This race was put on by the Triathlon Club of San Diego [TCSD] on Fiesta Island, which made for a fast, safe, and fun event. I was mostly nervous about the swim, because I have very little open-water swimming experience, but I knew I would be able to post fairly competitive bike and run splits.
The event was an 800-meter [1/2 mile] swim right off fiesta island, a 20-kilometer [~12.5 mile] cycle through the southern part of the island, and a 4-mile run through the northern part of the island. My goals coming into the race were as follows:
- Finish the swim, and don’t be the last out of the water
- Try to break 35:00 for the 20km cycle
- Run strong off the bike and finish well
I woke up at 4:30am. For breakfast, I ate a banana, a bagel [with cream cheese], and drank a 700mL bottle of water mixed with two scoops of CytoMax [700 calories total]. My blood-sugar was a little high when I woke up [200 mg/dL], so I took correction in an attempt to get it closer to 150 mg/dL for the start of the swim.
We drove down to the race site, where I previewed the bike course and set up my transition area. A quick test revealed my blood-sugar had spiked to 370 mg/dL, so I administered an additional shot to deal with that. Fortunately, it dropped back down and converged to about 240 mg/dL. This was higher than ideal, but the race was about to start and there was not much I could do about it.
I made my way over to the swim start, and jumped in the water to adjust to the temperature [it was quite warm for 7am, especially considering I wasn't wearing a wetsuit]. Just a few minutes later the gun went off for the start of the race!
I tried to stay closer to the back, but with 300+ swimmers all gunning for a single buoy, I managed to get into quite a mess with other swimmers: I got kicked in the face, hit in the face, and ran over multiple times. After 200 meters I managed to get a bit of open water, but then I faced a new problem: I couldn’t swim straight. With nobody directly in front of me to follow, it was very difficult to swim straight towards the buoy. I often found myself swimming off-course when I would look forward every seven or eight strokes. Throughout the course of the swim, I would not be surprised if I swam more than 100m extra because of this. I definitely need to practice sighting in open water, and practice swimming straight in the pool with my eyes closed.
By the time we hit the first turn buoy, I had swallowed quite a bit of salt water [due to the panic of the start and inexperience in the open water]. I just could not keep in from going in my mouth when I would go up to breath. I knew this was gonna give me stomach problems later in the day, particularly in the run.
I finally made it to the final turn buoy, and from there it would be a straight swim back to the transition area. By this time, the swimmers had gotten pretty spread out, and I was able to find more than enough room to swim comfortably. I still had some problems with swimming straight and swallowing salt water, but I just focused on my form and found the issues to be less of a problem. My hands finally hit the shore, and I jumped out of the water very happy that I had survived the swim, despite my [painfully] slow time.
Swim time: Approx. 16 minutes
Very slow. I definitely need to practice these.
The bike course was five loops [2.5 miles/loop] around the southern part of the island. I figured that I needed to complete each lap in just under 7 minutes to go sub-35 for the bike leg.
I completed the first loop in 6:48 [22mph], which gave me confidence that I could break 35 minutes. I found myself taking in lots of fluid during the first two laps, finishing my CytoMax mix [700mL water mixed with two scoops of Cytomax, 50g carbs, 180 calories] by the end of the third lap. Luckily, I made the decision to bring a second 700mL bottle of plain water. I found this to a great decision, especially because the water helped calm my stomach, which was aching from all the salt water. I drank about half of this throughout the rest of the ride.
Around the start of the 4th loop [8 miles in] I definitely started to hurt. My form was getting worse, and I found it difficult to stay in my aero bars [I definitely need to get a professional fitting]. This was my first time doing a fast bike ride immediately after swimming, so my legs were already quite sore by the time I started the bike. However, I knew I could hold this pace for the rest of the ride, and I felt confident that I would still be able to put in a decent run time. I was mostly concerned with the thought of cramps during the run.
Before I knew it, I had completed the 20km bike in a time of 34:40, which I was very happy about. I did slow down a bit on the last two laps [averaged closer to 21mph], but I reached my goal and was very happy with my performance. I also know that getting a proper fitting could probably shave another minute off my time, because I spent a lot of time out of the aero bars due to discomfort.
Bike time: 34:40 [21.5mph]
Just as slow as transition 1. Not much to say.
Immediately at the start of the run I started to experience pain in my stomach. I quickly settled into 7:00/mile pace, which felt quite comfortable despite the hard ride I just did. I knew that I could physically put out 6:35 miles, given the results of my recent bike-run workouts, but my stomach was simply not cooperating. If I tried to go below 7:00/mile, I just felt more and more nauseous, so I decided to hold that pace. Despite it feeling slow, I was passing TONS of other runners. I believe I was only passed by four runners on the whole course [which was two loops], so that made me feel better about my [seemingly] slow pace.
The pain didn’t pacify by the end of the first lap, so I just told myself that I would be done in less than 15 minutes. I knew that I would be able to hold close to a 7:00/mile pace, so I did precisely that. Before I knew it, I was 400 meters from the finish, and I decided to put in a last-minute effort and accelerate to the finish line. Overall, I was happy that the stomach pain hadn’t forced me to walk, and that I was still able to run a decent time, despite it being below-potential.
Run time: 28:28 [7:07/mile]
I was quite happy with my performance. This was mostly a learning experience for me, and I learned a TON. In addition to this, I had a fun time, and was able to meet all my goals.
I’ve definitely discovered the areas that need the most improvement, and I am eager to see myself progress in these races. TCSD is doing another triathlon in 3 weeks, and I can’t wait to get back out there with this new information/experience and see how far I can take myself.
Things to consider:
- Practice swimming in the open water, with a focus on sighting and breathing comfortably in an effort to reduce salt water intake
- Practice swimming straight
- Wear a wetsuit at the next race
- Get a swim cap
- Definitely bring two bottles on the bike at the next race
- Get a professional bike fit
Overall finish time [h:m:s] : 1:23:30