Friday, May 11, 2012

Triathlons are scary

When 2012 began, I started training for a half ironman triathlon. I have since biked 614 miles, ran 479 miles, and spent over 15 hours swimming (ok....that one isn't nearly as impressive, but it felt like a lot at the time). Tomorrow, at 7:21 am, I'll be running in to the water and finally starting the race!

I had this mistaken impression that since I've done a few road races in my day, this wouldn't be my first time at the rodeo, and I'd know what I was doing. 


Road races do not in any way prepare you for triathlons. 

I have done one triathlon before, but that one was the Irongirl, which is specifically marketed to beginners, and something tells me tomorrow will be a quite different experience.

It all started when we got the email with the official race packet, including all the rules for the race. The USAT is the governing body for all triathlons, and if you are not a member, you need to purchase a one day membership to compete in a triathlon. But their involvement doesn't end there.

First, we found out there were no headphones allowed for the run portion, and officials would immediately disqualify you if you were seen wearing them. Jackie emailed the race director, and they are planning on fully enforcing that rule. Surprisingly enough, despite my meltdown over whether I should accept a free entry to a headphone free marathon just two short months ago, I took that part in stride. JFK 50 enforces a strict no headphone policy, so I've been trying to leave them at home for more and more runs, and this will be great training. Plus, the course is 3 loops, meaning we will see our cheering squad, Eric and Jackie's husband Dan, 3 times, and I'm hoping other spectators will follow suit and help to entertain us.

Next up - assistance. We will be starting our run sometime after noon - significantly later than you would normally run a half marathon. We are looking at a high of 80. For me, this requires bringing my handheld water bottle on the run. Which would naturally be delicious and refreshing after sitting in the sun in transition for a good 5 hours or so.

We planned out a system where Eric and Dan would have a cooler of ice cold water and replace our bottles for us when we saw them on each loop. Genius, right?

Luckily, Jackie thought to ask if that system would be allowed when she saw the "no assistance" rule in the handbook. 

Nope. If they give us anything other than verbal support, we will be disqualified. 

The last little hiccup in our plans was our swim wave. Triathlon swims are terrifying. People are climbing over you, kicking you, accidentally hitting you, swimming on top of you - it's a swirling chaotic soup with limbs flailing everywhere. This particular race offered a novice division, where you don't compete in your age group, and instead start in the last wave (no fast swimmers surprising you from behind) with this smaller group of beginners. This eliminated a massive amount of stress for me.

Until I found out the people doing the relay and the aquabike would be starting with the novice group, and our little wave of 20 was actually more like 100.

However, none of this changes our plan to be sitting in the hot tub with our medals and glasses of wine after the race, and that's what I need to keep in mind.

My number one goal for this race is to finish within the 8 hour cutoff (since the alternative is, again, being disqualified). I do have a few other goals in mind though.

  1. During the swim, stay relaxed, don't panic about how far it is, and ignore all other swimmers. I actually wrote this down before I found out how big our wave would be, so I just need to stick to it. I'll start at the back, take my time, and just keep chugging along.
  2. On the bike, ride according to my heart rate, not my average pace. I'll try to keep it between 140-150 (overall, obviously it will vary on the hills), which means I'm putting in effort, but not killing myself for the run.
  3. On the bike, focus on eating and drinking. My camelbak should be empty when I'm done, and I'm bringing six granola squares, which should also be gone. I'm also bringing a bottle of Gatorade to put on the bike, I haven't been hugely successful drinking from bottles but I'm hoping for the best.
  4. On the run, again focus on eating and drinking. I'll refill my bottle once on each loop, take a Gu at mile 5 and 9, and possibly walk through water stops for the sports drink depending how the Gatorade goes on the bike.
  5. On the run, keep the pace under 10:00 miles. This is a little ambitious. Even though I ran my 50 mile bike/10 mile training run at a 9:06 pace, that was a training run, not the race, and the race will be a lot harder. I'll do my best though.
  6. Lastly, and most importantly - stay positive. My half marathon last weekend sucked because I got all Debbie Downer and couldn't get over my Eeyore mentality. I've been training for this for a long time and I want to enjoy the experience, especially since I'm not trying to kill myself for a specific time.
Eric may be tweeting for me during the race, so if you see any twitter action from me, it's not because I suddenly developed super coordinated bike abilities. 

Less than 24 hours to go until the race starts!


  1. I really hope Eric learned a thing or two from my tweeting for you during that marathon. I expect hilarity. No pressure.

    You are going to rock this race. I see a finish much faster than you are anticipating in your future. Good luck. :)

  2. You will be awesome. Enjoy it. 70.3 is pretty badass just like you.

    An aren't you glad you found out all those rules BEFORE the race?

  3. The hardest mental part will be the swim at the beginning-- just keep cool, ignore everyone kicking you in the face, don't worry if you swim over someone, and just keep looking ahead of you instead of at the people swarming all over you! Once you get through that, the rest will be gravy since you put in the training! You're going to do awesome and I am so excited to hear about it!!!! Good luck!!!

  4. I am so excited about this race for you! You're going to do awesome and seriously surpass me in cool points (though you have pretty much already done that).

    Don't get disqualified.

  5. Good luck! I'm sure you will do awesome!
    A few helpful hints that have helped me (a fellow novice triathlete):
    for swimming, start closer to the outside of the pack, away from the turns! Yes it will make your swim longer but it will drastically cut down on the pandemonium happening at the front. The getting swam over and people kicking me make me panic a bit and then I work the whole rest of the swim getting my breathing under control. Better to avoid that totally!
    Freeze your running water bottle so it melts and will still be cold for your run!
    You will do fine!!

  6. Haha - reading this was like re-reading the 1800 emails between us and the race director yesterday. Stupid rules - can't people just go out and enjoy a nice and calm 70.3!!! However, i must give you props for a very appropriate Stephanie Tanner reference.

    You are going to kick some major booty tomorrow and ill see ya tonight! and don't get caught texting on the bike - you might get dq'd for that :-)....jk

  7. You've totally got this - you're an experienced competitor and know how to deal with things that come up, whatever they might be. you've trained, you have a bomb dessert for the finish, and no matter what, it's not GORUCK. Also, the next 70.3 you do I'm totally joining you!!!

  8. Those USAT people are strict! Who knew having bottle-fillers would be a violation. Hope you were able to load it up with ice at the start. Can't wait to hear how it went!

  9. Darn it, your blog ate my comment.

  10. I see you haven't finished Lake Anna yet - because I can see you don't have a half-iron PR yet. I hope you're getting close to the finish. Maybe your wave was delayed for 24 hours due to the fog?

  11. I know you're exhausted after the tri, but don't you know people are waiting for updates? Yeesh. So selfish, Alyssa.

    P.S. This is the second time in the last month I've had to come on your blog on a Sunday to make sure you are alive.


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.