race report: ultimate tri

It’s time! It’s time!

So, I’ve been blathering on about doing a triathlon for the past year or so. Everything was on track, until Mr PugRunner threw out a little caveat: he really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of me doing an open water swim.

Womp womp.

I agreed to respect his concerns, but kept looking for the opportunity to register for a sprint tri with a pool swim.

And so, I discovered The Ultimate Tri.

When I mentioned registering, my friend Stacey piped up and said she would go ahead and do it with me. She is always so incredibly supportive and wonderful, and I felt much more confident knowing I would have a buddy there.

Packet pickup was the Friday before the race. I picked up for both of us. We got our bibs, t-shirts and number temporary tattoos. I was literally shaking when I showed up and spent a few minutes talking to the race director, who gave me some really incredible advice.

First, he said to just take my time. He then said that between the setup and the start, we would have time to get in the pool. His suggestion was to get in and do a few easy warm up laps to settle in. That most people hop in and try to hammer it out, exhausting themselves and tanking on the rest of the race. A quick warm up would alleviate those nerves. He also said to be careful on the last stretch of bike, as there was a downhill coming into transition, that could be tricky.

Alrighty then.

I packed my bag on Saturday night. I must have checked it ten times to make sure I had everything. My plan was to wear the speedo bathing suit (and swim shorts) in the pool, and then just pull on the tank and running shorts in transition.

Stacey picked me up early on Saturday morning. We strapped the bikes to the back of her car and made the drive to the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club. When we pulled in, and caught sight of some of the fancy bikes and official tri kits, I started to feel a bit intimidated. This smile is hiding a feeling of abject terror.

We picked up our ankle chips and got ourselves situated. It was my first time racking a bike and setting up transition, and I have to say, I think I did a decent job.

It helped that my bike was at the end of the row, closest to the walkway. Yay for beginners’ luck.

Then it was time for a bathroom run, and to get some pool time. I was thrilled that the pool was heated. With morning temperatures being pretty low, it would have been torturous to get in an unheated pool. Stacey and I found a lane and took on a few nice, easy laps, just as instructed. Immediately, I felt a lot better.

Mr PugRunner and little man arrived and I was really happy to see them before we got going.

And then it was time. We were asked to line up in order of our numbers (except Stacey and I, and some others had been repositioned in the order and were to fill in as instructed at check in) so we could start.

Swim – 300 yard

Swimmers were sent into the pool every 10 seconds. We would swim up one side of the lane, turn, down the other, go under the lane marker and do it again for the entire width of the pool. The race director requested that if we needed to stop for rest, to please grab the next available wall and let others pass, or if we wanted to pass, to tap the foot of the swimmer ahead of us and pass at the wall.

We agreed that Stacey would go in front of me and I would stick right behind her. We were in no rush whatsoever. I just adjusted the length of my stroke to stay right in her wake without hitting her. We passed one swimmer, who then passed us, but then she had to stop again and we went by her.

I felt great. I got a little cramp in my foot in the first few lengths (it always seems to happen), but it passed, and I settled in nicely. When we got to the end of the pool, I felt like I could have kept swimming.

Transition 1

We had to jog a fair distance to T1, which ate up some of our swim time. Boo. I wasn’t really a fan of this part – barefoot running isn’t my thing, especially with the ground being gravelly and gross. However, I dried my feet, got my socks and “cycling” shoes on (I use a pair of very light, non-cushioned Mizuno Wave Catalysts for cycling), pulled on my shorts and tank, got my helmet and shades on and unracked my bike.

Instructions advised us to walk out of transition, so we did.

Cycling – 8 miles

We had pumped our tires before racking the bikes, but I was a little disconcerted when my bike started making a fairly odd sound. Within the first two minutes of the ride, my chain popped off and left me spinning aimlessly.

To be honest, I would have had no idea of what to do if Stacey hadn’t been there. We pulled over, she popped the chain back on (getting a fair amount of grease on her in the process) and we were able to get back to work.

The ride was nice. It was the first day in a while without wind, and I felt great pedaling along. She was right behind me the whole way, which meant we couldn’t chat, but I guess that’s the nature of the sport.

The other thing that was weird was seeing people already starting or completing their run while we were riding, but since we had such a staggered start, it was how things fell out. I think it kept the course from being crowded, which I appreciated.

Transition 2 

We braked down the hill, and walked our bikes back into transition. I just had to swap shoes and put on my visor and we were good to go. I also grabbed a gu for the road. I didn’t know if I would need it, but I wanted to have it just in case.

Run – 3 miles

I’m not going to lie. The run sucked. By this point of the morning, it was humid and sweltering, and I couldn’t get a good lungful of air. Stacey was really patient about it, but I was frustrated. I know that it’s something I deal with, but it never fails to embarrass me on the course. Everything else felt great, but gasping like a fish out of water is never fun or encouraging.

I did what I could. I didn’t attribute this to bad or ineffective training, but more to what the day handed out. I had done plenty of runs off the bike, and while they were never fun, none of them ever felt quite like this. I’m sure it was nerves, relief at being almost done, and the weather.

After what felt like an eternity, we were crossing the finish line, and would you believe it?

I am a triathlete!

We grabbed snack boxes from PDQ (at that moment, it was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten),

and I was hoping for a celebratory beer, but the line was long and they had run out of cups at the keg, so I figured I would make it up later that afternoon at my friend’s house.

What I loved?

This was a great starter tri. The pool swim definitely led to a more controlled situation, and it was a great way to get one’s feet wet (pun intended). The staggered start helped the bike course from crowding, which was a huge concern of mine. There was plenty of assistance at all stages, and the volunteers were encouraging and helpful.

I also loved having a friend at my side, and seeing Mr PugRunner and little man there. We haven’t been doing as many races together, and I’ve been letting them sleep in on the days when I do have a race scheduled. That being said, it was nice to see them in transitions and at the finish line.

What didn’t I love?

The bike and the run courses measured a little short. On the one hand, it saved me on the run, but on the other, I feel like I need a crack at a redemption course. I also was bummed that there wasn’t any on-course photography. I would have loved some swimming and cycling pictures. Mr PugRunner was there with his phone, for which I’m grateful, but it would be a nice touch going forward.

Will I do it again?

You know, I think I will. Now that I’ve put myself out there, and know that I CAN do it, I kind of want a crack at doing it better. Things like transition are hard to visualize and mentally prepare for, but now that I have done it, I know how to be more efficient and make the most of that time.

Pool triathlons are few and far between, though, so that makes it a bit more challenging to find an encore, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.

Have you ever taken on a multi-sport race?

What are your best tips and tricks for triathlons?

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