I did my first Olympic Distance Triathlon today, The L.A. Championship Series. It was very interesting. How interesting?
My T1 time was about 5 minutes.
My T2 time was 2 minutes.
My T3 time was 90 seconds.
My T4 time was 3 minutes.
How did I have 4 transitions? We'll get to to that in a moment.
This story begins, as many do, with The Cat. Last night I laid out all the clothes I would need for the race. This morning I put on my jersey; it felt wet and smelled like cat pee. Thanks cat. Sadly, this is the SECOND time this has happened to me. You'd think my cat would have me trained by now. It was a mad dash to try to wash it out in the sink, then I drove to the race with my jersey hanging from the passenger visor and the vents blasting hot air on it all the way. It was mostly dry but still a bit damp by race time.
We try to be prepared for every possible contingency. But sometimes fate throws something bizarre our way. Around 8:00, when it was time to put on the wetsuit and head down to the lake, I managed to get a fishing hook stuck in the bottom of my sneaker. Have you ever tried to remove a fish hook from a sneaker? It ain't easy. I had to go to one of the bike mechanics and say "here's a new one for ya..." He wasn't phased at all, grabbed some pliers and yanked the little bugger out. Not a big deal, but it did cost me a bit of pre-race preparation time.
Tri-Team Leah was familiar with the course, and yesterday she gave me some good advice about the swim. She told me "when you look out across the lake and see the buoy, it's going to look REALLY far out there. So be prepared for that." Sure enough, I saw the buoy and it did look pretty far, but I had been warned about it and it seemed doable. Until the race announcer mentioned the turn-around at the second buoy. Second
buoy?! You mean that speck of yellow on the horizon? OK, now THAT was one far-ass-away buoy. The race announcer - in all seriousness - told us that to stay on course, we should just follow the elites. Sixty seconds after the race started, do you think I had ANY idea where the elites were? For much of the swim, I seemed to have the lake to myself. And that's a problem because I am terrible at swimming in a straight line. My goggles were fogged so I couldn't see either buoy most of the time, and I didn't have any other swimmers to guide off from. Well, not until the second wave of swimmers caught up with me. And the third wave.
Survived the swim, picked up my bike and headed out of the transition area. I made it about 1/10 mile when I realized I didn't put on my race number. I probably didn't NEED it, but I knew that if i didn't get it right then and there I would have forgotten it before the run or it would have blown away or something, so I went back. (T2) I put on my race belt, headed out on my bike, made it about 2/10 mile when I realized I didn't have my timing chip. It came off while I was pulling off my wetsuit. As it turns out, I didn't need it at all because the way the transition area was set up you only got clocked when you finished the swim and when you left for the run. But this was a 3-loop bike course, I didn't know if you had to check in at each loop or something so I went back to pick up the chip (T3). My friend Susan was there to watch the race, and she later told me that while I was out on the bike she asked one of the volunteers if the Disney guy had come back yet. At first the volunteer blew her off with an abrupt "I dunno", as if to say "there are hundreds of racers... you think I know each one?" But then the volunteer said "oh wait, you mean that guy who kept coming back to the transition area? No, he's not back yet." I'm famous!
After that, bike was mostly uneventful and it was on to the run. I knew I was a back-of-the packer when I passed a snot-nosed boy scout volunteer who asked me "do you know how many people are still behind you?" Gee, sorry if I'm keeping you away from your xbox. It was lonely in the back, I hardly saw any other runners. And the signage was horrific. Embarrassingly bad. There were no mile markers; I don't have an 800 dollar GPS computer on my wrist, I like seeing signs to help me with pacing. And there were hardly any directional signs. Most of the time I didn't have anyone else to follow, so it was kind of guesswork whether we were supposed to run along the road or veer off on a walking path. I later overheard 3 cases of people who either ran 1/2 mile off course themselves, or who saw other people take a wrong turn. That's pathetic. Amazingly, I did seem to find my way to the finish line and only took one wrong turn that cost me maybe 100 feet.
Susan and Tri-Team Tammy (aka T3, not to be confused with Tri-Team Tim, also aka T3) were there to see my late if not glorious finish. Yay!
So you're probably wondering what the final results were. You know how the hippies like to say "everybody's a winner!"? Well, Mister P. may not have been a loser today, but he was no winner. Out of the 202 people (male & female) who entered, I placed 191st. Some of the people I beat were a 53 year old woman from San Dimas and a 70 year old man from Costa Mesa. Before you start factoring in all the extra time I spent going back to the transition area, you should know that the next slowest guy in my age group beat me by 10 minutes. Now, here's the inspirational part of this post: I finished in the top third in the L.A. Marathon. I finished in the bottom 5% of the San Dimas Tri. Yet I feel far better about my performance today than I do about the marathon. (man, I really hated that day.
) I felt good coming out of the water. I'm completely neutral about the bike, and I did the 10k in a little over an hour which is almost the pace I would do a training run. I knew going into this that it was stretching my abilities a bit. I thought it would take me 4 hours to do the tri; I did it in under 3.5. If 190 other people are faster, that's their business.
Maybe Mister P. is a winner after all!