To make sure everyone can read and wow themselves over how, after this weekend, my triathlon hobby has come full circle let me point you in the direction of my FIRST EVER triathlon race report. I've done so many since then (no big deal...) that it's easy to forget the past. I never want to forget the past, partly because I was a history major but also because the past was still fast! Alliteration is awesome.
2009 New Orleans 70.3 - My first triathloning experience!!
I drove down (now we're back in the present; stay with me here!) to New Orleans on Thursday, lounged around on Friday, went to registration and pro meeting Saturday, and raced on Sunday. Pretty standard race weekend just a bit more driving than "usual" (20 hours...yucky).
There were a couple of cool things of note:
1) This was my first WTC/IM event as a "pro"
2) I introduced myself to Andreas Raelert and talked to him for a bit outside the hotel just because I couldn't pass up the opportunity as he was walking by; yes I'm a huge dork but he was actually SUPER nice (the only German I know like that...just kidding Sebastian!)
3) Pros would not have to check in their bikes the night before, which was pretty awesome actually
4) New Orleans is a cool city; I'd highly recommend this race to anyone
Anyway, race morning came around and I got to transition to set up my bike when a USAT official came around, making me instantly nervous (kind of like how when a cop gets behind you on the highway even if you're doing nothing wrong you are still nervous). Pros are subject to slightly different rules and requirements than AGers and I was about to be checked for compliance with one of them. They checked every single pro for helmet compliance (i.e. having an official "CPSC" sticker on the inside of the helmet). As they asked me for my helmet I realized I had never looked at the Bambino to see whether it had one. As I was picking it up for them I knew that it did not and they said it did not and I did not argue. I knew the rule I had just never considered that this helmet I purchased would NOT have one. So, I uttered a four letter word not-so-under my breath and went in search of a replacement, since it was either that or not race. Luckily, Adam's Bicycle World was doing the bike support. My very first road bike (and I believe all my family's bikes except for my current ones!) was from Adam's and I've known them for as long as I've been an "adult." I walked over and asked if they had a helmet and Mark said sure and handed me a generic Giro road helmet. Well, not quite the Bambino but it DID have a CPSC sticker (although they didn't check this one...) so that's what I was going to race with. Definitely a sacrifice in aero and therefore time but there really wasn't another option. The only other issue I noticed was that my garmin 910 appeared to have no charge so I wouldn't be using that on the run, bother.
Put on the wetsuit, walked over to swim start and jumped in the 64.1 degree water (that's two pretty cold swims in a row...global warming much?!?) along with the rest of the pro dudes for a brief warmup before the countdown began. They told us to line up on an invisible line within the boundaries of the end of the pier so it was a pretty wide line and I was on the right side.
Swim - 26:38 (19th/23rd Div/OA)
With some time left in the countdown the entire left side of the field started and then the right side started as well, all before the RD said "go." Oh well. Good job dudes. I started out and was on feet for a little bit but they felt very slow so I moved around them to the left and continued on to the first buoy, which was directly into the sun (and I wasn't wearing tinted goggles...oops). The swim course was a (on paper) slightly confusing design but it wasn't hard to follow in person. Outbound into the wind and sun, inbound the opposite. Once making the first turn the group ahead appeared to be taking a slightly leftish line and I sighted directly on the turn buoy and made my way towards it with expeditiousness. After making the second turn I could tell that I was catching some people in front of me so carried on with my pace back into the sun. The final turn came and I was moving up on the group's feet in front of me and once I exited the swim I was confident I'd had a good swim. It's amazing how much "shorter" a 26' swim feels (there was no clock so I'm just going on subjectivity) than a 32' swim (i.e. at White Lake); it's a very noticeably shorter period of time.
T1 - 2:04
There was a rather long run to my bike, which was tiring, but once there I put on my borrowed helmet, and grabbed the bike to be on my way. This wasn't a very efficient T1 for me, but oh well.
Bike - 2:19:52 (21st/26th)
I headed out on the bike behind some other guy and held 10m to see what my watts would be like. They were a little low but I could tell to pass they'd be too high so I resolved to settle in for a bit. After a bit longer a group of guys came by and I stuck with the leader as he passed the two of us; again staying on my watts. This guy rode the bike like a typical triathlete. It was weird how all over the bike he was, how much his head was moving; it basically looked like he was riding as hard as he could (he got off the bike and ran a 1:16 haha...dammit). If he worked on his position and quieted down his upper body he'd gain some serious time...
Anyway, I digress. Two other dudes came and passed our group but they were riding much faster and I couldn't justify raising my watts that much. So I resolved to ride my own race and just hope some of them came back to me towards the end. All the way out on the first leg was a headwind so, hating my road helmet, I put my head down and just cranked out the power.
At the first turnaround I had seen all the guys ahead of me (there were a lot...haha) but could tell the last guy on the "group" ahead only had about a minute. After the turn there was a sweet tailwind for a bit so my average speed went up a bit until we made the right turn and back into a headwind again. I had another chance to count how many people were in front of me (and how close anyone was behind; there was only one or two guys but lots of ladies!!) before turning around and getting back on that sweet tailwind. I appeared to be catching at least one guy so I focused on the normal stuff: drinking, cranking, head down-ing, wattsing, etc.
Once we got back onto Haynes Blvd and the final 5-7 miles or so I had caught and passed the guy I got onto the bike with and could see someone else ahead who I was just catching as we came back into T2. It was a pretty lonely ride and it was a decent bit slower than I had expected with my watts (which were higher than White Lake) but I figured if I ran well it'd make up for it.
T2 - 1:10
Pretty quick in T2, no problems here.
Run - 1:25:53 (22nd/32nd)
Heading out onto the run I saw my dad cheering right before the road that "started" the run so that was fun but I could almost immediately tell that my run would not be like White Lake. I'm sure I started off too fast, but with no garmin to verify that despite feeling not great my pace was good. That confidence would've been most welcome, but it was not there so I had to rely on RPE, which was telling me in loud, annoying words that I was working too hard. Unlike White Lake, where my legs felt cruddy but my breathing and HR felt great (and I had the KNOWLEDGE that my pace was good...so had that as a "fallback" per se) my legs felt good but my breathing and HR was very high. The first 5ish miles of the run were all in a basically similar direction (west along the lakefront) and we had a slight tailwind and zero shade. That made this feel very warm and there were some climbs as well (up and over a bridge to start the second mile, for example).
I honestly wanted to stop at mile 2, but knowing that my family was there and that I'd driven all this way to "race" and that nothing was really "wrong" with me (other than being slow) so I stopped being a little baby and just kept on running. I stopped at a porto for a pee at mile 4 and a guy I had caught on the bike took this opportunity to get closer to me and eventually latch onto me by mile 5. Another guy was with me as well at this point but there pace felt a bit high so I let the two of them go, although they never gained much distance. A very fast runner also caught and passed me and then the other two but his pace was much too high so I stayed lonely. To be honest, the run went by kinda quickly through about 8 or 9 miles. I never really slowed down that much and I never really sped up at all either. With 5k to go one of the guys that had passed me appeared to slow down suddenly so I decided that over the next 3.1 miles I'd have to take the opportunity to not be last place male pro! At mile 12 I caught and passed him and carried my way on to the finish. When I saw the finish clock reading 4:15:xx I was definitely a bit disappointed I had no idea what kind of time I was headed towards as the only thing I knew was my bike time but I was definitely (despite feeling pretty slow all day) hoping that the time would be faster. Oh well, not today!
Finish - 4:15:37 - 22nd
I've always been about setting the bar high. If you set the bar too low, you generally trip over it and/or walk into it. That's not fun. But I have honestly felt that (at least recently) my expectations have been pretty realistic. There are no surprises on race day. I know what I'm capable of. My swim time goals are indicated by performances in the pool. If I know the watts I get for a race I can generally make a pretty good guess on what my bike split will be. And the same goes for run time. Everything is based on things I have done in races and in workouts. I see a lot of people write race reports that say stuff like: "I definitely have a X:XX IM marathon in me or an X:XX 70.3 half marathon or bike split or whatever and I laugh because NOTHING that person has ever done has indicated they are within the realm of possibilities. I felt, realistically, that on a good day with no mistakes I had a 4:03-4:05 in me on this course. But, 'twas not to be in 2013.
At first I was upset with my performance. But, to have a pretty "off day" and go 4:15 isn't the end of the world by any means. I'm not a big fan of the two half-ironmans in two weeks program and will probably not do that again for a little while. I attempted the same thing in 2011 and had a similar performance (great run at first race - NOLA 2011, not great run at second race - WL 2011) differential. Anyway, every race is an opportunity for a learning experience. So, I'm using it.
First triathlon in April 2009 at NOLA, first professional IM 70.3 at NOLA in 2013. That's cool regardless of the time.