Having had my ACL surgery a little over four months ago, and people saying that I wouldn't be able to think about racing/running until the early Fall, I really didn't see myself having any races on my schedule. Especially this early in the season. I had a few mishaps along the way, but if you asked me two months ago, I would have laughed about the possibility of doing a race in early June. But I did.
As soon as I was able to, I was on the bike and in the pool, putting in the miles and laps. The pool I was able to go hard right away, and the bike slowly came on, but it was mostly a lot of base building and range of motion work.
Finally, about 3 weeks ago, I was able to get out doing some light jogging. Starting with just a mile of walk jogging, and within a week, I was up to nearly five miles. Not fast, but I was feeling good. Once I got up to a 90 minute run and felt no pain after, I knew I was ready to race.
I found the Capitol View Triathlon up here in Madison, only about 20 minutes from home, and knew it was going to be my first race. And yesterday I raced it, and I couldn't be happier with how things turned out.
The morning started early at 4:30am, getting up to eat some breakfast. I like to slowly graze throughout the morning so my stomach is never too full. I grabbed a couple waffles and a banana first off and ate those with a cup of coffee. Then I geared myself up in my tri suit and got my gear ready and loaded up in the car.
At about 5:15am my wife, dog and I headed over to the course. We got there and I started unloading. When I was putting the rear wheel on the bike, I noticed the brake calipers had shifted and they weren't moving. One side was pressed up against the rim, and wouldn't shift over. So I had a mini panic attack trying to fix it on race morning. I couldn't sort out how to loosen the whole joint, so I brought it over to the bike tech who showed me to take off the wheel and access the brakes from the inside. I never would have thought of that! I can do some stuff on my bike, but this was above me.
Finally having my bike right, body marked and my transition area setup, it was down to the water for some warm up swimming and stretching. The water was fairly warm, around 70-72 degrees. However, the bottom was really mushy. Not something that's fun to run out of.
I got my warm up swim in and was ready to go. We listened to the pre-race talk over the PA and they mentioned a good amount of seaweed on the long straight of the 1500m swim. My heat was third after the elites and the 15-24 year old heat. I was hopeful that the first two heats would sweep out a lot of the weeds. I was wrong.
The heat started and I hung out on the outer edge, away from all the kicking and grabbing until the first turn. I found my rhythm early, and it was feeling good. Once I hit the first turn, I was ready to get at it. I found the seaweed, but it wasn't slimy and wasn't in my face, so I tried not to let it bother me. It was mostly just in my hands during my stroke, so I was ok with it. I came across a few floaters, but it's better that than getting kicked in the head. Which I did a few times too. But nothing was malicious. Just me or the other athlete getting off out tracking lines and crossing paths.
When I got to the finish of the swim, I stood up about 50m from shore and checked my watch. 23:50! But I still had a ways to go to get to the transition pad. I had to trudge through 50m of muck, then run uphill another 75m or so to get to the transition entrance pad to mark my time. Just under 26 minutes for my official time. I couldn't be happier! I was hoping to be in the upper 26 to lower 27 minute range based on how I did last year in my only Olympic, and the amount of training I've put in this off-season. On to the bike.
I got to my bike quickly and my wetsuit came off easily. I hadn't practiced any transitioning, but I got in and out rather quick I think. I never take the time to dry off, except maybe my feet so I can get my socks and shoes on. Those got on quick, and I threw on my helmet and put my sunglasses in my mouth so I could see everything until I got on the bike out of transition. My HR was high, so I kept my cadence quick leaving the park, and knew there was a quick, short uphill right away. I watched a few guys go flying past me. I thought I would see them later. And I did.
The bike went pretty smooth. Despite the wind on the out portion of the loop, I was cruising along great. I did everything I could to not look at my speed on the way out because I knew I would overwork myself against the wind and fizz out either late in the bike or on the run. Plus, on the way back, I knew there were two steep hills I had to muscle up.
I found a few guys that passed me out of transition within the first 4-5 miles, then another couple around mile 10. Once I hit the lollipop section of the 24.8 mile route, I hit the gas hard. The first 2 miles of this section are fast, and I knew I could use my knowledge of the course to my advantage so I tore it up. I screamed past 5-6 guys in this section, tearing up the downhill fully tucked around blind corners as others were riding their brakes. I had to yell at a few of them who were hovering in the middle of the road to get out of the way. And they did.
The way back in was fast. I think the way out I was averaging 16-17mph working against the wind. But the way back, I was cruising in the mid twenties on the flats and higher on the false-flat downhills. It was great. I got passed by a few of the older guys, and that usually happens, because some of them are just so good and have much more experience than me on the bike. I usually catch them on the run.
I came in at 1:14:xx, and was happy with that considering the wind. I got into transition 2, feeling pretty good. I wasn't sure about this run, but I got at it. I started off with a short stride and really tried to feel out my knee. It was feeling good, so I kept it going at a decent pace. Around the 1-mile mark, I noticed the huge hills I was facing, and knew I was in for a tough run. I knocked off a few guys early, some that were passing me on the bike. I'm pretty used to that. The run was hot, humid and hilly. Being all on trails and through some marshy areas, it was extremely muggy on the course. I was happy at this point that I had brought along two water bottles on the bike and drank them all. I played it fairly safe on the run, not pushing the downhills like I usually can, letting my turnover go loose, and kept it easy and under control. Once I got to mile 4, I started letting go and put out what I could. The hills flattened out, and the course got easier. My HR was rising, but I was feeling good. At mile 5, I stopped looking at my watch and just went at it, finishing strong and alone, picking off about a dozen people in the last 400m, but most probably from the sprint distance that started after us.
I came across in 2:32:xx, and was really happy. My swim was above what I expected. My bike was a little slower than I wanted, but had there been no wind, I think I would have been even faster. So I compare my times to the rest of the crowd, instead of against myself. The run was better than I wanted, too. As long as I was under 50 minutes, I'd be happy for only having 3 weeks of run training in, so doing it in 48:52, was icing on the cake.
The course crew was great and everything was marked well. Nothing was over the top like Ironman events or Rev3, but this was one of those events that's run so well that you don't even notice the crew because they're there doing their job. I would highly recommend the race to anyone who's looking for a race in the Madison area. It's not an overly large race, but I think there was close to 1,000 people between the Olympic and Sprint.