I was a bit bummed and I tried to find something in it's place. My friend Lisa from work mentioned that she was going to do the Mason Triathlon so I decided to do it as well.
So Bolt Speedman (two fast names) registered for the Mason Triathlon - which turned out to be a bit stressful as all sorts of communication came out saying you had to have a photo ID to race and I obviously don't have a Bolt Speedman ID. When I picked up my course packet there was some confusion but I was able to talk my way into registering under my race name of Bolt Speedman!
On paper the Mason Triathlon seems much shorter (easier) than the Morgan's Triathlon we do. And it only took me ~2 hours to finish instead of 3.5 hours (I'll update when official times are posted) - however the Mason triathlon seemed pretty hard. Let's go to the break down:
400m Swim (The Swim-bacle)
The pool swim was cool because I wasn't sure how they were going to organize it. Basically there are 8 lanes in the pool, and you start in the first lane - go up and back and then sneak under to the second lane and go up and back etc. That way you end up in the last lane and there is no need to have race officials count everyone's laps. A swimmer started every ~5 seconds or so.
I affectionately refer to my performance as the Swim-bacle (as in debacle). I am not a swimmer (yet). I tried to practice the swim a few times (3-4) before the race as I found out only 2 weeks ago that the obstacle course triathlon was canceled and I would be "doing the swim". However my swim training demonstrated that I was going to struggle. I think there were those who accurately said I was NOT ready to do a swim triathlon - however I was glad I entered as I know how much better I'll have to be for next year's Mason Triathlon.
Everything you read about swimming says to stay relaxed and make sure you breathe. The best swimmers look so relaxed and smooth. In practice in the pool I was able to relax and swim at an OK pace - however my breathing wasn't great as I was either breathing too often or breathing every 4 strokes and eventually getting winded.
Now that looks like some good form! Notice the face plow to funnel water into the lungs...
None of those swimming tips mattered - as soon as I hit the pool in the race as things got crazy. I was trying to swim frantically and it was a debacle. I swallowed water into my lungs and couldn't breathe right for a while (I felt much better when I basically puked this water starting the bike ride!). It took me a few lengths in the pool to recover from that one. The only good thing was that I didn't need to get rescued. Meghan saw a girl in the kids triathlon who was pulled from the pool by the lifeguards because she was choking on water. The only other thing I did properly was line myself up for the start.
For the swim we lined up by our anticipated 400m swim time. The sub-4 minute group started (sounds fast! These are the people who do a kick turn while changing lanes just to show off), and they called out numbers. I waited for the back group to form - but I didn't want to go last! I was slotted maybe 10th from last and it worked out well.
The 400m swim is the entry level triathlon distance - so there are a lot of "first timers" in this race and I was surrounded by a few in line. There are some interesting pool swim rules for the triathlon. You are allowed to stop and catch your breath at the end of the pool or on the lane line as long as you don't use either to progress forward. However you can also rest by touching the bottom of the pool and you CAN progress forward using the pool bottom. So my the pool swim was clearly a mess - I utilized this technique generously.
I don't think I'm in this picture - but you can see a "swalker" in the middle of the pool. Nice Technique!
In practice I swam all out and between catching my breath it took me 15-20 minutes just to get 200-250m finished (which is terrible) but I can see how once your breathing gets messed up it is all over in the pool for the swim. So at least during the Mason Triathlon I could try to catch my breath while moving forward, and I didn't block the lane. At the end of the lane I let 1-2 guys go ahead but after 200m into the swim the group I was with were utilizing all sorts of liberal rules to finish the "swim". So while I am sure I didn't swim a lot of the 400m "swim" I was glad that I was in good company where I was seeded and I got a good wake up call for swimming triathlons - so I should probably take some lessons etc.
NET - a swim is a tough way to start off the triathlon and I think it is more difficult and more physically taxing than the 55 minutes of canoeing in Morgan's Triathlon. But I enjoy the canoeing much more!
12 mile Bike
It was cool to be part of a triathlon with a "real" transition area!
I was excited to finally get on my bike - the course was on my home turf and I knew the hills. I didn't feel great after the swim and it took a while on the bike to recover and feel good. However I biked a hilly course with a 15 mph average which I thought was great! The bad news is that the 12 mile course is closer to 13 miles, and I added an extra 1/2 mile by taking a wrong street out of the high school. I thought it was my fault for following a few bikers in front of me - however it could have been due to poor signage on the roads (more on that in Course Logistics below).
All in all I was most pleased with the biking portion. I matched my expected pace even after being tired from the swim and I love my new bike crank (blog to come I hope). I wish I had followed the course better - that way my biking split would be better but I wasn't going to have a great time anyway so I guess it doesn't matter.
NET - this was a fun course since I ride it occasionally anyways - why not race on it. My bike feels awesome now and I was pretty pleased with this course. I think with all of the hills and the big climb - these "12 miles" are overall harder to do than Morgan's 18 mile course (which is flat).
5k Run (3.1 miles)
Well since the biking course was a little longer than advertised - why not have a run that is shorter than advertised. Just shy of 3 miles - the course was not too remarkable. There was a kids triathlon so they were biking on our running path which was fun to see. One girl's chain came off right in front of me so I could help her with the bike - and I finished my run with a little boy who was finishing his run stage.
It was getting pretty hot by this point and I walked much of the first mile and then jog / walked the rest. After setting a personal best 5K the other weekend, I was hoping to do better but that was not the case. It's not too surprising - I'm not a great distance runner - so the fact that it was last was rough - so edge to Morgan's Triahtlon - at least the 5.5 mile uphill run is before the bike!
The most important lesson I have learned so far from the Tour de France is to take the time to zip up your jersey as you cross the finish line so you can get a great "sponsor" photo. I tend to zip my biking jersey down a lot to get air in when I am hot or as they say in the TDF when I "hit a spot of bother" so I have some shots where my jersey looks crazy (like my flying pig picture) so I now learned that looks matter.
The Big Finish
As you run to the finish the announcer looks for your race number and looks up your name an announces it. My iPhone was covering my number but I shouted out "412" and get got it - so I was able to hear them announce "Bolt Speedman" at the finish. I think people probably got a kick out of that.
It was on the run that I realized the multiple races on the same day made the race course quite confusing and the signage was poor. At one point towards the end I was sent by the teenagers flagging the course onto the kids triathlon track - someone realized it and told me to go back so you can see a detour in my map above. However I know some adults who took the shortcut and cut 0.5 miles out of their 5K with this short cut.
If you missed that short cut - there was another confusing section where some runners in front of me ran along the path we were on - but we were supposed to turn at the cones to go back into the parking lot for a bit. The folks who skipped this part saved a quarter mile on their 5K.
Other problems with the course was there was just no way to get to the pool or to put your bike and stuff into the transition area without crossing over the race course. The flaggers on the course would yell at you to stay clear even if you were looking for openings - but seriously - there was no other way to get around. And with the Women's triathlon starting 90 minutes before the men - there was a lot going on all over the place!
On the plus side - I think the layout was ideal for spectators. Meghan was able to watch the entire swim in the pool, and then see me get on the bike and return from biking, then start the run and finish! Much better viewing than Morgan's Triathtlon.
Race Strategy (Elite Men)
Some races are won with pure physical talent - while others require some strategy. I took the strategy route for this race.
The Mason Triathlon gives out awards to the Top 3 finishers in each age group (Men's 30-35, etc) as well as for a few special categories such as Elite Men (age 18-39) or Elite Masters (Age 40+).
I noticed that last year there were 12 men in my age group - which spells bad news for Bolt Speedman to try and make the podium. However I noticed that there no men registered in the Elite Men division! I emailed the USA Triathlon group who manages this race - and they said Elite Men were men who met the age qualifications for either Elite or Elite Master AND have a chance to place in the Top 10 times overall.
"So you're saying I've got a chance..." - Bolt Speedman doesn't have much of a chance to place in the Top 10 overall - but it's not mathematically impossible if you include the chance that 95% of the field could be DQ'd. So NET I was the only Male Elite in the race today and I am anticipating that my relatively bad time will get me a Trophy in the Elite division.
If I do get one it will make all this worth it - but anyone who looks at my time should DQ me for trying this. I'll be sure to post what happens!