First Try Triathlon Recap

Last year’s First Try Triathlon in Linden, MI was my very first triathlon. I chose it because it was beginner-friendly and the “super sprint” distance (300 yard swim, 9.1 mile bike, 2 mile run) is a little shorter than a regular sprint. It was a great race for my first experience. The race offers both “first try” and “fast try” divisions. The first try is non-competitive and designed for true beginners. The fast try offers awards for people who are looking to be more competitive.

Since I’ve been working my way back from injury the last couple months, the “super sprint” distance was appealing and I knew I could participate in the fast try division. I chose to make this race my first triathlon of the year on Saturday, June 21. I knew I was ready for the distance, but I wasn’t sure that my training had been intensive enough yet to count on much speed. I knew the race would be a good way to gauge my progress and see what I had in me.

As I prepared for the race the night before, part of me couldn’t help but wonder why I voluntarily choose to put myself through things like this. I used checklists to keep everything organized, but I still worried about all of the things I needed to remember to take. Forget one thing such as a bike helmet or goggles and it means the race is a no-go. I also worried the logistics of the race, such as how to get through the transitions as efficiently as possible. The worrying combined with waking up ridiculously early on a Saturday to put myself through torture seems pretty crazy when I really think about it. Despite all of that, I love it and couldn’t wait.

The ridiculously early Saturday morning started around 4:45, and I was on the road by 5:20. Linden is a little less than an hour away and the transition area opened at 6:00. I wanted to get there early to check in and get a good spot in the transition area. I remembered that it was pretty full by the time I got there last year and I had to squeeze my bike into a spot. I was able to check in quickly near the beach, then I went back to the car to get my bike and other stuff. One thing I really like about this race is that parking is available right across the street from the transition area, making it easy to go back for my bike after checking in.

The check-in area.

The check-in area.

I prefer to have my bike on a rack by the transition’s exit, and that was no problem thanks to my early arrival. I chose a spot right next to a guy with a really fancy bike, so I suspected he knew what he was doing. We talked for a little bit and he gave me some good advice. I found out later that he did indeed know what he was doing – he was the overall winner of the race! He’s 61 years old and races nearly every weekend through the summer. Very impressive!

The transition entrance.

The transition entrance.

The transition area.

The transition area.

The transition area closed at 7:20 so I had some time to kill before then. It rolled around before I knew it and it was time to gather at the beach for the pre-race meeting.

The beach.

The beach.

People could warm up in the water before the meeting, so I went to see how the water felt. I didn’t get all the way in because it was only about 60 degrees outside and I was afraid I’d freeze once I got out. The pre-race meeting went over every aspect of the race, then the first wave of fast try men went down to the water. I really like the wave starts for the swim as it reduces the congestion and craziness. I was in the second wave, and I’d guess that there may have been 15-20 women. We had a couple minutes to get ready in the water then we were off!

I’ve only swum in open water a couple times – this race last year and one other triathlon. My lack of experience was apparent immediately. It’s not that I freaked out, but my style and breathing were terrible at the beginning. I’m still not really used to “sighting” when I can’t see anything through the sandy water and I have to lift my head to spot the buoys. I had no rhythm and took a breath on every stroke for nearly the first half of the swim. As the group spread out more, I finally got into a better groove. The second half of the swim went pretty well once I felt more comfortable. I’m happy to say that I stuck close to the buoys, unlike one race where I ended up swimming way off track. 300 yards is pretty short, so I was probably in the water for a little over six minutes.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The run up the stairs to the transition area is included in the swim time, and it’s a lot of stairs to run when you feel wobbly coming out of the water!

Quite a climb!

Quite a climb!

My swim time was 7:39 and I tried to hustle through the transition as I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, belt with my bib, and put on my socks and shoes. I got through the transition in 1:44 and headed out on the bike. Since I was in the second wave, not many people were out on the course yet, but I always seemed to have someone in front to chase. A number of speedy bikers with fancy bikes and aero helmets came along and zipped right past me. They always make me feel like I’m barely moving. The course is relatively flat with a little bit of rolling.

The bike elevation map.

The bike elevation map.

Because it’s an open course, there were some cars to deal with, but it wasn’t an issue. Plenty of people were along the course to direct us and stop traffic at crossroads. It went pretty well, aside from the moment when a dog ran in front of me. It came out of nowhere and made me swear out loud. Luckily it was far enough in front of me and I didn’t have to slam on the brakes, but it still freaked me out. I finished the bike in 31:42.

I kept moving pretty good and made it through the second transition in 37 seconds. My legs usually feel heavy as I start the run, but I noticed a slight numbness in my feet for at least half a mile this time – something new for me. I kept a good pace as I ran along the paved trail, but my breathing was pretty bad. The first half of the run was a bit of a struggle and when I felt like I should have run a mile, it was frustrating to realize I’d only run half a mile. I knew it was a bit of a climb at the beginning, and when I look at the elevation map, now I realize why the first half felt so tough…especially right off the bike.

The run elevation map.

The run elevation map.

The last part of the race went through a wooded area, and it was a nice way to break things up. At that point I gained on and passed a woman who led by quite a bit on the bike. That helped motivate me to finish strong. I finished the run in 14:57.

With my medal post-race.

With my medal post-race.

It took a few minutes for me to recover from a tough run, and the other woman finished just nine seconds behind me. We congratulated each other on a good race, with me complimenting her on a solid bike portion and she complimented my run. One fun thing about triathlons is seeing how everyone has different strengths. It’s interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.

The post-race food selection included oranges, bananas, grapes, and some awesome buttered bread. I cheered people on as they finished and waited for the preliminary results. I knew I had shaved a few minutes off last year’s time, so I was already happy about that.

The finish.

The finish.

I was thrilled when the results came out – I had won my age group! I think I was even more excited when I realized I was the second woman overall. This race that was supposed to be a good gauge of where I stood let me know that I’ve made more progress than I had realized.

Results.

Results.

Splits.

Splits.

The awards ceremony came a bit later, and I think my favorite moment was seeing the kids. I am so impressed by the kids who participate in triathlons. I didn’t even know about triathlons at their age! Two brothers under the age of 13 won awards. They weren’t in the area, but when they heard their names they came running and collected their glasses – which the announcer joked that they could use for chocolate milk.

Age group award.

Age group award.

Technical race shirt.

Technical race shirt.

Medal.

Medal.

When I looked at last year’s results, I realized I improved in every area. I cut almost 20 seconds off my swim, two minutes off my bike, ten seconds off my run, and both transitions were faster. I really surprised myself and it’s motivation to keep training hard. My back did ache a bit through the day, but I felt relatively good.

Overall, it was another great race and I highly recommend it. It helped me realize that I’ve made great progress as I move past my injury, and I have more in me at this point than I realized. I’m excited to keep training through the summer, increase the distance, and hopefully do several more races.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

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Bouncing Back

Getting back to running and exercise in general after my car accident in March has been a gradual process. Although the aching in my back is not 100% gone yet, it’s getting close and I feel like I’m finally back on track when it comes to training.

Somehow I managed to survive not running for six whole weeks. When I did start to run again, I basically felt like I was starting from scratch. I was very cautious because I knew if I pushed too much my back would flare up. At first, I mixed some half-mile jogs into a walk. My first attempt at a continuous run was frustrating due to IT band issues. Matt and I spent a weekend in Cincinnati and we always love to go for a run when we’re on vacation so we can explore. My knee began to hurt by the time I made it to two miles and the pain got so bad I had to stop half a mile after that. It figures – my back was okay but my knee wasn’t. I hadn’t been doing the necessary rehab exercises because they irritated my back. It’s amazing what a difference those exercises make and I realized I had to reintroduce them in order to run without knee pain.

My 1st attempt at a run kind of failed, but at least the scenery was nice! The Purple People Bridge between Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.

My 1st attempt at a run was kind of a failure, but at least the scenery was nice! The Purple People Bridge between Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.

For a few weeks I didn’t run more than three miles at a time. Sometimes my back ached during or after runs, so I didn’t increase the distance until I felt better. I tried to stick to the “10% rule” of not increasing my weekly mileage by much more than 10%. Last week I ran five days, did eight miles for a long run, and finally hit just over 20 miles for the week. I had no knee issues and limited back pain. I’m thrilled, especially when I think back to the days a couple months ago when running three miles was rough on my body. I love getting outside again to enjoy the weather and see lots of beautiful sights.

The Polly Ann Trail in Oxford, MI.

The Polly Ann Trail in Oxford, MI.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Plenty of deer can be spotted on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills, MI.

Plenty of deer can be spotted on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills, MI.

During a weekend trip to the Chicago area, we were fortunate enough to run on some trails at the Busse Forest Nature Preserve in Elk Grove Village, IL. I’d built up to six miles for my long run by that point which allowed me to explore a decent amount of the park.

Nice paved trails at this park in Elk Grove Village, IL.

Nice paved trails at this park in Elk Grove Village, IL.

More scenery from the park.

More scenery from the park.

Plenty of people were out biking, running, and fishing.

Plenty of people were out biking, running, and fishing.

We also took advantage of a beautiful Memorial Day weekend and went to Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, MI for a nice bike ride. I participated in a triathlon there last summer and have been meaning to get back there. It was fun to ride on the paths along the water and watch the boats.

Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Lake St. Clair Metropark.

One of my favorite pictures from Lake St. Clair Metropark.

One of my favorite pictures from Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Beautiful weather for a bike ride.

Beautiful weather for a bike ride.

By the water.

By the water.

Although I’m back to running relatively pain-free now, it took about ten weeks for the daily aching to fade. A spot around my left shoulder blade still bugs me now and then, but at least it’s not constant anymore. I’ve done a little bit of swimming, but as I approach a mile I start to feel that spot. I still feel it a little bit during and after biking if I hunch over too much or push the resistance. Little things like holding my phone in my left hand too long or doing other things with my left arm can set it off. For the most part, I’m doing great though and hoping I’ll be completely past all of these issues soon.

I’m feeling good enough that I’m going to test myself this weekend with my first triathlon of the year. I’m going to do the First Try Triathlon in Linden, MI. Last year’s event was my first triathlon ever and it was a great experience. The race has a non-competitive “first try” division for true beginners, and a “fast try” division for non-beginners with awards available. It’s considered a “super sprint” since the distance is shorter than a full sprint. I figure the shorter distance is a good way for me to gauge what I can handle. I’ve done a few bike/run bricks that have gone well, so I know I should be able to handle the distance. I will probably be lacking in speed, but I just want to get out there and participate again. I’m hopeful that my biking will be better this year since I’ve been consistently riding 30-40 miles per week versus maybe 20 miles per week at this time last year. I used my mountain bike for this race last time, so hopefully my nicer bike will help a bit too. I haven’t been swimming enough and have just started to reintroduce speed into a few runs, so I can only hope that I’m faster on the bike to make up for potential slowness elsewhere. No matter what my speed is, I’m excited to get back to triathlons. Hopefully I will be posting about a great race experience soon!

– Janet

follow me on Twitter @reidphotography