The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Cornwall Transit Triathlon - Saturday, August 15, 2004

Phil Barnes's "Try-a-Tri" race report (first triathlon event ever)

The Day Before:
Guylaine and I drove around the race course in the car (Downtown Cornwall streets), to get an idea of what it might be like. The course seemed fairly flat and fast, with some technical details (a couple of corners to deal with).

The Night Before:
Couldn't sleep -- tossed and turned for hours. I don't think it was nerves, but more like I was anxious to get it started with.

The Morning Of:
Got up at 6:30 - casually had a bowl of Lucky Charms, and then headed down to the event site for race-day registration. Picked up my race number (265). Scoped out the venue. Weather: clear and cool; water temperature -- I didn't dare check it! Headed back to Prud'Homme's for a bath, and to pickup Guylaine. I made a strategic decision to wear the same long-sleeve jersey for the bike and the run; so I securlely fixed my race number, and practiced, putting my shirt on with the number pinned to it -- no problem!

Pre-event:
Arrived (later than most). Had a tricky time finding a spot in the Transition Zone to "rack" my bike. Wedged my way in between 2 others, and laid out my shoes and towel. The sun was starting to come out, and it was warm enough walking around in just my Tri-shorts.

The Swim (300m):
The swim was essentially a straight line course close to the shoreline (4ft of clear water). It started at a dock 150m out to another dock - touch it, then 150m back, around the first dock and up path leading out of the water. The starter told us we had about 5 minutes before starting, so we all got in the water, and waited nervously. Adrenaline prevented me from actually feeling how cold the water was -- but I did warm it up a little around my knees at the start line.

I felt I would be one of the stronger swimmers, and the starter asked that stronger swimmers start ahead of and away from the rest of the pack -- So I pushed my way up and out. 15 seconds... 10seconds...5-4-3-2-1 HORN -- and I'm off! The water was calm as a mirror - I even saw a perch swim under me.

My strategy was to basically go like stink and try and blow away the others, so as not to get hurt or hurt anyone else. I was feeling really good and strong with my stroke. So after what felt like an eternity, I popped my head up to see where I was in relation to the turn around point - uh-oh - I was way off course! I started to panic, and slowed down the pace, introducing a few breast-strokes to help sight better. I got to the turnaround point, and took a bit of a breather, so far I was in 2nd place - and I could see the guy ahead of me. The return leg of the swim seemed much straighter, after I introduced my modified swimming stroke -- 10 front crawl then 2 breast. I got around the dock, and was 2nd out of the water. I stumbled a bit getting out (legs were wobbly - heart rate about 200 b.p.m.)

Transition 1:
Out of the water, we had to run up a hill (they had put a special carpet over it), across a lawn and then about 100m down the sidewalk into the transition area. I took my time getting there, so as not to overheat, and could see the guy who beat me out of the water, getting ready for the bike -- he seemed to be going very slowly, so I started to take my time too. (as I was getting ready, others were coming in to the transition area). I didn't have too much trouble getting dressed, (happy that I had practiced) and was out of and on the bike with ease. In my mind I thought I was the first one out. Sure enough on the side, I could see and hear Guylaine cheering me on.

As it would turn out - even though I was second out of the water, I was 6th out of the Transition.

The Bike (20K):
The bike course was awesome -- the route was really fun. About 600m into it, I caught up to and passed some girls that I knew were in my event, and I thought - wow - how did they get there? But, not to worry I passed them. For the next 2K it felt like I was completely alone on the bike - at one point, while circumnavigating the NavCanada complex I thought I may have taken a wrong turn but then saw the course pilons reassuring me I was on track. I felt really good for the first loop of the bike ride, and was totally enjoying myself; I rode in high gear in my aero position most of the way averaging 30km/hr. Shortly into the second loop of the bike ride, I was passed by a girl I knew was in my race group, so that gave me the inspiration to get out of comfort mode and into competition mode. --- I was close behind her most of the way -- but never caught her. Finishing my second loop, I was back into the transition zone and ready for the run.

Transition 2:
Racked my bike, removed my helmet and sunglasses, started my stop watch, and I was off.

By this time, the sun was really coming out and it was getting hot -- I had committed to a long sleeve jersey and was hoping that I wouldn't over-heat. Luckily I had done a practice 15K bike followed by a 5K run a month prior in the same jersey, in the same type of weather - and although uncomfortable, I knew I'd be ok.

The Run (5K):
I think I forgot to take some water after the bike ride in Transition 2, so when I passed the water table (at the start of the run), I thought I'd better have some. Never actually haven taken water from someone on the run, turned out to be an unfortunate event for the poor girl holding out the cup for me -- as I was running too fast and ended up fumbling and dropping the cup in a big spray all over her. I hope she doesn't hold a grudge! Anyhow I'm on the run now, not really feeling like I need water. This part was a bit tricky, as I didn't have any idea at what pace I was running -- not knowing where 1km, 2km, 3km was etc. At the start of the run, I thought I was going too fast, so I slowed down, and then I thought I was too slow, so I tried to go faster. At what I thought was the 1/2 way point, I checked my watch and I was 11:43; so I felt good there. As I approached the final corner of the run (approx 1km from the finish) I ended up passing the girl who had passed me on the bike - so I felt I was running well. With about 100m to go I put it into sprint mode, and then I was over the finish line.

The Finish:
I honestly thought that I may have been in second or third place when I crossed the finish line. And the reason for this, was that I was sure that I was 2nd or 3rd for the swim and I didn't think I was passed on the bike, and I was only passed by 1 or 2 people on the run. Actually I was passed several times on the bike and run (but I thought that it was from people competing in other classifications as we were all on the same course). Guylaine caught me at the finish line, and I felt pretty good - not too tired. The results weren't instantly posted; we waited around for about 40 minutes, and then they were up --- and I got...... 7th (out of 33)

At first, I was a bit dissapointed (It's awful to say that), but then when I thought of it as top percentile - top 21% is pretty darn good. And thinking back now, I'm happy just to have done it.

Overall impressions:
I really, really enjoyed myself. The course was well laid out for first-timers, and the way that it looped like a figure 8 for the bike and the run, was great because that meant I was passing through the crowd at the start/finish line often, and could see and hear Guylaine cheering each time. The crowd was really great too - it's an odd feeling (but very warming feeling) being cheered on by complete strangers. Racing down Montreal road (all closed off) felt neat. The volunteers at every road intersection, and at the corners of the race course were all exellent, and it was so nice of them to have helped out.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Learn how to swim a straight line! Check a bit more often to see where the swim line is.
  2. Don't take so much time in the first transition area.
  3. Sometimes on the bike, I would catch myself dreaming a bit, and I'd have to say, "Hey- wake up, this is a race!"
  4. Try and pay more attention to who is in my race category
  5. Get bike set up in T-Zone earlier
  6. If possible, get a feel for the interim distances along the running course

What I did right:

  1. Put my goggles on under my swim cap, so as not to get them kicked off
  2. Practiced putting on my shirt with the number on it
  3. Bought some aerobars ($30 from Pecco's), and practiced with them - I'm sure they helped my bike time by almost 10%
  4. Trained all summer (I was comfortable with all of the distances, and had run/bike/run experience from Thursday night Duathlons)
  5. Thanked volunteers along the way
  6. Acknowledged the crowd (smiled and said thanks whenever I could)

Next Year:
I know for sure I want to do this event next year - maybe even the Team Sprint event - I'll do the swim, Guylaine can bike, and either myself or someone else can do the run.