Friday, April 18, 2008

my first triathlon - the run and the finish

This is the last post covering my experience actual doing my first triathlon race, the ICE Breaker Triathlon in Granite Bay, CA, on April 13, 2008. See setup to swim to T1 and the bike and T2 for the first two installments.

Turns out I'd bested Thom by three and a half minutes on the bike leg. By now, it was 82 degrees and sunny, and the heat really started to get to me. At the first aid station (just 100 yards out of the transition area), I stopped and took on Gatorade and water. No need to try to drink and run at the same time (and spill most of the cup's contents), I could pause, drink, then go.

As I started running again, my calves felt like they were trying to cramp up. This was a new sensation for me after a bike-to-run transition. In previous bricks, it'd always felt like my legs were made of rubber and my thighs somehow weren't functioning properly. Never a problem with the calves... until today. Likely, it was due to the heat and my fluid intake. I was hoping it wouldn't get worse as I kept going.

The run path exited the nice paved sidewalk and entered the dirt path (cross country, oh fun!). By now, I'd picked up a running partner. Actually, he'd picked me up, coming up from behind and then passing me (barely). By the number on his right calf, I could see he was a 58 year old guy. On his left calf was a big red Ironman M tattoo. Was he an Ironman? A wannabe? Much to distract me as we ran, up until he pulled away from me after a little uphill section on the run.

By the time I hit the first aid station at mile 1, I'd been able to run through the tight feeling in my calves and by the time I entered the second mile (fueled on a little more water and gatorade), I was feeling in the zone on the run.

I'd done all my run training on the road, and here this was a trail run with a lot of little up-n-down hills. I wasn't used to all the little up-and-down roller coaster hills, and they started taking their toll, especially as we were running on what I assume used to be lake bed. In other words: no shade, hot sun, misery.

I started walking the up-hills because I could feel my temperature rising as my energy drained. Yes, I was getting passed by stronger runners (the top women racers were now catching up from their wave start). Every time I was passed, I tried to same something encouraging to the passer ("go go go!" or "nice running" or "keep it up!"). I figured I'd appreciate the same treatment if/when I passed anyone, and by now I knew I was going to finish this race, my first triathlon was almost over!

After the turnaround, I managed to keep in a pack of guys that took the same walk-the-uphills-run-elsewhere approach to the running leg with me, and we held together through the biggest hill just before mile 3 and through to the last aid station at mile 3.

Truth be told, the run went so much faster than I thought it would (in my mind at least, don't know about the actual time on the clock). Before I knew it, I had gotten to the end of the parking lot opposite the transition area with about 300 yards to run to the finish line. Lots of folks in their portable chairs along the course watching us sweat it out. More than one person said "I don't know how they do it!" as I ran past them... a nice pick-me-up as I knew exactly how I'd done it: months and months of training.

To motivate me to go a bit faster, when I saw the finish line and the clock above it still 200 yards away, I set my sights on the guy 50 yards in front of me as the one to pass before we finished. At almost a sprint, I pulled ahead of him with barely 20 yards to go.

As I ran across the finish line (hearing the announcer say "here's number 141, Thomas Kriese!") I looked up at the clock to see I'd managed to pull it all in under two hours. Soon I heard the screams of "Daddy! Daddy!" as my daughters caught sight of me crossing the finish line.

They weren't too crazy about hugging me as the sweat poured off, but they seemed happy to dance around (the long wait for daddy to finish was over). My lovely wife wasn't so bashful about the sweat and gave me a great hug and kiss. She told me how proud of me she was, and I can't even begin to tell her just how important her support of me has been these last months. Her making the space for me to train (I tried my best to do things early in the morning while they all slept) allowed me to be fully prepared for the race. I couldn't have done it without her.

And as I looked around to see where Thom might be, there he was, right beside me grinning ear to ear. We exchanged congrats as I began to wonder, did he pass me on the run? How could I have missed him? Maybe when I stopped at the aid station at mile 3?

Turns out I'd beaten Thom by 30 seconds. I'd put enough distance between us on the bike to squeak out a win overall. It was a bit of a hollow victory though, as Thom had muscled through whatever had ailed him during the swim and was hampered by an inability to catch his breath the rest of the race (Thom got checked out by a doc, and we suspect he had a swim-induced pulmonary edema - SIPE). I know if he hadn't been hampered with SIPE, he'd have beaten me easily. Still, I appreciate him letting me best him in my first triathlon (this was his fifth).

So, I've done it. My first triathlon is in the bag. I can call myself a triathlete.

And just like Joe Friel had promised in his Your First Triathlon book, by following his training program, I'd finished with a smile.

It's still just sinking in that I finally did it. Wow, my first triathlon. After six months of training, it's done.

Before I do my next one, I really have to work on my swim. Time to start training again.


Mitchell said...

Planning my 1st Triathlon(.25 swim,
10 mile bike, 3 mile run) Thank you for the info. Please call me at my cell #954-245-1203 or email me I have some more questions to ask you. Your blog was most helpful

Mitchell said...

my email is