I competed in my first triathlon of the year this past
weekend. It was the sprint distance at the Shawnigan Lake Tri, part of the
Subaru Western Tri Series, which was recently acquired by Ironman. It was an
experience that I was only partially prepared for, both psychologically and
physically, and I am still processing how I feel about my performance. I'll post photos in a separate post.
Physically: I knew that I wouldn’t really be ready to do
very well this early in the year. This past winter-spring I have mostly been in
the gym working on strength training, focusing on my core, hips and
glutes/upper legs in order to support better (i.e., more efficient and
pain-free but not necessarily faster) running. I have only been running and
biking outside (and on my bike instead of the gym’s stationary bike) for about
a month. And my pool was closed for a few weeks right when my training plan had
me committed to increasing my swimming volume. These aren’t excuses, just
background. The lack of much running/cycling prior to the race was anticipated.
This was never intended to be an important race for me performance-wise, more
of a warm-up or practice race to see where I should really be focusing my
efforts before heading into my real ‘season’. That, and an excuse to visit some
family: my BIL and SIL and their 2 kids live about 30 minutes from the race
site. Anyway, the point is, I knew this would not be a great race, but my goal
was to finish, hopefully feeling good, learn something about where to focus my
training efforts going forward, and to see some people I really enjoy spending
Psychologically: There were two psychological hurdles for
me. The first was just being OK with not doing better than last year. I don’t
tend to do thing half-way, and so being in a race where I knew I was not going
to perform supper well (for me), was something I had to deal with. But since
this was mostly by design, this was relatively minor. The second was just the
kind of triathlon this was. Last year was my first year doing tris, and I
competed in 2 much more low key event – the Qualicum Beach and Cultus Lake Triathlons. The first one I would highly recommend for newbies, as there aren’t
too many intensely serious athletes to intimate you, and the organization,
volunteers, and community are great. (There are still spots open for this
year’s race, if you’re interested.) Cultus Lake was a little more intense,
mostly because it also included an Olympic distance race, and it’s an open
water swim (in contrast to the pool swim at QB) which is a little less inviting
to first timers of the ‘less than perfectly fit’ variety. I knew that Shawnigan
Lake is a more intense triathlon – it attracts more people from farther away
and this year (possibly others, I don’t know) was a qualifying event for
age-group spots to the worlds next year – but knowing it is one thing,
experiencing it is another. I have been training to meet my own fitness goals,
and feel pretty good about my progress (although my migraines have come back, something
I am not at all happy about), but I am not vying for any of those age-grouper
world championship spots to say the least. That kind of commitment to training
just doesn’t fit into my life, either as it is, or as I would want it to be.
But plenty of people who were there are the kind of people trying to get one of
those spots, or more. And there were a few of the typical a-holes who felt they
needed to walk around (in the rain no less) with their trisuits only half on
before the race showing off their physiques. And the bikes! The amount of money
in that transition area was crazy! Especially given the course, which is really
hilly and curvy, not the ideal course for a tri bike. But it’s hard to show off
with a road bike I guess. (Although if the Giro is any indication, the
professional cyclists seem to be able to find some pretty sweet road bikes, as
far as I can tell…) Anyway, there were enough of us regular folks that I could
focus on so as to not get caught up in feeling inadequate. I met a really nice
woman from Saskatoon who helped me remember why I was there. She and her
husband seem to spend all their weekends travelling around doing triathlons.
Neither of them were the hard-body type to say the least. Indeed, she told me
that she is almost always the last woman, sometimes person, on the course
(which she was yesterday), but they keep at it. It’s a way for them to be
active together. Not all of the serious athletes are jerks, of course. I just
find them intimidating, and that affects how I feel about my own involvement and
so how I perform. In my field we call it imposter syndrome. Luckily (or not) I’ve
dealt with it for years in my work life, and so know how to get past it. It’s
something that is in my own head, not imposed on me by others (most of the more
competitive athletes I actually interacted – which you had to do since we were
were all in the racks together – were really nice). It helped that my BIL was
also participating. He is quite fit and very active, but had never done a tri
before, and was competing on his commuter bike. He even left his rack on the
bike. So it was about having fun competing with ourselves, not the rest of the
pack. As long as I thought about that, I was fine.
Race summary – I finished in 1:35:56. 7/10 in my age group.
I was aiming for between 1:35 and 1:40, so I was satisfied with my overall
time. But I had hoped to place higher in my age group. If I had had the same
time last year I would have. But it looks like some speedies moved up this
year. Oh well.
Swim: My swim sucked. There’s no two ways about it. I
started hyperventilating early on and could not get control of my breath. I
didn’t panic though. I flipped over on to my back and swam that way most of the
500 m. Faster than breaststroke but I could get air. I think it was the
flailing and crashing around at the start. I had warmed up, and the water wasn’t
as cold as I had anticipated. I held back at the start to avoid the crashing
and banging, but I was fast enough that I was quickly in the middle of too many
arms and legs. At least I didn’t panic. So my swim was 12:02. I figure I could
have done it at least 1:30 minutes faster, but figured out that that wouldn’t have
affected my placement, so I’m less frustrated about it than I was.
Bike: I completed the 22 kms in 50:19. I think this was the
fastest kph bike I’ve done yet. Not super fast, but I’m really happy with it. I
enjoyed the hilly course (although I didn’t love the fact that it was wet). The
one big hill wasn’t too bad, and I passed 3-4 people going up. In fact, I
pretty much only ever passed people on hills. Given that I haven’t really
started my bike training yet, I’m feeling pretty good about my bike goals this
year. I’m never going to be objectively fast, but I’m actually starting to enjoy
cycling, not just endure it.
Run: I had some issues with my watch at the beginning,
couldn’t get it into timing mode, or just plain clock mode. I fiddled with it
for too long, which meant that my arms weren’t doing what they needed to do.
That slowed me down a little bit. And I’ve learned, next time, make sure my
watch is ready to go! The 5 km took me 27:31. I know I can do it a little
faster next time. But probably not too too much faster. The course was nice and
pretty flat. I would have liked a 1 km marker, as I like to know when I can
speed up for the last bit of the run. But all in all, not a bad first effort of
My transitions were a little slow. There were a few small
things I can easily adjust for next time, so they’ll get better.
All in all, except for the swim, I’m pretty happy with my
performance. And even there, I’m feeling good that I didn’t panic. I figured out
how to deal with it, and didn’t let the swim put me in a bad space for the rest
of the race. I liked the course, and the volunteers were great! I would do it
again. And it sounds like my BIL will be right there with me!
I am a 43-year old married mother of a 5 year old boy. I am a professor at a large research university. And, I am a triathlete. Not a fast fit hard-bodied triathlete. A slow, working-on-getting fit, slightly jiggly (although less than I used to be) triathlete. Hence the name, I'm an age-grouper, and the prof isn't short for professional, it's short for professor.
Here's a bit of my story. I have been active, if not fit and healthy, most of my life. A high school athlete who 'fell off the wagon' a bit in my late teens and early 20s. At 23, I doscovered, much to my surprise, that I loved running. Even though waitressing (my pay-for-university job) was doing a number on my knees, I kept at it. But had a mental block for running any farther than 5-6 km. And never raced. I ran to be by myself, and liked it that way. I also worked out at the gym on a semi-regular basis.
I had a child in my late 30s and stayed fit and active throughout the pregnancy, cycling to work throughout and running up until about 7 months. When it became too difficult, I started swimming instead, something I hadn't done since I was a child. I enjoyed it, but not as much as running, which I got back to as as I could. I lost the baby weight quickly, but was pretty flabby, especially around the middle. And when toddlerhood arrived, everything fell apart. My son doesn't sleep, and pretty much never sits still. No longer content to be in a jogging stroller, my running pretty much stopped. Which meant that my exercise stopped too. Fast forward a year or two and I had gained ~12 lbs, was in horrible shape, and even worse, was having serious health issues. One year it was chronic (as in almost daily) migraines, the next, it was suspicious lymph nodes.
Thankfully, everything was 'fine', as in, no tumors or other scary things, but it was a wake-up call. As a mother, I need to look after myself. I owe it to my child. As an older mother, it's especially important, and even harder. After the migraines, I resolved to work out regularly and resumed my running. But I got busy (and stressed out) at work again, the weather turned grey and rainy, as it is often is where I live, and my knees couldn't handle running 3-4x a week, so I stopped. A few months later a new scare happened (my lymph nodes) and this one stuck.
My husband had gotten into cycling (due to his old knees), something I wasn't really interested in. But, I rememberd how much I had enjoyed swimming while pregnant and figured I could combine limited running with swimming and a joint activity - cycling. That was February 2013. I raced my first sprint in June 2013 (the Qualicum Beach Triathlon). I finished feeling great and immediately wanted to race again. I was hooked. That is the story of how I became a triathlete, and the rest is here.