I did it. Last Sunday, I completed my first open water based triathlon, the Reservoir Sprint Triathlon in Morgan Hill. In a little more than 2 hours, I swam 1/2 mile, biked ~16 miles, and finished up with a 3 mile run. Here is my bike parked amongst hundreds of other much fancier and more expensive bicycles.
I left my house in Palo Alto around 5.00 a.m. for the hour drive to Morgan Hill. I drove up minutes after the parking area opened at 6 a.m. and yet was not even close to being the first participant to arrive. Several serious looking athletes were already hoofing across the grassy hill, gear in backpacks and fancy bicycles perched on shoulders. I piled my own stuff into my bag and a 5 gallon bucket, hoisted my bike onto my shoulder and walked to the transition area.
The transition area, where people kept their bicycles, shoes, running hats, food, etc. stored in between disciplines, was densely packed with bike stands. I surreptitiously eyed the other participants’ choices for parking spots and selected one for myself on the main thoroughfare, near the end of a row. My next order of business was to use the facilities before lengthy queues formed at the porta potties and to pick up my registration materials. I checked in and received an event shirt, swim bag, and multiple identification tags I was to attach to my bicycle, run shirt, and arms.
I navigated back to my bike rack and read the instructions for the tattoos. Rather than using a permanent marker, I was expected to apply temporary tattoo numbers to my upper arms. Next I stuck i.d. tags onto the top tube of my bike and the front of my bike helmet. I laid out my towel next to the bike and arranged my biking and running gear separately on top. The bucket was turned over to provide seating during shoe changes and wetsuit removal. When I finally looked up from my tasks, the transition area was buzzing with activity, seen here in a view to the swim exit.
I quickly sprayed on sunblock, carefully pulled on my wetsuit, and asked a friendly participant standing next to me to snap this photo.
All of the preparation had used up precious minutes and it was now time for me to rush down to the swim entry area, paddle 50 meters to the start line, and float among the other female racers while we waited for the men’s wave to take off. The water was cool and refreshing and tasted like drinking water, not surprising since we were swimming in an actual reservoir. I held back and to the right to let everyone else speed ahead. We swam around a peninsula with large floating orange buoys to mark the turns. I hit a rhythm and felt comfortable enough to swim freestyle the full course, although in the last few minutes I was anxious for the finish so I could join everyone else on the bike.
When I finally left the water, the transition area was thin but not empty and several racers left the reservoir after me. I took some time to pull off the wetsuit, pull on socks and bike shoes, get my bearings, and trot off towards the well-marked bike entrance. I pedaled hard for a mile or two and then slowed briefly to rehydrate and consume an energy gel (tasted like a chocolate PopTart but had the consistency of thick frosting). I felt more in my element and easily passed several Sprint participants but was passed by a few Olympic (a longer concurrent race) bikers. The ride was rolling with lush chaparral views and intermittent shade.
Around the 12 mile mark I noticed a couple of bikers stopped on the side of the road. I looked up to see an oncoming steep hill and several more racers reluctantly getting off their bicycles to walk up the hill. I dropped down to the lowest gear and crawled up the grade, going not much faster than the walkers. I measured my exertion on the last few miles, wanting to leave my legs for the run.
I coasted into the bike exit, dismounted, and jogged over to the bike rack. While changing into running shoes and pinning a race numbered bib onto my shirt I deliberated whether to stop to have another energy gel. I left without eating, wanting to not waste too much time in transition and hoping I could make it through the short 3 mile run. The run course headed back through the first part of the bike route and by now was exposed to the overhead sun. I was thirsty and greedily took the cups of water offered by volunteers at periodic stations.
My pace was slower than I wanted (just under 10 minutes/mile), but since I had already competed for 1.5 hours and was in need of both calories and liquid, I was feeling a little underpowered. I passed a few runners and watched in amazement as professional athletes doing the Olympic course zipped past me, all the more impressive remembering that in the same amount of time they had swum and biked twice as far as I had and still managed to beat me.
I doubled back towards the transition area to run the last mile and a half. In the last 1/4 mile I promised myself it would all be over soon and sprinted as fast as I could to the finish line. Here I am with my finisher’s medal and a delicious fruit slushie with the swim entrance in the background.
This is another shot of the swim exit.
Swim (0.5 mile): 27’53”
T1 (Transition 1): 3’17”
Bike (16 miles): 63’18”
T2 (Transition 2): 2’40”
Run (3 miles): 27’20”
Total: 2 hours 4’28”