My Olympic Triathlon

I’m wrapping up my racing season, and I have to say I’m glad to see it coming to an end! It’s been a long, grueling, HOT summer here in middle Tennessee, and training definitely took its toll on me. Did I mention it was HOT? Although I only did two triathlons this summer, they were about four months apart, which meant a lot of training without a lot of competition. Not a good combination for someone as competitive as I am.

I got back about a week ago from the Alabama Coastal Triathlon. It was an Olympic/Intermediate distance triathlon which consisted of a 1.5K (~0.9 mile) ocean swim, a 40K (24.8 miles) bike, and a 10K (6.2 miles) run that took place in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We had perfect weather for it, and Team Magic, the company that ran the race, did an amazing job as usual. I was gunning for a sub-3:00 finish and I came in at 2:54:01. I thought that there might be a chance at a 2:45 finish, but the hotter it got that day, the more I lost sight of that goal.

My wife and boys were all there to cheer me on before I got in the water around 8:00 for my ocean swim.

I finished the swim in 30:28, which for me was pretty fast. I was training around that same time/pace in the pool, but was around 37 minutes in a training swim that I did in a local lake. So, needless to say, I was pretty pumped when I got out of the water and looked at my watch. Open water swims usually take me a bit longer to do, so I was extremely pleased with my time.

I then headed out on the bike leg. Gulf Shores is obviously flat (being right on the water), but I forgot that that meant that I had to peddle the whole time. Riding in Tennessee, I was used to climbing uphill and then having the downhill to recover. Not the case here. This was 25 miles of constant peddling at nearly 20 MPH. I finished the bike leg in 1:15:56, although the continuous peddling definitely caught up with me on the run.

What I didn’t realize is that my friend, Graham–who was racing with me and had started behind me, actually passed me in the water! I didn’t know that until the bike turnaround. He was leaving it as I was approaching it! Remember earlier when I said I was competitive? Any guess as to what realizing he was ahead of me did? You guessed it! Mid-race competitive boost…check.

After finishing the bike, I set out for the last leg–the 10K. Usually I am a reasonably strong runner. I’m definitely not the fastest guy around, but while training for the race this summer, there were countless times when I was averaging around a 7:45-to-8:00 mile pace. So I knew this was my strongest disciple of the three. I caught up with Graham in the first couple of miles and hoped that I would be able to put some distance between us and finish strong.

What I didn’t account for was the heat. I ran the first 3.1 miles in about 28 or 29 minutes. “Not bad,” I told myself. I was trying to quickly do the math in my head and calculated a 9-something-minute mile. I knew I would be slower than my training times and was satisfied with my pace. I thought I had a chance to finish around 2:48.

And then I turned around to head to the finish line…

Apparently I ran right into a brick wall. My legs were fatigued (remember the 25 miles of peddling? This would be where it caught up with me), and I had nothing left in the tank. My pace on the last 3.1 was around an 11-minute mile. I might have been a shade under that, but not by much. I was gassed, but I was pushing through, knowing that shortly after the race I would have a margarita in my hand and my toes in the sand. Sounds like a country song doesn’t it? If anyone writes a song using that line, I expect royalties. My run time was 1:03:29 which was around a 10-minute mile.

Overall, it was a great race. Graham finished in 2:55:13. It literally felt like I crossed the line, turned around and he was there! After three hours of racing, it was pretty cool to only be a minute apart. I was exhausted, but my oldest son wanted to tell me everything he had done on the beach while I was racing.

Graham and I made some memories and pushed each other to do things that neither of us had done before. It was a great race and a great experience for both of us! We’re both looking forward to racing with and against each other in 2012.

QUESTION: What’s the hardest thing you’ve done?