It's official. After several months of training, the first triathlon is in the bag. It was fun, a good learning experience, and held a few bizarre twists. It was truly made up of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So, let's start with the good. First of all, the weather was absolutely beautiful. The temperatures were much cooler than the past few days, the skies were clear, and winds were basically non-existent. We couldn't have asked for a better day. And the warm temperatures of the past week provided us with warmer water temperatures than many expected.
The swim was started in waves of 20, set by bib number. So, the guppies were thrown in with the dolphins. I just started at the back of the pack, and realized there were a few people I should have passed early. The first 50 yards of the swim proved that a great deal more open water swimming is needed. The water was completely murky, and the waves made my already poor breathing skills that much worse. Still, I managed to do a forward crawl through most of the swim, and only broke form one time (when I ran over another swimmer). After that first time, I always went to "sweet spot" when I got uncomfortable, and spent most of the swim just going over TI concepts in my head. A very unofficial time for the swim was 3 m 46 sec.
Transitions also went fairly well. T1 benefitted from a great many sources. I had a bottle of water for washing my feet, and remembered to bring a towel to dry those feet. The socks were a bit tough to get on, and Mrs. Pol picked up a few ideas watching others. T1 time, 3m 47s. T2, for reasons that will become clear, went VERY quickly. Timing was a bit hazy, but it was something like 15 seconds.
Finally, the 5K run went wonderfully. My unofficial time was 23m 5s for a pace of about 7m 27s per mile. I'm fairly proud of that.
There was some bad in the race. First, though the swim went well, I feel it could have been vastly better. I will have to find the opportunity to do more training in the lake. It was very uncomfortable, and there was a lot of room for improvement. Second, I missed quite a bit in the transitions. I forgot to put gels in the pockets of my jersey, and didn't grab them in transition. Luckily, this was a short race. Experience will probably help with that. I learned a lot from reading about setting up transitions, and that helped. Actually having done a race helped more.
You will note that discussion of the bike has been notably lacking to this point. That is because the bike fell firmly and painfully into the ugly section of the race.
The new bike was outstanding, to a point (for reference, the 6.2 mile point). I reached speeds of 27 miles per hour on a relatively flat course, and was easily maintaining an average speed over 17 MPH. Despite warnings, cautions, and horror stories, the aerobars went well. I came out of them for turns, and some uphill portions. And then...
Around mile 6 there was a slight incline. As I climbed this grade, my chain slipped and jumped the sprocket. I was able to come out of the pedals cleanly, and got the chain right back on. At mile 6.2 (by my bike computer), I felt the chain slip again. This time, the grade was much higher, and when the chain went, I lost all forward momentum. The bike went over, with me still in the pedals. As I went, I noticed the chain trailing out behind the bike.
I would like to pause here to say it was truly one of those slow motion moments. It is quite odd that as I was going over, there were two thoughts in my head. First, protect the bike. Second, why is my chain back there.
The chain had snapped, busting a pin clean off. Sadly, it wasn't the master link that fell off, it was just one of many regular links. As bikers went by me, they saw the chain in my hands and looked truly sad for me. I was just glad I was only about 50 yards from a pair of volunteers with a radio. They called for a vehicle to pick up the bike.
As they called, I took off my shoes, and started walking. I hadn't gotten more than 100 feet when they indicated the assistance vehicle was there. And I made a decision that few could believe, and I would often question the rest of the race.
I gave the volunteer my bike, shoes, socks, and helmet. I grabbed one of my water bottles, and asked if he could drop my bike off at the transition area. He couldn't quite believe it when I took off running down the road. No way was I going to let that damn chain ruin my race. After all, it was only 9 more miles to the start of the run.
Now, if it hasn't hit you yet, it should. Remember, I was 6 miles in to the bike portion, and had just given George my shoes. There remained nine miles to go. Barefoot. As in no $135 shoes designed to correct for pronation. As in no hard rubber between my poor feet and the rocks, sticks, and dead squirrels on the road. As in, "You're poor feet are going to strangle you in your sleep for what you are doing to them."
It should be noted that I did not run the 9 miles back to the transition area. Around mile 13, another volunteer showed up with his mountain bike. They had tried unsuccessfully to repair my chain, and then headed out with the first bike they could scrounge up. So, I did the last few miles biking, still barefoot. And arrived at T2 dead last. It did, however, help my transition time, as all I did was drop the helmet with a volunteer and grab my shoes. Not much else to do when everything else is missing.
Just a word to the wise. I'm an idiot. I don't recommend doing this. Something in me just refused to let this first race be a DNF.
There were a few funny outcomes from the decision to run. First, word of what was going on apparently spread quickly that someone was running the bike portion. Apparently the barefoot part is what caught everyone's attention. Forget that I'm running a half-marathon instead of 5K. Just that I'm barefoot. Second, pretty much the entire spectator, volunteer, and triathlete contingent was there to cheer me on to the finish. I don't know if it was the run or the emotions, but I darn near had a respiratory event. Finally, I won an award. They deemed me as the Most Determined (or Most Retarded) and I won a $25 gift certificate to a local New Balance store. I also won a doorprize of ice cream (probably for Mrs. and Toddler Pol). So, I basically got back my $30 entry fee. I think I also left one hell of an impression on quite a few people.
Total time for the bike portion of the race, 1 h 33m 48s to cover 15 miles. That is roughly 33 minutes to cover 8 miles biking and 1 hour to cover 7 miles running. My total race time was about 2 hours 5 minutes.
As a post-script to the race, the bike went straight back to where it was purchased. While I hold no ill will against the store, I quite expected them to repair the chain. I really would have hoped to get more than seven miles out of a chain. They were completely perplexed by how it broke. They also said I was fairly lucky. That it just laid itself out on the ground without taking out the derailleurs surprised them. They replaced the chain, gave the bike an good checkup, and took it out for a test ride. It's back at home, ready for tomorrow.
So, I'm now a triathlete. I have the battle scars to prove it. And the sincere hope that, while fun, I never have to go through another race quite like this one. Barefoot marathons aren't really my thing.