On Tuesday, I registered for my first ever triathlon! The SheROX tri series is a set of triathlons solely for women. While it wasn’t my intent to sign up for a triathlon just for women, it was actually great first tri! Women-only events tend to be very friendly and somewhat non-competitive (a “let’s all have fun and finish…go you!” atmosphere), which was good for my first tri, especially since I didn’t train specifically for it.
All of my race reports are for marathons (since that’s all I really race…oops?), so how exciting that I’m writing a non-marathon race report! Let’s get this show on the road:
Saturday – The Expo
The expo for the tri was held at Lloyd Hall, which is next to the famous Philly Boathouses. It was pretty small and not too interesting, although I will note that it took me an hour and a half to get there from where I live…one thing I will not miss about living here (I could make you a very long list…) is driving on the Schuylkill…the traffic is unbelievable!
Anyway. I was about ten minutes late to the athlete meeting, but I caught the gist of it. They went over general rules about passing on the bike, making sure you have your helmet on whenever you’re on the bike, what numbers to put where, how the swim worked…etc. Nothing too complicated, and the had a race info packet online that I had already read. They kept reminding us to have fun and enjoy ourselves and to stay safe. I think someone went missing (drowned?) in the Schuylkill during a tri in June, so they wanted people to know that they wouldn’t be penalized if they took a break or anything.
Best part about the expo? The shirt! Women’s sizes means that my size small is a true size small and it fits…THANK YOU! I also got my lovely yellow swim cap marking my wave. Awesome.
Saturday night I tried to go to bed early, but I think I ended up falling asleep around 12:30, which is early by my standards.
Sunday – the beginnings
My alarm went off bright and early at 5:15am, and I hopped out of bed…I can wake up early, I just don’t since I don’t have to. My bike (okay, it’s James’s mom’s bike that I haven’t given back yet) was already in the trunk of my car because I spent Saturday making sure I knew how to get the front tire off and on so I could get it in my little Honda Civic (thanks to youtube for the demonstration video). I grabbed my coffee and my pre-packed bag and hit the road.
Getting to Fairmount Park was quite easy at this early hour, and it only took me just under forty minutes…a bit different than my commute yesterday! I assembled my bike and grabbed my stuff for the ten minute walk down to the race site. Right before you go into the transition area to set up, you get body-marked. Let me tell you…body marking is so cool!! It makes you feel very official and hard core, even though everyone else is getting it too.
I got into the transition area around 6:30am, and the first wave of swimmers was set to go off at 8am, so I had plenty of time. Much more planning is required for a tri than for just running, but I think I managed well. I looked around to see what other people were doing and racked my bike like them and set my stuff up underneath. My transition set-up involved: shoes (all unlaced and ready to go!), socks, a towel, a water bottle, a tank top with my bib on it, my helmet, and my Garmin which I turned on right before heading to the swim.
I had lots of time before the race started, so I ate a banana and a granola bar and then wandered around a bit. Some people appeared to be all fancy and know what they’re doing, but I wore my Boston Marathon shirt to prove that I was awesome in my own right…haha. I snapped some pictures around the course/transition area and then got some snazzy pictures of me because…well…when you’re body marked, you have to take pictures. They look infinitely cooler than any marathon picture I’ve taken.
Around 7:50 they called everyone to move out of the transition area and into holding so they could start sending the waves off. I left my flip flops and shirt in transition, leaving me in my spandex shorts and a sports bra…people were wearing all sorts of things ranging from the same as me to swimsuits to tri suits to a combo of the above.
I was in Wave 15, so I had a long wait ahead of me since the waves went off about every four minutes. We were able to see the waves ahead of us come out of the water and into transition and back out on the bikes, so that was cool…and helped to distract me!
600 meters – 14:53
Swim Rank – 281/993
For whatever reason, the swim was shortened from 800 meters to 600 meters…fine by me since I’m not a swimmer by any means! When it was time for my wave to get into the water, we walked in from the beach…it was a pretty quick drop off and then we treaded water at the starting line. A horn sounded and away we went!
I wasn’t sure what to expect in the swim. I’ve done plenty of lap swimming in the pool and playing in oceans/lakes, but I’ve never swam with a purpose in open water. I started out doing free style, and since the waves only had about 60 people in them, I had plenty of space to myself. However, after about 50 meters, I started to freak out a little. I’m not really sure why since I wasn’t being kicked and I was swimming fine, but I think the fact that you can’t really see in front of you in the water got to me. Since doing front crawl with your head up is pretty difficult, I switched to breast stoke until I calmed down a little. I finally came around a little and did more front crawl, but I ended up almost running into a lifeguard as I went off course…oops. The rest of the swim was a combo of front crawl and breast stroke…definitely not my greatest swim effort ever, but I think it went okay for my first open water swim…ever. I swallowed a bit of the Schuylkill (ew, gross), but it did not swallow me…victory!
T1 – 1:58
For those of you not in with the lingo (although you can probably figure it out…), T1 is the transition between swim and bike, where you run out of the water, put your shoes and helmet on, grab your bike, run out of transition with your bike, and start riding. I have no idea what a good transition time is, but I think I did well. As soon as I got to my bike rack, I sat down and dried my feet off pretty quick, threw on my socks and shoes, put on my tank top, strapped on my Garmin, put my helmet on, grabbed my bike, and started running. Sounds good to me.
15.8 miles – 1:02:47 – 14.8 mph
Bike Rank – 603/993
“My” bike is actually James’s mom’s bike that I borrowed way in September when I initially started having IT band issues during marathon training…and I still it. (Don’t worry, I’m giving it back soon…) The point is…the bike isn’t exactly meant for triathlons or road riding. As you can see in the pictures above, it’s a mountain bike, so it’s not really meant for speed. All that considered, I think I did pretty well on the bike. I was hoping to be finished in under an hour, but oh well. This was for fun.
The course was a two loop course with two hills on it. The first hill was little, but the second hill was a little bit of a doozy and I definitely felt it on the second lap! It was on the bike that I realized how weird triathlons are…since people start in waves, you don’t really know if you’re ahead of people or behind them. Yes, they have their ages on their legs, but I’m not well-versed in this tri business so I didn’t know if they were all in my wave or not. Also, lots of people had fancy road bikes with clip-in shoes and such…I made it a point to try and pass those people haha. I thought I did a good combination of passing/being passed by people, but I guess my overall bike effort wasn’t too snazzy…oh well. My main goal during the bike was to stay hydrated, so I occasionally sipped water from my water bottle…very exciting.
I did see one woman wipe out on her bike…I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she was riding up against the curb (no idea why since the roads were blocked off and there was plenty of room…), so she fell over the curb. I think she was okay, but it was just kinda weird to see.
Overall, I was pretty excited to be done with the bike since I knew running was coming up and that’s where I shine…but first…
T2 – 1:12
T2 is much easier than T1 (at least in my one experience) because all you have to do is take off your helmet and rack your bike. And if you’re neurotic like me, you switch your garmin setting from bike to run. That probably cost me about three seconds…oh well. Pretty quick transition, then off to the run!
3.1 miles – 22:31 – 7:15/mile
Run Rank – 18/993
Ahh, my event!! I’ve never really done a brick workout in my lifetime, although I did once try to run after riding the bike…I made it about a tenth of a mile before coming home, so I had a little bit of knowledge about the jelly feeling that would overcome my legs. Maybe I didn’t push that hard on the bike, but my legs didn’t feel so much like jelly as they did like BRICKS. Is that why it’s called a brick workout? Anyway, my legs felt super heavy so I didn’t know what pace I was going until my Garmin told me about 7:20…it definitely felt more like 10:00 since I felt so sluggish. Oh well, I’ll take it. As I was running along, I noticed that I was passing EVERYONE. And no one was passing me. In fact, not a single person passed me on the run, and I passed a million people…it was quite a confidence booster and very fun to fly by everyone. They had two water stations, so I grabbed a sip or two on the run, but I didn’t slow down at all.
My legs loosened up after about a mile and a half, which meant that the run was half over! I felt good the entire time and my pace stayed around 7:10-7:20…I was comfortable and it didn’t feel like I was pushing it, although I could definitely tell that I had done some sort of activity before running the 5k. With about a quarter mile to go, I picked it up and sped across the finish line. Everyone else looked so tired, but I felt super strong…obviously running is my strong point here.
The best part was when I came zipping across the line, the announcer said, “And here’s Susan from (insert my town here)!!!” I love when they can tell who crossing the finish line because then I can pretend that other people are cheering for me.
Overall – 1:43:53
Overall Rank – 199/993
Age Group – 34/132
The tri was AWESOME! I think I did pretty well considering I wasn’t exactly training for it, but I think I have good endurance in general so I had that working in my favor. Plus, I can really rock the run! My expectations were low going into the race…all I wanted to do was have fun and see if triathlons are something I would like to do in the future. (I have not-so-secret aspirations of doing an Ironman, but that’s silly to say when you’ve never done a tri before!) Based on this experience, I think more tris are in my future…the bug bit me hard since I’m looking at an Olympic distance tri for next weekend…oh dear!
A few months ago, when I was doing a lot of swimming/biking for cross training, I thought about getting a road bike (or, you know, a bike of my own), but I put it off because I didn’t want to invest if I wasn’t sure I was going to use it. I definitely think it would be worth it to invest in a road bike now, especially since I’m getting ready to sell my car! One of my friends works at a bike store and can potentially get me a good discount, so I’m going to look into that. (Any opinions on Fuji and Giant bikes??)
That being said…I’m a runner through and through, and biking and swimming don’t do for me what running does. I go crazy when I can’t run, and triathlon training would have to involve a fine balance since running is where my heart is. Also, running comes quite naturally to me, whereas swimming and biking do not…work would need to be done!
The tri was a GREAT experience, and I really think everyone should try one! Although the time it took me to swim/bike/run was about the same as the time it takes me to do an easy half marathon, it was a different type of tired, and yes, I laid on the couch like a zombie for a few hours this afternoon.
As a side note, I headed to this race all by myself…I didn’t know anyone else racing and I didn’t have any spectators. The people who I asked to take pictures of me were quite surprised that I was by myself, but you gotta do what you gotta do! However, it is much more exciting when you know you have people looking for you and someone there to share the fun with when you finish. Thank your spectators for your races because they definitely make it all more worthwhile!
However, I still feel quite accomplished! I’m a triathlete…woo woo!