... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Friday, May 30, 2014

Aloha Tri Club Training Triathlon

Well, despite only having been back to serious training for a few weeks, I let ambition be my guide and participated in the Aloha Tri Club's training triathlon on Sunday. It was a .8-mile swim, 31-mile bike ride, and 5-mile run. It had "training" in the name, so I told myself it would be okay. I mean I'm training, right? So it should be fine!

Pre-race meeting
It was a stretch, but it was, in fact, okay. Everyone met at Hapuna Beach around 7:30 and set up very casual transition areas in the parking lot. We used the bed of Sean's truck, laying out our gear and leaving our bikes ready to go, under the watchful eye of some awesome volunteers. There were stations set up with bikes leaning against cars, trunks open and full of helmets, snacks, and running shoes. People were clustered around their gear, laughing and talking, and it was a really fun atmosphere. After a brief meeting, everyone headed down to the water.

In-water start
It was odd to swim at Hapuna with a lot of people because I am so used to being alone, but it was also comforting to know that increased numbers offer some level of protection from ocean critters. I placed myself well for the start of this swim, I was only passed once and I passed one person. (Unless, of course, you count the lady who kept swimming at sprint speed for two minutes, then stopping, then restarting at break neck speed, only to stop again, forcing me to dodge her extremities over and over and over... don't be that person. It makes your fellow racers really, really hate you.) I know that this seems like a small detail, but it makes a huge difference in energy conservation when you can focus on swimming rather than dodging. The swim felt good, but long. Very long. However, the water was perfectly clear and conditions were really good. I was pleased with my time, too, coming out of the water at 28 minutes, a slightly faster pace than what I swam at Lavaman Keauhou.

One major benefit to a practice triathlon is that because there was no official timing and Hapuna has wonderfully warm showers with great water pressure, I got to take a quick shower before jogging up to the "transition area." Shoes on, shirt on, helmet on, sunglasses on, snacks in my pocket, I was off! The first miles were tough. My legs, like they always seem to be coming off the swim, were filled with concrete and did not seem to want to cooperate and the beginning of the course was two hills. About five to six miles in my legs loosened up and I actually felt really strong all the way up to the turn around point at Mahukona. Unfortunately, though, this strength didn't last me to the transition area and with about ten miles left they started feeling like noodles. The hill coming out of Kawaihae going back toward Hapuna almost killed me, and I actually stopped for a moment to stretch before chug, chug, chugging the rest of the way up. The bike course was largely on my regular stomping grounds, and it was a beautiful day, so I really enjoyed it, even feeling tired.

Bike security :)
When I took off for the run, I knew it was going to be hot. The course was hilly and the sun was already blazing. Armed with big sunglasses (STILL embarrassing non-athletic ones because I haven't replaced my broken pair) and a new addition--a hat!--I took off. I just have to take a moment to say that I have been very, very stupid in not wearing a hat up until now. I couldn't believe the difference it makes to have shade on your face! I will never run without a hat again. I might even go get myself one of the oh-so-distinctive triathlete visors I have scoffed at for so long.

Another new addition to my race gear was homemade snacks. As I mentioned in a previous post, gels and other non-solid fuel sources do not seem to agree with my very particular tummy, so I am always in search of new ways to keep my body going. Following a couple of recipes from an endurance nutrition book, we were equipped with little 2"x2" peanut butter and jelly rice sandwiches (sounds weird, tastes delicious!) and egg, rice, and parmesan frittatas. They were easy to eat, easy on my stomach, and seemed to provide plenty of energy. It is also surprisingly nice to taste real food mid-race rather than chemical-laden packaged calories.

Sean on the run
I was pleasantly surprised with my run, especially given how tired my legs had felt at the end of the bike. My strategy, which I originally created as a joke but realized it actually sounded pretty good, was to walk up all the hills but run anything and everything that was level ground or downhill, worked like a charm and saved my legs until the very end of the race. The first mile and a half was up-down-up-down-up-down, very steep hills. After that, to the aid station and up to the turn around point at 2.5 miles, it was either flat or moderate inclines. The aid station, run by two awesome volunteers, had cold water, electrolyte drink, and pieces of Nature Valley bars, all of which tasted like mana from heaven in the midst of the heat. They even had a bottle of water for me since I was apparently the only one who didn't get the memo that we should carry a water bottle with us.

The last big hill actually made even walking difficult. Up until that point, I didn't know I could actually get so tired that walking becomes difficult, but news flash: I can. However, I made it to the top, ran down the back, to the finish line, and toward the delicious blueberry streusel bread, sliced fruit, and white chocolate mac nut cookies again provided by volunteers. Mmmm.

I finished with a total time of 3:42:15. 28 minutes for the swim, 2:03 for the bike, and 1:02 for the run, plus whatever time is left for transitions. Not fast, but not bad for how little training I've had. It was a really fun event, lots of camaraderie and smiles, and I'm glad we made it despite being intimidated. Thank you to Helgi Olafson and Shirley Pratt for putting it all together, and to the volunteers for keeping our bikes safe and the athletes well-fed.

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