On March 31, I did my first triathlon of the season. I start every season with optimism, tempered by realistic expectations, so as I trained for the race, I thought about what I’d need to do to get a personal best. It seemed doable in theory, but driving to Smithfield early Saturday morning in the rain and setting up in transition, still in the rain, I began to question why I’d entered. I was prepared for rain, though, so I dumped my stuff in the big plastic garbage bag I’d brought and put my extra towel over my bike. I hoped, since I hadn’t had the winning ticket in the Mega-Millions big lottery, I’d at least be lucky enough to have better weather by the time I got on the bike course.
The swim was 300 meters in an indoor pool. I’ve been working hard to improve my freestyle stroke and was hoping to do the swim in less than 8 minutes – including the time it takes to get out of the pool and to the transition timing mat. Despite some awkward lane changes, I thought I was doing okay while I was in the water – I even passed two people – but I missed my goal by 43 seconds.
The rain had stopped when I came out of the pool, but it was still overcast and cool. I appreciated having the long-sleeved technical shirt I’d received at registration. The shirt was warmer than the one I’d brought with me, and it was bright yellow – sure to be noticed by anyone on the road.
I had driven the 10-mile bike course earlier that morning. It seemed hillier in the beginning than I remembered from when I did the same race four years ago. At about mile 4, there is a winding downhill followed by a sharp left turn and then a winding uphill. After that, it’s a smoother ride.
My first few miles were sluggish. Perhaps I should have had a more substantial pre-swim snack. After avoiding a near collision with a rider who had dismounted to walk her bike up the big hill after the turn, I settled into maintaining my cadence. My time for the bike leg was within the range I’d projected, even considering I fell as I dismounted. It wasn’t a major mishap, though, and I was still within a possible PR, so I quickly transitioned to the 5K run.
I’ve been working on improving my running, too. I’m a proponent of the Jeff Galloway system of alternating periods of walking and running. As I approached the mile 1 marker, I was heartened to see that despite having rubber for legs, I was on my targeted pace. At mile 2, I was still on pace. Within a half-mile of the finish line, my goal time within reach if I didn’t dawdle, I stepped up my pace. My run time was the best 5K I’ve had in several years.
Even more remarkable, I finished the whole race a minute under the time I’d projected and almost four minutes faster than I’d done it in 2008. A true PR.
Of course, there were a few kinks in my performance. I need to be more adept at changing lanes in the pool. I need to master dismounting my bike without falling (it’s not that I can’t unclip from my pedals, because I don’t ride clipped in – I’m just clumsy!). I need to increase my stamina so I can go faster farther. All in all, however, this sprint was a good beginning to the season, and I’m looking forward to a banner year.