St. Patty’s Sprint Tri and the Accessibility of the Sport
In previous blogs, I’d write about BIG events or “A” races. There is enough content to write about because of the length of the event and everything that goes into it. However, this time I wanted to write about my race in this shorter event. One, to give you an insight on how the race played out, as well as, write about how accessible triathlon is. The idea is that you rethink overcoming that fear of swimming or whatever else it is holding you back from giving triathlon a shot.
The St. Patrick’s Day Sprint Triathlon has been going on for 18 years…I could be wrong on that exact number. The race is put on by Dallasathletesracing.com. It is the PERFECT “first time” triathlon. Why? The swim takes place in an indoor pool. You weave in and out of the lanes for a total of 300 meters. If swimming has been your fear, this allows you to stop at the wall or briefly hold onto the rope, if needed. Plus, you can see the bottom of the pool! The bike is on a somewhat hilly course, basically rolling with some flat sections. It is a two loop course totaling 12.5 miles, according to my Garmin. The run, is a 3.1 mile out and back in a pretty wooded trails of Bear Creek. The run course is mostly flat and has some on course water support.
This race falls 4 weeks out from my half ironman in Galveston. So, most of my training has been geared toward that. This race was being used as a “fun” race or one to sort of work through any rust, so I’d feel more prepared for the race next month. This course is a rolling start based on your estimated swim time. I’ve learned fibbing on your swim time about 30 seconds saves you a huge headache during the swim. In years past, I’d put a completely honest swim time and be number 300-400 getting in the water. This resulted in me having to weave in and out of slower swimmers during my entire swim. This year I was number 46 and I felt like it was pretty appropriate. After a fantastic national anthem the bag pipes began to play to start the race. I forgot how cool these sound and it really gets your nerves going! When it was my time to start, I adjusted my goggles one more time and jumped in. Thankfully, my swim was totally uneventful. No crowds, leaking goggles, etc. Just a smooth swim and got out of the pool without wasting too much energy.
One area you can make ground on other athletes is transition. Too many times I see athletes hanging around in transition-taking their time, so I try to get in and out as quick as possible. I am a minimalist and it really helps in this situation. When I get to my bike, I see Rob Arruda finishing getting ready to start his bike leg. This guy is one of the nicest people I know. He has a plethora of information, regarding the sport of triathlon. He is one of the first people I came in contact with when starting the sport. He has always been willing to give info, rides back to the car after blown tubes, and an all around supportive guy. One of a kind for sure. Anyway, with that being said, a “have a good ride” was said and we we’re off. I made it a point to really have fun on the bike and got to work, quickly. The wind was HOWLING that day. I heard it was blowing around 25 mph with gusts even higher. Fortunately, just a short time we were riding directly into the wind and some other times riding with a crosswind/slight head wind. I don’t have a power meter on the bike to measure actual power, so I was just going off of feel. I tried to push consistently for what I felt I could sustain for the entire ride and just changed gears as course elevations required. I’ve worked hard on my bike over the winter and it has really paid off. I’ve increased my FTP from last summer 240 watts to 308 watts a few months ago. I finally feel a little stronger in what was my weakest of the three legs. Besides pushing consistently and dealing with the winds, the bike was pretty uneventful. My first time riding the course I averaged 18.6 miles per hour. This race I averaged 21.8 mph. Pretty good improvement. I owe to specific training, having purpose with every workout, etc. Before, it was get on and ride…..
I do the flying dismount to save some time. This is taking your feet out of the shoes so you can jump off of bike and start running versus having to stop, get off, and take off shoes in transition. It’s the little things! I took an extra second or two in transition to have a few swigs of my water. After putting on my running shoes, I was off. My original plan was to go ALL OUT the entire time. However, when I started the run, I just wasn’t feeling it. I also was trying to think big picture and did not want to hurt my hamstring, again. So, I started off with a conservative pace and settled in. After a few minutes, I saw I was moving along at a 7:15 pace and was feeling great. I could have really pushed harder, but honestly did not want to experience the pain that came with it. HA! At this point, it was all about being smooth and enjoying being able to race. Uneventful seems to be the theme and the run was exactly that, except for the last quarter mile or so. I was coming up on a Tri4Him Junior team member. I always make it a point to encourage others on during a race. A simple, “c’mon, man or keep it up” may help them, but it helps me mentally, too. Anyway, I was gaining on this guy and as I was passing him I offered a few words of encouragement. All this was great until about 20 seconds later, as we were coming to the finish line, his coach and several other people were yelling, “Pass Tim, you can pass him, c’mon get him”. Of course, I couldn’t let him pass me. I gave Wes, the coach for the Tri4Him junior team, a quick “shut up” as I passed to let him know that the guy I was encouraging a half minute prior was now being told by them to “pass me”. It’s all good fun and was probably the funnest part of the race.
I had a blast at this race, like usual. Triathlon has changed my life for the better. I am more fit and feel better than I ever have. I have something I can continually chase. I have also met some of the best people, solely because of triathlon. A few years ago, I did not own a bike and could not swim across a pool once without coming close to dying. I got over that fear of swimming and have become a decent swimmer. I am still working on becoming a better cyclist. I always aiming to perfect and improve my running. It has taken a few years to figure it all out and find out what works and what doesn’t. I became certified to coach in the sport and ideally help others not waste the same time that I did (learning for themselves). I’ve written a post before regarding how accessible the sport is. All you need is something to swim in, any old bike, and a pair of running shoes. I saw mountain bikes out there this past weekend. I saw athletes of all abilities. Triathlon is not a sport of expertise. It is more of a sport of inclusion, figuring stuff out together, and having a blast. You will also find some of the most supportive people you will ever meet. Each person has their reason for starting their triathlon journey. Perhaps it is to lose weight. Perhaps it is because they want to try something other than running. Maybe it is because they finally want to get over that fear of water (it isn’t that bad). Or, maybe they are a bad ass with something to prove (overcoming ailments such as missing limbs, fears, or MS (MS people- you are some of the most bad ass people I know and an inspiration to myself….you know who you are).
The #mytimetotri initiative has been launched as an effort to get others to try it out. DO yourself a favor and do not let any fear or curiosity keep you back. You owe it to yourself to give triathlon a shot, if you have any desire. Two things will happen. You may dislike it and that is fine OR, you end up writing blogs, such as these, a few years later telling people how cool of a sport this is.
Thanks for hanging in there and not caring about grammar. I sucked at English in school and I am too busy to care about it now 😉