My first (quarter distance) triathlon

ImageIt all started on January 31st 2013. That day I registered for the biggest triathlon event in Belgium. Date of the race: June 22nd. Almost 5 months to prepare and only 1 broken foot to heal in between. That broken foot story will be covered in a separate blog post.
The registrations were similar to a ticket sale for a big rock concert. It only took about 10 seconds for the whole race to be sold-out. Impressive, I thought.
Let’s jump to the day of the race. I felt ready. The whole week I was already doing the transitions in my head. I had prepared a plastic box with the gear I need for the transitions and I had my wife to come along to the swim start and help where needed. The transition zone closed quite early because also a half distance triathlon was planned to start before the quarter. That gave us some time before the race to keep calm, eat, drink and watch the half distance athletes swim their race.
And then finally the first waves of the quarter distance prepared to start. My wave was the 10th of 11 waves. So I had some time to see my colleagues start and crawl away out of sight. I was a bit nervous to jump into the black water of Bruges. I was used to swim in open water in better circumstances. Like every wave there were 100 people in the water waiting for the gunshot start.
Bang! Off we go. I let the whole wave start in front of me and swam after them. The limit to swim 1km was 35 minutes. I must honestly say that I was worried not to finish in time. After a few 100 meters I was getting in some sort of drive and felt comfortable. Also, my wife was walking alongside and was taking pictures. It’s great to see people you love being there to support you. The last few 100 meters I suffered cramps in my calves and had to continue swimming with only my arms. I ended the swim in 23 minutes! I hit the lap button of my Polar and I was happy. It felt like the race was already a success.
With some many contestants already some of them were switching from cycling to running while I was about the switch to cycling. When I came out of the water people yelled at me that I should keep left because of approaching cycles. I was so concentrated to get out of my swimsuit that I almost ran passed the transition entry. Some guy asked me if I was looking for my bike. I said I was and he showed me the entrance to the transition area. I found my bike.
I think the T1 was well prepared. My shoes were already on the bike, the helmet resting on the aero bars and my belt with my number resting on the helmet. One thing was not so clever. My socks. I had never trained barefoot in my shoes for cycling or running. I also wasn’t going to try this for he first time during the race. So I brought socks. And I thought the fastest way to put on this socks, was to have them put one by one over each aero bar. Problem was, it was raining almost all afternoon. So although all my stuff was in a plastic box, my socks were soaking wet waiting for me on my aero bars … By next time I will try to run and cycle without socks.
So off we went with the bike. Jumping on was easy. I’m used to that from cycling when I was younger. I put my feet in the shoes which I had attached with little elastic bands. The left one to the quick release of my rear wheel, the right one to the cable end of my front derailleur. I started flying and got into position quite fast. I even saw my wife and had time to wave at her on my way to exit the city center.
Then came dinner. I started with antioxydant gel because of the cramps I suffered during swimming. About a half an hour later I ate an energy bar. Meanwhile I was fighting with the wind. There was a lot of wind. Luckily I’m poor and I don’t have expensive wheels. Other people we had high rimmed carbon wheels were suffering even more than I was because of the wind. After a while I got into my rhythm again, found my good legs and started flying like an eagle. Some kilometers later also the wind became my best friend and I wasn’t even feeling the pedals anymore. Also my heart rate dropped and I didn’t want to push the speed any further because I was afraid to be too exhausted to run. By the end of the cycling I took another energy gel to get prepared for running. I ended cycling the 45 km after 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Returning back to Bruges wasn’t easy. Bruges has a lot of cobblestones which is not pleasant when you are trying to get your feet out of your shoes and prepare to jump off your bike. I think I lost a lot of time with that.
I found my transition spot quite fast this time and jumped into my running shoes and started running. From the start I was passing a lot of other contestants. Although I did not feel well. My legs thought they were still on the bike while my mind was focusing on running. After a few kilometers I saw my wife and I found my rhythm again and started speeding up. I was really having fun. I felt power in my legs and the heart rate was still OK. In fact my heart rate was a bit too low if I think about it now. I was still affraid to blow up so I didn’t want to push it too far. I ended running the 10 km in 45 minutes and I was happy.
My total time was 2 hours 35 minutes. The goal was to arrive. Mission accomplished. I really enjoyed this and I am already looking forward to the next race which will be within 6 weeks from now. Then I will try the Olympic distance to prepare for the main goal this year, a half distance triathlon within 10 weeks from now.
After all, by seeing my heart rate results I think I should have pushed it a bit more while cycling. Also the last 5km running I should have given everything that was left in my body. But to be honest, that’s something to think about during my next race. I actually really enjoyed this first race so much that I can’t have any negative feeling about it. It was just the way like I wished beforehand. And it felt great!
I know now that this sport is my cup of tea. The atmosphere between the contestants, the nerves during the transitions, the feeling you get when you cross the finish line, …
Keep training,

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