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My First Triathlon

I’m taking a step away from the technology discussion for this post. Last weekend I completed my first triathlon. I have been training in all three disciplines (swim, bike, run) for a couple of years now but I had not signed up for a race because I didn’t want to spend the money. I wanted to recap my race and briefly discuss my training leading up to it.

First came the swim, which was somehow the most surprising of the portions. This was the first time I had swum in open water. I knew that it was a bad idea but I did not have an opportunity otherwise to swim in open water. Not being able to see the bottom was not too bad but having people (obstacles) around me was a problem. Everyone swimming into each other was confusing and resulted in me looking up only to be met by many other confused looks of others around me. Quite comical.

The most surprising bit of the swim was my result. This was only supposed to be a 550-meter swim (my GPS said 650+), so I expected to get out of the water somewhere around 12 minutes. Much to my surprise I clocked in under 11 minutes. I guess I wanted to get out of the situation so badly that I swam possibly the fastest swim for that length in my life. But who knows, I don’t track my swim paces like I do cycling and running.

T1 went slower than I expected. I’m no professional triathlete, and I told myself that as I ran up to my bike. I ended up taking my time and sitting down to dry off my feet and put on socks and shoes. Out of transition, I did a sort of (?) flying mount onto my bike. Definitely smoother than the other people around me but not graceful.

Onto the bike portion. I had fun but this was also the leg of the race that I knew I would have fun on. The race was not draft-legal but no one wanted to follow that rule (I tried as best as I could). I passed some people but not a great amount. Most people I passed were on road bikes, some on TT bikes, and some on commuter bikes. The cyclists that surprised me most were the ones with fully kitted-out TT bikes. The airy whooshing sounds they made as they passed me going about 30 were unforgettable. I would love to give someone that same experience sometime in the future. (I am now in the market for a TT bike.) I was targeting ~20 mph (~32 kph) for the entire section which was 13 miles. I stayed surprisingly true to my goal and got off the bike after slightly less than 40 minutes.

Next came the run. Near the end of the bike, I started worrying about the run. My legs were feeling a little sluggish and I had not consumed as much water as I wanted. Also, a run off of an intense bike was fairly uncommon for me.

I tried to start the run not at a specific pace but by feel. I had run enough brick sessions leading up to this that I knew I would be able to cook (relatively) later on but that my body doesn’t like being pushed right off the bike. I was passed by multiple people. After the first mile or so I caught up to them though and started feeling much better. The rest of the run was good and I ended up negative splitting the entire 5k.

I happily accepted my water at the finish line and jumped into an ice bath which was a welcome amenity. I finished in 1 hour 18 minutes for a 550-yard swim (650 yd GPS), 13-mile bike, and 5-kilometer run. I forgot to mention at the start but I ran this in Houston in July. The weather was better than normal but still extremely hot and humid.

Training wise I kept everything super simple, and I did not use a training plan. I knew that the distance wasn’t going to be a problem, just the heat and humidity. I did most of my training around lunchtime to try and get the best acclimatization that I could. I alternated cycling and running during the week (the exact days shifted). I took an odd Monday or Friday off if I felt like it otherwise I trained every day. On the weekends I tried to get in one long bike (~2 hours) and one medium-ish run (~1 hour) with a swim sprinkled in now and then. The last month before the race I added in a brick run off my long bike to get my legs used to that feeling.

All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to doing it again. What I would have changed is to try and get out to do an open water swim. At least one would have helped before the real deal. As far as training goes, I would have loved to do more intensity/speed work, but in this weather, it is hard enough just to get out and train.

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