1st Open Water Swim, bike gets me again
500m lake swim, 10 mile bike, 5k run
I was feeling really good for this race. My hand was still swollen and probably still broken from the last race, but my local tri shop had given me some free new end caps for my aerobars, so I had that going for me, which is nice. I really knew nothing about this course as I had never been there, and although I was told it was hilly, I was definitely not prepared in terms of overall bike training, or strategy on how to ride hills…after all, I had only been cycling for a few weeks at this point. I was still going with the “go as hard as you can at all times” strategy, which I had been using for about 32 years, despite it almost never working out for me in the long-run. As the race grew closer, the nerves were back on alert, and since I had done one race already, I was already an expert. My goals this race were to have a clean race with no bike incidents and of course win my group. 0-for-3 is pretty good, right???
I had never done an open water swim at this point. I also did not have a wetsuit. They lined us up by numbers, and I think I was number 30-something, so I was right up front. About two minutes before the start, a group of 20 people moved up ahead of me in the queue because everyone thinks they can swim faster than a big man. This is annoying. However, I’ve learned that there are some good things about this; mainly that it’s easy to find someone to draft, to follow, and to pass. I hadn’t learned that lesson yet though, so it was mostly annoying. I ran in at the start and got a couple of good dolphin dives in before hitting my stroke and trying to surge through the crowd. 5 second gaps in starting time can bunch up quickly in the lake, and it didn’t take long before I had whacked someone right in the face. It was an accident, I swear! Plus, rubbin’s racin’! I had practiced sighting in the pool and thought it really wasn’t that difficult. Clearly, I had not practiced enough. I found out quickly that I pull pretty hard to the left when I breathe to the right, and I was doing all my breathing to the right due to the crowd and waves, and by the time I got to the first buoy, I was pretty far off to the left. I did not improve on the route to the next buoy, and judging from the way I felt, plus my time, I think I had gone an extra 50-75 meters, and I was way, way above my normal heart-rate zone when I dragged myself out of the water.
Official Swim Time: 8:48 (27th overall)
I was not feeling great when I got out of the water, and I had a lengthy jog to my bike. Pretty standard transition , maybe moved a little slower, but the good news was that I only had to run with my bike about 10 yards, so I dodged a bullet there! Now it was time to cruise on the bike....or not.
T1 time: 1:22
the (ill-fated) bike
The bike and run course at Eagle Creek begin the same way, which is an almost immediate climb up a fairly large hill (large in Indiana terms). I was already huffing and puffing from my swim and as I began my ride, my local tri-shop owner yelled at me, “Mike, you need some air in your back tire!” I looked back and noticed it was a little (it was a lot) low, but since I basically had no idea what to do about it, I just told myself that it would be fine. At this point, you already know what’s going to happen. I pressed on, and pressed my pace early, even though I was already breathing harder than I should have been at that point. This bike course is basically constant rolling hills with a couple of short, steep climbs (again, central Indiana hills), and I was not ready for them. I was standing up, hammering and pounding my feet to get to the top, which caused me to be so tired I had to coast on the way down. Not ideal. I remember being in the single digits on the MPH a couple of times. “This is really hard” I thought as I tried to keep up with a 70lb 13 year old girl (same one from the last race) over the hills. I honestly had forgotten all about my low rear tire right up until the point that it blew and almost sent me into the trees!
I was finally starting to recover on the ride back in as the hills were more favorable on the way back. I was topping out on my speed right at the moment I hit some really bad asphalt, narrowly avoiding a large pothole with my front tire, and slamming my rear tire right into it. With a loud “POP” I instantly felt like the back of my bike was on ice as it slid side-to-side and I stood up on the pedals and gripped the brakes and pulled into the shoulder. I was pretty sure I was going down and luckily got it under control safely, and started to work on the tire. I should probably state for the record that I had never changed a bike tire (woops). I had watched several youtube videos on it and it seemed fairly straightforward, plus I had all the tools, so I should be fine (I thought, arrogantly). I began to put the wedges in and work the tire off when I noticed that I didn’t just have a flat, I had a large hole in the actual tire. There would be no repairing it, and my race was over. The thing was, I was only around mile 7, so I started walking, and of course, cursing myself again for being an idiot (a common theme). I also left all of my brand new bike tools in the dirt when I left. While I was walking with my bike, I reflected on the race so far, and it was not going well. I had a bad swim, didn’t adequately prepare for the course, didn’t know enough about my bike to properly maintain it, didn’t pace myself, and now basically wasted my entrance fee. I was mad. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. I was done mentally, and physically I had bonked. A funny thing happened after about a mile of walking back, I found my determination again. Actually, I was just really bored of walking, so I started jogging. A few minutes go by, and my legs are starting to recover, so I start jogging faster and all of a sudden my mindset has switched from hurry back so you can pack up and go home, to hurry back and finish this damn race! It’s not a wasted entrance fee if I finish, and I can just use this as a long run session. I would guess that I ran a around 2-2.5 miles with my bike and felt surprisingly good when I got to T2. Bike Time: 52:58
Put that bike on the rack, doused it in gasoline, and lit a match! Nothing really noteworthy in T2, I just kept on running like Forrest Gump. T2 time: 1:13
This run was for pride purposes only and I actually was happy with myself for finishing it. Oftentimes in athletics, as in life, things don’t work out in your favor. I decided to not let it discourage me (eventually) and to use it as a lesson and grow from the experience. It is a strange feeling though, as a competitor, to be disappointed with something so trivial. This was a local triathlon, with absolutely nothing on the line, I wasn’t hurt, and no one but me had any expectations, yet when I was walking with that bike I felt tremendous disappointment. I’ve choked on some much bigger stages, and for some reason this felt about the same way. That is silly. I suppose that’s just the mindset of an individual sport athlete where you’re typically forced to look inwards and face the harsh reality that you didn’t make it happen that time. It wasn’t until I shifted my goals and expectations that I overcame my negativity and finished on a positive note.
Run Time: 24:43
Final Time: 1:29:05. No place. Official Results here.
My wife and parents may have thought I died on the bike as it took me so long, but in the end, I sucked it up and finished the race and chalked it up as a learning experience. Not even a simple finisher medal for my efforts though, which was disappointing. I still hadn’t had a clean race at this point though, so I guess I had to try again!