Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tri-Miami Race Report: May 15, 2011

After months of preparation, learning to swim (sort of), and doing what I thought was a lot of training, my first race had finally come.  To commemorate my first triathlon, and to honor someone who has overcome real struggle and adversity, I set up a Firstgiving page to raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  To my astonishment I raised over $2,500 thanks to the support of my family, friends and colleagues.

With Mom and Dad - post race
When I spoke to my parents about the upcoming event, something seemed afoot.  I wasn't sure what was up, but I'd figure it out soon enough.  On Wednesday of race week, my wife said she had to tell me something.  Before she could speak another word, I blurted out "My parents are coming!  I knew it!"  Turns out I was right; Mom and Dad decided they couldn't miss my first event and flew down from NY to support me.  They were all a bit nervous that I'd be upset about the surprise or that their presence would get in the way of my carefully planned routine (I'm a planner, both personally and professional, and am not one for playing it by ear).  Nope, just the opposite: I was honored that they would come and thought it was pretty damn awesome.  The bonus of having my parents at the race is that my Dad is a phenomenal photographer; he took all the pictures in this post.

While my training program leading up to the race was somewhat ad-libbed, I had a careful plan (taken from Triathlon Magazine) for race week.  It consisted of mostly short workouts, a good amount of rest, and careful eating. 

Note: It's odd writing this now (five months later) when the sprint distances have begun to feel pretty short (thanks to my great training crew, and Coach Tim).  But at the time, this was a pretty big deal for me; remember I could hardly swim.

On Saturday I picked up my packet and attended the pre-race clinic. Despite being a complete newbie they didn't say anything I hadn't already read somewhere.  I had scoured the forums, help articles, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on to get myself prepared.  I was ready.

I made an early dinner for the family (if you care it was sun-dried tomato linguine with garlic, oil and sage made with fresh pasta from a local Italian restaurant) and made my final preparations for the race.  My bag was packed, I double-checked the contents, and was all ready for the big day.

Everything I'd read suggested not doing anything on race day different than you would on any other day; this is easy to preach but hard to practice.  At the time I had yet to fully buy into early morning workouts like I have now; race day would be different simply by virtue of my alarm clock's setting.

I arrived early at the race site, secured a good parking space, and a good spot on the rack.  I went through my warmups and mentally prepared myself.  Before the race started my family (wife, parents, sister-in-law - a great support crew) and my boss wished me luck.  It was time!

I'd gone over everything in my head a thousand times already: pacing, transitions, victory speech (ok, no victory speech; I just wanted to come through alive), but when I entered the water my heart rate spiked.  It eventually settled down, but the swim was no picnic.  Being in the open water surrounded by dozens of flailing arms and legs (at least until they all passed me and the next wave caught up to me) was a new experience.  I slogged my way through the swim, mixing freestyle and breast stroke, and slowly approaching the swim exit.

When I set my feet on dry land I immediately felt awful; I had a major cramp in my side and was winded beyond my expectations.  How in the world was I going to bike and run after this.  But there she was, by my side, my wife.  Cheering me on and willing me towards T1.  It was a tough 1/4 mile or so barefoot jog to transition but I seemed to be feeling better.  A quick transition, sip of gatorade and I was off.  

I eased slowly into the ride and after a couple minutes was keeping a steady pace and feeling strong.  I paced myself well and timed my out of saddle bridge climbs perfectly.  On my way into T2, I felt it again, the cramping.  How would this affect my run?

After a reasonable T2 I began my run (which thankfully was mostly in the shade).  The cramping* stayed along with me for the duration of the last leg but I knew I had to put it aside and carry on.  I pushed onward encourage by the loud salutes of my cheering squad as I doubled back to head into the last 1.5 mile. 

Booking it down the home stretch!
When I had about 1 mile left to go it finally hit me: I was going to make it.  I hadn't drowned or collapsed and was going to finish the race, which is all I really set out to do.  I gave it everything I had down the stretch (watch me round, and almost miss, the final corner below), and completed the race with an empty tank - why save anything for later. 

After that it's all sort of a blur: family hugs and kisses, congratulations from some friends at the event, muscle milk, and then it was off to collect my stuff.  The family and I went out for a great big breakfast (I earned it) and then just relaxed for the day.  It's hard to describe exactly how I felt, but the satisfaction and elation stayed with me for a couple of days.  I never thought I'd be able to accomplish anything close to what I had just done, but I did, and it lit my fire.  For sure, this was the first of many to come.

A moment of reflection (or exhaustion!)
*Note:  After evaluating my hydration and nutrition I thinks it's most likely that I simply wasn't properly hydrated.  Through my current training I've been experimenting with the proper amounts of water, Gatorade, gels, solids, and salt tablets (crucial in climates like ours in South Florida).

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