My First Triathlon: Race Report

27 11 2011

Done. My first ever triathlon! And all things considered, it went quite well.

The day started off early. The 8am start meant I needed to be up and eating by 6ish, and out at the venue by 7am. Having packed the night before, it was (for once) a relatively organised morning for me.

I rolled up to the lake and after finding a park, made my way done to registration. Having pre-registered, everything was ready for – swim cap, t-shirt, timing chip etc. But it was at the registration that my biggest disappointment of the day occurred. I was really looking forward to getting my number on my arm and leg. Unfortunately, the organisers opted for this instead.


I wasn’t expecting that and as a result, didn’t pack my race belt. I’m not a fan of safety pins on the t-shirt, but unfortunately I had no alternative. After affixing a race number to my bike, I checked into the transition area and started the process of unpacking. Being my first, it felt like I took a ridiculously long time to get my gear set out. At one stage I got busted talking to myself as I was going through the transition order in my mind…”ok, so out of the water, suit off, t-shirt on – check, sunglasses on – check…”. The guy next to me looked mildly amused but didn’t say anything.

After the race briefing, we hit the water for the staggered start. I was in the third group and was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one hanging back. I was dreading the start and clearly wasn’t alone. I was grateful that wetsuits had been permitted. When we started, I made a conscious effort not to go out too hard. Despite that, and despite starting at the back, I picked up a few people fairly quickly. As soon as I swam into someone, things went south. I swam over legs, got kicked in the face, bounced off people, went sideways. I didn’t like it at all, but I was determined to persevere. We were swimming parallel to the bank and as I looked around, I noticed a couple of people had moved across to shallower waters. I did the same. The second my feet hit bottom, I felt better. All my nerves disappeared and I started swimming again. I’m a confidence swimmer and I had my confidence back. I swam better and stronger. I’d lost a little time, but I’d found my rhythm.

The course was a rectangle, with the two long arms being about 300m each. By the time I’d done the first half of the course, I’d taken a little over ten minutes. A quick look around at the buoy and I knew I was one of the last in my start group. The second half was easier. I’d settled into the swim and “powered” on through. By my watch, I finished the swim in a tad around 17½ minutes.

My official time was a little longer. The only timing mate I recall seeing was at the finish line, so I’m not sure exactly where it was, but I’m guessing it was at the entry to the transition area. This would account for the extra minute as I did a slow jog from the water to the transition area, 100m away.

I felt like I transitioned fairly quickly. I didn’t have too much trouble getting the wetsuit off and I got my t-shirt and helmet on fairly quickly. I’d practised transitioning onto the bike with my shoes already clipped in and the transfer went well. From the moment I hit the bike, I started to make up some time. I passed people almost immediately and never looked back. I knew the bike leg was going to be my strongest leg. About 7kms in, I saw the front runners coming back the other way, and it inspired me to push harder.  I wasn’t flying, but I was passing people on a fairly regular basis. In the swim, I’d come 143 out of 197. On the bike, I came in 61st overall. The bike course was undulating along a slow incline to the turn around point and then a rolling down hill back. I was pushing hard on the bike, and doing well, but I could have done better. I felt underdone. I hadn’t had a lot of time on the bike in the last month or so, and had no real power. In the end, I came home in 36:58. I personally feel like I should have done this ride in sub 35. As with the swim time, my official time is longer by nearly 2 minutes. I’ve given this some thought and I think I know why. The timing mats must have been at the bottom of the transition area, but the bike exit and entry were at the top. Which means that the bike time includes both times within the transition area, whereas the swim time includes the run to the transition.

To me that’s pretty piss poor. Now I know nothing about the logistics of running a triathlon, but timing mats should have been placed at the both sides of the transition area to allow more accurate timing.

What I do know is that I am 100% certain that the ride time on my Garmin is spot on, which means that my total time spent in the transition area is less than 2 minutes. For a first effort, I think that is pretty good.

The run was hard. My calves were burning from the start and I struggled to find a comfortable pace. I overtook a few people but for the most part, people overtook me. I spurred myself on my trying to stick with everyone who passed me. That usually worked for about 50m before I was dropped and then another popped by me. By the first turn around point, I’d settled into the run a lot more and started to pick up the pace. I’d been hoping to have my Forerunner with me to help me keep pace, but I’d forgotten to charge it up, and I’d left the bike Garmin on the bike. I was watching the time though, and I knew I was never going to get close to my 77min bold goal. In face, I was a little over 1.5km from the finish when the first goal time passed. I did my best to maintain my pace and hoped to make it home in time to reach my stretch goal of 83 minutes. I need to run a 25min 5km for that, but I couldn’t manage it. As with my riding, I’d neglected my running of late (even moreso) in favour of getting through the swim. In the end, I managed the run in a little under 27 minutes.

So my total time: 1hr 24min 53secs, in the middle of my stretch and respectable times. To be honest, I’d have settled for a simple completion, but I’m really quite happy with my time. I had been hoping to be faster that the average time for all competitors, but alas that was not the case.

I absolutely loved the race. Absolutely. Loved. It. I just want to do another. I want to swim more confidently, ride harder and run faster. I want to do a sprint tri in under 75 minutes. I want to do it again and again and again. But I can’t. I don’t have the time or the budget to travel that frequently so I’m fairly limited to local stuff. Saying that, there are local triathlons around, but I’m also keen to try to focus on my riding over the next few months. If I do front up for a couple more triathlons, I’ll have to work in at least one long swim and one hard run a week.