2012 Yooper Sprint Triathlon

When I committed to the Copperman Triathlon this year, I decided I had to spend a little time doing some other triathlons to make the training worth it.  The first event in the “Make it Worth It” series was the Yooper Sprint Triathlon.

This is a pretty standard sprint-distance triathlon.  A 500 m swim, 20 km bike ride and a 5 km run.  At that point in my training, I had already done quite a few 1200-1300 meter swims, so I knew I could do that.  20 km on a bike is a warmup and a 5k run is my normal run distance.  But what I was concerned about was the water temperature and how well I would be recovered from the Chain Drive.

Things didn’t start off well the night before.  I had a brutal headache and couldn’t even sleep.  After finally taking some ibuprofen, I finally fell asleep around 2 AM, knowing I had to get up around 7 AM for breakfast and to get to the venue.

Getting ready for a triathlon is a pain.  There’s so many things to get ready before you even leave the house and then so much to set up when you get there.  I made some best guesses, hanging my bike and laying out the shoes, visor and whatnot.  Then it was something like 75 minutes to wait for the swim start.

We walked over to the beach where the swim started, which was about a quarter mile from the transition area.  I put my feet in the water and knew this was going to be painful.  It was really cold.  Someone mentioned the water temperature had been measured that morning in the low 60’s.  Woo.  They told us to get in the water and then sent us off.

The torture begins. (I’m the guy with the white back.)

About 13 years ago, I was skating on the lake by my girlfriend’s house.  It was a little early in the winter and I ended up going through the ice.  As I was kicking and trying not to go under, I was also trying to call out to my friends.  It was somewhat dark outside and they hadn’t seen me go in.  As hard as I tried, I couldn’t say anything because the shock of the cold water had done something wonky to my lungs.

I bring this up because that was about the same reaction I had to the water for the tri.  (Truth be told, I was making horrible gasping and groaning noises.)  All the swim training I had been doing was completely thrown out the window.  I couldn’t put my face in the water, so my stroke was ridiculous.  The wind on the lake was making waves that kept going into my mouth.  Even after my body adjusted to the water temperature, I just struggled my way along the route.  I could not wait to be done with that stupid swim.

Done with the stupid swim.

Coming out of the water, I didn’t feel very wobbly.  Maybe I hadn’t exerted myself quite enough.  After all, of 45 individual athletes, 22 of them came out of the water ahead of me (including 7 women).  If you include the teams, I was 28th out of the water.  14:56 for 500m.  That was terrible.

A slow T1, but at least I looked good.

Transition One was slow for me.  Getting socks on wet feet is a slow process, even if you roll them up.  I also started to cramp in my hips a little bit while pulling them on.  Then it was on to the bike and up the road.  I made up a lot of places here.  A quick count suggests I passed 3 teams, all those ladies and 7 of the men.  It was really hard to pace myself here because I didn’t wear my heart rate monitor.  I know I wasn’t going as hard as I could, because I kept remembering I had 5k to run, but I think I could have gone harder.  Basically, I left a nearly empty set of bike racks and came back to a nearly empty set of racks.

Rocking the bike. Photo copyright Chris Schmidt, xmatic.

Transition Two was better, but I wasted some time grabbing a bottle off my bike for a last drink.

The run was also really hard to pace myself on.  I am apparently one of those stupid people who sees someone in front of me and is compelled to chase them.  I did that to the first guy on the run, but then didn’t have anyone else in front of me after I passed him.  I know I can run harder than I did, but I had a hard time seeing the point of it.  Even when I had my longest view of the road, I couldn’t see anyone in front of me.

Chris Schmidt making me look good on the run.

I gave a nice hard kick for the last 100 meters of the run, just to feel like I had given what I could.  I’m sure I finished fresher than I should have been feeling.  I finished 10th among the individuals and behind 3 of the teams. I even got my name in the paper for being a top-10 finisher.  Given how horribly the swim went, I am almost ashamed to be listed there.

Things I Learned:
Set up your transition area well.
Bring at least two bottles — one for the bike and one for just before the run (or to carry during the run).
I am still terrible at swimming.
Get a wetsuit or get used to the water before the swim actually starts.
I think the bike leg is the most important part if you want to place high.

After the race, I really spent a while thinking about triathlon in general.  I had a terrible swim and still placed well overall.  Why?  Because of my bike leg.  I didn’t even go as hard as I could have.  As I go forward, would it make sense to keep doing triathlons and relying on my cycling to be competitive?  Or should I just focus on the cycling, since that’s what I really enjoy and am good at?  Those thoughts were running through my mind a lot then.  In the month since the race I’ve gotten into the really heavy brick workouts and I just don’t enjoy them that much.  Running intervals are all kinds of no fun.  Long swimming workouts are just boring.  I’ve been spending my nights trying to find the parts to build up my singlespeed belt-drive cyclocross bike and planning out my post-triathlon races.  I’m not ready to be exclusively a road cyclist, mountain biker or cyclocrosser, but I know I want to be a cyclist.

But my first triathlon was mostly a success.  The big event is just 3 weeks away with many brutal-looking workouts on the horizon.  I think I’ll be ready for my second (and most likely, final) triathlon.

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