Wednesday, August 22, 2007

750 meter swim, 33 km bike, 7 km run...INCREDIBLE!

I competed in my first triathlon last Sunday and I have been trying to find the words to describe it ever since. I wrote a few drafts to post here, but they just didn't do justice to how it made me feel....I am telling you, it was incredible! My friends and family keep asking me what it felt like and that was the only word that came close to describing how it felt. I just kept saying, " was incredible!", while sporting this big shit eating grin. It's crazy....the race was 3 days ago and I still haven't stopped smiling! This story is what it was like and I hope it gives you some idea of how much it meant to me.

Saturday morning I woke and my first thought was "...tomorrow is the day!" and I instantly felt excited and a bit nervous ...."But nervous was good", I told myself and with that I was out of bed. Tanyia was a bit more reluctant to get up, but before long she joined the kids and I downstairs as we went about our morning routines. My morning was spent assembling my gear and checking lists, packing the car and tuning my bike.

By eleven almost everything was done. The one exception was body hair removal. I am a fairly hairy guy and was looking forward to seeing what I looked like "behind the curtain of hair". I had done my homework on what method would be best and was surprised that depilatory cream (Neat) was best suited for me. It removes all the hair, but does not grow back coarser and you avoid the ingrown hairs and razor bumps that come with shaving. Cool...what could be easier? I had Tanyia do my back first. I don't have much back hair, but I figured it was a good place to start. The instructions said not to leave the cream on for more then 6 minutes and worried it would burn me, I showered it off just past the six minute mark.....PRESTO no back hair! Awesome! I then did my legs, arms and chest. My chest was easy, but my legs and arms had to be done twice and although it was easy, I had now been at this for about 40 minutes! This was crazy! I have new found appreciation for the time it takes for women to get ready to go out. If I was a women my legs would be so hairy that when I wore nylons they would be so puffed out it would look like I was wearing snow pants! All said it took me about 90 minutes to shave, cut my own hair and remove my body hair. I was pleased with the look and feel. In fact I really like how my legs looked/felt. I know that sounds gay, but they felt soft and it was quite a change from my normally hair covered gams.

My in-laws who have been visiting us from Nova Scotia agreed to watch our kids overnight, so Tanyia and I could have the weekend away together. By two we were on our way north. I was so excited to have an evening alone with Tanyia that we hardly discussed the race on the way up. Instead we just talked, sang to the radio...both of us taking full advantage of the chance to act like kids, instead of a parents of 3.

We arrived at the hotel in Orillia late afternoon. I was looking forward to spending some time with her, but also wanted to drive the bike course in the car, so I could visualize it the next

It didn't take long for us to get set-up in the hotel and I snapped a few pics of us goofing around. I was going to leave my bike in the car, but a friend who did this tri last year warned me about doing so. I guess last year 20 or so people woke
to find their cars had been broken into and their bikes were gone! After training for 5 months I was leaving nothing to chance.

We went out for dinner to very elegant Italian restaurant. I wasn't drinking, so Tanyia was "drinking for two". Tanyia is a funny girl at the best of times, but after even just one drink she's
even funnier. We took our time and enjoyed our meal almost as much as the many laughs we shared...being married to your best friend has so many advantages! We then left to drive the bike course. A now very sober Tanyia drove, while I rode shotgun and shouted where to turn. The course is 33 km total, with 6 in town and 27 on paved country roads. As we made our way out of town and were looking for the first of 4 country roads Tanyia was convinced that I had missed the road, but I insisted that we had not. After another few minutes of driving I saw the road and announced it to Tanyia. She quickly made the right hand turn and then had these motivational words for me on the eve of my first triathlon "...this is really far Jim and we're not even a third of the way yet!". I had to laugh and even before I did she realized what she had said. Only she could get away with saying that! We continued to drive the course and it was far hillier then I had been told.

As we made our way back to the start it was getting dark and the arrows they painted on the
road to show the way were getting hard to see, but before long we were back at the transition point. We took a walk around the transition area (where I would return after each stage to change gear) and walked over to the finish gate. I thought about walking through it, but went around instead and when she noticed, Tanyia smiled and said " superstisous much?". Maybe I was, but I also wanted the first time I came through the finish gate to be the real finish. We spent a few more minutes down at the beach and struggled to find the buoys that marked the swim course. When we finally did they looked far...really far and I was instantly nervous. It was getting dark, so we went back to the hotel after I laid out my gear we went to bed.

BEEP BEEP BEEP...The alarm clock went off at five and after showering I had my pre race meal
of Vector cereal and protein powder. I was feeling back pain or discomfort of any kind! While getting dressed I realized something I had overlooked while! I had worn dress shoes to the hotel and although I had my running shoes with me, they had to left in the transition area, so I had no other shoes to wear. So I got dressed in my tri shorts, warm up clothes and leather dress shoes....classy touch! It looked really goofy actually, but it didn't bother me much....I had bigger things on my mind.

By 6:15 we were at the transition point and people were already starting to arrive. After unloading my gear, we made our way into the gated transition area. A large sign hung above the entrance "ATHLETES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT...YES THIS MEANS YOU!" It took some coaxing for Tanyia to defy the sign, but she reluctantly did and we weaved our way through the many bike racks that filled the area. The racks are each designated by age group and I was quick to find what I thought was my 35-39 rack. Before I had a chance to even put my bag down Tanyia says "...unless you invented a time machine overnight, you're in the wrong rack". She was right, I was in the 20-25 year old rack and we both laughed as I moved my stuff to the correct one.

I made quick work of racking my bike and laying out all my
gear in the order I will need it. In triathlons there are many things that can get you disqualified. Most are major infractions like drafting or abuse of officials, but some are minor and those were the ones I was most worried about. The two I was most focused on were making sure I had my helmet strap done up BEFORE I remove my bike from the rack and having to be on/off you bike at the "Mount line". A screw up on either would flush 6 months of work down the drain! With that in mind, I set my bike gear out so that I would be forced to put my helmet before I do anything else.
With all my gear, gels and sport drinks laid out we went about the process of signing in, receiving my race bib, being
marked (age on calf and number on bicep), getting my chip ( Velcro leg strap worn to calculate time on each leg) and get my swim cap. (Neon green....for my group). The process was seamless and we were done in about 10 minutes.

The MC came on and announced the was 7:15. Cool we had some free time, so Tanyia
and I went down to the beach to see the water course. The small markers we had seen the night before had been replaced with large (8 ft high) orange markers and it made me feel better to know I wouldn’t have to struggle to see where I was going. It still looked far though and I was starting to feel very nervous. I continued to think positively and stood on the sand, holding hands with Tanyia. It meant so much that she was there with me.

The next 40 minutes passed by in a heartbeat as
the crowd continued to grow and grow. I had given my dress shoes and warm-up gear to Tanyia and she gave me a kiss before leaving to find a spot on the pier. I was alone and my internal voice began to speak to me...calming my nerves and keeping my thoughts of " can't do this" at bay. I put my swim cap on and secured my goggles...I was ready! My training was over and it was time to prove to myself that all the work was worth it!

I was in the 3 rd waive of swimmers and I was glad I had a chance to see how it worked. Each age group starts together and the first waive are
elites and then every 3 minutes another waive would be started. At 8:06 the announcer yelled “...ten seconds third waive". I took a deep, anxiety filled breath and waited. The horn went off and I ran into the water, bumping and smashing into people as I did. I dove and started to swim. I made an effort to slow my pace, as the last thing I wanted to do was to go out to fast and be gassed half way. "Pace yourself...this is a marathon, not a sprint" I said to myself. I was punched and kicked more times then I can remember. One of the harder punches to my face was delivered by my training partner Joe....thanks buddy! The water was calm and I picked up my pace. I was past the farthest marker in what I figured was decent time and now made my way back to the beach. I didn't feel the slightest bit of fatigue and cranked up my pace even more. My confidence was soaring, "you can do this" I yelled in my head and pressed on. I passed 10 or more people when my hand smashed into a rock...what the hell? It was the shallow and I stood up in shock that the swim was over and ran through the gate and into the transition. As I did, I heard someone yell "...the hard part's over hun...go...go!" I looked back and it was Tanyia, just gleaming with excitement! I felt so PUMPED!

I quickly found my gear and threw my shirt on, but it rolled up on my wet back, so I had to take it off and try again. Damn, it rolled again! I would have to do it 4 times before it would go on right and it cost me serious time. I then clipped on my helmet, threw the gels in my pocket, put on my cycling shoes and grabbing my bike I ran for the bike exit. The sound of my cleats striking the pavement sounded like tap shoes as I ran to the bike mount line. Once just over the line, I threw my foot on the peg and while still rolling mounted the bike and clipped in. I took a look back and watched most people coming to a complete stop and mounting awkwardly. All the practice had paid off! The first 3 km are in town and uphill. I felt tentative and 3 guys passed me as a result. As I watched a fourth person pass me, I made a decision to screw caution and just go all out. If I could make it through the swim, I could do anything and I said aloud " one will pass me again" and nobody did. For the rest of the bike, it was me doing the passing. In the first 25 km I passed 58 people, among them were the 4 that had passed me! But it was the last 8 km that I am most proud of. While others were slowing, my pace increased to 37 km/hr. I sped by another 28 bikes on my way back to the transition and felt incredible! I jumped of my bike before the dismount line and sprinted to the transition. I saw Tanyia again and felt a surge of exhilaration!

Tanyia shot all the video and as you can tell from the out of focus video...she is "electronicly chalanged".

This transition went much smoother. I traded my bike shoes for runners, took a get in and was off. As I entered the 7 km run course I started to smile as I spotted Tanyia again, only this time she was crying. I had told her that if I came out for the run with a smile on my face it meant I was doing better then expected and she knew it at a glance.

Head down, I pushed to a 4:30 km pace and pressed forward "...almost there" I thought. The course was hilly, but it made little difference to me. My performance on the bike had cut a good chunk of time off, although I didn't know it...I just felt it and that added confidence went straight to my feet.
Funny things happen while running races. One of those things is when people who don't know each other, find someone who has a similar pace and without saying a word you form a bond as you run together...pushing each other to go harder then you could on your own. At the 2 km marker I had found that in a 41 year old, man and it was a perfect partnership. Whenever I would slow my pace, I would know instantly as he pulled ahead and corrected before I lost time. I could see that he was doing the same thing and so, we raced against, but with each other.

At the 3 km mark I voice came from behind us "....out of the way old dudes!". I looked down at the calf of the person passing us and wasn't surprised to see his age was "17".

The rest of the course was great I continued to run with my new "buddy" and by the 4 km marker we were running a 4:00 km pace....smoke'n fast! I felt strong and despite the ache in my legs, had lots of wind left. I felt untouchable!

As we approached the 5 km marker we saw our 17 year old friend. He was walking, bent over and was out of gas. Looked good on him! As we passed my 41 year old friend yelled "...that's right keep walking punk!". I laughed and for the first time he looked my way and smiled. I smiled back and then regained focus; this was coming to an end fast...."just 1.5 km or 6 minutes more" I thought.

With about 3/4 km remaining my partner said "Are you going to sprint?". I replied "Yeah, you?". 'No" he replied. I gave him the guy nod that says more then words ever could and he returned it and I was off.

With only half a km left I went into an all out sprint. I wanted to finish strong and pass as many people as I could. There were 6 runners within my range. I poured it on and could feel the blood pounding in my legs as they screamed for rest, but they could rest later. I passed 2 more.....only 200 meters to go and I pushed it harder then ever before. I blew past 3 more and with only 50 meters to go I passed one more. Now within 10 meters of the finish gate I was overcome with emotion...." I've done it!!! I've done it!!". 5 .....4......3....2......1 DONE!!!

I ran through the gate and touched it as I passed through. Tanyia ran to hug me and I was overcome with an avalanche of emotion. I started to cry hugged her while she said over and over "You did it Jim....You did it!"

We stood there holding each other, completely caught up in the moment for over a minute. Everything around me seemed in slow motion, as people removed my ankle chip and pressed bottles of water into my hands. It was the most spiritual moment of my life. I can't possibly describe how it felt, except to say it was the most pure, honest moment I have ever experienced and it was simply incredible.

My final time:

SWIM 16:44
BIKE 1:04:34
RUN 33:29

Transition #1 4:36 Yuck!
Transition #2 3:13


My goal was to complete it in 2:00 - 2:15 and would have been ecstatic if I could have broken 2 hours. I am very pleased and I am already planning to do better next time.

Things to Change:

  • Bring Sandals- Dress shoes are no good in the sand

  • Quicker transition- should be no more then 1:30

  • Get a wetsuit- would shave off over 3 minutes

  • Have Triathlon Water bottle - straw is in you mouth no grabbing

  • Upgrade Bike- I know I can do it in under 53 minutes

Plan for next Season:

  • First Olympic Distance Triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run)
  • 2 (or more) Sprint Distance Tri's

Thank you to everyone the supported me and thanks as always for reading!


Suds said...


I'm at a loss for words buddy...

I am *very* proud of you Jim!

Awesome... just awesome!


gewilli said...

wtg man... wtg...

kick ass!