It is true. I finished my first official Olympic distance triathlon. What a great experience. I did not come close to winning anything, other than a finishing metal. To summarize my overall experience, I got whipped on and then had to run home six miles after a gruesome beating.
It started with a swim just a few hundred yards shy of a mile. Because I felt my weakest parts of a triathlon would be running and biking, I trained very little or not at all for the swimming portion of the race. This is the longest distance I have ever swam…period. I had imagined doing long smooth strokes and easily gliding through the water, but within a few minutes of my 45 minute endurance swim, I opted for smaller strokes. By the time I pulled out of the water, I felt exhausted, accomplished, and glad to have not drowned.
Most triathletes would run to their bikes, but I was glad to just walk. I got dressed in my bicycling gear and headed off following the path and other bikers. I started the race with two friends. They were nowhere in sight, already 10-20 minutes ahead of me. The bike seemed, at the start, invigorating. So much easier to pump the legs than the arms. But after about 5 miles and a mild warm up, I approached the steepest and longest hill I’ve ever seen. It is a type of hill that when driving up it in a car, you feel the strain on the engine and transmission.
My first mistake was not knowing how long it was, and hoping as I approached it that the end was just a few hundred yards away. I was mistaken. Soon I was standing on my pedals to keep the bike moving. My cadence was too slow even in the lowest gear to keep moving forward. This of course was a desperate attempt to not walk my bike, but an enormous drain on energy. Needless to say, the hill got the best of me and I had to walk the last 100 yards to the top before it leveled off. Back on my bike I continue traveling and reaching some beautiful Vistas and views high above San Diego. They are shortly enjoyed as all blood glucose is gone from my brain and trying to keep my legs alive. It felt good, but it was work enough to make me forget how hard the swim had been.
Coming in from the bike, I change into my running shoes and off I go. Not far into the run I try to stretch my quads, but my hamstrings spasm. I can feel the tightness and pain in my knees, but have no hope of getting anything to relax. I’m thinking now I really needed to warm up before starting the race. Within in a mile all recollection of the difficulty of swimming and biking are gone. Only the run is in front of me, and though I had gotten my training prior to competition up to 9 minute miles, I was dragging my body along at what I would discover later at about 12 minute miles. (I can walk faster than that.) After 6 grueling miles I finally crossed the finish line.
Julie was there waiting for me, which I was very glad about. She said I looked good. I said I feel beaten. I learned many valuable lessons. Triathlon races require significant endurance and months of preparation before the race. Though I feel after 2 weeks to still be in recovery, I have scheduled my next event in March of next year. The next triathlon is a Half Ironman which is twice the distance of this recent event. Only time and training will tell if I learned anything from this experience. I am most excited about what I learned.
Some my consider it a tortuous experience. I consider it an opportunity to learn my strengths(yet to be discovered) and improve my weaknesses(to many to list).