes for the bike and 24 minutes for the run. I thought the transitions would take about 4 minutes for each one. My times are below.
I have my transition bag pared down now. It all fits in a small backpack now. I packed up Friday night. I still had not decided which bike I was going to take. My road bike needed some adjustments but I had not had time to get the bike over to the bike shop. I decided to take both of them and decide since my bike rack holds three bikes. Saturday morning I was trying to pump up the tires on the road bike and wound up deflating the front tire. I could not get the tire pumped up. (Yes, embarrassing!) I took the bike anyway and decided that I would stop at Cahaba Cycles in Birmingham on my way. They were really great and made sure my bike was ok. One of the tires needed an adjustment and they checked the gears that were giving me some problems. It took a little bit of time but it was really worth it.
I finally headed towards Callaway Gardens around noon. I forgot that I lost an hour because I go from Central to Eastern time. I did arrive in time to pick up my race packet though. There was also enough time to go and look over the course. I knew the lake was shallow but I could not remember which lake it was since I had not been to Callaway Gardens for a few years. I decided to go ahead and ride the bike course. I had planned on only doing part of it because it was in the upper 90s by the time I got on my bike. I did the whole course though and am glad I did. It’s a very flat course – nice after last weekend’s ride at Oak Mountain. There was a lot of stuff on the road though. I hadn’t thought about that but Callaway Gardens is full of trees. There were a couple of small hills and a few sharp curves where the Chris Newell/Krista Schultz cornering training came in very handy again. I rode the course in 41 minutes, which made me pretty happy since that was faster than I anticipated. I wasn’t really pushing myself though and I had to contend with traffic in the gardens.
After I was finished with the bike course, I just headed to the hotel for the evening.
I should have expected a few of the things I saw and experienced, but I really didn’t. I was up at 5 a.m. because the transition area opened at 5:45 a.m. and was first come/first serve. I could have gone later and still found a great spot. There were not many of us there before 6 a.m. The triathlon is advertised as family friendly and geared for people who don’t swim well, or at all, don’t bike much and don’t like to run on hills. It is also geared to first timers. There were 750 first time participants and about 1200 total. Two people who were sitting up their transition area next to me told me not to expect a PR because this race had too many children and first timers that you have to dodge. Both of them had done the race before and were experienced triathletes.
I headed to body marking. On the way I met Heather, who I have been emailing back and forth on Daily Mile. She spotted me first. It was fun to actually find someone who I had been communicating with online. Body marking turned out to be easy and quick. The only thing they marked was the swim wave. I noticed later that many people had never made it to body marking and others had written their own numbers on various parts of their bodies.
I spent a lot of time waiting for things to begin. I talked to the two people next to me, took my bike for a short ride, stretched, and waited. I headed over to the other side of the lake for the swim start early. This was a pretty laid back triathlon compared to the other two I have done. It was not a USAT sanctioned race so there were no officials checking things. A number of us went into the lake. I walked all the way to the buoys and was still able to stand up. I think the deepest water was about 5 feet. Apparently the drop off is pretty close, however.
I sat on the wall by the beach and realized that I was fairly calm. The announcer kept saying he knew we were all nervous, but I thought, “No, not really. Not today.” The swim began at 8 a.m. Waves were organized by gender and age. Everyone over 50 was in the same wave though and the under 14 year old’s were last, after the over 50 wave of women. We were the most enthusiastic wave. Every time the announcer gave us the time until we were to start we cheered for ourselves. A couple of the women turned around and told the under 14 year old crowd not to kick us as they went by. There was actually enough time between waves (3 minutes) so there wasn’t much of a problem with one group running into the next group.
I started the swim in water that was a little too shallow. My hands were hitting the bottom so I had to move out a little bit. My stroke felt pretty strong though. There was a lot of laughter about how shallow the water was, especially by the non-swimmers who basically walked around the lake. I swam. I think part of my calmness came from knowing that at any time I could stand up if I needed to. I did a couple of times just because we got bunched up a little and I had to move over. Recall that I had predicted 13 minutes for the swim. Last weekend I did the same distance in 14 minutes but in deeper water. This morning I came out of the water at 8:58 and crossed the timing mat at the top of the hill at 9:43.
This was the first swim where I actually had to deal with sand. Last week there were just pine needles to run through. It took some extra time to get the sand off and my feet dry. I had some issues last week with wet feet and socks so I switched to the socks I usually wear this week. That helped. The transition was a long distance from the water too. Going out to the bike was kind of congested because people didn’t really know how to mount their bikes. My T1 time was 4:46, slower than I anticipated.
I predicted 50 minutes, rode the course in 41 minutes on Saturday, and finished the course in 33:38 on Sunday morning. The bike course was 9 miles. Even though it was flat there were places where I could really get some speed. I didn’t have to change gears much because there were very few hills. I averaged 16.1 mph and was up to 18-20 mph and as high as 24 mph through out the course.
The biggest problem on the bike course was that people were not staying to the right and when I was passing they would often veer in front of me. I had a few close calls, especially with children who decided if I was going to pass them then they were going to speed up. I had people passing me on the right too. I did manage to pass a lot of people, and many who were younger than I am (not children). As I think I already mentioned, the cornering skills were quite useful again.
I love my new bike. It’s fast and I feel confident on it already. I am still careful and observant though.
I’m surprised the T2 took as long as it did. My time was 4:35. I had a little bit of a problem with my right show and getting it tight enough. That has been an ongoing problem and I need to figure out what the issue is with it. I also didn’t really hurry towards the run start which was at the opposite end of the transition.
The transition from bike to run is where I still need a lot of work. I need to do more brick work. The course was around the lake, up into the woods and back out by the pavilion. I started off running but I felt fairly slow. It was getting muggy by the time I started to run. It had been cloudy and overcast, good weather for a race. I managed to keep running most of the first mile. When I reached the bridge that was the one mile point I slowed down to walk. There was a section of gravel that was not long but it was up hill and around a curve. I tend to turn my ankles on that kind of surface. I started running again when I hit asphalt again. The gravel section was probably just enough so I did not make my predicted 24 minutes. My run time was 25:29.
Sam and I had been talking about mantras earlier in the week. The run was the section where I used mantras to keep going. I repeated several – you can do this (Sam says this to me when we run together), don’t be afraid of tired, and I’m doing this for me, I’m doing this for Sam and I’m doing this for the work we have done this past year. These all kept me going.
I finished at 1:18.09. I had estimated 1:35. So I finished 17 minutes faster than I thought I would. Yes, I am very happy with that finish. I was 27 out of 36 in my age group.
I’m glad I did the race. I am also glad it was not my first race. This race made me appreciate some of the USAT rules that help keep people safe on the course. It was fantastic to see all the different ages out this morning but there were times when I felt like I could easily have had an accident.
This gave me a preview for Labor Day weekend. I will be doing my first International Distance triathlon at Callaway Gardens then. I don’t anticipate as many children or first timers that weekend.