A road triathlon
So I took part in a first (and I hope not only) triathlon this year. Second one in my life, if we assume Terratlon 2012 was a full one...
First road triathlon too. I was not too keen in road triathlons but events led me to take part in it.
Most road triathlons are famous in the north of Poland, rich in large natural lakes and poor in mountains. Here in the south, MTB races are more famous. Radków is an exception to this rule, this is the so-called "mountain stage" of the Garmin Iron series. Iron just as a marketing part of the name, the four of the serie are not Ironman distance, but 1/4 (olympic standard), 1km/45km/10km. Radków is a random locality in the Sudetes, on the foot of the beautiful Table mountains having the luck to own a water reservoir of non-drinkeable water, hosting a beach resort: ideal for triathlon events.
Triathlons usually have one big problem: they are expensive compared to other types of event I usually attend: running, MTB. Partly due to the event itself and the logistic it involves (security, etc etc), but also the equipment: time-trial bike, expensive swimwear, etc... I don't own neither a swimwear, neither even a simple road bike... Which is why so far I focused myself on cross events (MTB triathlons but also cross-duathlons like Żyrowik earlier this year).
However, Radków was one of the few standard triathlons I could perhaps pretend to do this year: it was close to my city, in mountains which would allow using a mountain bike with road tires without too much disadvantage, and in the middle of the summer, which would enable me to swimm with a simple swimming suit. Last problem, I did not register early, not expecting I would be free that week-end, which eventually turned out. Fees are horribly expensive in the last moment. But Błażej, a triathlete fellow of mine who bought the start in the early days, had an appendicitis crisis, and therefore was looking for someone like me to sell his start for cheap.
In mountains and with more than 1200m of cumuled elevation, plus a bit more in the running part, the route of the Radków triathlon was more than enticing. I decided to go. Jarek and Łukasz, some other friends I knew were also starting, which encouraged me to do so.
So I prepared the bike ! (see Andy's article) Wojtek lent me his 26' Maxxis Detonator slick tires, which we mounted on the good old Blue Specialized, bike that already illustrated itself last year during Uphill Śnieżka. We did a couple of times our usual Żórawina training, a loop taking secondary roads south from Wroclaw and very convenient for road trainings.
At the beginning of the 2013 year, I took a good resolution, as the custom is. Behave better ? Do more often the dishwashing ? No. I told myself I would learn to swim properly the crawl (freestyle). I could swim it so far but only on short distances. Trying to swim it longer and slower, I systematically got out of breath.
Winter monthes allowed me to dedicate some time to the swimming pool. Especially the period during which my knee injury prevented me to run. First attempts were pathetic. But, one by one, I corrected many defects, without the help of any coach except Youtube videos and few advices of my friend Błażej.
First, earplugs revealed themselves mandatory, and anihilated my fears to swim freestyle too deeply. Ears filled with water is an unpleasant feeling that costed me an angina in the middle of the winter.
I corrected few things in my paddling movement. Elbows out of the water when returning. Not paddling too far backwards and replacing the other arm quickly enough on the front. Breathling more promptly and replunging the head early enough. After many hours, this finally worked. I swam one kilometer. Then many times more, with constantly increasing easiness, and improving times. During the last training on one kilometer, I finally swam freestyle faster than brass syle, in 22mn ! Don't laugh.
However, the first triathlon made this beautiful acomplishment fly into pieces.
When I swam the Terratlon part last year, I didn't realize how much troubled water would be an issue. Swimming the brass straight is simple. Not freestyle, for which the bottom line of the pool is a great help we tend to underestimate.
But most of all, the Radków lake was too small. Barely 400m long, they designed a square with four buoys. Unlike the 60 people of Terratlon last year, there were 300 people here. Imagine yourself negociating four turns in the biggest part of the crowd. A genuine battleship !
I was not able to swim freestyle even half of the time. The rest was done in brass style, fighting with legs and elbows here and there ! The 950m took me some 21mn. However, this is too good to be true. Most people say the distance may have been shorter.
After a consequently long transition of 3mn (no swimwear, had to dress...), I was lower than the 200th position, as the rankings, eventually revealed. I drank also a shot of magnesium to avoid cramps, product successfully tested during MTB Trophy.
I sat on the bike, and immediately felt the power of energy of anger. OK, you all ridiculized me in the water, I'm now going to show you what mountain cycling is all about, bunch of .... !
My triathlon was so badly engaged that the word "tactic" had already become kind of odd in my mind. Despite the slope, I remained on the largest bracket, and began to crush the pedals.
Triathons regulations specify that drafting is forbidden during the cycling part, and that 15 seconds are allowed to overtake another cyclist. Well, I did not break this rule a single time. I did not overtake cyclists at the beginning, but dozens of them all together. Many of them, with time trial bikes, seeming to think "what the hell is this guy doing on his mountain bike ?".
At the end of the first loop, the descent began, during which I drank and ate few energetic cakes. A couple of folks caught me back, visibly willing to show me what they are worth on flat portions and descents. Well, no problem ! I ate them during the second loop when doing to climb for the second time.
Only at the end of the second loop, I met Łukasz and finished together in the transition zone. Knowing the guy is reasonably fit and owns a proper bike, having caught him back rejoiced me a bit: despite of the catastrophic swim, I had come back to a correct place. Rankings intermediate times showed eventually that during the only cycling I had gained more than 100 positions, putting me in the top 100 !
The second transition took place, as slow as the first, partly due to the fact I ran in the wrong direction out of the transition zone and had to turn back.
The run then began. Unfortunately, remaking the laces of my left shoe made me lost additional time. Łukasz caught me back and we ran together the first running loop.
The running path consisted in a way-and-back on secondary road whose remote end led to Czech Republic, with a slight climbing gradient, ended by a steep wall. The whole cumulating some 60m, and repeated twice.
After a dodgy start due to the energy I left during cycling, my body got into the tempo, and I found the same good vibes I had during the half marathon two weeks ago. Tiredness was there but only fatigue, not pain due to repeated steps. At the point of return, we saw Jarek, who had visibly well managed both swimming and cycling parts, with few minutes of advance.
Łukasz slowed down during the second loop, but I managed to keep a pace of 5mn per km. I passed some people, others overtook me, but not much changes occured in my position since the end of the cycling. After all, the result would not be so bad. The finish line was located at the end of a little bump, on which everyone sprinted. Watermelons, bananas and medals were awaiting. I had got closer to Jarek during the second loop but did not manage to catch him back, finishing four minutes after him. Lukasz finished shortly after.
We all broke the three hours limit, 2:58 for me. I finished 102th over some 300.
This triathlon was a true fun, I do not regret ! Weather was great. Beautiful place, good atmosphere, nice time with friends, magnificent day.
So, when a triathlon again ? Well, few things need to improve... Lessons learnt.
Swiming well in the pool is no the only pre-requisite. Training in open water is necessary.
Here was in mountains, but in other circumstances a road bike will be required. Thinking of it...
Swimwear ? In my humble opinion, it was not such a huge advantage during a day like today. But if colder, and on longer distances, I might think about it. If...
If only I decide to do more. I'm not sure if I really like the triathlon world. Not the sport by itself, but the people in it. During some moments, it seemed to me that all of this is a bit like a big parade, like a sport only for rich people...
MTB, despite some folks also are very much into gear purchase, is more "hippie", I think I like it more. Similarly, MTB triathlons are perhaps closer to what I like: being close to the nature and enjoying the effort, not the "seem" and the "look"...
But, I did not say no completely. Doing triathlons all the time, maybe not, but one from time to time, for sure. Chatting with Jarek and Łukasz, I am keen in rivalizing again with them. We are close to each other in performance, and had a big fun.
I'm thinking about doing one day a half-ironman. Given the fact this 1/4IM triathlon was in mountains, it took me 3 hours, but a flat one would place me closer to 2:30. There are good chances a half IM doesn't take me more than six hours, which is a comparable effort to a Giga MTB marathon, or a stage of Beskidy Trophy. Next year ?