Most of my race equipment (aside from the wetsuit and bike) while I was taking inventory the night before. A lot more stuff to worry about than when getting ready for a running race.
We made a few wrong turns on the way, but we still managed to get up there shortly before 8am. I unpacked my stuff and headed towards the race site. Fortunately, the registration tent was already open (it wasn't scheduled to open until 8:15) so I got all of my stuff and headed over to transition. The racks were assigned by bib number, but fortunately few people were there this early so I had my choice of spots on that rack and grabbed the one on the edge closest to the bike exit.
After racking my bike and setting up my transition area, I walked around the various aspects of the start/finish lines to familiarize myself with the layout. It was pretty straightforward, and as my rack was right near the edge of the transition area it was easy to spot from a distance. I took a closer look at the maps they had of the swim, bike and run routes to familiarize myself with the details then headed back to transition to watch my stuff.
Things started filling up quickly after that, so I looked around to see how others were setting things up for any potential ideas. It was still too early to put on the wetsuit, as while it was cool it wasn't cold enough that that would be comfortable outside of the water. As such, I just relaxed and took in the atmosphere to help get the mind ready for the race that was coming.
About 30 minutes before the start, I put on and adjusted the wetsuit just before the organizer's started the pre-race briefing. After hearing them out, I headed over the beach to do some warm ups and familiarize myself with swimming in the wetsuit. I was a bit worried as I hadn't had an opportunity to test it out before the race, but it worked quite well right off the bat and I was able to comfortably do a few 100m sets. As the wave 1 start approached, I headed back into the shallow water to get out of the way. I stood around nervously for a bit, checking all of my equipment and going through my plan for the rest of the race.
After a quick announcement, the starter's horn was sounded and the first wave was off. As the second wave moved forward to the start line, I possitioned myself in the middle of the pack. On the inside edge I was worried about having too much traffic, but on the outside I was concerned about drifting off of the line so I figured that I'd split the difference. The plan was to keep a relatively comfortable pace and not worry too much about pushing it, as this was my weakest discipline and I didn't want to burn myself out.
Swim (600m) - 13:39 - 2:17/100m
Three minutes later our horn sounded and we were off with arms and legs flailing everywhere. After about 30 seconds, it was evident that it would be extremely difficult to maintain a rhythm as there were bodies in pretty much every direction. Every time I was hit or I bumped into someone else, it through off my routine and it became difficult to keep my breathing under control. I eventually managed to push my way out of the main mass and had a bit of a repreive, but I had to push to do that so I was a bit more tired than expected.
When we hit the first bouy, things started getting crowded again so I took a wide line to try and avoid that. It worked well, however it also meant that I was covering more distance than I would have if I'd taken the corner directly. Either way, I took this leg a little slower to get my breathing back under control but it was still difficult. After hitting the second bouy I managed to start getting into a decent pattern again and pushed my way into the shore.
As we got close, people started standing and running. While I knew that I'd be faster if I kept swimming, I was pretty tired at this point so I just got up as well and ran the rest of the way in. Once I got into ankle deep water I unfastened the zipper on my wetsuit and removed the top half while I ran toward my transition station. Fortunately, other than a little trouble finding the pull cord on the first try it came off quite easily before my feet were out of the water so I could focus on the rest of my transition.
T1 (Swim to Bike) - 3:11
When I hit my transition station I removed the lower half of the wetsuit and set it down on the back edge of the towel I had set up. Fortunately, other than a bit of leakage around the neck it has mostly kept my clothes dry so I was in good condition for the next leg. The next step was to get my socks and cycling shoes on, and it's evident that the socks were not a good idea. Trying to get wet feet into socks with nowhere to sit down and nothing to lean on was a clumbsy process and took a good deal of time. After getting the left foot on, I just sat down on the ground to get the right one on as there was no sense in wasting more time.
Once that was ready, I quickly grabbed my race number, watch and sunglasses, then put on and fastened my helmet. I then unracked my bike and ran to the bike start line. I was expecting this to be a bit of a problem, as cleated cycling shoes aren't exactly designed for running on. Fortunately, most of the path to the mounting line was grass and dirt so it wasn't much of a problem. I was able to pass the line, clip in and get off within a matter of seconds.
As noted above, 3:11 is a pretty pitful transition time so this is something that I'm definately going to need to work on. The socks were naturally the biggest problem here, so the next time around I'm going to have to bite the bullet and see if I can pull it off without them. Naturally, it saves a lot of time but I was a bit concerned about getting blisters in the process.
Bike (20km) - 39:04 - 30.7km/h
The bike ride was probably the most enjoyable leg of the race, as the legs were still fresh and I was able to fly past a lot of people in the process which did a lot to boost my confidence. The route was a relatively pleasant one, with only a handful of very small hills to deal with. When I had decent openings I was able to maintain 35km/h paces on the flats and there wasn't really any wind to deal with either.
The tricky part, however, were the passing rules in this leg of the race. Due to the size of the drafting area we aren't allowed to remain in for more than 15 seconds, there were basically only two lanes to work with. On the flat straight segments it wasn't much of a problem, however on uphill and downhill segments lots of people were passing others, so the passing lane was full. In order to avoid getting within the 5m no-drafting zone behind them, that meant that I had to apply the breaks a lot (bleeding off energy) until I could get an opening.
Either way, there isn't really much that could be done about this given the structure of the race. The solution, naturally, is simply for me to get better at the swim and T1 stages so that I can start the bike leg sooner and get out ahead of the traffic ;)
T2 (Bike to Run) - 1:48
At the end of this leg, I dismounted at the line and ran the bike back to the rack. After securing it on the rack, I quickly popped off my helmet and cycling shoes and put on my running shoes. I lost a bit of time here as I elected to use conventional shoelaces and had to tie them, but aside from that everything else went quite smoothly here. There were a few things I could have streamlined a little (eg changing shoes before helmet, so it isn't in the way) but the main improvement I need to make here is getting used to elastic laces.
Run (4K) - 19:58 - 5:00/km
When I hit the run segment, I wasn't really sure how the previous two legs would effect me so I elected to take it conservatively. I've run a 5K race at a 4:11/km pace, and could probably pull out a sub-4 pace over a 4K course, but whether that would be possible after the bike and swim was up in the air. Additionally, due to my time off from injury my heart rate has been a bit higher than normal, and a nagging cold has pushed it up a bit as well so I wasn't sure how a full-blown VO2Max effort would last.
Furthering the complexity of the situation, I made a significant tactical error with my RS800 HRM. I had switched it on at the begining of the bike segment to get heart rate and elevation for the ride, and configured it to also record speed from the footpod. Naturally, on the bike the footpod wouldn't be in range so nothing would be recorded, but I assumed that it would pick it up once I got back and started running. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case as the watch had obviously given up on connecting to the footpod (ie I should have stopped the first workout and started a new one). As such, when I hit the run I had no readout of my pace or distance, and simply had my HR to work with.
As such, when it became obvious that I only had heart rate to work with I elected to not worry about it too much and just take it easy. I caught up to another runner who was going at a comfortable pace and stuck with him for a while. Unfortunately, part way through the second kilometer he started to slow down significantly so I had to drop him and head out on my own. At this point, I was accelerating a bit and felt good so I let myself speed up a bit more. I hit the turnaround point and began heading back.
As I approached the resort, I realized that I only had about 500m left so I figured that I'd open up and see what was left in the tank. As I accelerated I realized that there was plenty left in the tank so I stepped up to a full sprint passing a handful of people. I had to slow down a bit on the final turn as it was narrow and I had to navigate around another fellow, but once I got into the final stretch I gave it everything and flew over the finish line.
It was obvious at this point that I could have easily run a lot faster for most of the run, but until I got to the end I wasn't sure how well my body would have taken it so I played it a bit too cautiously. Naturally, not having my normal pacing information made it even more difficult, as I had to base my targetting off of heart rate which is a little off-kilter at this point. Either way, this is part of the learning process and I'll know next time that the fatigue isn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.
Gun time: 1:17:37 (overall results)
Swim: 13:39 (156/265)
Bike: 39:04 (53/265)
Run: 19:58 (58/265)
Place overall: 88/265 (66.8 percentile)
Place in age group: 6/18 (66.7 percentile)
Regardless of all of that, the race today was an excellent experience and I hope the first of many more. There were a lot of lessons learned here and, by extension, a lot of room to improve. Primarily, I should be able to comfortably shave a couple of minutes off of my transitions (largely because they were so brutal this time around) which is a heck of a lot easier than gaining that much time in any of the three sports.
Naturally, my swimming also has a lot of room for improvement so I'll have to do some work on that. While I've largely got the physical aspects of it in place at this point, I need to work more on technique so that I'm not so easily thrown off by outside influences. I should also try and get some more practice in open water, but that's difficult to do in the off season so that might have to wait a bit.