Posts Tagged Wetsuit
I did it!! I finished my first 70.3 Ironman. 🙂 I’m just a little behind in posting my race report…
Curtis and I left for New Hampshire on Friday morning before the race around 8:20AM. I had for some reason convinced myself it was only an 8 hour drive, but really it would have been about 10 hours without traffic and ended up being about 11 hours total. Traffic around NYC was pretty terrible, but other than that things weren’t too bad. We arrived and checked into the hotel, but not without checking out the competition on the way in. We were surrounded by triathletes and fancy bikes. After my ogling, we unpacked the car and headed up to our room, which turned out to be quite nice – we had a nice big room with a king-sized bed. We took some time to settle in a bit and then went to find dinner at Uno’s, where I had a delicious chicken and pasta dish (carb loading!). After dinner we went back to the hotel and thought about going down to the hot tub, but we were both exhausted after the long day in the car and decided to go to bed and we would try to relax a bit in the hot tub on Saturday.
Saturday ended up being a surprisingly long and busy day. We slept in until almost 9AM, and when we finally got up, we ran downstairs to take part in the continental breakfast that ended at 10AM. I grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter and a banana plus an extra bagel and peanut butter for eating before the race. I felt like a huge slacker when all the triathletes around were dressed in their workout clothes looking like they had just gotten back from a ride or a run. I had planned to do a very short swim and/or run but nothing major, and I was going to try and fit it in after driving the bike course, which was my number one priority for the day, besides the mandatory meetings, check-in and bike check-in. So after breakfast and a few errands to the grocery store and Wal-Mart, we headed up toward Ellacoya state park and found the bike course. We didn’t start from the very beginning because the Sprint tri was that morning and we didn’t want to get stuck in the traffic. I’d say we started about 2-3 miles in. We did go off course a little in two places, but for the most part we got it right. It started with hills and ended with hills. The middle was slightly less hilly, but it wasn’t flat either- it was more of a gentle sloping. I was not feeling prepared, especially after we started seeing all the triathletes out riding the course. Were they crazy?? I wasn’t even considering trying to ride the course the day before! After becoming sufficiently nervous about my preparation for the climbs, we finally finished driving the 56 miles.
It was closing in on 1:00PM quickly and I wanted to get to the Gunstock Mountain Resort and Timberman festival to register and attend meetings. There was a 2:00PM first-timers meeting and 3:00PM mandatory race meeting, so we figured I could register and get to both meetings before heading back to the hotel to get my bike and head over to transition. I picked up my numbers, timing chip and goody bag, signed my life away and grabbed some food just in time for the first-timers meeting to start. I was surprised by the number of people who were doing their first 70.3 and even more surprised by the several people who raised their hands to say that this was their first triathlon at all! Wow! That’s ambitious! There were some helpful tips, including the mechanics of a bottle hand-off at an aid station on a bike and how to use the wetsuit strippers. 🙂 Afterward was the mandatory pre-race meeting for everyone where they went over the rules and other logistical details. Not too different from any other triathlon.
I picked up a Fuel Belt bento box for my bike at the festival, and then we hurried back to the hotel to grab my bike and drop it at transition. Unfortunately, we got stuck in horrendous traffic due to a nearby concert, and it ended up taking a lot longer than planned. We finally got to Ellacoya state park, I racked my bike and covered my saddle with a plastic bag to cover for the impending rain and we took a quick run (~15 minutes) as my only workout of the day. We ran a tiny portion of the run loop (although we didn’t know it at the time) before quickly changing in the car and going to get dinner. Luckily, we managed to find an alternate route away from the park and avoided the traffic on the way out.
Curtis had found some reviews on yelp for a great little Italian place called Ciao Pasta, so we headed there. They make their own fresh pasta and you can “create your own meal” by choosing a pasta (one of theirs or another), a sauce and any extra protein or veggies. I had a fresh cracked pepper fettuccine with a pomodoro sauce and grilled chicken, plus tons of fresh warm bread. It was a delicious meal, especially considering I tried to choose one of the more “bland” options. I was a little worried that too much cheese or tomato might upset my stomach, but luckily I had no issues. It turned out to be the perfect pre-race meal- not too heavy, but enough carbs and protein to prepare me for the next day.
Once back at the hotel, I gathered all my gear together and laid it out for the early morning. We went to bed right at 9:00PM, but I didn’t fall asleep for quite awhile afterward. I really didn’t sleep very well at all and I think I woke up several times throughout the night.
3:15AM, the alarm blaring in my ear signaled the start of the single longest day of my life. I dragged myself out of bed, brushed my teeth, got dressed and filled my water bottles. I grabbed the last few items that I hadn’t packed yet and we left for the race site. It was surprising to see that most of the cars were still in the hotel parking lot and we seemed to be the first ones to be out and about. On the way to Ellacoya, I ate my bagel and peanut butter that I had grabbed from the hotel on the previous morning. Soon, we arrived at the park, and as it turned out, we were one of the first cars into the parking lot and got a prime spot very close to transition and right next to the finish chute. It was right around 4AM, and we hung out in the car till transition opened at 5AM. We found some hot water at the local firefighters’ stand, so I had my green tea that I had brought from home while we were waiting.
Finally, transition opened. I stopped to get body-marked on the way – 2212 on my left arm, left hand, left quad and my age on my left calf. I think the mark on my quad was still a bit visible three days later, despite scrubbing but all the others were gone by the end of the race. Weird. I’m really glad I brought a bright pink beach towel to use as my transition mat, it turned out being really easy to find amidst the sea of bicycles. After I had everything arranged exactly as I wanted it, I pumped my front tire. Then I went around and pumped my rear tire. Both looked pretty good, but I managed to convince myself that the rear tire needed just a few more pumps of air. As I removed the bike, I heard the valve break. Doh! I didn’t really want to frustrate myself by changing the tire on race morning and it seemed to be holding air so I decided to leave it for the time being. A half hour later, I would check the tire and if it didn’t have air in it or seemed to be leaking, I would change it.
I took all my nervous energy back to the car and tried to sit and relax with Curtis for a bit. The time went by pretty fast, and soon enough it was time to check my tire again and use the bathroom for about the 4th time of the morning. I ran into transition and found both tires still full of air and ready to go. I decided I’d leave well enough alone and ran back to join Curtis in the Porta-potty line. We wandered around to check out the swim exit and before we knew it they were clearing transition and calling for people to head to the swim start. We joined the throngs to watch the pros (including Chrissie Wellington!!) start at 7:00AM.
Pro men went off first, followed by Pro women, then another hour before my swim wave would start at 8:05. I got my wetsuit on around 7:15 and joined the line to the corral around 7:45. It was an in-water start, but only about 2 feet deep and we waded in as soon as the previous wave left at 8:00AM. I got my watch ready and my goggles on as the announcer gave us warnings every 30 seconds. Finally, we were off!
I started the swim running into the water and got a few dolphin dives in. I had lined up in the middle, but at the back so it was difficult to find clear water for dolphin dives. I did stop a few times right at the beginning because my goggles were being uncooperative, but luckily I fixed them quickly and they gave me no trouble for the next 1.2 miles. I was surprised at how mentally strong I felt in the water. If anything suffered during training, it was my swimming and I was expecting my mindset to reflect that. I guess I have had enough open water experience to relax and do what I know. I was pretty sure I was dead-smack in the middle of my wave for the most part. When I reached the first turn buoy, I started seeing white caps from the previous wave. Shortly after, a few yellow caps started swimming over me (literally!). Also around this time, the water got pretty choppy. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as churning as it was, there were moments when I actually thought I might be sick from the motion! The next turn came quickly and then it was just the homestretch left. I did peak at my watch at both turn buoys, so I had an idea of how long I’d been in the water (15 minutes and 24ish minutes) and knew I was on track. My private goal for the swim was to finish in under 45 minutes, and I crossed the timing mats at 40:06!!
I had my wetsuit stripped and ran into transition to retrieve my bike and I was on my way. About 3 miles in, I started to get paranoid about my tire. I actually convinced myself that it was flat, so I pulled over and checked it. It was completely full. Silly me! I was pretty quick and only 2 or 3 people passed me while I was stopped and I quickly passed one of them again. I was still a bit paranoid about the tire for the rest of the ride, but I planned to ditch one water bottle at the first stop for Gatorade and alternate water and Gatorade for the whole ride. The roads out of the park were not bad, but pretty soon the hills started. I think I saw Chrissie Wellington leading the women before the first aid stop. Around mile 10 was the biggest hill of the race, Marsh Hill and it was steep and it was long. I just took it in my granny gears. We did see two pro women wipe out coming down the other side, so I knew it would be a fast and probably technical bit of riding. Soon, but not soon enough, I reached Route 106, which was the bulk of the course. It was a long, straight and gradually sloping road that made for somewhat boring riding. I got a kick out of the aid stations with some very over-the-top volunteers all dressed up in crazy outfits. We even got to see Santa and his Elves at the North Pole! Pretty soon we were climbing again. This time, my bike got stuck in the big ring so I had to take it really slow and easy in order to not destroy my legs. It was hard work! Coming back down Marsh Hill was a blast, I’m not sure what my top speed was, but it was definitely fast. Finally, the park was in sight and I realized that I was going to finish much faster than my expected time of 4 hours. I saw Curtis cheering on the bike in chute, dismounted and ran into transition. I finished the bike in 3:32:55.
After ditching my bike and changing shoes, I decided I would step into the porta-potty at the end of transition. The volunteers standing there tried to convince me to continue on to the run and stop on the run course, but I knew it would be in my best interest to stop then. My transition time turned out to be only 4:08, so I’m glad I made the decision to go then. Curtis was there to cheer me on as I started my run. It was two loops, so I would get to see him again at least once before I finished. I ate one package of Clif shot blocks as soon as I started the run, and I had another package that I decided I would take at the beginning of the second loop.
I knew the run was going to be the hardest part of the day. The biggest issue I had been having during my bricks in training was that my back hurt when I ran after biking for the 50+ mile distances. The one difference in the race from my typical bricks was that I put on my fuel belt. I’m really glad I did because it ended up having a stabilizing effect on my back and completely eliminated any pain in my back. It did not, however, do anything for the pain in my feet and legs. I had not accounted for the amount of swelling in my feet after more than 4 hours of constant exercise and my shoes felt tight on my feet from the moment I started the run. They went numb quickly despite my best efforts at wiggling my toes to keep the blood flowing. My right knee gave me trouble throughout the bike and didn’t get any better on the run. I just kept repeating to myself, “It can’t hurt any more than it already does.” So I kept running, it was just four 5Ks. I could do four 5Ks.
The run course was pretty challenging with one pretty significant hill. It was no worse than training runs at home, though. The first loop was pretty crowded, but by the time I started my second loop, many of the rest of the athletes had finished and I spent a lot of time alone. It was a treat to get to each aid station, with all the very enthusiastic volunteers. The turnaround point for the first loop was decked out in patriot decorations and bubbles and there was a stereo blaring “Yankee Doodle” when I passed through on the first loop. I was still running when I reached the teaser end of the first loop, which shared part of the route with the finish chute. I kept running the whole second loop. In fact, I am very proud to say that with the exception of walking through the aid stations when I got something to drink, I ran the entire 13.1 miles! When I reached mile 12, I realized that if I picked up the pace and got in a strong 10 minute mile I would be able to finish in under 7 hours. I summoned all the energy and strength I had left and picked up the pace. When I could finally see the finish chute, I knew I had to push just a little harder, so I ran as hard as I could at that moment (which wasn’t very hard!). I passed two men who were walking in the chute and ran across the finish line!
I cannot even express the overwhelming feeling of that moment- never before have I felt such a desire to cry and jump for joy at the same time, but be so mentally and physically exhausted that I was incapable of either. I got my finisher’s medal and a hat and a blanket and hobbled out of the chute. I did it!
My total time was 6:58:39.
1.2 mile Swim: 40:06
Transition 1: 3:39
56 mile Bike: 3:32:55
Transition 2: 4:08
13.1 mile Run: 2:37:51
Woohoo! I am now an Olympic distance Triathlete! Today’s race could not have gone better! I’ll get to it soon, but want to start where I left off last week. I have not been training much at all in the past two weeks, which I am going to partially chalk up to “tapering” and partially blame on the dog. She’s been keeping me busy and we’re still trying to learn a routine that works, so it’s been hard to go and do my workout right after work, because she needs to go out. On Thursday, I was feeling a little stressed and out of sorts, and I think it has to do with the decreased training. My body loves its endorphins and when it doesn’t get it’s fill, believe you me, it lets me know! I have especially let my swimming go by the wayside, so I decided to go for a short swim that night. I did 1600 yards total, with a 50 yard warm-up and a 50 yard cool down. I wanted to swim a straight 1500 set to boost my confidence for the race. It worked! I finished the 1500 yards in about 24 minutes (I forgot my HRM, so I don’t have exact data). More importantly, I felt fantastic in the water. I felt strong and smooth, and significantly more confident about the race.
Friday was my planned day off before the race. I don’t know the reason why, but I’ve seen multiple sources recommending taking completely off two days before your race. My trainer had also recommended this, so I’ve been doing it. Does anyone know why this is supposed to help with your tapering? I had planned to do a short workout on Saturday, but we had a pretty lazy morning instead and the extent of my workout was walking the dog and taking her to a nearby field to play fetch. She doesn’t quite understand the concept of bringing the ball back, but we’ll get there. We took her on a 30ft lead so she could run without us having to keep up with her too much.
Around 4:00PM, Curtis and I drove into the city so I could check-in, attend the race briefing and rack my bike. Wow! What a madhouse. We don’t usually drive into DC because it’s a huge pain in the you know what. If we’re going to go into DC, we typically take the metro, but bikes aren’t allowed, so we had to suck it up and drive. When we finally got to the Washington Hilton, where the race expo was being held, we had just missed the 5:00PM race briefing, so we wandered around until 5:30 and looked at race belts and sunglasses. I ended up getting both, because I lost my sunglasses not too long ago and needed a race belt for my tri kit. At the race briefing we learned that there were 6000 athletes registered for the race! After the race briefing we were allowed to pick up our packets and goody bags. I learned I was number 4650 and going to be in the 26th swim wave starting at 8:15AM. The first swim wave would start at 7:00AM. We then drove down to the transition area and I went and racked my bike and mapped out my path to and from my row for transitions.
I was in row 41, so I made sure to memorize that and fix in my brain that when I came in from the swim I had to pass 41 and run down to my bike, which luckily, was very close to the end of the rack and easy to find. On the way in from the bike, I would be coming from the opposite direction so I would enter the row before passing the 41. After I had done all that, we headed home, finished packing up for the next morning, showered, and went to bed by 9:45PM.
We had an early morning this morning, getting up at 4:45AM in order to get to transition before 6AM. As soon as I got up, I took the dog out and fed her and Suli (our cat). Then I made myself my oatmeal in the microwave and added a little hazelnut butter to take in the car, finished filling my water bottles (I had started the night before), and got dressed. I got a new tri singlet and tri shorts recently that I wore today. They are the ZOOT Women’s ULTRA Tri Tank and Short. They are fantastically comfortable and were perfect for all three legs of the race. It was a great improvement on wearing any old tech shorts and shirt. We left the house at 5:30, a little later than planned, but still made it into the city in plenty of time. Curtis dropped me off at transition, and I got set up while he went to park the car. He also took some great pictures of the day, so I have those to share too! After setting up, the sun started to rise, revealing an absolutely perfect September day. We had clear skies, a slight breeze and the perfect temperature for a race, IMHO. It was awesome to see the sun come up behind the Washington Monument.
The shear size of the race was also pretty incredible. I haven’t been at any races that were larger than a couple of hundred before, so this was quite eye-opening. It turned out that only about 4300 and some odd people started the race, but it still seemed like a lot. You can just begin to get an idea of the size from looking at the bikes in transition.
This is only one small area of bike racks, to the right of this is a huge field of racks 4 wide and probably about 60 long.
Sorry for the low quality picture–I took this one on Saturday evening on my phone. This is the very back corner of the transition area. I didn’t manage to get anything interesting, like the run in/out or bike in/out. Just lots and lots of bikes!
After setting up, I picked up my timing chip and went to meet up with Curtis before the race started, so he could wish me luck. I then went to the “swim pen” where we were supposed to be gathering since transition was closing. As soon as I got into the swim pen, I realized I had my CatEye cycling computer in my jersey pocket, which was definitely not the best place for it since I would be jumping into the Potomac river in a little over an hour. I ran back to my transition area and attached it to my bike, then returned to the swim pen to wait until my wave was up. As I mentioned, I was in the 26th wave, starting at 8:15AM, so I had almost an hour and a half to wait since it was only 6:45. At 7:00AM the elites began, and a little before 7:20, the first swimmer was out of the water. I talked with some folks who were in even later waves, and we were marveling at the fact that the elites would start finishing before all of us were even out of the water.
The swim was an in-water start off a dock and began up-stream toward Memorial bridge. The course was counter-clockwise, and ended with a run up a ramp. That boat is sitting in the water right where we started from. You can just see the orange buoy out to the right, I think that’s one of the last buoys on the in-bound leg of the swim.
Curtis got a picture of the elites in the water waiting for the start. You can just see all the little white caps bobbing out of the water in front of the dock.
And they’re off!
The other end of the course is on the other side of Memorial bridge. In the picture, you can see several swim waves have already started. At this point, I’m still milling around the swim pen.
Finally, they called the yellow caps, females 24 and under into the line-up. We gathered in behind fluorescent green and fluorescent orange (I think).
I ran into a couple people from my high school before the race started. I found Bridget when we lined up. This was her first triathlon, and I’m really anxious to find out how she did. After the swim start, I lost track of her and never saw her again. Curtis got a picture of the two of us talking. I’m the angry-looking one with my arms crossed. I wasn’t really angry though, just really cold. Even with the wetsuit on, it was quite chilly standing around for over an hour before the race.
After wishing me good luck, Curtis ran off to the bridge to try and spot me from above. I can’t believe it, but he found me!
I’m the swimmer on the right in the picture. He says he managed to spot me because I was one of the only ones in my wave wearing a full sleeve wetsuit. I actually really enjoyed the in-water start. It definitely helped with getting my bearing before the swim. I was able to acclimate to the water temperature and slow my breathing and heart rate before the horn went off, which allowed me to swim at my pace from the beginning. I lined up to the left and the back (third row of swimmers) in the water as we were treading. It seemed to be a good spot. I didn’t want to be close to the shore because I could see that I could end up swimming a significantly longer distance if I did that. I tried to stay close to the sight line to the bridge. We could just barely see the first orange turn buoy on the other side of the bridge. There weren’t any buoys before the bridge, which was somewhat disconcerting, because they’re nice to break up the swim distance. Once I crossed under the bridge, there were two left hand turns and we were heading back to the swim exit.
I couldn’t see anything on the in bound leg. The sun was directly in our sight line to the buoys and it took several hundred meters before I could see any buoys at all. I decided to use the light from the sun as my directional, because it seemed the best option. On the swim back, I started overtaking swimmers from the previous waves. It was a little difficult to pass some of them because they weren’t doing a great job of swimming in a line and there were a number of times when they were in a big pack and tough to get through. There were also a few girls in yellow caps who I kept bumping into throughout the swim. I did manage to draft off one of them for awhile, but I picked up the pace and passed her after a bit. I was never completely alone during this swim. There were just too many people! The orange buoys finally came into sight, and we were in the home stretch!
I ran up the ramp out of the water and back into transition. I felt great out of the water, but had no idea where I was time-wise. I had forgot to start my watch prior to the swim, so I don’t have heart rate data till after I get out of the water. It turns out I was a little slower on the swim than my goal (28 minutes), with a swim time of 31:38. I think it was partially due to the number of people I had to pass, and the lack of swim training I’ve done lately. I don’t think I added on too much distance, but as you can tell from the pictures, you can add on at least 25 to 50 meters of distance if you veered too far from the buoys.
As I was running, I took the top half of my wetsuit off and pulled off my cap and goggles. I took my time in transition in order to catch my breath, and put on my cycling shoes, socks, sunglasses, helmet and gloves. I almost went without the gloves, but decided I’d rather not risk being miserable because my hands hurt. I grabbed my GU, Clif shot blocks and stuffed them in my pockets and away I went with my bike. Transition took me a very slow 3:34. Even with the distance between the swim exit and the bike start, it was a slow time.
I got to the mount line and had no problems clipping in and was off. The bike course was fast! It was mostly straightaways and very very little climbing and hills. I think the total elevation change was 582 feet or close to that. Curtis didn’t manage to find me on the bike (I was too fast!), but here’s picture of some other random cyclists.
It was really incredible to ride through the streets of DC when they were all closed. There aren’t many times you can have an opportunity like that to take in so much of the city on such a beautiful day. My bike split was 1:27:51, which is quite a bit faster than my goal of 1:45. It works out to about 17.1 mph on average. I did have an exact average, as calculated by my CatEye, but unfortunately I think someone stole it off my bike in transition. 😦 I’m really bummed about it, and can’t believe someone would do something like that! I know it was on my bike when I racked it because I remember looking at it, and since it clips in, I think it’s nearly impossible for it to have fallen off. Oh well! I guess it’s time for a new one…even though it only had 300 miles of rides on it. I ate a GU gel at about the 9 mile mark and my Clif shot blocks at about 15 miles or so. I also drank 3/4 a bottle of water and half a bottle of PowerAde throughout the ride. I felt great the whole time, and never felt like I was low on energy or really got that tired. After our 40K bike ride, we were back to the transition area and dismount line.
T2 was marginally faster than T1 at 2:56. I racked my bike and then had to retrieve all my stuff from under my neighbor’s bike. Apparently, my running shoes and race belt made the perfect wheel rest for her bike. It was an annoyance, to be sure. There was plenty of room, and it was really quite uncalled for to put her bike directly on top of my stuff. After I retrieved my things, I put on my shoes and race belt and headed out for the run.
The run course was really well marked with mile markers and had aid stations at miles 1-5 of the course. I got water at every aid station except mile 5. It took me about two miles to get my run legs and get into a groove. Curtis and my parents found me again on the run course and cheered me on at mile 2 and mile 4.
I think I always look really silly running, but I’m impressed with how happy and upbeat I look in this picture. Although my race belt pocket makes it look like I’m wearing a fanny pack. So, I guess I still look a little silly. I’m really proud of myself on the run, I managed to keep running for the entire race. This is the longest distance I’ve run in a race to date and I actually felt really great. My knee had been bothering me a bit on the bike, but there were no problems at all during the run.
Here I am again, with the huge line of people still coming. More than half of the racers have probably already finished at this point.
My run time was 1:04:59, which is about a 10:30 minute mile pace (5.7 mph). I’m happy with that, as my goal was to finish the run in 1:10. But, I think the run is the area I have the most room for improvement. So, that will be my focus through the winter for next season.
My overall time was 3:10:55. This is 34 minutes faster than my goal time of 3:45 and faster than my “stretch” goal time of 3:30, so I am ecstatic about how well it went. I finished 46 in my division, but I have no idea how many people were in my division.
After I came through the finish line (there were still people just starting the run and still people coming in off the bike!), I headed over to transition to get my stuff and meet up with my family. This is when I found out my CatEye was gone. I also picked up some water, Powerade, and food to refuel.
Curtis was kind enough to carry all my stuff for me after the race.
The aftermath of transition, with the monument in the background. There were still tons of bikes when we left.
My heart rate data from the bike and run was:
Average heart rate: 173
Max heart rate: 191
Overall, it was a really fun race, which I would definitely consider doing again. The only drawbacks were the lack of buoys during the swim and the difficulty of driving into and out of the city on the weekends.
Have a great week!
UPDATE: The results are posted and I found out that I was 46/96 in the Females under 24 division, and 663/1453 in all women and 2626/3933 overall. Not a bad showing! Top 50% in my division and of all women.
In this edition of Thoughtful Thursdays, I thought it might be helpful to talk about the open water swim a bit. It seems to be the most daunting event for many triathletes. And in fact, I’d guess that many prefer the relative safety of a pool swim. There is a lot more to think about with an open water swim; rather than just worrying that you seeded yourself correctly and making sure to touch the wall at both ends, there are weather conditions, water conditions, sighting, and wearing a wetsuit to consider- just to name a few!
In my opinion, the single-most important thing to a successful open water swim is simple- RELAX. I must admit I have been very lucky in this arena, since I grew up swimming on a swim team and taking many trips to lakes and beaches. These experiences instilled a great level of comfort in water, which usually keeps me from going into panic mode if and when something goes wrong. I know that thrashing and flailing about will not solve my problems, but almost always, relaxing my muscles and floating for a moment is going to re-orient me and eliminate some of the initial stressful thoughts. The biggest hurdle of the open water swim is the mental aspect. After you have trained in a pool for a certain distance, whether Sprint or longer, you know you can swim that distance. But for many reasons, it just seems different in open water- it is no longer nice and neatly broken into clear swimming pools with sets broken into specific distances. In open water, it is a some-what defined route you have to follow through often murky and sometimes tumultuous water. In a race, you add in the other swimmers you have to worry about, and it can seem to be an overwhelming task. But let me stop before I psych you out, that is not the goal of this post. I want to share the things I’ve learned to be helpful in making the open water swim a success.
First things first, determine whether you are going to wear a wetsuit. USAT rules say that you can wear a wetsuit when water temperature is 78°F or lower. Between 78.1° and 83.9° wetsuits are allowed, however competitors will not be elligible for any awards. At 84° or above, wetsuits are not allowed. The reason wetsuits make competitors ineligible at higher temperatures is buoyancy, which is exactly the same reason I would highly recommend anyone to wear a wetsuit when it’s allowed (74° or under). The wetsuit is going to keep your body more level in the water, particularly if you have trouble balancing or keeping your body horizontal. Also, if you get in a pickle and get tired or cramped or have some other issue preventing you from continuing, the wetsuit is going to keep you afloat. Very strong swimmers may not see the same performance enhancements as weaker swimmers, but they still do offer warmth in cold water. The real drawback to wetsuits is the cost, at $200+ they’re not cheap, and for beginner triathletes buying a new wetsuit may not be a viable option. There are options to rent, and you could always try and borrow one first or buy one used. Just make sure it fits well and you have good range of motion in your shoulder area. And like anything else, don’t try it out for the first time on race day. Of course, I’ve broken this rule in just about all of my races, so I’m not one to talk. For a wetsuit, though, you don’t want to be learning how to get it on and off on race day. Try it out ahead of time, in open water if possible, but a pool is fine too (remember to rinse thoroughly with cold water if you take it in a chlorinated pool). Ok, now that you’ve determined whether your race is wetsuit legal and decided whether or not to wear one, you’re heading to the race to set up. Always bring two pairs of goggles, you do not want to swim in open water without them. Usually the colorful caps indicating what wave you’re in are handed out at the beginning of the race, so you don’t need to worry about that as much. I’d still bring one to be on the safe side.
When you go to line up with your wave, consider the course and your expected strength compared with the other swimmers. If you are a strong swimmer, you may want to line up toward the front. Weaker swimmers will want to line up toward the back. The swim start is going to be chaotic, and you are going to get kicked, pulled, shoved and swum over (or you might be the one kicking, pulling, shoving and swimming over people!), so you want to carefully consider where you want this to take place. In my (not so vast) experience, I think in the future I will try to line up near the front toward the outside (farther from the buoy markers). I may initially add a little bit of distance to my swim, but in the end I believe it will be worth it to avoid as much as the inside thrashing as possible and get into a rhythm quickly. Once to the first turn buoy, I would want to be right on it. I think that if I were expecting to be one of the weaker swimmers in the group, I would still line up on the outside, but toward the back of the group. Since in that case I wouldn’t be as concerned about keeping up with the group as setting my own time, I’d definitely want to get into my rhythm without worrying too much about other people around me.
Chaotic start? Check.
The swim is by far the loneliest part of a triathlon for me. Not that that’s a bad thing! But it can be unnerving when you are swimming along and have no idea who’s close to you or where the pack is. Particularly when the visibility is poor in and out of the water, you can find yourself wondering where the heck you are and whether you’ll ever get to the next buoy! Relax. Practice sighting ahead of time in the pool so you are prepared to look for the buoy yourself. Don’t rely on following other people. I’ve heard horror stories of whole packs veering off-course and adding a lot of distance to their swims. Even if you are drafting on someone, make sure you continue to sight for yourself. (Side note- I have never been successful at finding someone to draft, and usually end up swimming up between their legs. If you are good at this and have tips for finding a “draft buddy” please comment and share!). In my last race, I planned to sight every 6 strokes, but I think that was a bit too often. My plan for my next race is to practice sighting once per length of the pool, so in the OWS, I’ll sight every 10 strokes. This is a personal thing, you just need to figure out what works for you. If for some reason you lose sight of the buoys or can’t find it on a sighting, don’t panic. Again, just relax, take a couple more strokes and try again. It’s all downhill from the first turn buoy!
You did it! Now that we’ve reached the shore, it’s time to get out of that pesky wetsuit. Don’t get too ambitious and try and take it off all at once- you’ll end up waddling with it stuck around your ankles! I don’t know how other people change this up, but what I do works pretty well for me. As soon as I exit the water and start running toward transition, I move my goggles to my forehead. As I’m running, I unzip the wetsuit and pull the top half off. Then I take off my cap and goggles and continue running to my transition station. Once there I discard the cap and goggles and immediately take off the bottom part of the wetsuit. It’s easiest if you let it go inside out and just pull over the ankles that way (same goes for getting your arms out earlier). There will be plenty of time after the race to straighten it out. Now you’re out of the wetsuit and ready for the rest of your transition into the bike!
Transition? Half-check (since we didn’t talk about getting into bike gear- that’s a post for another time).
The absolute best thing you can do to prepare for an OWS is to actually get into open water and swim. Even if it’s just to get comfortable, every chance you have to convince yourself that you are calm and comfortable in the water is going to help you on race day. So, when the winds kick up some waves in an ocean swim, or the lake you’re in has zero visibility with the added plus of a rather dark and cloudy day, you will be relaxed and ready! Just keep swimming!
What an exciting day for training! I had a really good treadmill workout, followed by a good swim and a surprise when I got home. First things first, I did a 45 minute run on the treadmill today and just over 4.5 miles. Starting with a 10 minute warm-up at a 10-minute mile pace, I knew I was going to have a good day. It’s hard to believe that when I started training this season in January I could barely run for 10 minutes at a time at a 4.5 mph pace! I’ve made progress, and I’m hoping I only continue to get stronger and faster. Anyways, continuing on with my run today, I did 4 sets of intervals alternating 3 minutes at an increased pace and 3 minutes rest at 10-minute mile pace. The four faster intervals, I did at 6.5 mph, 6.7 mph, 7.0 mph, and 7.2 mph (about 8:20 minute mile pace). I finished up with a cool down at decreasing speeds for the last 11 minutes. After running I headed for the showers to rinse off before swimming.
Swimming was awesome. I decided to try out my new wetsuit and see how it is in the water. I put it on at the pool’s edge so that I wouldn’t overheat in the locker room. It takes 5-10 minutes to get on, so I”m sure that I got more than my fair share of funny looks from other swimmers. A guy got in at the other end of my lane and swam down to me to ask if I was going to swim in “that”. I felt like saying that I was only putting it on for kicks and giggles, but thought better of it and just gave him the ok to swim in the lane with me. I swam 50 yards (the pool I usually swim at is a 25 meter pool, but this one is only 25 yards) to get the feel of it and needed to do a little adjusting. I swam a 300 yard freestyle warm-up, and whoa, was I ever warmed-up! The wetsuit is definitely going to serve its purpose in keeping me warm during my tri’s. I made a few more adjustments so the arms would be a little less snug in the shoulder after the 300 before continuing with my workout. I did two more 3o0 yard sets to warm-up and then got to the main set of 10×50 yard sprints. WOW! The extra buoyancy from the wetsuit made me feel like I was flying through the water. I’m pretty sure it increased my speed by keeping my body more streamlined. The only downside was that it does wear on the arms a bit more than swimming without. I definitely felt like I got a good strength workout on my arms just from wearing it. I suppose that could be partially attributed to positioning? I’ll have to do some more experimenting. Anyways, I finished up with another 300 yard freestyle to cool-down.
I almost forgot to mention that I bought some Luna bars today at the grocery store and I tried the “Toasted Nuts ‘n Cranberry” as my pre-workout snack. I liked the taste quite a lot, and I had plenty of energy for my workout. So, it’s an A in my book for now. I was inspired to buy them after reading about them on Susan‘s blog. I didn’t realize that they are made by Clif!
I’m sure you’ve all been waiting to hear what my surprise was…my heart rate monitor came! I’m so excited! Sorry, I know that probably wasn’t as great as expected, but I can’t wait to start training with it. I’m spending the rest of the evening figuring out how to work it. 🙂