Race days are always super interesting. No matter how prepared you are the night before you always wake up feeling you’ve forgotten something. No matter how many times you have gone and raced a similar event, you always feel that familiar anxiousness and nervousness as adrenaline rushes through your body. Last weekend I took comfort in this fact. It was the first time performing this ritual since my half ironman in May 2015, 18 months ago. For all intents and purposes it was my first race ever, and I took comfort knowing that whether it was the first or just one of many, this feeling was normal. For anyone wondering what the outcome was of this race, you need to read no further. I finished, felt amazing and very rewarding and loved every second of it (except most of it). For anyone who is interested in knowing the specifics of my race day prep and actual race, read on below!
6:00am – Wake up time! Only distance athletes would find it normal to get up at this time on a Sunday! Admittedly I mustn’t be a distance athlete because that alarm went off way too soon for my liking. Transition was shutting about an hour and a half from now, so there wasn’t much choice though. Out of bed we went and on to final race day preparations.
6:20am – Bike is in the car, all packed up and ready to go. It always amazes me how much gear I can manage to take for one race. I know it amazes the girlfriend as well, but she’s kind enough to be quiet about it this morning. Or she’s too sleepy to care, either way works for me!
7:00am – Parking was stupidly easy to find, I guess my anxiousness to get there served its purpose! Not much later I am setting up in transition. I always walk through the process, out the water and feet on towel. Cap and goggles fall there, helmet on and sunnies on. Or would it be better to put sunnies on first and then helmet? Do I need a gel pouch on the bag? No that gel can go in my back pocket. Oh shit! I forgot the elastic bands to hold my shoes in position for the bike! Oh well, guess we can do without that. Right, off the bike and on to the run, helmet falls there and shoes go on. Do I put on socks for the run or the bike? Do I need socks at all?
Transition is a mental exercise, you get the idea.
7:30am – Time to get changed and do some last minute stretching! I am always super concerned by how stiff I am on the morning of a race. I am always super surprised by how little it impacts my performance once I get going!
8am – Time to try out the water. Oh whats that? The water is only 19 degrees? Yeah…. Water is water, she’ll be right!
8:22am – For the purposes of my data collection and because I NEED to close the activity rings on my Apple Watch, I decide to race with my Garmin 920XT on one wrist and the Apple Watch on the other. It’s been so long since I’ve been at the start of a race! I’m so excited to get going! I can’t wai…. “SHIT THATS THE START! FUCK I HAVEN’T PRESSED START ON EITHER WATCH! QUICK PRESS START ON THE APPLE WATCH! FUCK THATS NOT WORKING! QUICK JUST PRESS ON THE GARMIN! FORGET THE APPLE WATCH ITS TRASH ANYWAY!”
I’m guessing you guys get the idea of the hectic morning. I really do wish that I was joking about the Apple Watch, but it really did not record any of the swim. Shame, but my activity rings shut which is awesome! On to the actual race report!
For all my lack of swim training, wetsuit and overall lack of confidence on the swim, I did surprisingly well. I mean SURPRISINGLY well. As soon as I stopped faffing around with the Apple Watch, I found myself staring at a couple of feet. This would not do. 20m later, and I’ve swam over bout 4 people. Thats better. The first buoy is always the most interesting part. A field of 15m condenses to 1m, elbows out, push close to the buoy. I dare you to swim close to me! Right, first turn is done!
The first thought that crosses my head: “Wow I feel super strong!”
Second thought: “Ouch my shoulders hurt”
Third thought: “You don’t need shoulders to cycle or run. Go harder”
About half way there, I stop seeing white caps around me. “Am I really out in front?!” I spot the next colour of caps from 2 groups early. I push harder and weave my way through the best way I can. I suddenly spot a few more white caps. They are far in front of me, lets try to catch up! Final straight comes through and I’ve caught a couple, final 100m! Out of the water, and into transition placed 5th! Still got it! The couple of people in front of me all have IronMan tattoos. This puts a smile on my face. Right! On to the bike!
The mounting of the cycle was disastrous! Remember the elastic band I forgot? Yep, since I had nothing keeping my shoe the right way up as soon as I did my first pedal, my shoe got stuck on the pavement and off it went. “YOU LOST A SHOE!” I hear in the distance. Cheers mate… Off the bike, grab the shoe, put it on. CRAP! I left it on a high gear… Rookie! Foot with the shoe slips off, hit my leg on the pedal, ouch…. I stumble a bit and people sitting on the verge decide I’m too much of a rookie to sit close to. They move and get out the way. A kind voice from a stranger offering words of encouragement: “Go on pedal pedal, you’ll get momentum, just go”. She’s right, lets go!
The first half of the first lap was a disaster. Garmin watch isn’t working properly. Telling me I’m doing 18km/h??? Come on now! Ok Apple Watch is on, but damn I’m frustrated!! I’m almost at the 3km mark when I catch myself complaining about the wind, and the watch and basically having my own private wah-fest. I need to stop it! “You have 17km more to go on this, and a 5km run. You got this, but you need to focus!” A few deep breaths later and game face is back on, first lap and I hear “GO GO GO PABLO!” Its the girlfriend! A smile flashes through my head, not because I am encouraged, but because most people would think she’s my coach. “God I love her” “Oh right, triathlon, still 13km to go, not even halfway, right got it. Go Pablo”
Second lap goes much better than the first, but god that wind feels heavy. I need to get my cadence up and push through it, I can’t let it stop me. I bring the cadence up to between 80-85. Thats more like it! 2nd lap is going well and I decide it’s time for a shot of energy so that it hits me as I’m coming off the bike.
3rd lap and I’m starting to hurt, calm your breathing, control that heart rate, you still have a run to go. A few deep breaths later and it drops to sub 150. Thats better! Don’t let it get much higher than that.
Final lap is done. Last gulp of water before the run! Right, off the bike, oh my god. How is everyone running on the pavement? Oh wow the grass/sand is even worse, roots of the trees dig into my feet. Bring the pavement back!
As I’m coming out of transition the girlfriend appears! Wait… she’s trying to say something. “Give her a thumbs up” *Gives thumbs up “Why is she running with you?! Fuck she’s quick! Oh she’s stopped running, thank god! Go Pablo”
Halfway through the first 500m and my heart rate is skyrocketing, hamstrings are super tight, glance at the watch, right running a full minute/km faster than your training pace will do that to you I guess. Lets slow down a bit. Ok, 5min/km is still quick, but this is a race after all. I might just be able to keep this up! Around 2km a stitch hits, this flash back to when I was little and doing swim training. “If you have a stitch it means you are going fast, thats good, go faster to get rid of it” my coach would say. I smile and push it even harder.
I hit the 4km mark and I finally feel like I might make it. Maybe too rested, this won’t do! Time to go harder! Lets see if we can push it. Ooooo am I really at 4:45min/km? Only 500m left? Quick catch that guy, yeah the one struggling up the hill! 300m, catch the other one too! Footsteps behind me? No way! SPRINT! Ahhhh he’s too quick… Fuck it! Sprint anyway!
Yay finishing chute! We are home! Where is the girlfriend! There she is! Smile! *makes awkward I’m going to pass out grimace
Finishing line! Watch says 1:23! Woooo that feels like its quick! Oh wait no, thats my heart rate.
Wow. That block of text was almost as much of a mission as the actual triathlon! Congrats to you for making it this far! And congrats to me for completing my first triathlon in over 18 months! I am so glad to be back at it, and this feels like the start or something. Of course there is always the chance that I will spend winter with a blanket on the couch playing PS4 and eating chocolate, but all we can do is work hard to prevent it! Hope you all join me in keeping fit through the winter months! But first, I have a 12km HBF run to tackle first 😉