Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My first triathlon

Okay, first some background...while I can swim and even love to play in the water, I have no interest whatsoever in swimming long distances. None. I simply won't do it. But there are some triathlons out there that are "adventure triathlons" and combine other sports, typically paddling instead of swimming and the bike and run are on trails instead of the road. There's one such event near home called the Dark Mountain Challenge. Myself and some friends decided to do the DMC this year, and I started training fairly seriously a few months ago. The paddle was three miles, the run 4.5, and the bike was 10.

My paddling experience is fairly diverse, but didn't include much flatwater kayaking. To that end I got myself a fairly long boat that should have been fairly fast and did some training for that part. I won't go into the stories about that right now, but that was somewhat interesting, to say the least. The race was the more interesting part. The DMC folks have a handicap system for boats because such a diverse group shows up. They basically measure length and width and use a formula to assign a start delay from zero to seven minutes in one minute increments. My boat was given a four, but the guy seemed to really want to find a reason to make it a five. Matt also got a four, Alan got a two, and Bob and Michael each got zero as they were in sit-on-top recreational sea kayaks.

Matt totally killed me in the water and I was barely able to pass Alan for second in our group out of the water. I passed Bob about half way and Michael near the end, too. Unfortunately there's no such thing as a sit-in-kayak that will fit me while wearing running shoes, so I had to wear water shoes and change in the transition to the run (yes, traditional triathlons are swim/bike/run, but when paddling replaces swimming they usually switch it to paddle/run/bike so your arms get a break from holding the paddle before having to hold your handlebars). Alan passed me in transition since he didn't have to do anything but throw down his PFD and grab his water bottle. But I was still in front of Michael and Bob.

I started the run and Michael passed me right at the start and was hauling pretty quickly. We were probably half way through when Bob passed me. Both those guys were just in better shape than me. So now I was last out of our group, which wasn't where I wanted to be! But I kept my heart rate in check (mostly) and just did as much as my body would allow.

I got through the run and headed for the bike. I was really happy to get to that part as I felt it was my best part of the race. Then I got a cold dose of reality...about 2.5 miles into the ten my calves started cramping really bad. This was when I remembered that I had forgot to execute the part of my plan where I took electrolyte replacements before and during the race. I was well hydrated, but that does no good without enough electrolytes.

The cramping was really bad, but I found I could mitigate it by walking up most longer hills and pedal carefully on the lesser hills. Flats and downhill was fine. This is a pretty hill intensive course, but I wasn't going to give in, either. I figured I should REALLY bomb the downhills and get as much out of the flats as I could, so that's what I did. I still had resigned myself to not catching anyone else in my group, but I did pass a lot more other competitors on the bike than passed me, which was cool. Toward the end I saw something I really didn't want to see...Matt. Struggling. I buzzed by him with less than two miles to go and gave him some words of encouragement, but I still had work to do. (While I didn't want to be last, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be long before I caught Matt. He had done such a great job I hated to see him bonk that close to the end.)

I finished with a respectable time, though not as good as I would have liked. We're still waiting for results to be posted, but I was fourth out of my group of five. That said, I think I might have beat Bob in the bike portion, and if so I'm not going to let him forget that. He likes to be in front of me on our group rides and he's in pretty good shape for riding. Should be fun to compare all the splits once we get them.

You can see my paddling track, run track, and bike track via these links. Note, however, that the paddling one is missing about a quarter mile of the start as I forgot to start my watch. Also note that the paddling portion did not go nearly as well as I would have liked. My boat either doesn't suit my body for some reason or there's some kind of serious technique issue I need to address. Either way, I think next year we're going to try to do a team or two for the triathlon and then compete as individuals the next day in the duathlon at the same place. Gonna start training NOW. Matt can go kick the paddle's butt, Alan the run, and I'll try to bring it home on the bike.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jon Forsberg of Santa Cruz Bicycles. I've never actually met him in person and only know him via another friend, but he's been a HUGE help via email and in some other ways with my bike. I ride a Santa Cruz Blur XC in full carbon fiber now, and the thing is simply incredible. I can't imagine a better cross country bicycle. There's no doubt it makes me a MUCH better rider. Thanks, Jon!

Also, a big thanks to all the event sponsors, which you can find on the Dark Mountain website. And finally, thanks to Maritza Greene for putting on such a great event! I can't wait until next year (but I think my legs would be fine waiting).


Unknown said...

Great job on the details. I have to say that I, too, learned a good bit from the race. I hate that I bonked so hard on the bike, but again, I'm learning. What an awesome experience!! A big thanks to you, Donnie for providing the boats and housing.

Bob Zinn said...

I have a feeling you may have beat my time on the bike. The fact that I damn near bonked on the boat did not help my run or ride times. I did not think I would be working that hard to paddle. Thanks for the slow boat anyway though. Part of your evil plan, Mr. Barnes? I look forward to it again next year but I hope to have a swifter boat. I have a feeling you can compare a slow boat to riding a mt bike on the street vs a road bike. To even come close to covering the distance in the same amount of time you have to put forth a LOT more effort. I am sure my technique left much to be desired but not that much.