Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning Curve

Despite the fact that I have been a competitive swimmer since age 7, involved in running races starting in high school, and have owned a decent road bike for 4 years I have rarely put the three together. Normally training in one discipline for a single sport goal (swimming championships, marathons/half-marathons) or, in the case of my bike, because it is fun. I know how to do all three things pretty well, with varying levels of mastery, but I'm working my butt off to learn how to do all three things at once. Along the way I've learned several lessons from my training (how important good tires are, how important sunscreen is, how important stretching and yoga are, and how annoying old Chinese men who take up an entire lane in a three lane pool swimming horrifyingly slow breaststroke are) but this weekend I think I learned one of the most important lessons of the year. All of the training is for naught, if something happens on race day. Let me set the scene.

I signed up for the Gateway to the Bay Olympic distance triathlon held in Kemah, TX over the weekend as a way to ease (jump) into the tri season. Olympic distance for those not in the know is a 1 mile swim followed by a 24.85 mile (40k) bike and a 6.2 mile (10k) run. Kemah is about 40 minutes from Houston, and the swim was to occur in the Galveston Bay. Because of the distance and triathletes are apparently early risers it was slated to start at 7:00, with the boats taking the contestants into the bay leaving at 6:30 AM. To reduce confusion on the morning of the race officials wisely decided to have packet pick-up, race marking, bike-racking, and all informational meetings the day before. The weather did not feel like cooperating and a soggy morning prompted the officials to forgo bike-racking until the morning and further stating an extra half-hour would be granted to get this done. Meaning the race would start at 7:30 and the boats would leave at 7:00. Asked if this would change if the weather improved (as it was going to) this triathlete was told it would not change. Apparently I should not have taken this to heart (30 minutes extra sleep sounded better than 30 minutes of standing on a cold dock). The bike-racking did indeed occur the morning of, but the times were not changed (or changed back depending on your point of view) and I was unpleasantly surprised to find the transition area closed when I arrived to rack my bike at 6:30. Told an email had been sent out, and a maybe had been used the day before (I heard no maybe, I heard you'll be given an extra half hour) I was less than pleased with my options of going home, or simply competing in the bike/run portion without a timing chip. However, after an hour of simmering I calmed down and realized I didn't really want to swim in the Galveston Bay anyway and the bike/run portion of the tri was my weakest so the more work the better. I set out with the first wave of swimmers to enter transition and completed a wildly successful (in my opinion) duathlon. Finishing the bike leg in 1:19, and the run in 0:48 with a 30 or so minute swim (completely reasonable) I would have been very competitive, and I was quite pleased with my performance. Talking to the officials after the race I found out I wasn't the only one confused in the miscommunication and several others had simply gone home. The take away lesson from all of them was to show up early. Lesson learned, show up 30-40 minutes earlier than you think you need to and bring more water than you think you'll need were my take aways. I will be sure to do both from now on knowing how much it sucks to be turned away at 6:30 in the morning and seeing how badly some people were cramping on the run.

Miles covered so far:

Swim: 41.5 miles

Run: 177.95 miles

Bike: 547.65 miles