|Calm waters in Red Bank Sunday morning.|
Sometimes the hardest lessons in triathlon are the ones you learn on race day. Yesterday I had my first race of the season: Red Bank Olympic distance triathlon. Before the race, I felt calm and completely ready. I picked this race because it was three weeks from Eagleman and, I thought, a flat course similar to Eagleman.
Guess what. I was wrong.
Here is the course map provided. Looks innocent enough to me. But clearly I am not well versed in reading course maps. But before we get there, let's start at the beginning.
Race time was 7 a.m., my heat was set to leave at 7:16. Transition was set to close at 6:50. None of that happened on time. My friend Tammy and I showed up at 5:20, parked and set up our transition area. We walked around, looked at the water and around 6:30 did a warm up swim in the bay. Water was cool, but not freezing cold. My confidence was intact.
|My transition area all set up and ready to go.|
At 7:05, transition was still not closed, bikes were all over the place because the race coordinators did not set up enough racks. People had bikes and equipment all over the place, against gates, in patches of grass, it was chaos. All the athletes lined up around the dock until two people started screaming at us to move back. A megaphone would have done them some good. I don't know what time it was by the time my heat got in the water, but we were guessing that it was after 7:30. Waves were leaving every three minutes.
|With some time to kill, my friend Tammy and I take some pre-race pictures.|
I have never been a strong swimmer, but over the last six months, Joanna has helped me get stronger and faster in the water. This put me mid-pack when traditionally I would have been bringing up the rear. It was pretty awesome to be swimming with the pack, but about 1000 yards into the swim I got a swift, but good kick to my left eye. It jogged me a bit, but I held it together and finished the swim in 33:58, which is a significant improvement from my last Olympic swim of 46:23.
First lesson: Try not to get beat up while swimming in a pack. Maybe next time I'll swim a little wider to give myself some more space, especially towards the end.
After the swim, we had to wait in a line to climb a ladder out of the water and run into transition, which I did, grabbed my bike, ran out and mounted my bike. I started the ride feeling great, like super great... for the first mile, until I realized this ride was not as flat as the elevation map may or may not have suggested. At this point I broke down mentally. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been able to climb those hills, I need to work on my climbing confidence.
My legs were heavy and I just kept thinking, "Seriously, this is going to take forever."
And it did. Every person I was ahead of in the swim caught up and passed me like I was standing still. The bike is supposed to be my strong event and yesterday I broke down. One hour and 51 minutes later, I finally made it back to transition for the run feeling defeated, but determined to finish.
Second lesson: Have a second person read the elevation map and maybe find someone who has done the race before you decide to register.
Starting the run I saw my family waiting for me, which lifted my spirits and pushed me along. I felt good running and was focusing on my form until I realized my armpits were burning. My tri top was actually giving me brush burns, so I unzipped the front and pulled my arms out of the sleeves. Yeah, I ran 6.2 miles with my top around my waist... but at least I only have minor abrasions on my armpits.
Third lesson: Best to test all equipment, even clothing, before a race.
About two and a half miles into the run, we head into some woods and this was welcomed as the sun was out in full force. At the same time, my legs start cramping, so I reach into my pocket to get an Enduralyte and I trip over a tree root, cutting up my knee and wrist.
Fourth lesson: maybe on a trail it's not the best time to stop watching the course.
|A finishers medal is still cool!|
In the end, I have a few scrapes and bruises, a bruised ego and a lot of lessons from which to learn. The good news is that I have three weeks to workout some of those issues and I'm so glad to have learned these lessons before my A race.