TLDR: Old dude wins first triathlon he enters.
Now for the real story. First, a huge thank you to Kim for getting me to try a tri. I have been watching her and Sierra for a good two years now and had not really had the urge to race a triathlon. Then the bucket list tri comes to town and is really the best one to do if you just want to dip your toes in the water, so to speak. 200M swim, 8 mile bike and 2 mile run. Not even a sprint distance, a nice super sprint, over and done in an hour (that was my goal). We have run a marathon and half-marathon and 5k races, so the running was not going to be a problem. However, running after swimming and biking definitely makes it more interesting. I was never on swim team, so I didn't really know how to properly swim. I can get from one place to another, but not very elegantly. As I say, “I am sure I look like a harpooned dolphin splashing in the water.” Kim gave me a few lessons and hints, which were invaluable to swimming comfortably. As for biking, that was, well, just like riding a bike. In my younger days I raced semi-pro for a few years so I am very comfortable on a bike and know the little tricks to maximize your speed and efficiency.
The only thing I wanted out of this triathlon was to finish in less than an hour. This seemed very doable, but you never know what's going to happen. I had the usual night before jitters and butterflies. The morning was occupied with getting bikes in the van and making sure we had everything we needed. I did ask Sierra in the days leading up if there was anything I needed to remember to do and she said have fun and don’t stop swimming. Sage advice from the 9 year old. We arrived and walked over to transition. There was lots of space available, so we snagged a spot right by the bike-out. After double checking to make sure we had everything set up right, we were off to swim warm-up. I'm glad Kim suggested we do swim warm-up. It would have been a shock to jump in the water the first time because it was a little cooler than I was used to practicing in. It was nice once you got swimming, so that was a plus. We got out and had one of the multiple bathroom breaks before the start. Then it was time to just wander around and try and keep the nerves under control. The pre-race meeting was worthless because they had it in the cavernous, concrete pool area. Lots of echo and reverb and the words were totally unintelligible. Hint to the race director next year, do it outside.
Then it was time to wait in line and soon the first swimmer was in the water. I cheered Kim on as she went past, then it was my turn. The swim was really kind of a blur. I remember passing people and being passed. I did a combination of freestyle/side stroke/backstroke. I think backstroke is the fastest for me at this point, probably because I can breathe the easiest. Unfortunately, I realized I forgot to start my watch. Oh well, I'd just have to try hard and hope I'd come in under an hour. The short jog to transition was nice to relax and catch my breath. There were no real bike transition problems. I could be a little better on the bike mount, but it was fine.
Now I was in my element, I just put my head down and started passing people as fast as I could. The course was nice and mostly flat with some little hills. The intersections were traffic controlled and there were volunteers at every turn. No thought was required to keep yourself on course, which was nice, you could just focus on the race. I remembered to drink on the bike, something I forgot to do on my training ride. It made a big difference to get that hydration in before the run. Now where was Kim? We thought I would pass her somewhere on the bike. Way off in the distance, I recognized her green jersey. Finally, I caught her about 0.75 mile from the end. I yelled “on the left” and went past. I found out afterwards I just about scared her into the curb because I was too loud. Oops. I came in fast and did a flying dismount to run into transition. One thing I have learned watching all these triathlons is that the time wasted actually stopping and getting off your bike matters. Get out of your shoes, throw a leg over and hit the ground running. I started putting on running shoes and Kim rolled on in. I knew she was there and she said hey, but I cannot remember if I responded.
I slowly jogged out of transition and grabbed the first water I could to pour over my head. By the way, did I mention it is August in Texas? Yup, it was about 85 degrees with 85% humidity at this point, with the sun beating down. I tried to work off the rubber legs by alternating running and walking. I made my way around the first curve and realized that the person that just passed me was number 116 and I was 113. Nope, couldn’t let that happen, so I just tailed him and kept up. Poured more water over my head at the next water station, that felt really good in the heat. It was difficult to keep any sort of rhythm running after the effort of swimming and biking. As I entered last mile of the race, I was giving high-fives to people I knew and yelling words of encouragement to the kid that lost his pedal but didn’t stop and is finishing out the race. That kid deserved a medal all his own. Did I mention how hot it was? I couldn’t run nearly as fast as I wanted to, but I did my best. I crossed the finish and it was done. I lived to run another day.
I knew Kim would not be far behind so I got a drink and waited for her. Soon, she was coming around the last quarter mile. She did her last effort push and she was across the finish line. Yep, she was talking about how hot it was too. We made our way over to the timing tent and I punched my number in. Cat. Age 1. What??? How can I be first in my age group? So we waited and kept checking to see if it would change. Eventually, we knew enough people had finished that the ranking would hold. And you know what the award was? A free entry to the TriAggieland Triathlon next year. My overall time was 51 minutes, so I was under the hour I wanted. I only wanted to try a tri, but now I have to decide how hard I want to tri. That decision can wait till after my next half-marathon in December. Just as a side note...do you know how much food an active family of 5 goes through? An astonishing amount.