At the start of the year the endurance trade pubs are chalk full of hot new training tips, the latest gear and the most fool proof plans. It's that time to sign up for races and kick start our training. All this got me thinking about my first race. That's the beauty of our sport...all of us from pro to age grouper has had to crack the seal on that first race. And unless your name is Scott Schmeiser, a good many of those first races -- especially a first triathlon -- were clunkers.
(just kidding Scott...but seriously, you have never had a bad race, have you.)
Why I remember my first triathlon like it was......
Grand Rapids - ish, Michigan
Text book for how NOT to race your first Triathlon - front to back, beginning to end...training, pre-race, transition set-up, nutrition, gear, apparel....all of it. And by the end of the race...I couldn't wait to do it all again (and again, and again, and again....)
I went to Reeds Lake armed with a solid running background, a fair amount of bike training but not one stroke of swim training in open water. I was supremely confident nonetheless having just swam a full 800 meters without stopping. For the first time ever. At a lap pool. The week before. When the race started I let the surge get out ahead of me then I took several high knee leaps and dove in and....SAVE ME LORD JESUS I'M GOING TO DIE IN THE WATERY DARKNESS SAVE ME LORD JESUS!!!!! Why was the water so dark?! Where was the line at the bottom of the pool?! Why did my tri top feel like a victorian corset?! I quickly unzipped my top and flipped onto my back....mind you I am all of 25 meters from the swim start. And that's the way the rest of the swim went for me. I never put my face back in the water. I breast and back stroked my way through 800 meters of this mildly pedestrian out and back course. And not the cool olympic kind of back stroke either...noooooo, I did that weird upside down tadpole survival back stroke that you see old men doing at the lap pool. 800 meters in just over 24 minutes. The whole next wave of swimmers passed and finished ahead of me as did most of the wave after that. I saw Jen as I exited the water and can specifically remember saying that I would never do that again. Ever.
Bike course was out and back -- east then west...so directly into the sun. So I ask you...what's got two thumbs and forgot his sunglasses in transition? This guy! I couldn't see anything. I carried one bottle of water and had one gel with me. I was hyperventilating from the swim and my nose was out of control with a right proper build up of post swim nasal congestion....which is the perfect time to stick an entire gel in your mouth. Unable to swallow or breath I spit out the entire gel....and by spit out I mean I gaped my mouth open to gasp some air....which went just as you would expect... an entire Clif Mocha Gel Shot splattered across the side of my face and in my ear. I spent the rest of the ride and the rest of my water showering down...spewed gel be everywhere and all over.
Determined that this race would not be a total FAIL, I did my best to hammer down during the run. But this was the first time I had ever run off the bike. Wow and wow. I somehow recovered and used the run to pick people off one at a time....just to give me some sort of satisfaction. I finished the 5 miles in a bit over 35 minutes for a 7:05/mi pace. I remember the finish being really anonymous (Jen had been cheering back on the course so was still making her way to transition) and kind of anticlimactic. Even though I totally had no idea what I was doing....I did it. I was really proud that I didn't give up. I don't think I've ever felt that satisfied with a race result.
The Triathlife would love to hear more first race stories (or any crazy race stories). C'mon...The Triathlife is a safe place to share...we promise to keep our snarky comments to a minimum;)