On June 6th, I competed in the Alameda sprint triathlon event in the Mermaid Series. The race was a 400m swim in the San Francisco Bay, 12 mile bike on flat road, and a 2.5 mile run on a flat trail. It was my first triathlon and I didn’t follow a formal training program and I never practiced transitions before, so my goals were pretty conservative. For the swim, I simply wanted to complete it and still be alive at the end. I hoped to average at least 18 mph on the bike and 9:00 pace for the run.
Saturday night, I organized all of my gear to make sure I had everything I would need for the next day.
Forward Motion Race Club tri kit
heart rate monitor strap
sandals to wear to the start
spare tube/pump/co2 cartridge
Garmin Forerunner 405
clif shot (chocolate)
Vega Vibrancy Bar (chocolate)
Once everything was packed, Ben and I went to The Counter, where I intended to order a 1/3 lbs veggie burger, but accidentally selected 1 lb on my order form. Obviously, I had some leftovers to eat after the race! When we got back home, I drank a liter of water and went to bed to rest up for the big day.
My alarm woke me up at 4:30am on race day. I drank my usual mixture of Vega Whole Foods Health Optimizer and almond milk for breakfast. Then I loaded all my gear into the car and made the drive to Alameda. The transition area opened at 6:00 and I arrived shortly before 7:00. I was lucky enough to get one of the last open parking spaces at ferry terminal.
I started wheeling my bike over to the transition area and stopped for body marking. Awkward moment of the day came when I had to drop my pants so some random teenage boy could write my race number on my thigh. When he finished, I pulled up may pants, racked my bike and unpacked all my gear.
My group (29 and under) was the last to start so I had an extra hour to kill. I decided to put on my wetsuit early and headed over to the starting area (400 m north of transition) to watch all the other groups as they started. Finally, after an hour of watching everyone else swim, it was my turn to get in the water. It was a deep-water start that involved walking down a steep and slippery plywood ramp, tip-toeing over slippery rocks, and then treading in the Bay for about 5 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the water was very warm (don’t know the actual temp) and I felt super bouyant in the salt water with a wetsuit on. The group was small (~20 people) and I positioned myself toward the back of the wave to minimize contact with other swimmers, as much as possible.
We got the signal to start and at first, I felt like I was cruising along at a pretty good pace. About 75 meters into the swim, I decided that I couldn’t deal with the fact that I couldn’t see anything in the cloudy waters of the bay. I switched to breaststroke to calm my anxiety and that really slowed me down. Then, my left foot started to cramp so I headed to a surf board to take a break. When the lifeguard asked if I was alright, I explained the cramp situation. I was floored when he told me to put my foot up on his board and then proceeded to massage my foot! After a few seconds of mid-race pampering, I continued my slow journey to the swim exit. I tried a few more times to put my face in the water and swim freestyle, but it wasn’t working out so I spent the rest of my time in the water doing a combination of backstroke and breaststroke. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the end of the swim and walked up another steep and slippery ramp towards transition. I completed the 400m swim in 17:25.
Thanks to a generous application of glide on my wrists and ankles, my wetsuit came off with little resistance. I turned my Garmin on, which acquired satellites very quickly for such a cloudy day, threw on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, and shoes, unracked my bike, walked to the mount line and started the 12 mile bike. I don’t know where the time went, but I spent a whopping 3:10 in T1!
At first, I was really timid about trying to pass the other riders. After a couple minutes, I grew a pair and starting cranking. I had a few leap-frogging situations, but ultimately, no one passed me on the bike course and I started to make up for my poor performance in the water. 40 minutes and 27 seconds later, I was back in transition getting ready to run. My time in T2 was 1:45.
I didn’t do any brick workouts during my training so I wasn’t prepared for the heavy feeling in my legs. It felt like I was moving in slow motion, but my Garmin was showing a 7:30 pace. I knew that was too fast for me to sustain, so I slowed down a bit so that I could have a strong finish. As with the bike course, I did all the passing during the run but I could really feel the fatigue setting in during the last half mile. I finished the run in 21:19 (~8:30 pace) and had an overall time of 1:24:09.
Although, I was pretty disappointed with the swim, I was pleased with my overall performance in this race. I plan to start attending Masters swim workouts to improve my swimming endurance and also spend more time in open water to avoid another freak out. I will definitely do more triathlons in the future!