From parking lot to starting line went about as smoothly as you could expect. Got drawn on with the cool sharpies. Got my timing chip. Set up my transition in my super cool optimal pre-planned way that I’d done dozens of times in my head but, sadly, had never practiced nor timed in actuality.
We’ll come back to that later.
After that, I got changed into my super shitty tri shorts. This may have been a blessing in disguise. After a near sleepless night, only my hatred and loathing of these shorts was there to fuel me. After changing, I stood in line for about 40 minutes to take a piss (AWESOME right before a race that’s going to take a metric shit ton of leg strength). Then off down the hill to the lake for a little warm up.
This was my first time swimming in a lake. The water was warm, still, and tasted a little sweet. It was also murky as all get out. Fortunately, I was either too tired or too nervous to think about DinoCroc or any other bad movie off the sci fi channel.
After splashing around in the water and getting a little used to there being no touchable bottom, no easily-followable black line, no wall and no lane lines, I paddled my big fat ass back to the shore and listened to the pre-race. I was in the first wave so figured “What the heck.” and instead of lining up at the back said screw it and got up near the front. I figured it’d be easier on me if people had to work around me from behind rather than me having to deal with getting kicked in the face. I’m an ass like that.
After some technical issue with the clock that made us line up a second time, the gun went off and we all start running to the water and diving in. The first 50 meters were a blur of splashing around, fighting for position and sensing hands, feet and elbows all around.
Fortunately, I was able to get on the horsepower a little bit and find some clear water. Unfortunately, I apparently can’t swim in a straight line. Seems I pull to the right. This course turns to the left.
For a while I swim right next to another guy that I see is popping up and spotting on every fourth stroke. So I just swim right next to him, breathing easily out to the side and let him do the steering. I’m BRILLIANT!
This went fantastically until we had to make the first turn and I lost him. No matter, right? I just started plowing for it and finding my rhythm.
Oh. Did I mention that I hadn’t yet figured out that I don’t swim in a straight line? Yeah…
I realized this as I swam headlong into one of the safety kayaks. BONK!
I am like 15 different shades of awesome at this triathlon thing.
Anyhoo, after trying to get my bearings, I make the turn and head–somewhat circuitously–to the exit of the swim. Here’s the nasty little thing they never tell you about the swim: getting out in the water is the easy, quick part. Getting to the shore takes FOR.
Right before the finish I swim through some diesel–yum!–and then try to start running. Alas. I can’t touch bottom yet. Doh! Soon enough, I’m through the chute and trying to gingerly run up the hill … because I neglected to do the breast stroke the last few yards to unkink the calves like I’d so carefully planned.
With my heart about to leap from my chest, I stumble into transition, drop my swim gear, wipe off my feet, don shoes, glasses, helmet and gloves, unrack the bike and start jogging to the bike mount. Not a bad transition … I thought. (<—That’s ‘foreshadowing,’ y’all!)
The first miles of the bike are like repeated punches to the face. With heart rates still through the roof from the swim, you have to climb short but steep hills. Over and over and over again.
I down a gel and finally get out to the flatter part of the course and am happy to see that I feel like I’m dragging a dump truck behind me, my speed is actually pretty good.
About halfway through the bike, I catch a big, 22-year-old rider (ages are written on calves) and figure he’s a clydesdale like yours truly. So I carry some extra speed through a corner and make the pass, pretty as you please.
Only, I forgot how stubborn a person can be at 22. A minute or so later, he comes back around me. Then on a downhill, I move past him. This goes on for the remainder of the bike leg, all the time I’m thinking I might have a tough time beating a guy 15 years my junior. On the last hill, I spin furiously up the hill and go ahead, then hit the downhill hard. I pull into transition ahead of him, but he catches me as we exit for the run.
“You dropped me on the last climb.”
“Oh? What class are you?”
“I was afraid of that.”
We run the first half mile shoulder to shoulder. Here’s where my brain finally wakes up and starts shouting out some strategy. The first mile is flat, the second hilly and windy, the third has one big climb and is then downhill to the finish. The run is where I should be the strongest.
I’ve got to go.
And so I up the pace. He follows. I up it again and he falls off. I build a gap in the first mile, protect it in the second, then haul ass the last mile.
As I ran down the finish chute with my family cheering from the sideline, I hear them call my name, my division, and announce second place.
In my division, I had the fastest swim time, the fastest bike time, and was second fastest on the run (+20 seconds). But somehow, I burned through nearly 5 minutes in the first transition (maybe I blacked out?). I lost two minutes to the first place guy in T1 and another 40 seconds in T2. Overall, I missed first by one minute, twenty seconds.
I know I should be thrilled to take second in my first triathlon, and I am. I just can’t help but to feel just a little disappointed, like I left something on the table.
But after some time to get my head out of my own ass, I realize that I got the benefit of my wife and my kids got to see me doing something like this. And that’s something I treasure far more than any medal.