I don't talk much about goals (I suppose I'll get back to that in a future post), but one of my goals for 2012 was to win a triathlon. Sunday I raced my first triathlon of the year, the Gateway Sprint Triathlon, and, well, mission accomplished.
I drove about an hour over to Carlyle, IL early in the morning, though not quite early enough. Once I took care of packet pick-up, bathroom break, gathering my gear and carrying it to the transition area, I hoped to take my time, arrange my stuff, and warmup a bit. As soon as I racked my bike I hear the organizers say it's time to clear the transition area. I rushed to get my running shoes, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, visor, race number, towel laid out and grab my swim cap, goggles, and wetsuit just before having to leave. No time for care in preparation, no time for body glide, no time for sunscreen, no time for warmup. The first triathlon of the season I always learn I need to arrive earlier than I thought.
There were five waves of starters (olympic distance men, olympic distance women, duathlon, sprint distance women, sprint distance men) and I was to start in the fifth wave. So I had over an hour to kill. After testing the 73˚F water I quickly decided I didn't need my wetsuit. I suppose I could have used it and maybe swam a little faster, but then I would have to deal with taking it off in the first transition and I wagered I may actually lose more time than I would gain. So I ditched it. Once we finally started I got swarmed on both sides, which surprised me a bit, as I thought I had been swimming pretty well in practice. Things settled down a bit around the halfway point. I swam hard, but without overdoing it. I exited the water in a small pack, having no idea how many people were ahead of me. The swim was supposed to be 500 meters. My conservative time estimate was around 8 minutes, so I was surprised to find it took me nearly 11 minutes. Either the course was long, or I'm a lot worse than I thought.
After running across the beach and up the hill, my first transition went pretty well. I wasn't losing my balance after running 5:20 pace like at Eads Bridge Duathlon last month. The bike leg started incredibly fast, with a strong tailwind. After turning onto the main road I hit 31 mph on the first straightaway, which is probably the fastest speed I've ever achieved on that bike. I settled down closer to 27 mph. With the four waves starting ahead of me there were a lot of people to pass. And since there were so many people I still had no idea which people were in my wave (and, hence, racing against me) until I got close enough to read the markings on the backs of their legs (everyone has their event and age written on their legs in marker before the race). As I approached the turnaround I counted just a handful of people ahead of me, but from the front I couldn't tell whether or not they were in my race. The return trip into the headwind was much slower, around 21 mph. I started to have some seat issues toward the end (I need to get a different seat). My average speed for the 12.4 mile bike course was 23.3 mph, the fastest I've ever ridden in a triathlon.
I had a pretty good second transition and hit the run feeling good. I passed a guy in my race less than a mile into the run. My first mile was 6:11, which was good considering how hot it was by that time, but not as good as would have hoped. I passed a woman just after the first mile. There was a steep hill, which slowed everyone down. At the top I saw the first place woman coming back toward me. I was just about to make contact with the next runner before the turnaround when he continued on straight, making him the first place olympic distance man… meaning I was the first place sprint distance man. All right then. I continued on back down the hill. I passed the women's leader with a mile to go, leaving nobody left in front for me to chase. The last mile was identical to the first, 6:11. I was the first person to cross the finish line, completing the 5K run at 6:21 pace--not my fastest, but good.
The sprint race was fairly small, only 52 finishers. I had the 6th fastest swim, the fastest bike, and the fastest run. This is the first event I've ever won that wasn't a straight foot race. I have a good feeling about 2012.