Tuesday, April 15, 2008

my first triathlon - the bike and T2

Now that I can call myself a triathlete, I'm sharing the details of my first race with you so you can learn from what went well and what didn't as I completed my race. This post picks up where my previous post on setup to swim to T1 left off.

After clipping into my pedals, I started working my way up the gears on my hybrid K2 Astral 4.0 bike. While in college, I did a lot of bike riding, so this leg felt the strongest for me.

The course for the ICE Breaker Triathlon was two laps on twisty, rolling terrain with a lot of little 5% grade hills. The biggest challenge (as we'd all been warned) was that our cornering skills would be tested, and boy was that advice dead-on.

However, before getting into the twisty rolling portion of the ride, there was a flat straightaway that stretched out for about 3/4 of a mile. Perfect for a high gear push to get up to 24mph. As I was heading out and into my first mile of riding, there were already guys from the first wave of swimmers returning to start their second lap on the course.

I made sure to focus on keeping my own cadence and not get caught up on being passed by guys on tri bikes leaning over onto their aero bars. I set my sights on reeling in the bikers in front of me. By the time I'd reached the far end of the course, I'd managed to pass up a half dozen folks which was harder than it should have been due to all the twists in the road.

Shortly after the first turnaround, I passed Thom while he was still outbound (he did the race on a mountain bike... what a trooper!). After that, it was focusing on the road ahead of me while still noticing there were a lot more bikes on the road as the waves of racers entered into the bike course.

By the time I was on the straightaway heading back to the start of my second lap, the road was full of people racing their hearts out.

While drafting was forbidden per the race officials, it seemed there were a lot of loose interpretations as to how close one could follow without technically "drafting." Since there was no one looking out to make sure the no drafting rule was being adhered to, there were clumps of cyclists moving their way around the course. I guess if folks really were that set on getting a better time, they'll just have to live with themselves.

As I came around the bike lap turn around, I looked down to see that my bicycle computer was registering 80 degrees out on the blacktop.

The second lap was similar to the first in that I continued to get passed by folks on road bikes and tri bikes. The folks hunkered over their aero bars as they passed didn't bother me so much (they should have been passing me, no?), the ones on their road bikes bothered me a little.

As Thom put it, "if I hear 'on your left' one more time, I'm gonna scream." I still took solace in the fact I was continuing to pass others, both male and female as I made my way around the course on my last lap. So I got my share of saying "on your left" in, too.

While I worried a little bit about getting a flat, I wasn't so unfortunate as the four folks I saw cursing their luck as they peeled their tires off rims on the side of the road.

The only bad thing I saw was out towards the turnaround at the far end of the course, one of the volunteers was at the side of the road hovering over a racer who'd either crashed or collapsed on the side of the road (nowhere near a turn, tho). By the time I passed the spot on my return leg, the EMTs were on site checking her out more thoroughly. Thom told me that by the time he passed the scene, she was on a stretcher. Here's hoping she's ok.

After 47 minutes or so on the road, I sped back into the transition area to hear a very sweet observation: "and we have our first hybrid bike finishing!" (yay me!)

I coasted to a stop at my towel, threw off my helmet, changed into my running shoes (more Gu, more carbo-water) and exited through the run-out chute feeling pretty good. My T2 felt really fast.

The swim leg was long behind me, though not forgotten. The bike leg went well, and now just one leg was in the way of me finishing the race. I could walk from here and be able to call myself a triathlete, but I was going to run as far and as fast as I could. After all, Thom is a much stronger runner, and I'd hoped I'd put in enough of a gap between us on the bikes that he wouldn't catch me out on the run course.

I said I hoped, right?

Next post: the run and the finish.

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