Yesterday was my first triathlon of the 2010 season. Bill and I chose to do the Triangle Orthopaedic Sprint Traithlon. We figured this would be a good event to start because it featured a challenging swim - a 750 meter open water lake swim. In retrospect, I may not chose this event again.
The race began at 8:00 am on a very chilly April morning. The race took place on NC State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh. We woke at about 5:30 am, and arrived at the race site at about 6:30ish. At this point, I was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt over my tri suit. I was still a bit cold setting up my transition area. I did recently purchase a wetsuit for racing, but I have been having issues with the fit. Since I have not been able to get it on properly, I decided to forgo the wetsuit. I was quite disappointed to find that about 98% of the other 257 participants were wearing wetsuits. I became quite nervous prior to the start, but I have never quit a race. So, I stripped down and headed to the lake.
The swim was in Lake Raleigh. It was a "dock" start meaning that each participant went in to the water one at a time. We walked down the boat ramp into the water. I was freezing just standing in line waiting for my start. I had no idea what was coming.
The lake temperature on Friday afternoon was 65 degrees. In contrast, our pool at the wellness center is kept at 84 degrees. To say the water was shockingly cold is an understatement. I went in to the water and pretty much screamed for the first 100 meters. I was just shouting "cold" or "ah" because I could not help it. I could not put my face in the water; it simply took all of the air from my body. So, I did a weird version of a doggie paddle until I was able to get acclimated. I can honestly say that I never became comfortable in the water, but I was able to get my head down and take two strokes before needing to breathe. There were some good things about my swim. I did not feel tired during the swim. It is a much longer distance when you get in the water than it looks from the shore. Still, I felt my sighting of the buoys was good. It was a much smoother swim than my first open water swim at the Triangle Triathlon last year. I did not have to stop to look for the buoys, and I did not need to resort to the breast stroke because I was tired. It took a bit on time getting out of the water (I planted my right foot on the boat ramp to get out, and my left foot slipped off. I was down in the water again, so I took extra time making sure my footing was good before trying again). I actually knocked about 2 minutes from my other 750 meter swim time. I wonder how much better I would have done in perfect conditions.
I hate being barefoot, so I left a pair of flip flops to grab on my way to transition. From the lake, you had to run up a long hill to the sidewalk, then over to the grassy transition area. I decided to take my time getting back to transition, but I was soon off on the bike. I saw my friend, Amy, shortly after starting the bike. I was still pretty cold, but it was nice of her to check in with me. We shouted encouragement to each other before we parted ways. The 10.5 miles bike route was on open roads. It was a big, hilly loop around Raleigh. I found out very quickly that the roads around NC State are not well maintained. At some points, I was shaking quite hard going over the rough asphalt. Again, the bike was the strongest of my disciplines. I finished in 43:45.
I went into transition to drop my bike, and found that my neighbor's bike was laid down across my spot. I was really frustrated since I now had to put up that bike while attempting to balance my own. Luckily, a nice man head my cries, and took my competitor's bike from me. I changed shoes, and headed out on the 3.1 mile run. Running in a triathlon is always a weakness for me. My legs are just shot after the bike. This run had a particularly hilly first mile. We wandered through campus, and I thought it seemed like most of the mile was uphill. I had to stop to walk quite a bit. Mile 2 was much better as we finally got a bit of a downhill break. I was able to run more by then and felt much more comfortable. Of course, the race ended on yet another up hill, so I walked a bit until I got near the finish line. I did finish in a run at 39:15. My overall finish time was 1:51:02.4. I was hoping to finish under 2 hours, so my goal was met.
It was a tough choice for a first race - cold weather, COLD water, and lots of hills. During the race, I would have said I will never do this event again. Now, a day later, I am thinking about next year. With some better preparation, I just might be able to break my course record.
Next triathlon: Ramblin' Rose Raleigh - May 23.