I just got back from Tri for Fun, my first triathlon in more than a year! I came into this race with simply one goal: push myself in order to re-familiarize my mind/body with the pain that hard racing brings. In short, I accomplished that goal! However, I hit a few walls along the way, and by the end of the race I had found the experience to be quite humbling!
The event took place in Pleasanton, CA, and consisted of the following individual legs: a 400-yard fresh water swim, a flat 11-mile cycle on closed roads, and a 5K run on local trails. I had planned to swim comfortably hard, given that it was my first open-water swim in quite a while. On the bike, I had a goal to hold approximately 93% of FTP; however, given that this was my first race with a power meter, I was simply interested in seeing how I could use the data during (and after) the event. Finally, given my lack of run training, I planned on running at my typical training pace and then bumping my speed up if I felt okay.
I woke up at 4:30am, and then had a toasted ham and cheese english muffin and coffee for breakfast (approximately 500 Calories). Fortunately, I had prepped everything the night before, so I quickly slipped out of the house and made the quick 40-minute drive to Pleasanton from downtown Berkeley.
Once I arrived at the race site, I quickly got myself registered and setup my transition area. Unfortunately, there were TONS of people and not enough racks, so I had to cram my stuff between two other setups. From the time I arrived at the race site, through the start of the race (approximately an hour and a half), my blood-sugar was constant at approximately 210 mg/dL: a little high, but definitely okay going into an open water swim. I made my way down to the lake and did a quick warmup before the start of the event.
Right from the start, the swim was pretty rough! I made lots of contact with people in the water, though I felt pretty decent in the first couple minutes. However, about halfway through the swim, I felt my blood-sugar plummet down, and I was suddenly panicking! My heart rate shot up significantly, and I had gotten significantly dizzy. Thus, I spent the latter half of the swim flopping around in an attempt to get to shore. This took an incredible amount of time, and (not surprisingly) resulted in my worst open-water swimming performance.
Time: 10:13 (approximately 2:33/100y)
Despite my hypoglycemia, I made relatively quick work of the transition. Most importantly, I took a couple big swigs of my “sugar water”, which is essentially a small (10 fl. oz) bottle of water completed saturated in sugar. I threw on my sunglasses, helmet, and was on my way out onto the bike course!
It took 10-15 minutes into the bike leg before my body started to return to a relatively stable blood-sugar density. During the first part of the ride, I was struggling to put out 80% of my FTP, which was a fair amount below my target. I have also done 3+ hour workouts at that power output. However, there wasn’t much I could do about it: my body was simply not responding. Despite this, I spent a lot of time passing competitors and making my way through the field.
Around the halfway point, I started to see my numbers rise from 80% of my FTP to 93-100% of my FTP, and I started to feel decent again. I used the latter half of the course to play catch-up, and by the end of the 11-mile ride my normalized power had risen to approximately 93% of my FTP. From what I recall, the only cyclists who passed me on the course were on 100% time-trial setups (TT frame, integrated aerobars, aero helmet, etc.). I was okay with this, given that I went with a standard road setup (no clip-on aerobars), which I did because I have not been training on my TT bike this early in my season.
Time: 29:51 (20.7 mph for 10.3 miles)
I made even better time in transition 2, which I was stoked about! I spent very little time prepping for transitions, so I’m glad to see these come back so easily. I slipped into my racing flats, grabbed my watch and race bib (which I would put on while running) and was out onto the 5K course.
Despite the diabetes issue during the swim (and the early part of the bike), my run was the part of the race that I found most disappointing. I have built up enough aerobic fitness over the last 5 years of running to where I can run 8-10 miles at 7:00/mile on little-to-no training. And although I’ve been running very little lately, the runs I have done are usually in the 7:10-7:20/mile range, and have generally felt quite easy.
Getting out on the run course, it felt painful just to hold 7:30/mile! I think my body was not used to running on that kind of fatigue, and this was (likely) further compounded by the diabetes complications. Nonetheless, I stuck with it, and ran a steady pace throughout the run. Similarly to the bike leg, I still spent 95% of the time passing others, which was mentally rewarding. By the time I made it to the finish, I was absolutely spent, and could think of nothing but food and rest. Unfortunately, my final 5K time was the slowest I’ve ran in almost 4 years (by a long shot)!
Time: 24:19 (7:36/mile)
Although I was not happy with my performance, this race taught me a few very important things. It was also very humbling in just the right ways! I now feel confident that I will look at my training in a slightly different perspective. Specifically, fitness in each individual event is absolutely not enough on its own; you can’t capitalize on fitness unless you’ve done enough race-specific preparation. This was evident in the fatigue I developed while swimming in today’s race: I could easily swim 400 yards in the pool with very little fatigue, though I came out of today’s open-water swim feeling very uncomfortable (though the hypoglycemia certainly didn’t help).
Thus, if I want to compete competitively, I will have to keeping putting in training time and do more race-specific preparation. I know I can do this, and it just makes me that much more excited to train and see my results improve!
Final time: 1:07:02 (winner came in at 0:55:34)
Final place: 35/193 overall; http://onyourmarkevents.com/results.asp?id=3102