July 14, 2012.
Back to Mars. I was getting used to the trip…
Lifetime Fitness MPLS Triathlon weekend was upon me.
I was used to running events and was prepared to cycle and swim too. I had my gear. Race day weather forecast looked great. I had upgraded to an “Olympic” distance from a sprint. 1.5 kn swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run.
Packet pick-up was at the convention center. Drove down to get my stuff. Pretty routine. Just a little more stuff (bigger timing chip with a velcro band to strap around your leg. Swim cap. Multiple bibs. Yeah, I needed to figure a few things out and fast).
Stayed for the race briefing. Turn by turn guide of the whole course. Made me question what I had gotten myself into. Needed to take a drive down to the venue and check it out. I was familiar with it since I had my open water swim classes on the same beach and the same lake.
But it was all different. The parking lot was fenced off. Bike racks as far as the eye could see. Bleachers were up on the beach. Yep…time to explore.
Found the entrance. Found where I would rack my bike. Found where I would run in from the beach after the swim, and where I would bike out of. Very little space in transition.
Yep, this was a different world all over again.
I went back home and collected together my gear. There was so much more of it. I knew I would forget something.
Tri-suit: check. Wetsuit: check. Goggles/earplugs/swim cap: check. Bike helmet, sunglasses, running shoes, socks, sunscreen, hat. Check.
Almost forgot the bike.
No sleep that night.
Transition opens early. Like 5am early. I was up by two.
I was at the site right when it opened. Got my gear (there was so much!) and walked down to transition. Had to get body marked first. Bib number on my arm, age on my calf…all in magic markers.
Got to my rack. Couldn’t figure out how to place my bike on it. This was a fine start…
Lined up all my stuff. Looked at how others set up their stations and moved everything around. Repeated this a few times. I was trying NOT to look like a newbie. Fail.
Water temp was announced. It was warm and wetsuits would not be permitted. Fine by me…still wasn’t used to that thing.
One last rearrangement and headed to the beach. Then I headed back…just to be sure I could find my spot in the sea of bikes. Once more…back to the beach.
Saw the buoys out on the water for the first time. It wasn’t that bad…looked very doable. Then, I realized those were the markers for the SPRINT course. I looked farther out and I could barely see my buoys. They were far away. Very, very far away. What did I get myself into?
Double checked my start wave and hung out on the beach
Part of the fun is watching the pro’s go first. Amazingly fast start. Then it was time for the age groupers. My wave came up pretty fast. We had to get organized by age group, and then by bib numbers. It was a time trial start (the least stressful way for a newbie to start his first triathlon). We started one at a time…at 3 second intervals. There was a guy at the starting line with a laptop clicking the keyboard to indicate that each of us had started.
In I went. The water was nice and warm. But there was some traffic. Definitely some bumping going on. Took awhile getting the hang of sighting under race conditions. Just look for the next buoy and swim towards it. Harder than it sounds. I reach the first turn buoy…lots of hitting and bumping at the turn. Freaked my out a little but made it around. The second side of the triangle went on forever. I was getting tired, but there were so many lifeguards that I knew I was safe. Just kept plugging along. Another turn, another traffic jam. And I was headed towards the shore.
I was definitely a little wobbly getting out of the water for the run up the beach to transition. Found my station…no problem and started to make the switch. I quickly learned why everyone was wearing their tri-top in the water…because it is impossible to get skin-tight spandex on when you are wet. 10 minute mistake. Lesson learned.
Grabbed my bike and helmet and ran towards “bike out”. Had to pass the “mount line” before getting on. Again, a little crowed and intimidating here, but again, nothing too bad.
It is a beautiful urban bike route and this part of the course seemed to fly by. Up and down the Mississippi and a quick loop around Lake Harriett and I was back in transition. Not much to do between bike and run (helmet off, hat on) and I was off to the exit. Except…I didn’t know where it was. Took me 5 minutes of running in circles before someone pointed me in the right direction. Oops!
The run was two laps around Lake Nokomis (only one for the sprinters). This was going to be a problem. Legs were tired from the bike and it was getting very very warm. Not a good time to be running.
That’s when I bumped into someone from my open water swimming class. We were running at the same general speed and kept each other company for most of the run. Must have taken our minds off everything a little too much. We were about 100 ft from the finish when we looked at each other and realized that we only completed one lap…we had missed the split! So, we backtracked (people hated us for doing that!) and completed our second lap. As we got close to the finish, I could feel a little energy surge. He didn’t. So he told me to run my race. I picked up the pace and was able to finish with a sprint.
I had done it. I was a triathlete!
And I wanted to do it again…