Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Am Officially A Triathlete! Naval Station Sprint Triathlon Race Report!

Hi, my name is Nick Wisdom, and I AM A TRIATHLETE!   Wooohoooo!   FINALLY!  I think if I waited any longer to get my first tri out of the way people were going to start calling me a poser!  I just might have been the most overtrained and overprepared first time sprint triathlete in the history of triathlons.  So it was about time I got this one done and behind me so I can continue to move forward to the FIRM half.

So here's how it went....

I woke up this morning at 320AM.  About ten minutes before my alarm went off.  Is it me or no matter what time you set your alarm clock for you wake up ten minutes before it goes off?  So I went ahead and got up and started to get ready.  I showered, dressed, and then went through my packing list one more time to make sure I still had everything and then stuffed it all in the car.  I drove over to fellow club member Kevan's house to meet up and then we carpooled our way into Newport.

Once we arrived Kevan very graciously let me do my thing.  The thing about people that have never seriously raced anything is that they don't quite understand what a neurotic bunch of weirdos athletes are in the moments before a race.  We all have our preferences for what we do, the company we want around us, and how we go about our routine.  Personally I like to arrive at a race so early they haven't even finished setting up registration, or its only just opened.  That way I have loads of time to get through check in, I'm not waiting in line for anything, and I can go through my prerace routine and warmup without feeling rushed in the slightest.  So Kevan let me take off and do my thing.  Once I'd checked in, picked up my packet, gotten my timing chip and gone through body marking I was off to the transition area to get setup.
You can see by the empty bike racks in this picture that not too many people share my belief in getting there two hours before the start of the race.  Which mind you meant I was there at 530am for a 730 start.  But on the plus side I chose the prime spot in the rack and then went about going through my raceday checklist and getting everything setup and ready to go.  That checklist is shown below...    the odd note about doing the warmup swim in the lifeguard area is because the pre race info that went out had a note about being disqualified if you went for your warmup swim outside the area where the lifeguards were, or if no lifeguards were present.  So I wanted to make sure I remembered to wait for them to be there first. A lot of the items on this list are pretty obvious... but when I'm in pre race neruotic mode its amazing how stupid I can be.
So once I was settled in transtion I chatted a bit with fellow Tri-New England club members Luis, Jon, Kevan, and Leslie.  Not long after that I spent a little time figuring out where all the entrances and exits in and out of transition between events were and making sure I would be familiar with how to find my rack from all directions.  I went for a brief warmup run, put my running shoes back on my transition towel and then got my swim gear together to head down for a warmup swim.

The warmup swim was interesting.  The tide was way out and the water was really really shallow.  In fact after chatting with the lifeguards a little turns out the deepest part of the 1/3 mile swim course was only 8 feet!  I went into the water from the exit portion of the swim course and I had to walk into the water a long way before it was deep enough to start swimming.  hmmm....   this was going to be interesting.  I went for a short swim out to the first buoy and then back to shore to warmup.  The water was perfect.  70 degrees.  Nice and cool but not cold at all.  The entire course was so shallow you could see the bottom in great detail for a lot of the course.  Which was just plain weird.  It felt more like snorkelling than racing at times.  When I headed back towards the exit I tried swimming for as long as I possibly could before I stood up.  I swam until my elbows were scraping the ground even when I folded my "pull" in front of my chest instead of straight down.  And even then it was still 20 or 30 feet to the shore.  This was going to be annoying in the race as its likely people will start standing up as soon as they think they can stand which means its going to be an obstacle course to keep swimming.  Its a well known fact that its faster to swim than walk in water.  And yet it doesn't stop people from walking.  But more on that in a second.

After my swim I ran into the rest of the gang from my club on the beach and we chit chatted until the pre race briefing.  Now were only a few minutes from the first wave starting and I'm in wave 2.  So its race time!  Jon headed off in the first wave, whereas Luis and I were in wave 2, and Kevan in wave 6 and I'm not sure what wave Leslie was in.  So Luis and I walked into the water to get ready to start.  They had us walk about 30 feet into the water to where it was deep enough to start swimming and then sounded an air horn to signal the start of our wave.  One minute to go!  I took a second to focus on my heartrate.  Its was going... but it wasn't out of control which was good.  Thirty seconds!  I moved to make sure I had a clear shot in front of me.  Some people moved back a little.  I was going to fight for position and wasn't afraid of a little contact.  Horn goes off and were off!  Chaos insues!  There were about 30 or so people in my wave.  And we quickly bunched up.  The flat calm ocean became a sea of spray and flailing arms and legs.  I just kept swimming and tried to look forwards.  Despite my best efforts I did not get out in front of our pack.  Instead I ended up right in the middle of it with people on all sides of me.  I did my best to swerve around any slow feet that showed up in front of me and keep moving forwards in the pack.  Then the left turn at the first buoy.  This was the longest stretch of the swim and I was able to go a bit wide and find clear water.  Better yet I found feet!  So I drafted off the guy in front of me.  I had people on both sides of me which was great as I trusted that if I was in the middle of the pack that they were in charge of looking where we were going so I stopped sighting and just swam.  I popped up to check on where the next buoy was to turn for the beach and saw it was only 15' away or so.  I took the turn a little wide as it was a bit chaotic at the buoy.  All of a sudden theres a guy on my immediate left.  We will call him annoyingly sideways swimmer (or a.s.s. for short)  So this ass is swimming at exactly the same speed as I am.  The problem with this ass is that he's not swimming straight.  He is swimming to the right and drifting off course and trying to take me with him.  I refused to slow down to let him cross in front of me so I tried to speed up and pass him.  He speeds up too.  I popped up to sight and were drifting off  course.  This is not going to work.  Time to get a little physical.  So I very gently started bumping him.  Essentially I'm forcing my left shoulder into him to try and steer him back on course.  So he pushes back!  So the ass and I fight back and forth the whole way into the beach.  Really he should thank me.  I'm sure I shaved some time off his swim by pushing him back on course.  But the struggle really slowed me down. Maybe it would have been faster to stop and let him pass and then swim on his left?  I don't know... but theres a lot of arms and legs in the water and these decisions are hard to figure out in the heat of battle.  I have to say though that I'm realizing that I really like the physicality of swimming in a large group of people.  I am not shy about making body contact at all, and I'm very aware of where people's feet are in front of me so I don't get kicked in the face.  Its great fun!

Anyway, eventually we get closer to the shore and the ass stands up way early as soon as it got shallow so I was able to keep swimming for as long as possible and finally get ahead of him.  I swam until my elbows scraped the ground and then stood up and started running into shore.  By the time I hit the beach I had the top of my wetsuit down and my swim cap and goggles in my hand and was running towards transition.
Although the photo shows empty water behind me I assure you I was not last in my swim wave.  However I was not the fastest swimming in my group by far.  By the way this photo was kindly provided to me by the race itself.  They snapped them as you exited the water and then put them on a table for you to grab in the finish area.  Nice touch!

So up the ramp and into transtion.  During the jog towards my bike I just kept saying wetsuit off, glasses and helmet on and go! over and over again.  And thats just what I did.  Wetsuit off (and mighty quickly thankfully!) glasses and helmet on, grab the bike and go.  And right as I started rolling out of transition I saw Luis running into it.  Damn!  He's right on my heels!  So I ran out of transition, jumped on my bike with the shoes already clipped into the pedals and was off.  I had my feet in the shoes with the shoes strapped nice and quickly and I was in the aerobars and moving in short order.  My bike split was pretty good.  I managed to keep somewhere around a 20mph average for the bike portion which was great.  However there was a problem.  The course crosses some railroad tracks within the first mile.  Pretty much right as I'm approaching these tracks I think to myself...  I should hydrate and get the taste of the salt water out of my mouth.  And then I see the tracks and think...   hold onto the handlebars and wait till you cross the tracks and THEN grab your water bottle.  Over the tracks and what do ya know...   the big bump of the tracks launches my water bottle off to the side of the road.  No way I'm stopping to pick it up.  Oh well.  No fluids for me till the run.  Fortunately its only a 10.5 mile bike.  Of course at this point all I can taste is salt water.  I was bumming!  But then I shifted my focus back.  I was pleased to pass quite a few people on the bike.  I was REALLY pleased anytime I passed a guy riding a wheelset that cost more than 2000 dollars strapped to their 3000 dollar bike.  In those moments it was all I could do not to make a comment like "nice wheels".  But I beleive in Karma, so I kept my mouth firmly SHUT!  At the halfway point of the bike course is a SHARP 180 degree turn and then its right back to where we started.  At the turn I now had a view of the people coming up behind me.  DAMN!  There's Luis again...   I swear he's gaining on me!  So I did my best to hammer away and every time someone passed me I was thinking it was going to be him.  The way back in on the bike was interesting.  There was a group of four riders that I became a part of who all constantly passed and leapfrogged each other.  And yet none of us could hold the lead.  Someone would pass, you would slow down a hair to avoid drafting and then speed up and pass them.  The energy to pass them meant you didn't have enough to hold them off.  And yet you had to pass them as once they were in front of you they just weren't going fast enough for me.  And so we fought this battle out the whole way into the finish.  I felt like I rode through that part by the book.  I slowed and gave up three bike lengths every time someone passed me as thats what the rulebook says.  But those three guys didn't do that at all and were definitely drafting for a bit before passing.  Grrrr...   but in the end I know my race was legit.

As I got a little closer to the bike dismount line I got my feet out of the shoes and pedalling on top of them, flipped a leg over the bike and did a sweet running dismount off the bike right into a run with the bike alongside me into transition.  Threw the bike on the rack, off with the helmet, running shoes on, grabbed my hat with the racebelt inside it and was on my way out of transition.  I really wish we had seperate splits for transition times today because my transitions were AWESOME!  I flew through them and all that practice time with them definitely paid off.  So worth it!

And now were onto the run...   At first I felt like hell.  I was afraid to look at my watch and see what my pace was.  I felt slow and like my legs were lead.  But when I looked down my watch said I was running 6:30s!  Nice!  So it felt awful, but I was fast at least!  Pretty early in the course is another 180 degree trun at the end of an out and back.  Damn!  There's Luis again still hot on my heels!  Around this point I realized I still haven't had anything to drink since 7am and its now almost 8 and its hot now on the run and all I can taste in my mouth is the ocean.  Where the hell is the water station?  Oh yeah...  book says its at miles 1 and 2 on the run.  Ok.  Just have to make it to mile 1.  I don't know who placed the aid stations... but the first one was way closer to mile 1.5 than 1!  And I wasn't the only one to say this.  By the time I hit that aid station I was desperate for water and to get the taste of salt out of my mouth!  The water felt awesome and renewed my speed a little.  Miles 1-2 were tough.  I was struggling to keep the pace up.  I kept thinking about what Kevan had told me on the way to the race.  Just go all out the entire time.  Don't leave anything on the course.  Run as hard as you can the entire time!  So I did my best to do just that.  The course was funky though.  Lots of turns and hard to tell where you were on it, no mile markers that I saw either.  And then I saw the second aid station that was theoretically at mile 2.  I grabbed a water there and noticed there was a guy right behind me.  I was pretty sure he'd been there almost the entire run.  So I said...   "are you going to take a turn in front or am I pretty much going to pace you the whole way in?" to which he laughed and said "you are going to pace me the whole way in".  So I picked it up a notch, but he stayed with me.  So I asked him how old he was.  He says "30".  I said...  "30?  well thats not fair...  we're in the same age group!" To which he says "Yeah but its my first triathlon!".  To which I said "Me too!"  So I stepped to the side and he came up alongside me and we ran side by side towards the finish line.  As we crested the last hill he sounded like he was struggling.  I thought I had him at this point.  But as we started a long downhill towards the finish line he starts to sprint.  CRAP!  Thats way too early to start sprinting.  Bastard!  So I kicked as hard as I could.  I stayed with him for about half the distance towards the finish line and then I had to slow down just a little.  I just couldn't hold the sprint any longer without hurling and I just had nothing left at that point.  So he beat me on that one....  but not by much!  The worst of it though is the dude didn't even wait the three seconds to stop and shake my hand at the finish line.  He took off...    Bad form I say!

And then it hit me.  I'm a triathlete!  I finally did it!  A look at the clock put my time somewhere around 1:02 or so.  Not bad for a 1/3 mile swim, 10.5 mile bike, 5K run.  Not long after I finished in came Luis.  We went and got some water and then waited for Kevan to come in.  Kevan was in a much later wave so he didn't even start the race till twenty minutes or so after us.  We cheered Kevan in and then went about finding other club members, chit chatting, and packing up our stuff before the awards.  Not too much longer after that the initial results were posted.

Turns out I had a good day!  I was 22nd out of around 220 participants and 7th out of 32 people in my age group.  Considering I'm in what is usually the most competitive age group I'd call that a good day!   In fact if you looked at the top ten overall almost all of them were from my age group.  Apparently thats when you peak as a triathlete!  Or at least thats when you have the time and money to train and compete in the sport.  One of the two!

We took a few pictures at the finish as well although somehow we missed Luis and Leslie.  Perhaps they had left already?  I don't remember.  I was too busy smiling!

Heres me in front of my rack in Transition after the race.

Jon and I after the race.  Jon came in SIXTH (not tenth as I orginally posted OOPS!) overall and 2nd in his age group.

Kevan and I post race.  By the way you can see the aircraft carrier in the background as the race takes place on a Navy base.

So my first race is done and in the books!  Felt great to get it out of the way.  Considering how much room for improvement I have it was also awesome to still finish in the top 10% or so of the participants.  But I should also keep in mind this was a small local race.  The Barrington sprint in two weeks will be another good guage of how I'm doing in comparisson to the rest of the pack.  I felt solid about my run today, but my swim was slow and I think my bike could have been a tiny bit stronger for me.  I also think with some serious work in the pool this winter and some more time on the bike that I could be a force to be reckoned with.

In a side note...   it was great to have several other Tri-New England club members around today.  Everyone in my club has been so giving of their time and advice.  I've learned so much from training and spending time with all of them.  The support and encouragement have also been fantastic and I've yet to experience any elitism or any negative behavior towards me as a newbie.  I definitely couldn't have done as well as I did today without all of their help and encouragement as well as all of the time I've shared training with so many different people.  I was proud to fly the team flag in my race today!  Truly I'm so lucky I stumbled into this fantastic group of athletes.

So next up racewise is the Barrington YMCA sprint which is a 1/2 mile ocean swim, 14 mile bike, 5K run in two weeks time.  And then after that my next race is the FIRM!  I can't wait!  Short and fast is just not my thing.  I'm really looking forward to testing myself in the half.  For the rest of today I'm going to relax a little bit, treat myself to something bad food wise (maybe something truly evil like Chinese food or Pizza!) as a reward and then get right back into training and behaving tomorrow morning.  

Feels great to finally be able to call myself a triathlete.  Great great day!  I'm so pleased that all the hard work I've been putting in is starting to pay off.  Thanks again to Kevan, Jon, Luis and Leslie for all the support this morning!  Congrats to all of you on great races yourselves too!


  1. Great job on the Tri. I was also at that race and noticed 2 water bottles on the road. Good luck at the YMCA Sprint and the FIRM.

  2. Thanks Shawn... hope you had a good race too! I'm told that they had a nice collection of bottles near the railroad tracks. However noone could tell me where they took this collection of bottles to as my bottle was long gone when I went back to look for it. Oh well... onto the next race! This time with an extra bottle on board! Thanks for stopping by.