MTS Olympic Triathlon Race RecapWriten by: Hank Wethington
Posted on 26 March 2013
Yesterday I completed my first Olympic Triathlon. “Wow” is a great word to sum it up. I didn’t hit my goal time, but learned a lot about myself, my training, and areas for growth. Each triathlon I compete in exposes new areas for work, even when I get better than the race before. I guess that’s one of the thing I love about the sport of triathlon. My overall time was 3:03:44.3, about 10 minutes slower than my goal. Quick breakdown: Swim 34:03.9, T1 3:42.8, Bike 1:25:56.6, T2 1:19.3, Run 58:41.7 Read on for a full recap.
Preparing the day before is key for my race mornings. I got up at 6, since my heat didn’t race until 9:20a, headed downstairs for my traditional race morning meal; Moka Pot of coffee, white bread with peanut butter, banana and turkey sausage. Had my vitamins, got dressed and my wife and I were out the door by 7:15 to head to the lake. Weather was “chilly” at 45°F, which made the 1 mile walk from car to transition a little uncomfortable.
The transition area was huge. I picked a spot away from the middle where everything was crowded, and as you can see from the picture, had a ton of room. Sure, I could have shaved a few seconds by grabbing a middle row spot, but I liked the extra room.
All setup, I was ready and waiting. This was my first triathlon where I used a wet suit. My normal warm up schedule really didn’t work. I started doing some light jog at 8:40, increasing some tempo 5 minutes later, but then I stopped to put on my wetsuit. It takes me a while to get into it and all ready. The goal was to be ready and get some time in the water to adjust to the 58°F water temp prior to the first heat leaving at 9. What I ended up doing was completely cooling down by the time I made it to the water. I got in the water and did about 100m of swim trying to bring my heart rate back up and get into a rhythm, forgetting I still had 20 minutes before my heat took off! Yeah. I didn’t really plan this out too well. I did one more 50m warm up swim between the prior heat and mine, but I think it was useless and just took energy away.
At 9:20a 26 men in the 35+ year old Olympic heat was off! This was the reason I chose MTS for my first Olympic; the age group size. I was hoping to avoid the majority of getting kicked and punched when starting the swim, but still got kicked in face around 100m which partially knocked off my goggles. I had to stop to clear the water and re-adjust them. The first 400m was really difficult. I could tell I was trying to get to race pace, but wasn’t warmed up. Breathing became right side only on every stroke, even though I knew that makes me slower and less efficient. I just couldn’t get into a groove. At the first buoy turn, I was feeling a little more in control, but then I started the worst 1000m back and forth with a fellow competitor I’ve ever experienced. I was trying to maintain a steady stroke pattern and speed, and while I’m sure I wasn’t completely successful at that, the other swimmer kept stopping, at which point I would pass him. The challenge came 20 seconds later when he would start to over take me and crawl up my side. I pushed him off me about 4-5 times. At one pass, he actually dunked my head. I yelled at him and told him to get the F away from me. I don’t think he heard me. At about 1000m I didn’t really see him any more, but I was getting tired. As I started my final leg towards the dock, I was having trouble seeing the edge of the dock through my fogged glasses. I took a few seconds to clean them and mentally prepare myself for the last push. The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful, until I got to the end. As I reached the launch ramp, I picked a spot where I was about waist-high in the water and tried to stand and walk/run in the rest of the way. Only challenge was, my hamstrings and calf muscles wanted to seize! I couldn’t stand. I finally swam/floated until my hands could touch the bottom and then tried to stand again. I wasn’t very successful. I fell twice before I was finally upright and started my run for T1.
Swim time: 34:03.9 My goal for the swim was 35min. I beat it by almost 1 minute and could have been even faster without some of the issues at the end.
For T1, I had trouble getting my wetsuit off. The tab closure kept closing over the zipper making it impossible to unzip. I actually entered the transition area with the suit still completely on. I was still in a fog and having trouble standing. Does this happen to other people? I finally decided to just stop for about 15 seconds and wipe my face and hands… Just something I could control before moving forward. I finished transition which included putting on socks and my cycling shoes. I need to get tri shoes and practice flying mounts, but until then, this is how I roll. I rand for the mount and off I went.
T1 time: 3:42.8 My goal was 2:30. I just need to practice more and I could get this down. Sub 2 minutes is probably only reachable with tri shoes.
The bike went mostly according to plan. Just like in training, I focused on cadence (80+ RPM) and found my groove. I started taking in my fluid (GU Roctane) and I felt great. The only real hiccup occurred about 25 minutes in while drinking, I dropped my bottle. Since I had planned out my hydration, the loss of an almost full bottle was a concern. I decided I would pick it up on the way back. It probably cost me about two minutes to stop, run across the street to get the bottle, run back, and get going again. What should I have done? I think USAT rules state that I can’t dispose of anything on the course… does a dropped bottle count? I had only 1 real moment of self-doubt, at mile 17 there is a really steep hill and as I was out of breath and felt like puking, I thought I might not be able to finish. I did make it up that hill, made the turn around and kicked ass all the way into transition. I was a little behind in my hydration and tried to make it up over the last 5 miles. This would be a contributor to a run issue later.
Bike time: 1:25:56.6 My goal was 1:20:00 which was probably not reasonable. I have never ridden that fast so setting that as a goal was silly. Strava reported that I had 4 PRs on the course and I averaged 17.6mph, so I did well. Continuing to improve power and cadence, and not drop water bottles will improve my time.
Entering T2 was great. Nothing really to report.
T2 Time: 1:19.3 My goal time 1:00. Flying dismounts and not running in cycling shoes would improve my T2 time. It’s inline with my previous T2 times in sprint triathlon.
Starting the run, I quickly found my stride and was off. I was a little distracted by my phone as I got it set to track my run. In this picture I look like a dork while racing. 🙂
My pace over the first two miles was really fast, probably too fast, but I felt good. I grabbed water at the 2mile aid station, but they only had plastic cups. I tried to get water down, but know I ingested some air too. Along with my drinking too late on the bike, this turned into a bad side stitch that hit around 2.5 miles. I did everything I knew to do; breathing through nose and raising hands above head while continuing to run. It would not go away. I finally decided to walk for about 2 minutes to try to relieve the stitch. It seemed to work and off again I went. The walk seemed to have affected my pace and I was unable to find the fast pace I had the first two miles. Around mile 5, there were a number of competitors and spectators leaving (Sprint athletes) and were actually on the run course. I had to yell twice to make room on the road to let me through. I didn’t have many issues, but I saw later a female athlete having to weave in and around walkers as she tried to finish her race. As I turned the final corner to see the finish chute, I turned on the after-burners, or at least what I had left, and ran to the finish. I saw my wife on the side and pumped my fist as I neared the end. As I hit the finish line, I felt like I was going to collapse. My hamstring wanted to cramp and I could barely breathe. Isn’t that how you want to feel?
Run time: 58:41.7 My goal was 54:00 and I should have been capable of achieving it. The stitch certainly cost me time, but pacing should have been better too.
As you might be able to see in this photo, I left it all out there. Literally had nothing left. THAT is the sign of a well run race!
All in all, the race was a success. My total time was 3:03:44.3, with a goal of 2:54:00. I learned a lot and can’t wait for my next Olympic in October. This summer, I will be doing a LOT of open water swims to really improve in this area along with dealing with my wetsuit. If you made it this far… wow, congrats. You deserve special recognition. Hit me up on Twitter at @TriHank and let me know you made it to the end.