Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2003 November 1: Treasure Island Triathlon

The day after Halloween, I did my first Olympic Distance
triathlon.  That means 1.5K of swimming; 40K of cycling; and 10K
of running.  The Treasure Island Triathlon is run by Tri-California Events, Inc.,
the same folks who run the Wildflower Triathlon.  I had been kind of mulling over doing this race
for a while, and finally, around two weeks beforehand, I actually
signed up.  As its name suggests, this triathlon is based on
Treasure Island, which is a small island off of San Francisco. 
(Officially, Treasure Island is part of San Francisco, I
believe.)  You can get to Treasure Island from the middle of the
Bay Bridge.

Since Treasure Island is only 45 minutes or so from my abode (if
there's no traffic), I decided to stay home for the night and then just
get an early start.  This worked out well, and I was on Treasure
Island in the cold morning with plenty of time for the start (waves of
racers started swimming at 7:15am, with a new wave every 15
minutes.  I was in the second wave, beginning at 7:30am).

The swim course was two laps around an equilateral triangle in the bay
that was presumably about 250m on a side.  A minute or two after
the first wave departed, my wave was invited to get in the water and
warm up.  Most of us did; however, I stuck one foot in there and
decided that I'd rather wait outside the water-- the official water
temperature was 58.4°!  One person (not me!) in our wave got especial notice from the announcer: "And look at competitor #468 (or some such)!  He's not wearing a wetsuit!"

A few minutes before our wave entered the water, the fast swimmers from
the first wave finished their first lap, rounded the buoy near the
start, and continued on.  At the pace they were swimming, it was
pretty clear that I wouldn't be encountering them in the water! 
However, much of the first wave would be just about finishing their
first lap when my wave started swimming (which means that we'd be
sharing the same water with them).

Around fifty seconds before the start of my wave, I got in the
water.  Not surprisingly, it felt pretty cold!  In addition
to my wetsuit, I was wearing a "hothead": a neoprene headcover under my
green swimming cap.  This was the first time I ever wore this
(other than testing it out in a pool), and I was glad to have it. 
By the way, since this swim was so short (compared to the swims in
previous triathlons I had done), I cleverly decided that I wouldn't
bother using lube to prevent chafing from my wetsuit.  Very clever
of me.

At the sound of the freon horn or whatever they use, we were off! 
A little crowded, but not too bad.  As soon as I put my face in
the (cold!) water, I realized something that I had somehow managed to
forget-- the Bay water is salt
water.  Not a big deal, but it did catch me by surprise.

The first leg of the triangle felt like it took a long time to
swim.  Over the course of the first lap, I passed some of the
slower first-wave swimmers (I swim quickly enough that nobody from a
later wave could pass me, but that's about as much as I can
claim).  No significant issues, and after a few minutes in the
water, I didn't feel too chilled (although somewhat warmer water would
have been great!).  With only relatively minor deviations from a
reasonable course (in the past I've gotten somewhat off-track in the
water!), I finished the swim.  Up the stairs and into the
transition area!

During my swim, the air temperature had warmed up somewhat and the sun
had come out more.  I was surprised at how warm I felt (except for
my extremities!), and so I decided to eschew all the potential warming
wear I had laid out-- no jacket, no arm warmers, etc.  I decided that it was
cold enough that I should definitely wear socks for the bike ride, and
I pulled myself together and took off.

The bike course was four laps with lots of turns around Treasure Island
and Yerba Buena Island.  Treasure Island is absolutely flat, but
then there's a climb to get to Yerba Buena, a short downhill, and then
another climb, followed by a somewhat harrowing descent (with bales of
hay at the bottom!) back to Treasure Island.  My groovy wheels are
currently in transit by UPS, so I was using some alternative wheels for
this ride, and I didn't have a speed sensor on my borrowed rear
wheel.  This meant that the only information my bike computer
could give me was my pedaling cadence-- better than nothing, I guess,
but definitely not ideal.

I took it easy on the first lap and even stayed seated for the climbs,
figuring that I wanted to have plenty of energy left for later. 
During the second lap, I sped up some (I think!  Without the
computer or accurate splits, I can't be certain!), and decided that I
should do some out-of-the-saddle climbing.  On the way down the
last descent (the harrowing one), I was kind of stuck behind some
slowpokes, and two people whizzed by us in fairly close quarters. 
I was a bit irritated at them for doing something that I'm too
conservative to do, but I guess I don't have a legitimate beef with

Somewhere around the third lap, my bladder started to feel pretty
full.  I figured that the whole triathlon was short enough that
I'd just press on without stopping, though.  I reached the end of
the cycling leg without any incident.

The run course was two laps around an out-and-back on Treasure
Island.  Since Treasure Island is wholly without hills, so was the
run course.  This was the first time I did a triathlon and started
the run without having my legs feel pretty much wasted, so I was rather
happy.  The only thing was that my bladder was really started to bug me. 
Since I figure it takes me somewhere around 40 minutes to run a 10K, I
decided once more that I should just suck it up and not stop to take a
leak.  To avoid inviting further trouble, though, I didn't drink
at all during the run.

After around 10 minutes, I reached the turnaround at the far end of the
course.  No problems there.  Actually, the rest of the run
was pretty uneventful, so I'll skip to the end:  ...and this time,
instead of turning around for another lap, I went off to the right and
through the finish chute.  Got my timing chip taken off, got a
medal placed around my neck, grabbed a bottle of water, and walked
quickly over to the port-a-potties.  What a relief!

I really liked the run course.  The fact that it was an
out-and-back-and-out-and-back means that there were concrete things to
look forward to that didn't take all day to reach.  After 10
minutes of running, I got to the turnaround, and I could think to
myself, "Already a quarter of the way through!"

After ingesting some pasta and other stuff, I decided I'd head
off over to the car and stash my bike and gear.  Lamentably, I'm
not gifted at navigation, and I ended up meandering aimlessly for a
bit.  I was walking my bike on the sidewalk along the bike course
when I heard a scream.  I looked up and saw a racer hitting the
curb on the other side of the street and flying off her bike and onto
the ground.  I laid my bike down and ran over there, arriving as
the first bystander at the scene of the accident!  The woman was
lying on her back, not moving much, and seemingly pretty aware of her
situation: "I think I broke my collarbone.  I can't lift my
arm."  At last, my first aid training would come in handy! 
Well, it could have, I guess,
but I it didn't.  All I did was tell her not to move, and I moved
her bike and
paraphernalia off the street and out of other racers' way.  (A
race volunteer had already called to summon an ambulance, and other
people who knew her were taking care of her.)  After a bit of
time sitting aroung and doing nothing, I left the scene of the accident.

When I got to the car and started shoveling stuff into it, the back of my neck felt like it was on fire.  Two possibilities:

  1. Sunburn.

  2. Chafing (from my wetsuit).

Since I was pretty good about using sunblock, I suspected the latter.  Indeed, that's correct; the back of my neck is really raw and yucky because I was too much of a clown to bother to use a bit of lube.  Man did it hurt when I finally got home and took a shower!  Never again will I make that mistake!

My final time
was 2:41:28 (33:32 swim; 3:16 transition to bike; 1:21:39 bike; 1:40
transition to run; 41:21 run).  This put me at 51st out
202 in my
age group (30-34) and 305th out of 1227 overall.  The
official source for this info is here.

I had plenty of energy at all stages of this race.  Indeed, it's
clear that I should have gone faster during both the bike and the run
(probably the swim, too!).  I just didn't have any idea how much umph to save for the end, since I
had no previous experience with triathlons of this length.

From now on, when I have to take a leak, I'm gonna take a leak! 
Sure, it costs a minute or so, but afterwards, you can actually
concentrate on the race at hand!  I felt pretty silly finishing
the triathlon with everything except my bladder feeling great.


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