On Sunday September 26, 2010 I completed the "Las Vegas Triathlon" (Olympic distance). For those of you who don't know the break down of each event in the Olympic distance; let me tell you. The swim is 1.5K (0.932 miles), the bike is 40K(24.85 miles), and the run is 10K(6.21 miles). I titled this post finally done simply because I have been contemplating doing a triathlon for about 2 years. I was getting tried of hearing about me doing one myself! I must say I had large goals when the thought of triathloning came into my mind, I said I'm going to sign up and do an Ironman. I had these thoughts because of my running background and resume of ultra marathons, I thought heck if I can run 30, 50, even 100 miles I can do an Ironman! But thank you Lord, my wife was the voice of reason, she said "Marc,.. honey why don't you do a shorter distance first, then build up to the Ironman distance. Try a TRI out first and see if you even like doing them!" I am glad I listened to her, and I will explain why later.
The Journey began back in June. Personal training client, and friend Ray and I made the commitment and signed up for the Las Vegas triathlon. We chose Las Vegas because it was a lake swim, September in Vegas is still warm and purchasing a wet suit would not be necessary. I committed to the Olympic distance and Ray the sprint distance.
Fast forward to race morning, though I was nervous about the race especially the swim portion, I slept soundly. Tanya and I were up a 4am, the transition area opened at 5am and it was first come first serve. I wanted to get what I thought would be a good spot. Not long after getting to the Lake and setting up my transition area, we met up with Ray and his wife Jeannette. The day previous we checked out the swim area and drove the cycle course, but the vision of how far the buoy's where off shore for each of our races shot a bullet of doubt across our minds. They looked so incredibly far off shore. We had spent the last 3 months training in a pool, we were going to have to adjust to open water swimming on the fly.
I was up first, the Olympic distance men started at 7am, the Olympic distance women at 7:10, and the Sprint distance men (Rays group) at 7:20am. As I began stripping down to my swim gear, Ray kept saying "man I'm glad I don't have to swim as far as you do, man that buoy is way out there!" I know he was having fun, but he was right, that buoy was way out there! Time to focus. First I put my ear plugs in, then my color coded bathing cap,and finally my goggles. Tanya gave me a kiss and said "best of luck baby", I heard her,but didn't hear her. My mind was on that buoy; and making it out of that water alive! We had a deep water start so we had to wade out to just above waist deep. The lake bottom was mud and it felt terrible, it was at least 10 inched deep, every step felt disgusting.
The starter on a megaphone yelled get ready, set, GO!! I was off free style baby, I was in the mix of about 40-50 other swimmers. As quickly as it began, I began to have some trouble. I never felt so much panic, I felt claustrophobic, like my head was clogged. I tried to relax but my chest began to tighten up. I came up for a look and that buoy seemed to extend even farther and farther away. I laid over onto my back, and started to have doubts, I don't think I can make it! I laid there on my back for a few seconds and thought how disappointed I would be in myself if I turned around. I knew I was prepared, had trained appropriately, I paused, pulled out those ear plugs, and my head cleared. I turned back over and began to breast stroke, "just keep moving" I told myself my heart rate dropped and I was able to get back in rhythm. I had made it through that storm. 46 minutes later I was exiting the water, Tanya and Jeannette were cheering me on. Thank you "Lord" the biggest challenge of the day was over. Though I struggled in the beginning, my swim goal was an hour; 46 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised.
After exiting the lake we had to run uphill for about 50 yards to enter the Transition area, I had laid my red,yellow,and green Bob Marley towel out to make finding my area easy. When I got there Tanya was already standing along the fence giving me words of encouragement. I had laid things out to move through swiftly. First it was put on shirt, helmet, sunglasses. Then dried my feet, put on socks, cycling shoes, and got out of there. (T1) 5 mins and 43 secs way to slow!
Great! the cycling section started with a hill. No worries I had already set my gears to make hopping onto my bike effortless. I clicked my feet in; it was time to put the pedal to the medal. Other then a steady head wind from mile 7 to a turn around at mile 11 the bike section was uneventful. I really felt in my element, my legs were strong; being able to pass riders who exited the swim faster than I did felt good. I really enjoyed the desert landscape, the rolling hills made for a fun and fast ride. The outside temperature was really beginning to rise as I finished.
Finally run time, the last section of the ride was down hill to the transition area. It was cool to zoom into the area, and see all the athletes coming an going. I jumped off my bike and made it to my things. I was feeling great, running was my going to be my strength; I thought. I quickly hung my bike, took off my helmet, and shoes. I laced up my running shoes, grabbed a gel, guzzled some fluids and was out, (T2) 2 mins and 29 secs. Much better than T1 but still a bit slow. The run section just like the bike course started uphill. I felt ready as I took off, but as I started running my legs felt very heavy. I never felt this in my brick workouts, they usually felt rubbery, but not heavy. As much as I wanted to run, I had to power walk most of the hill, and for the first couple of miles the heavy feeling would not go away. To run it really took a lot mentally and physically. After making it to the turn around, the heaviness disappeared; I was then able to get into a rhythm and knock off the last miles. The mid morning sun really began to heat things up, it would reach 103 degrees by the time I finished. I was so happy to see Tanya, Ray and Jeannette as I ran downhill to the finish. My final time was 3 hours 32 mins 44 secs.
What an adventure, I had a challenging but fulfilling morning. Finally done, no more talk of becoming, because I am now a TRIATHLETE! Thank you dear for talking me out of attempting an Ironman on my first TRI! Heck I might still be trying to finish the 2.5 mile swim of an Ironman!
Ray has a great day finishing his race way ahead of the time he has given himself. His goal was 3 hours or less, and he finished in a blazing time of 2 hours 21 mins 50 secs! Kudos man!!