This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and participated in my first Triathlon. I’ve been a runner on and off most of my adult life but I’ve never participated in any swimming or cycling event.
I registered for the Asheville Triathlon a few months ago because it looked like a good first tri to try. It certainly was. I enjoyed it a great deal and would like to thank Idaph Events for producing this and Right on Time Productions for the timing.
Two things made this triathlon appealing to me. First, it’s quite short. A 400 meter swim, 11.6 mile bike and a 5k run. Second, the swim was a pool swim. Since swimming is definitely my weakest of the three events, this seemed like an environment that would work well for me. Before I get into describing my experience with each stage of the event, here are my overall observations about my experience:
- It was not as difficult as I expected. Mind you, I didn’t set any records here – I was 174 out of 220 finishers. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was.
- Running after biking was not nearly as difficult as I thought. I’ve only done it once in my life, because I haven’t done that much cycling. I remember years ago running after riding about six miles and it was so uncomfortable that I stopped running after about a quarter mile. This was not in any competitive event, it was just me doing some cycling then trying to do some running immediately afterward.
- A good bike is important. I’ll elaborate more in the biking section below, but I’ll buy, rent or borrow a more appropriate bike for my next triathlon (I guess I’ve committed to doing this again).
When I arrived at the event, I parked my gear in the transition area (where you go when you’re transitioning from swim to bike and from bike to run) and went to pick up my timing chip. This chip goes around the ankle and rides through the entire event (including in the water). Participants are put in sequence based on their expected swim time (fastest first). Each participant has their bib number written (using a marker) on both arms and both thighs and their age on their calf. (Kind of a “jail house tattoo” look).
We lined up at the pool and prepared to enter, one at a time, to swim eight lengths of this 50 meter pool. It’s an eight-lane pool so you start in lane one, switch to lane two and so on, finishing at lane eight. We entered the water at a rapid pace – probably no more than 3-4 seconds between swimmers. The lanes become quite crowded with plenty of bumping into each other. It was kind of like a full-contact version of the Marco Polo swimming game with more than 100 people in the pool executing everything from freestyle, breast stroke, doggy paddle and water jogging. By the third length I realized that because of the crowded nature of the lane, in the shallow end I could actually water jog faster than many of the people around me were swimming (really). So I adopted a swim/jog routine – swimming the deep end and water jogging the shallow end. My swim time was 11:30.
First, some background on my bike. I bought this mountain bike back in 1997 and it’s had light use since I’ve owned it, going at times for more than a few years without being used. I had it tuned up just to make sure something important (like brakes) hadn’t disintegrated.
Back in 1997 we didn’t have the kinds of high-tech, lightweight materials that we have today, so bikes were made of the strongest materials possible (read “heaviest”). I’m pretty sure my bike is made of cast iron or lead (perhaps a combination of the two). It’s heavy. As I scanned the transition area looking for other participants that I might make friends with based on bicycle similarities (bikes from “the good old days”), I realized I was out of luck. Most people had more contemporary bikes made of high-tech, lightweight materials such as titanium, graphite, kryptonite, paper mache and who knows what else.
When I finished the swim and spun through the transition area to get ready for the bike ride, I did a quick dry-off and slapped my shoes and shirt on and zipped out for the start of 11.6 miles. It’s a beautiful course and the good news is that I got to spend more time on the course than most other cyclists. It was quickly apparent that a LOT of people were going to pass me on my old mountain bike. But that’s OK, I was cool with that, it’s just my first time. Where it really got ugly was when a couple on a “bicycle built for two” passed me and then a couple of teenagers on skateboards passed me. The icing on the cake was when a three year-old girl riding a tricycle with a little pink basket on it passed me while ringing the little bell attached to her handle bars. Seriously, I think about 30-40 people passed my on the bike ride. I finished the ride in 54:55.
I was off the bike and out of the transition area quickly for the 5k run. I thought I’d be wobbly transitioning from bike to run but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. After a half mile I was feeling pretty good and started catching and passing people. I counted 19 people that I passed and one who passed me. I finished the 5k in 26:48.
GIVE IT A TRI
If you’re a runner who has not done a triathlon and you’re thinking about giving a tri a try, this one (or a similar one such as the LPC Triathlon which has a shorter swim and a longer bike ride) is a good one to start. And, it’s not as tough as you’d think.