More than seven months after my first attempt, I did another triathlon last Sunday: Walliseller Triathlon is a sprint tri with a 600 m indoor swim, 15 km bike ride on three loops and a 4 km run.
I’ve done some homework and spent a lot of time training. I got some more tri specific equipment. I’ve learned from mistakes I did.
However, I did not learn how to go to bed early the night before a race. Upon realising that packing my stuff on race day was the best way to forget something important, I did some late night packing. It was to be a short race and the weather was supposed to be good, so there was not much to bring:
- My (new) tri suit (two piece… I haven’t acquired the mindset for a one piece suit yet) and a light jacket and track pants
- My (new) swim cap and goggles
- Helmet, cycling sunglasses, (new) tri cycling shoes, (new) number belt, Garmin FR 310XT
- Running shoes with (new) elastic laces
To see what pile of material a really well prepared sprint race can create, check out the Trail Smitten Mom’s “Anal-Retentive Guide to Preparing for Your First Triathlon”. I simply don’t have a car to bring all that stuff, so I had to hope for some good weather!
On the way to the train, I watched a bit the people running Zurich Marathon, which took place the same day (see separate post about that). Already on the platform, there were some guys pushing around their $$$ bikes, so I made sure to be somewhere else for the few minutes it took to get to Wallisellen.
After a few minutes riding up the hill from the train station, I arrived at the pool where the swim would take place. I picked up my race package (another swim cap? I bought mine just one week ago…) and checked in.
Co-organiser Sven Riederer, back from his 3rd place at the ITU WCS race in Sydney just one week ago, was to race the Pro Sprint in the afternoon, but that did not hold him back from being around the whole time. Here he is (the “ewz” guy) busy welcoming athletes and writing numbers on their upper arms:
Because the swim was single time trial and I was not to start for another two hours, I had all the time in the world to set up my transition area. I checked all the routes I had to take from swimming, where to leave with the bike, where to leave for the run and so on. I even walked to where the bike course started its loop so I could mark a GPS waypoint there to get separate lap splits on the bike.
There was more time to kill, so I went inside the pool and watched the relay race people start.
From the poolside:
Much later, I went back to my bike and got ready for my swim. I saw a guy I know from my Tuesday intervals group on the same bike rack and we chatted a little. As it turned out, he started just 30 seconds ahead of me. We went to the pool together and watched the people swim.
A few minutes before my start, my number was called and I could warm up in the diving pool. The warm-up consisted of three times ten metres just to check that Ihadn’t forgotten something crucial (like goggles), then I lined up with the people about to start. Every fifteen seconds the next athlete started, so the line became shorter quickly. Some people arrived late and had to shuffle past the whole line, but that was not much of a problem as timing started only when crossing the mat lying next to the pool.
Then it was my turn! Needless to say that I was nervous, since swimming is very much not a strength of mine. I had never practiced diving starts and didn’t want to risk losing my goggles, so I let myself gently into the water and pushed off the wall. This seemed to be enough to have some water get into my goggles anyway, but I quickly drained that and continued.
My goal was to do freestyle for at least half the distance. The first lane went fine, and during the second I had to change to breathing every second stroke. I passed one guy during the second lane, and for the third lane I switched to my trusted “1 lane breast stroke, 1 lane freestyle” strategy. Turns out that’s a stupid strategy: during the freestyle lane you try to get past some guy who almost passes you again during the breast lane…
I was happy to survive the swim in something like 15 minutes (I don’t know exactly because the time for the first transition was added to the swim time). I ran to the transition zone, about 100 metres, got to my bike, put on the number belt, helmet and glasses and took the bike. I tried the “shoes already on the bike” thing: that’s what I have these special tri cycling shoes for, after all.
I had tested this out a few times on Saturday, so there was hope I would be able to manage it. It went fine! Not perfect yet, but definitely faster than stumbling around with the shoes on my feet.
I didn’t feel strong on the bike to begin with. I had to do three laps on the red course, anti-clockwise:
I rode the course a few weeks before because I didn’t want to do such a stupid mistake as in my first tri were I accidentally took a shortcut. I passed a few people, got passed by a few… can’t say it was bad, but it didn’t feel great either.
Each lap ends with a very fast descent before starting the new lap. At the end of the second lap, I lost my right contact lens – probably thanks to the water in my goggles at the start of the swim. It didn’t bother me at all though, I don’t really know why.
After a bit less than half an hour, I was done and rode back to transition. The “shoes on bike” thing is much easier in T2 and was no problem. I almost destroyed some super expensive Cervélo bike when I put mine back on the rack, there just is so little space! T2 was quick, thanks to the elastic laces on my running shoes.
I got out of the transition area and wanted to deliver a strong run, running being my favourite leg by far. Four kilometres is very short so you can run mostly anaerobic. And that hurts. The course was “lollipop” shaped (the green on the picture above), with the first kilometre going upward, then two flat, and the last one down again.
Running went pretty good and I could pass quite a few people, but it felt like the last kilometre of a 10K the whole time. Not pretty. It got better after a while, but I haven’t done many brick trainings, so that’s something to improve on.
One guy I passed yelled “Go Benj”, I had a look back and didn’t recognise him; it was Jonas from my Tuesday group. Everything after the little loop could be considered final stretch, and when the downhill part started, I knew that I was almost there. The very end was feeling okay (and rather fast), but I was very glad to be done. It was just a little over one hour overall, but a tough one!
I bumped into a guy I went to officer school with and we chatted a little while drinking sports drinks and eating fruits; afterwards, I returned to transition to get my stuff and hit the showers.
When I got back, the area was already quite empty and ready for the Pro Sprint later (where the orange boxes are):
My trusty bike is in the middle of the pic, second from the front, to the right.
I hung around for a few more hours and watched the elite women and men race; super interesting. See separate post!
I placed around the middle of my age group. My swim was bottom 20%, the bike was about average, and the run was in the strongest 25%. There’s an easy training strategy to derive from this: keep running, ramp up cycling, do something serious about swimming.
Which happens to be my plan for summer! I’ve signed up for a freestyle class and an open water class.
And I’m going to a triathlon training camp on Friday, in Spain, where I hope to ride a lot! Can’t wait to enjoy sun, warmth, the sea, lots of sports and good people.