April 23, 2015

Diamond Valley Reverse Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

A few months ago I received an email from our local youth triathlon coach that a new triathlon,  the DV Triathlon, would be held in April and that there was a kids' race as part of it.  I was intrigued, as this was a REVERSE triathlon, meaning instead of doing a swim/bike/run, athletes would do a run/bike/swim, with the swim in a pool.  I ran the idea past my son, D, who at that time was 10 years old but would be newly 11 on race day.  He did his first two triathlons last year, both kid-sized races, and while he enjoyed both, he wasn't overly thrilled with the open water swims he had to to do in the chilly bay.  He loved the idea of a pool swim. However, since he would be 11 on race day, he would have to race the adult-length distance (only kids 10 and under got the shorter distances).  Still, these would be doable distances for him---the race was advertised as a 5k run, 15k bike and 175 meter swim.  My husband, J, was also interested, having done his first triathlon this past October, and I signed the two of them up.

Life intervened, as it always does.  J recently had brain surgery to insert another deep-brain stimulator to help with his Parkinson's Disease symptoms.  As it was very recent (end of March) he was under doctor's orders not to swim for a few months, to allow his head to heal.  I'd already paid for him, so I contacted the race director and asked if I could take his place.  The race director was extremely nice and accommodating, and suddenly I had another race coming up.   I had never done a reverse triathlon, and I'd also never done a tri swim in a pool!  I was especially excited to do this with my son---we'd be starting at the same time and everything! My friend Steve, who is coaching me for my upcoming half-Ironman at Vineman, ordered me to run hard and hammer the bike.  With such short distances, there was no reason not to.

This race was in Hemet, a good hour away from home, so on race day we left the house at 5:15 (we still had to pick up our race packet, and the youth coach wanted to meet with the kids at 6:30).  My kids were troopers getting up so early.  We had no trouble getting to the race site, which was at a rec center.  We checked in, got our packet (which consisted of a t-shirt, timing chip and one small sticker for the bike--no swim cap, and I was glad I'd thought to put one of my own in my bag as a precautionary measure), and our race numbers written on our hand.  There were bike racks set up, but in my opinion there should have been a few more--space was tight, and I counted myself lucky to find a space next to my son.  There were a lot of newbie triathletes doing this race (it really was a perfect race for a first timer) but along with that comes not knowing how to set up transition.  I only had room to fold my towel in quarters and set my stuff up---only swim cap, goggles and bike shoes (helmet and sunglasses were on the bike).  It's been a while since I've had such a minimal setup.

Then it was time to wait.  A 5k-only race started at 7, and a few minutes after that was the kids' race.  Our race was supposed to start at 7:30, but they wanted to wait for the kids to get off the course first.  Totally understandable, the kids' safety comes first---hopefully next time they will account for that in the start times.  It was fun to watch the kids come back into transition from their run and bike----they are so inspiring!  We also passed the time chatting to the people around us, including a woman for whom this was her first triathlon (and she doesn't know how to bike yet---she has training wheels!  How courageous is that?)

Finally, it was time to start our run.  From the beginning, D was way ahead of me (he finished with a pace at about a 8:30 minute mile, while mine was 11:00).  On this out-and-back run course, I got to see him as he passed me.  Later, another man who was on his way back shouted to me "your son is way ahead of you!".  Thanks, dude, I know.  I ran hard, often clocking paces in the high 9's (which is TOTALLY unsustainable for me), but even with my walk breaks I still had a good pace.  There was one water station on the course, but it wasn't very warm so I didn't need it.  The transition area appeared too soon, and shortly after I passed my cheering husband and daughter the 5k clocked short per my Garmin----by over 1/10 a mile.

finishing the run

It should have been a quick transition-- running shoes off, bike shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on and GO!- but I had to use the bathroom and while I guess I could have waited until after the race, I decided to go.  The bathrooms were real---in the rec center, not port-o-potties---and I had to wait for a stall.  I didn't care though, I was ok adding a few minutes onto T1 here.  Finally I was off on the bike.   As I rode out, my husband told me that D was 9 minutes ahead of me (made sense with his run pace and my bathroom break).  Steve wanted me to maintain a 17 mph pace.  I was using my new Garmin 910xt for the first time in a race, and the screen kept scrolling to different screens, so I had a hard time seeing my speed.  I decided to just hammer and let my body do what it could do without seeing the Garmin.

The bike course was a double loop, and very flat. I was able to stay in aero for most of it, and just concentrated on strong pedal strokes.  On the first loop I saw D as he passed by me on his way back on the out-and-back.  He looked good! I was expecting to catch him on the first loop, but it took me until the middle of the second to finally pass him.  As I did, he complained that his shoulder hurt. I asked him if he wanted me to stop, but he said no, to keep going, so I did. 

I was pleased with my bike performance. I did a 17 mph ride!  I know that's not fast for a lot of people, especially on a flat course, but for slowpoke me that was lightning fast.  I also passed a lot of people, which made me feel really good. 

Coming into T2, I noticed that like the run course, the bike course was a bit short.  A 15k should have been 9.3 miles, and I clocked 8.9.  I dismounted, ran my bike to the rack, and took off my shoes and helmet and grabbed my swimcap and goggles..  After I started to trot into the adjacent pool, I realized my socks were still one.  Doh!  I had to run back to transition to peel them off, then back to the pool.  The swim was done in a serpentine style---swim up one lane, duck under the rope to the next lane and push off the wall to swim down.  I'd never done this before, and actually thought this was fun. I was swimming in my tri suit, which felt weird, as I always swim in my bathing suit (whenever I do I triathlon I have a wetsuit over my clothes as open water here in San Diego is so cold!).  The water was warm, and I felt sluggish. I know I could have swam a lot faster than I did, but for some reason I just couldn't.  Or didn't.  Someone kept slapping my foot on one lap, so I sped up, but except for that I just crawled along.

I was expecting 7 lengths, to make the advertised 175 meters, so I was surprised when I got to 150 YARDS (the pool was yards, not meters) and it was time to get out. I climbed out on the steps, crossed the finish mat, and got a medal. I was surprised they had medals---it was such a low-key race, without even swim caps, so it was a nice touch.  After I got out, I saw my husband and daughter, who were cheering on D---he was in the middle of his laps. He was struggling, and a really nice woman in the pool kept encouraging him.  When he finally got out, he was crying and said it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.  He hadn't done too much training (especially on the bike) recently, despite me asking him repeatedly, so I think he learned a much needed life lesson---that to compete, especially at longer, adult distances, he needs to put more training in.

All in all, it was a very fun race. I loved racing with my son.  I really liked the small-town vibe of the race. My only complaint is that all 3 distances fell short, something that can be easily remedied for next year (or advertised differently).  I found that reverse triathlons are fun, and I LOVED the pool swim versus the cold open bay or ocean water I'm used to competing in!  I'd love to do this again with my son, but actually I hope that next year it's my husband doing it with him instead of me.