Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Triathlons, Part 1 (Finally!)

So, at long last, we bring you the tale of our first triathlon.

Our training over our last 10 weeks or so in Minnesota went great. We were swimming, running, and/or biking five or six days a week, including many days where we did a combination of events. I worked up to the point where I could swim 2 sets of 600 yards (about 1/3 mile each) in the pool, and this made me feel quite prepared, since both our planned triathlons had 1/3 mile swims.

The move itself made training difficult—our bikes had to be boxed up and put in the truck, and we lost access to the pool several days before our actual move. The whole packing up thing rather interfered, too! We tried to consider these couple of weeks a "taper" rather than a setback, though!

Triathlon #1 was the King Pine Triathlon in Madison, NH, a ways north of us. We went up the evening before and met my parents, who came to hang out with Brynna during the big event. This triathlon always has a lot of first-timers, so there was a very helpful rookie meeting where they explained the event and talked about the most important rules (such as No Drafting during the bike leg). We also took the opportunity that night to get into our rental wetsuits and give them a spin (a swim?) in the lake.

I wish we had photos...actually video would be more amusing...of us trying to wriggle into the wetsuits. They are tight.

Once we wandered down to the beach, feeling like superheroes in our stretchy suits, we encountered a problem. The water was really, REALLY cold. The mid-sixties that we'd been promised had fallen to 61 degrees thanks to a few days of rain.  But, you might ask, what about the wetsuits? Why would cold water be a problem?

Well, the wetsuits did a great job of covering virtually our whole bodies. But not our faces. And it turns out that when you dunk your face in 61 degree water, your mammalian diving reflex kicks in and strongly discourages your body from breathing out underwater. Because you need that oxygen! Except, if you are trying to swim across a lake, the breathing out part is quite important because it allows the breathing in part that comes next. I was really glad to have encountered this the night before the race rather than the morning of, and we stayed in the water until I felt a bit more comfortable getting into my front crawl rhythm. (Alex, being a far more experienced swimmer, had a lot less trouble adapting to the temperature.)

Anyway, we went out for a fabulous pizza dinner that night in North Conway, and Brynna gave us a decent night of sleep, and we got up bright and early the next morning, tossed Brynna into bed with my folks, and headed to the race site. We got our bodies marked on our way in (they write your number and age on your arms and legs to keep track of who's who). Alex, who was not yet changed into his swimsuit, had to drop trow right there in the line to get numbered high on his leg! We set up our transition spots with our biking and running stuff then wriggled into our wetsuits once more. Then the whole crowd of neoprene-clad triathletes headed down to the beach.

Here's everyone warming up:

photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

Naturally, sending off this whole crowd at once would cause serious traffic and safety issues in the water. So, we were broken up into waves based on age and denoted by swimcap color. That's us in the neon green - the first wave. When the whistle sounded, off we went. Alex took off with the pack. I ran into the water, started swimming...and promptly came up gasping. I couldn't get a rhythm going in the chilly water, and though I appreciated the warmth of the suit, the tightness made breathing difficult, and I started to feel a bit panicked. I never really recovered, and ended up breast-stroking pretty much the whole thing with my head out of the water, which was very different from my expectation of front-crawling the whole way. 

Here's Alex, zooming along. He had a great swim leg:
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

Aquaman exiting the water:
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

And me, after my veeeerrrry long, painfully slow swim, thinking "whew! All on dry land after this, thank goodness!" I think I was the second-to-last person from the first wave to leave the water. The silver-swim-cap guy just behind me started in a wave several minutes behind.
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

Then it was time to bike! Here's Alex taking off out of the transition area:
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

He followed this impressive start with a strong bike leg. (We were relieved to find that the roads were actually quite smooth and fast.)

And here I am. I was SO happy to be on dry land. I am a much better biker than swimmer, so I got to pass lots of people, making up time, which made me feel really good :
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

After about 12 miles on the bike, it was on to the 3.8 mile (6 k) run. There was a bit of running on the road, but it was mainly on dirt track and trails, which was lovely. Here's Alex coming in to the finish:
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

(He beat that lady next to him by a second. Though, being in an older age group, she's started a full 8 minutes after him, so really it wasn't much of a contest.)

And here I am finishing:
photo credit: Kimberly Keyes

The triathletes celebrate:

Brynna with her M:

She loved watching and listening to the crowd and the commotion, and she was waiting to cheer us on near the transition area. In a few years, maybe she'll be doing the kids' race!

Overall, we had a great time. I was really disappointed about my swim, but thrilled to have persevered to finish, and especially happy with my very strong bike. Alex was pleased with all his events, though he wanted to work on quicker transitions from swim to bike and bike to run.

And next time, the tale of triathlon #2...

1 comment:

yuan family said...

Congrats on finishing! You should be very proud. I know how you felt Hilary during the swimming...the first time I tested out the lake, I felt a little panicked as well. I also found out that breast stroke works well as it is hard to get into a rhythm when there are so many people around.