Lessons from My First Triathlon

I just competed in my first triathlon. My coach, Blake Becker, told me that since this is my first race that I should have no expectations going into it and that things will go wrong and it is a learning experience.

For those who don’t know me very well, I am highly calculated, highly competitive and analyze everything.

The truth was, I DID have expectations and pretty high ones at that.

The Lake Mills sprint triathlon is a 400M lake swim, followed by a 16 mile bike ride and a 5K run to finish up.

This is the first of 4 races this summer for me building up to Ironman Wisconsin, which is the big race I am training for.

I will share with you my race report and then, towards the bottom of this post, some of my lessons that I hope will help you in whatever health and fitness goals you have.

It was a special day for me, my dad came from Minnesota to cheer me on and see what this whole triathlon thing was. He heard me talking about it and the training I have been doing, but he said nothing prepared him for the specialness of the day.

I signed up under male novice, meaning someone who has three or fewer triathlon races under their belt. This started me in an earlier wave, which is what I preferred.

A couple minutes before the start of the swim, out of nowhere, a huge storm blew in with 30 plus MPH wind gusts, black clouds, and a little light rain. The lake, which had been quite calm, turned white capped and was pushing the waves onshore.

This was going to make the first 100 meters out much tougher.

Now, some of you have been following my swimming journey. In November, I began adult swim lessons because I never learned how to swim as a child. By the end of the first lesson, I was able to get across one length of the pool but my heart rate would be well over 180.

I began swimming 3-6 times per week for the next six months with an average of about 4-5 miles each week. One week before Lake Mills, I put a wetsuit on and did some open water swimming. I found the wetsuit really helped keep my legs higher, which is what I was really struggling with.

So given my background, I wasn’t too pleased to see large waves heading for me. There were 60 men in my wave and the gun goes off and I run into the water quickly, hoping to get in front of the main pack, even though I figured I would probably get passed up soon.

The next few minutes seemed like a blur, but wave after wave kept crashing over me as I battled against the current. I would pop my head up from time to time to make sure I was swimming out to the first buoy.D post swim pic

I rounded the first buoy and then had a 200M swim across the shore line…a little easier but still very turbulent. I couldn’t really see any other swimmers around me except for some of the novice women who were really struggling in the water having gone out 10 minutes before me.

I made the turn around the final buoy and quickly got pushed into shore. I got up a little tipsy and more out of breath then I felt like I should have. I had no idea if I was in the front, middle, or back of the pack, but grateful that I stayed very calm in the water and had no fear or anxiety.

After the race was over, I discovered I came out in a relatively fast time of 6:25 in second place, only two seconds back of first place.

As I ran to my bike, I felt quite nauseous. Fortunately, I didn’t swallow any lake water, I think it was that my HR was high and going from swimming to running was something I had yet to practice.

My wetsuit got stuck around my ankle with the timing chip and I was forced to go to the ground to finally get out of the suit. This ended up being one of the only glitches of the day and might have cost me 15 seconds.

My bike was going to be my strongest part of the race. I have been biking for 2 years and really love it. I am a student of aerodynamics and have trained in an aero position quite a bit this year.Dustin bike pic

I have trained with a power meter on my bike for over a year and had a goal of 280-300 watts average for the 16 miles. If I did that, I figured I could ride under 40 minutes which would put me at about 25 MPH average.

I had never trained biking right after a swim, though, and was surprised at how tough the first mile or two was because my HR was well over 160 getting onto the bike. For reference, in my tough bike training days, my HR rarely goes above 160.

My HR soon went to over 170, but my legs started to feel better. After about 5 miles, I felt like I was in a good rhythm and stayed in my aero position the entire time except for a couple sharp turns.

It was very windy out, but I have been training all spring in high winds so it didn’t bother me at all.

My watts were around 275 at the half way mark and I tried to push it just a little harder to get to my minimum goal of 280, but each time I did so, my HR would creep towards 180, which I knew was too high to sustain.

For the first time ever, my legs wanted to give more, but my cardio held me back, in training it is always the other way around.

At mile 12, I was averaging a blistering 25.5 MPH, but had the final 4 miles into a strong headwind. I kept my head down and finished my ride in 38:59 which ended up being about 25 MPH average.

The only bike mishap happened on the final mile when I got confused with bikers just starting the ride and took a wrong turn at about 30 MPH, I had to slam my breaks on, and do a U turn and go back, this might have cost me 20 seconds.

After the race, I discovered that I had the 10th fastest bike time out of around 700 riders. This included some professionals that were competing. I was very pleased with that!

My HR was about 174 as I quickly change into my running shoes.

Running is something I started in Dec, and have very little experience with. I struggled early in the spring with a few minor foot and leg injuries, which slowed my training down a bit.

My goal was to run a 7 min mile pace which is about as fast as I have run in practice on fresh legs.

Dustin run picFirst mile, I took slow as I found my running legs and did a 7:20. My HR stayed in the mid 170s, so I increased my pace a bit for the second mile and did 7:10. My HR was now about 180. I knew from experience, I can only stay above 180 for 5-10 minutes before my body shuts down.

I picked the pace up and finished with a very strong kick and did a 6:55 ish final mile and then threw up moments after I crossed the line, this seems to be a theme of mine. :]

Total time was 1:10:30 and I won my novice category by about 3 minutes and placed 25th overall out of close to 700.

Most things went according to plan, which I was grateful for. I credit my coach Blake and team BBMC for helping me train and prepare for the race, and for the extended amounts of time I prepped and visualized my ideal race.

1 hour and 10 minutes was my BIG goal time and I pretty much achieved that.

My swim surprised me with how good it was, my bike lived up to my high expectations, and my run was a touch slower than I had hoped and WAY slower than I need to be competitive in the future.

To put it in perspective, if my run was as strong as my bike, I would be running 5:40 min miles for a 5K, instead of my 7:10!

Lessons Learned

1. You are only as good as your training and preparation. There is a saying in triathlons and probably most races, that you aren’t going to magically run/bike/swim/ much faster than you have in training, in other words there are no positive surprises. The goal is to execute the race you have trained for.

This is so true. My swim might have been a few seconds faster than my best in training but not by much. My bike was right around my training times, and my run was too.

2. Be grateful for the body you have and what it can do. Whether you are first or last to cross the finish line it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are having fun, enjoying the great outdoors, and living life to its fullest.

Halfway through the bike, I was in a nice rhythm and I had a big smile come over my face as I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude to have a body that is healthy enough to move it and to experience life in the way I was experiencing it.

3. Community is everything. I was blessed to have a handful of clients come out to cheer me on, and 5 of my staff and clients raced with me and did their first tri. It was so special to share that moment with them.

4. There will always be challenges and unexpected bumps in the road, how you handle them plays a huge roll in how you experience life. Fortunately, I didn’t have too many unforeseen challenges, but the large waves, wetsuit sticking, and the wrong turn were things I didn’t expect, but stayed calm and did my best to overcome.

5. Have fun! If I didn’t love the training, camaraderie, and racing of triathlons, I wouldn’t be doing it. But I LOVE doing the work and look forward to continuing the journey this summer.

6. Be well rounded. I think it is good to have many different hobbies, and interests. I struggle with this because I like to do things I am really good at. For triathlons though, I need to be good at all three disciplines, so I will be putting more of a focus in on my running. I still plan on biking a lot and hard, but my run is my glaring weakness. I have discovered my love of open water swimming and especially swimming with a wetsuit. 🙂

Thank you all for your support, love, and encouragement. It means the world to me as I discover more about myself and who I am and who I can become. I hope that in some small way I am able to inspire you to go after your goals and dreams with a passion and intensity that you have never had before.

Feel free to reach out to me with questions or “wins” that you have had in your own life.

Comments

  1. Dustin, congratulations on the win! Your swimming journey amazes and inspires me. I’m an old man who doesn’t know how to swim but that is about to change thanks to you. 🙂

  2. Hello Dustin,

    It’s great!!
    I am 20 years old and still, I can’t swim because of heavy body weight. But apart from that, I am continuing my swimming because your experience motivated me.
    Thank you so much

  3. Interesting sport, I always wanted to try your hand at it.

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