Oh my gosh—I had so much fun completing my first swim-bike-run event, the Cazenovia Triathlon!
Even though I took care of race-day preparations the afternoon before, I still had a 4 a.m. wakeup call. After eating one bowl of Kashi oatmeal (my go-to prerace breakfast), drinking two cups of coffee, and chugging plenty of water, I headed to Lakeland Park, the triathlon hoopla site.
Transition opened at 6:30 a.m., and I made sure to arrive on time; I didn’t know if race numbers would designate which bike rack to use—this is usually the case at bigger triathlons—so I wanted to get there early to ensure I could select a strategic spot if placements were unassigned. There were no assigned racks, but there were two designated areas—one for intermediate/Olympic-distance competitors and another for sprint, relay, and aquabike participants. Within my assigned location, I identified a prominent landmark I could easily spot while running into transition (the flagpole), and then I picked a rack with an available spot on the edge and set up shop.
Next it was time to track down my chip and get body marked!
Since I volunteered at the Syracuse Ironman 70.3 as a body-marker, I was prepared to be marked all over. My race number also went on my hands and arms, while my race age (22) and distance (“s” for sprint) went on my calves.
On the way back to transition, I double-checked my start time. (Intermediate times were listed on the other side.)
When I registered for this triathlon in June, I had zero OWS experience, so when I was given the option of swimming in the “novice wave,” I happily selected it, hence my green cap. I didn’t realize this until the end of the triathlon, but because I swam with the novice wave, I competed in that category (4th wave women), not in my technical age group (female 20-25). (If I hadn’t signed up for the novice wave, I would’ve been with the blue caps.)
Although the swim concerned me the most, it actually went OK. My fellow green capers were very friendly, which set the tone for the morning—it was all about having fun.
(Thanks for taking pictures, Mom, Aunt Julie, and Uncle Shaun!)
As soon as I walked into the water, I struggled to walk, let alone stand; the bottom of the lake was incredibly rocky, which is very different from the sandy shores at Jamesville Beach.
(I’m on the far right in the Zoot wetsuit.)
During the two-minute, one-minute, and 30-second countdowns, I visualized myself swimming and reminded myself I’ve done this before. When the sounding horn signaled the start, I was immediately grateful to have OWS experience thanks to the CNY Triathlon Club training series; I was kicked, jabbed, and grabbed, but I was ready for it.
Choosing to swim with the novice wave was a safe, conservative decision, but next time, I’ll definitely swim with my age group. I’m not a strong swimmer, but being in the green-cap wave proved to be a little slow going. No one started aggressively or created space, which made the first 200m or so very cramped; I actually did the approach stroke for the first minute just so I could find some free space. Once I made it to the first buoy, swimmers spaced out, and I even passed blue- and purple-capped swimmers. As I turned, I settled into a rhythm and made an effort to appreciate the swim: there were gorgeous skies, calm and warm water (72 degrees Fahrenheit, so wetsuit legal), not to mention I was doing my first triathlon! For the majority of the swim, I paced off another woman, which helped me stick with the freestyle and refrain from restoring to the breast- or sidestroke.
The swim exit threw me for the loop, though. As I neared the shore, I reminded myself to swim until I couldn’t anymore, so I stood up as soon as my hands hit rocks. Even though I was about five feet from the exit ramp, I had to gingerly maneuver around sharp and slippery stones.
At the very least, this gave me a few seconds to catch my breath.
Once I got to the concrete ramp, I started jogging toward transition.
Overall, my T1 was relatively efficient—wetsuit off, sunglasses and helmet on, dry feet, socks on, cycling shoes on, grab bike, go.
Thank God I completed this 14-mile loop before. (Thanks for riding with me, Aunt Julie!) Holy hills! After about a one-mile “warm-up,” the course took a right-hand turn onto Hoffman Hill, known for its unforgiving incline.
Following the lead of the Tour de France, this hill contained its own time trial, or a race within a race. There were two rubber “carpets”—one at the bottom of the hill and another at the top—each triathlete rode over, which activated a separate chip timing system. Unfortunately, I was passing someone at the beginning of the hill, and since he was riding on the far left of the timing pad, I missed activating my starting time.
After this time trial, the course featured rolling hills, plus another killer climb up East Lake Road. During this stretch, a lot of riders walked their bikes up the hill. I really appreciated the inspiration chalk quotations that were written on the road. (They reminded me of the ones on the Fleet Feet RUNapoolza course.) I couldn’t read “you look good when you sweat!” without smiling.
USA Triathlon does not allow drafting while biking, and about five miles from transition, another triathlete and I played a legal game of cat and mouse; we took turns passing each other over and over, and this mini-competition helped me maintain an ideal cadence and finish the bike portion strong.
T2 lacked T1’s level of efficiency. I had some trouble re-racking my bike, and I remained stationary while putting on my visor and race belt.
Since this was my first run after my half-marathon, I had low expectations. Right out of transition, the course contained a hill. Thanks to the encouraging volunteers, I was able to power through to the top, but I eased off the gas for the next quarter mile; I needed to conserve my energy for the climb up Sullivan Street.
I know I talk a lot about my calves giving me trouble, but the cramps I experienced yesterday were unquestionably the worst ever. (Maybe it’s time to invest in compression sleeves?) This hill and I have a long history thanks to a handful of local races, and it’s tough every time. I dialed back even more, reminding myself that it would be smooth sailing once I made it to the top. After the incline leveled off, I grabbed some water and focused on settling into a comfortable pace until I hit the 1.5-mile turnaround; then my second wind kicked in, and I started picking people off. With about half a mile to go, I shifted into my “comfortably hard” tempo run pace; I wanted to leave everything on the course. About a quarter of a mile away from the final turn, a side-cramp slammed me out of nowhere, and I could feel myself losing steam. Luckily, I saw and heard my family, and their signs, noisemakers, and cheering gave me an extra push.
As I made the final turn and ran downhill, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was doing it—I did the swim, I did the bike, and I was doing the run; I was doing my first triathlon and finishing strong!
And now, I’m totally hooked.
My official time was 1:44:52, which was good enough for a first-place finish in my 4th wave female division! Here’s an interesting fact: Had I competed in my normal age group (female 20-25, and not signed up for the novice swim wave), I would’ve placed third. (The woman who took first in the division was the second or third overall finisher; MB got first!) Within the next few days, I’m going to spend some time studying my times and assessing how to train for my next triathlon (post coming soon!).
In conclusion, I can count the best days of my life on one hand: Doing the Seneca7, going on my HWS senior wine tour, and completing my first triathlon. I’ve learned so much about the sport and its community (I should probably write a post about that, too), and I cannot wait to do another one!