The race started for me at 3:30am. That's what time the wonderful wife and I got up and got ready to go. I grabbed a Cliff Bar and a banana and we were on our way. I'd packed and prepared the night before so all we had to do was throw all the gear in the truck and drive into the predawn dark.
Parking at the site was well organized and easy. In fact, considering how disorganized the events of Friday and Saturday were, the race day went off without a hitch. I guess if something is going to go well, that should be it.
I found my bike a spot, got my little transition area all ready like I'd been shown at the clinic the day before, and wandered off to warm-up in the water. We were told Lagoon 4 would be open for warm-ups. But its very dark and there is no lights in or around the water. So warming-up was a little tricky. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was the only person to get into the water there, and I only went halfway across the lagoon and back. At least the water was warm.
I got back to my transition area to double check it only to find someone else had made space for their bike and my stuff had been shoved to the side a little. Jerk. But whatever, I fixed and was good to go.
I also was body marked (some guy writing on my arms with a Sharpie) and chipped. The chip is a small, well, chip attached to a velcro strap you strap around your ankle and, "Don't touch! Do. Not. Touch. Noooo touchie!" (I may have made that last one up.) The chip is cool because it electronically tracks your times and entries and extis from the transition area. The chip is why my times are so exact on the results page.
We had the pre-race briefing, which I paced and jittered through and then the Parade of Athletes to Lagoon 1. Basically, that was a whole bunch of people in swim suits walking and talking from one end of the lagoons to the other making jokes like, "Where are the marching bands and horses for our parade?" I may have been one of the jokers. I talk when I'm nervy and around a group like that.
At Lagoon 1 everyone jumped in for a real warm-up which lasted a few minutes. The sun was rising and it was looking to be a beautiful day. The muscles felt good, the stomach was settled (kind of surprising for me), and I felt ready.
Once we all gathered to start the non-military men entered the Starting Box ( I don't know that that was it's name, but it sounds very official dontcha think?) for the first wave. After a blessing from a Hawaiian priestess-lady, they have an official name which escapes me at the moment, the race organizer asked us to kind of seed ourselves by ability in the water to avoid too much pile up. Faster people in front. I didn't know where I belonged but erred on the side of ego and was in the back of the front third. Looking around, he might as well have asked up to sort by body fat percentage. Super-ripped guys in front, fat guys in the back. Whatever.
There is no Ready, Set, Go to start a race, at least not my race. It was instead, "OK! We're starting in one minute!" Jitter, stretch, wiggle. "Thirty seconds!" Jitter, wiggle, shake. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, well, you get the idea. At one and "GO!" we sprinted for the water. I hit the water about in the same position I was waiting in and started chugging.
My plan had always been to get in and get some separation from the flailers. Get out away from swinging arms and thrashing feet and get my stroke working. Lagoon 1 was close, but not for long. The plan came off just as I wanted. After an initial jockeying for position the field stretched out nicely and I got my own little space of water to swim in.
It was a swim-run-swim remember, so I had to poke my head up to sight on the orange flags at the other end to keep going straight. Getting out at the first lagoon I felt strong and set a good pace across the grass carpet to the next. I saw a few people in front of my but not many. I was confused, where is everyone else? Turns out that I was the sixth guy out of the water after the final lagoon, having been passed only once and that was during a run portion, not the swim. Not too shabby, eh!
I huffed and puffed into the transition area to find my bike. I admit, I may have walked a few steps once I got in there. I shouldn't have, but I did. Weak sauce, I know. The transition felt good, especially since I'd never done it wet or full-on before. My feet were sandy but on the way in to T1 there were water tubs to step in and out of, which I made use of. I hadn't planned to because I figured there were be a ton of people waiting to use, but I was way ahead of the pack at this point and there was no traffic at all yet.
I jogged the bike out passed the Mount Here mark and struggled to get on. That morning I'd forgotten to be sure the pedals were in easy starting position so it took a second and I kind of wobbled off, nearly clipping a more efficient competitor. Not an auspicious start, but appropriate.
My bike was, lets just say, not all that fast. Remember all those people I smoked in the water? Yeah, it wasn't long before they were zipping by me. It wasn't that I was super-tired, though I was feeling it, its more that I have no fast on the bike yet. I felt like I was working hard, pedaling hard, keeping my head down and getting it done. And still I watched others fly by me. I admit, every time someone did pass me I thought to myself, "Kicked your ass in the swim." Not bitter, just keeping myself up. It's hard to continue to race, to continue to push, when you repeatedly watch people you know started minutes behind you scoot by like its nothing. So attitude became a focus during the bike portion of the race. Staying positive, not getting frustrated, trying to have fun. And not feeling like I was going super-slow.
My post-race assessment of my ride is much more positive. According to the results page, I averaged 15mph during the ride, which is pretty much dead-on my training average. This tells me I need to find other people to train with who are faster than I am so I can teach myself to get faster.
My second transition went fairly smoothly, except one of the guys on my rack who'd gotten back before me had racked his bike over my area, so my toe shoes were practically beneath his front tire. Rather than just bending down, grabbing them, and slipping them on I had to kneel, reeeeach, and get on it. It's a small thing, but in a race its an annoying thing. Even a newbie like me knows that's poor etiquette. Also, I grabbed a squirt of water from one of my spare bottles before setting out because I'd forgotten to hydrate at the very end of the ride. Slow, but that's ok. I'm new.
Right outside of the transition area there was the first aid station, which I hadn't planned on hitting at all. I should have been hydrating on the bike and shouldn't need at the very start of the run. I did grab a cup as I ran by though for a cool off splash. Honestly, I felt kind of cool grabbing a cup from a volunteer on the run, dumping the ice water over my head, and crumpling and tossing it into the waiting trash can as I ran by. That's right, I used the trash instead of just dropping the cup when I was done with it. Give a hoot. (And I made up for it at the second aid station when there was no near-by can and I just crumpled and dropped. Less hooting a mile and a half in.)
To be completely honest, I felt great during the run. I thought I was setting a good pace for myself, I came out of T2 with a good heart rate and controlled respiration. I had been passed by an older guy who works at Island Tri and Bike in the last mile of the ride and went right by him at the start of the run. Ha, that'll teach you to be nearly 60 and pass me on the bike...jerk. My stride was good, I had quick feet and strong body position. I passed a few people, got passed a few times, and ran fast for me. Looking at my pace on the results page, I had a really good run for me. Just over nine minute miles. And I was able to dig deep at the very end to finish strong through the finish. I probably could have burned that energy going slightly faster over the whole course but I don't have the discipline or training for that yet.
To keep it light and keep Have Fun in my mind I high-fived many of the volunteers placed along the course, pointing us in the correct direction. I developed a small stitch under my ribs about halfway through the run, I think because the water for the second aid station was so cold. You'd think ice water would be really nice and refreshing, but that much cold all at once kinda hurts. The stitch was forgotten around the final lagoon, when I could see the finish. That's a sweet sight. Right after I crossed someone was there to take my chip and put the finisher medal around my neck. Mom was there for a five and Angela was there for a sweaty kiss. That's a nice way to finish a race.
Post race was nice, walking around, trying to hydrate, taking pictures, catching my breath, and remembering to stretch. The athletes were all very nice, that I saw, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. They handed out awards, posted unofficial times, and had plenty of fruit and drinks for us.
I am very pleased with how the race went. I had fun, I did well, I pushed myself, and, as someone working at Ko'Olina said to me as we left, I was "more alive than I was that morning." I like that. I'm already planing to buy a bike, looking at one tonight, and think that I'm going to register for the Haleiwa Tri on Nov. 14th. That's really soon but I figure I'm in shape so I'll just cycle my training back three weeks and start from there. It will be good for me to get right back on for another race. After that the next tri I see is in April. Maybe there will be an open water swim, a bike race, a run, or a duathlon I can do in between.
Thanks again for all the support and encouragement over the last three months. I know what I'm going to do better next time, and know what to work on. I'll update here when I buy a bike, and when I start working on the next race.
Go Team Dirtbag!