Is There Shame in Sixth?

I saw a post over the weekend of a runner who said that he's thrilled to show up in the top 20 in his age group of a 5K race.  Perhaps I've been spoiled, but I was knocked down to earth a bit this last weekend with my latest race. The Pelican Fest Triathlon was my first triathlon of the season and I certainly expected a few kinks, but over the course of my short triathlon career, I've hit the podium in all but one of my races. Make that two.

With this being the only triathlon of the weekend in the area and the fact that they only offered a sprint race vs. sprint and olympic distance, the competition was tough. You can normally gauge that by the average price of the bikes--there were some crazy expensive bikes and riders out there, but to get fast, you have to race with the fastest.

Here's my five things that went right, and five things that went wrong with my sprint triathlon.  I'll get the ugly out of the way first.
Test swim the week of the race

Five things that went wrong

1) The swim "leg" of the race was 800 meters (1/2 mile.)  For a sprint distance, this is on the longer end of the distance I normally race...some as little as 500+ meters.  This would be my fifth (?) open water swim in a race.  I've had less than that in training and it showed.  If I had GPS in the water, it would have been the equivalent of a half-blind three legged other words, not straight.  This "killed me" on the water leg with a embarrassing 19:44 time in the water even though we all thought it looked much longer than 800 meters.  I clearly need to work on this. In the tranquility of a pool, I swam the same distance two days earlier around 14:20.
Fresh new bike decals
2) Getting undressed. There are several aspects to a triathlon, and many of them can kill you in terms of time. My "T1" (transition from swim to bike) was equally embarrassing. I had one open water practice swim prior to the race in my practically new Helix wetsuit (used twice before in a race.) While I know the basics of getting out of my suit, I looked like a drunk three-legged half blind dog getting out of the it.  Perhaps upset with my swim, my mind seemed to have forgot if my suit was zip up or down.  Your mind does "funny things" in the midst of a triathlon vs. a run race--a lot more to think about or that can go wrong. I unzipped myself, but I think the velcro was still attached, so I zipped it back on. My family was nearby watching me struggle. I vow not to let this happen again. As my teenage boys would say, "what a newb."
3) Rest. Out of my control, I had travel the week leading up to my race down to Mexico City for work of all places. I prefer not to travel at all unless it's traveling to the race. I did well as far as getting as much rest as possible, but Petron Silver after ten PM in Mexico City is not a good idea during race week. Once I got home, we went up the night before to stay at a nearby hotel (race was in Windsor, CO,) but there were three of us in the room. One of us snored. Horrible night of sleep the night before, but as I read another race blogger state, this is normally the case (poor sleep the night before,) so it's no excuse for what happens on race day.
4) Run leg. This could probably go in either category. My 5K PR roughly two months ago was sub-twenty minutes. My 5K race leg was 21:29. Second fastest in my age group, but far from my best. I used the Asics DS Racer which has been my "go to" shoe for sprint triathlons. I know I can do better here.
5) Podium streak ends. With run racing and triathlons, I have been "on a roll." Sometimes you need to get knocked down a notch to evaluate what you need to work on. Sixth in my age group. Respectable, but that swim leg killed me.  I'm perhaps too hard on myself, but it was hard not to feel disappointed.

Five things that went right

My son and I post-race celebration; fifth and sixth in our age groups
1) My swim. Confused...wasn't that my epic fail above? Yes it was, but I felt great about two aspects of the swim. This was the first time I didn't experience nausea in the open water. Getting out the week before in an open water practice certainly helped, but relaxing and getting in a good warm-up swim before the race seemed to make the difference. I also felt good about my stroke and conditioning in the water especially considering this was my first race. I'm also loving the BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit.
2) Bike mount. While I didn't practice getting out of the wetsuit, I did practice mounting the bike that morning with my shoes already clipped to my bike (with rubber bands.) It was probably not the most graceful of bike mounts, but successful. Without this, my T1 time would have been more of a disaster.
Previous match-up on Dad vs. Son rivalry
3) Bike leg. My goal for the race was to average 20 mph which I accomplished. With very little bike training and a decent bike (Trek Speed Concept,) I've become quite comfortable with the bike leg of a race.
4) Scouting the course. As I've done in the past, my son and I drove the course the night before. Even though it was largely a rectangle layout, understanding where the hills were and what the turns looked like helped quite a bit. The last half mile had some pretty hairy turns on a bike path leading into transition, and this would have been tough to navigate for the first time in a race.
5) Racing with my son. My son turns sixteen later this year and this was our third race we both competed in. We've had fun joking about how the "old man" is still faster than the teenager, but I know his fastest times are ahead and I'm at the age where in theory mine are behind me. I refuse to cave to conventional wisdom, and refuse to hand over the "fastest" title easily. I know once he passes me, I will always be looking at the back of his jersey. This was not the day it was going to happen as I came in a mere two spots ahead of him, but it's a long summer ahead with time for him to catch the old man.

All this begs the question; if you're used to hitting the podium or expected to in a race, how do you view that race? Experience, disappointment, things to work on, or quit your bitchin' and train harder?


  1. Knowing how competitive I am, as well as how hard I am on myself, I would be disappointed BUT, I would also look at it as a learning opportunity. I'd focus on the things that I need to work on, quit my bitchin and get to work. :) Nice work all things considered Ty. The first race of the season can always be a bit of a gong show. I had the same wetsuit issues as you did at my race this past weekend. I was flailing about like a fish out of water, it was ridiculous.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts