Back in the saddle (and the water and the grass)- The Rookie Triathlon

So I competed in The Rookie Triathlon on May 3, 2015.  The Rookie is a super sprint (300m/11.2mile/2mile) which used to be an entry level triathlon for folks who wanted to try a tri, but then it somehow morphed into a race where you are likely to see all the usual competition. Folks were showing up in their team kit that matches their tri bike with the race wheel and aero-helmet…for a race that takes less time than a morning workout!

Who's taking themselves too seriously?

Who’s taking themselves too seriously?

Pretty intimidating if you are really new to the sport.  It got so bad that they broke the race into two races one for “Rookies” and one for “Veteran Rookies”.  I would fall into the latter category.

I have been plagued with injuries this season, or rather plagued with a heel injury that will not go away (and I am fairly certain I have an un-sport-related broken finger), so I did not sign up for any races…so I thought.  A week before The Rookie, I got a call from a friend who was working with the race director.

Her: “Red, you put the wrong birth date on your registration.  I don’t know when you were born, but I know it was not in 2008. What’s your birthday?”

Me: “I registered for that race!?!”

This is a very short race, one I can do without training for it… thank God.  I have been in the pool three times since the beginning of November and one of those times was last week after I was told I registered for the race; I have not run at all since March; I have been riding my bike, but there is only so much you can make up on the bike.  I was definitely not expecting a PR, I was not expecting a good race at all, but it had been awhile since I saw all my tri peeps, so I figured I could just go and have fun.

The day before the race I took over two hours to pack.  Seriously, this is not that hard, but I hadn’t done it in so long I kept forgetting stuff.  After I had loaded up the car and plopped onto the couch to watch some TV, I remembered that I bought a rear disc race wheel.  I should probably put that on the bike for the race since it was expensive and I only use it when I race.  It had been sitting since the end of October, so I aired it up and put it on the bike which was already in my truck. Ok, now I have everything I need!

The next morning I got up at about 4:45am, put on the race kit I had laid out, fed the pets, scooped the kitty litter, put the dog out, made a cup of tea and a 1/2 PB&J for breakfast (don’t be jealous of my glamorous life), grabbed my water bottles and headed out to the truck to drive to the race site at Decker Lake.  I stopped to put my water bottles on my bike when I realized that my rear wheel was flat.  I ain’t got time for that. (Ain’t nobody got time for that).  I ran into the house and grabbed a spare rear wheel that I know has a good tire, put it in the truck and headed out (I have a surprisingly ridiculous number of spare bike wheels.  In fact, if you are looking for a set of bike wheels just let me know, I can make you a deal). If I didn’t have time to change the flat I could just change the wheel.

Luckily I got to the race site at a time when the bike mechanics weren’t busy.  I really didn’t feel like changing that flat, but these guys can change a flat in 3 minutes.  I decided to let them further hone their craft and change my tire.  By the time he had finished there was a line of about 5 people waiting for some sort of bike assistance, as I’m gonna say I timed that well.

I found a good rack place for my bike and set up my transition area, while continually running into friends.  I had plenty of time before the race so nothing was rushed.  I even had time to go back to my truck in the parking area and grab a few folding chairs I had in the bed.  I also had time to watch the Rookies set up.  I did offer my friend Steph a bit of advice on taping a Gel to her bike.  I hate it when folks give me unrequested advice,so I hope I wasn’t annoying her (and it really was just a little bitty piece of advice).

I do have to say that some of these “Rookies” had nicer bike set ups than I did.  Rookie?  Really?  Reeeeeallllly?

There had been a great Facebook debate over whether one should wear a wetsuit for a 300m swim (equal to 6 laps in a pool) in 74 degree water. I will admit that under such circumstances a wetsuit is totally not necessary to keep you warm. But since I had not swam (swum?) in 6 months, I figured a buoyant wetsuit would free up a lifeguard who might otherwise have to save me from drowning.  It took me longer to put the wetsuit on than it took to do the entire swim, but it was well worth it.  Also, they had wetsuit strippers (folks who will get you out of your wetsuit in about 3 seconds, so I wouldn’t be flailing about in transition trying to get out of the tight rubber suit).

I lined up with my age group and we stood around, nervously, talking and watching the guys and younger gals head out in to the lake. Most of the area triathlons now use a time-trial swim start (something they started doing last year), meaning instead of a wild mass of thrashing, kicking, punching folks trying to get to a good position in the pack, folks run into the water one at a time every 2 seconds. Gals aged 40-49 were the second to last to start in the Veteran Rookie race.  All of a sudden, boom, I was running into the lake.  Since the swim is so short, I just went out hard and fast (well, fast for me on a swim).

While I have not been swimming at all, I have been doing a Bodypump class at the gym twice a week. This is a one hour weight training class that includes a lot of upper body weight lifting that I would never do otherwise.  And after this swim, I have to say, the hell with improving my swim form, power through it!  Yes, the wetsuit definitely helped but I could not believe how many people I passed in the water by just powering through and hoping for the best.

In a very short time I was back at the shore and out of the water.  An extremely helpful volunteer actually met me at the waters edge and started helping me out of my wetsuit.  Usually I would be required to get the thing unzipped, my arms out, and pull the top down to my waist before I’d reach the strippers, but this fella had me half naked in no time with very little effort by me. I sat down in front of the wetsuit stripper who grabbed my wetsuit and yanked it off my legs.

Swim 6:55 or 2:18/100 (but I am pretty sure the swim was longer than 300 meters because my swim was in the top 5 of my age group and a 6:55 for 300m is not very good).  Also the 6:55 includes some of the run up this long grassy hill to the transition area, so I have no idea how much of my swim time included the hill.

I ran jogged into transition (because I wasn’t sure how my heel was going to hold up on the run and didn’t want to have a blowout before I got to my bike) and quickly located my bike. Sock, shoe, sock, shoe, tighten shoes (dang it, this is where I will use my broken finger for an excuse because it took entirely too much time), racebelt, sunglasses, helmet… I have not worn this helmet since October but you would think I’da put the dang thing on before packing it for the race to make sure all of the straps were adjusted correctly.  You’d think.  Sometime during the past six months the little piece of felt that goes between the helmet and your forehead got all bunched up.  I didn’t know what the problem was until I checked it after the race, but it was really uncomfortable.  I just hoped I would not fall off my bike and hit my head as I ran out of transition because the helmet did not feel right at all.

T1- 3:19 (eww, that’s kinda embarrassing)

But now the best part.  On to the bike!

Since I have not been running (and I don’t love swimming) I’ve been spending a lot of time on the bike.  I love biking, but I also love biking hills.  Since I will be doing a really hilly three day ride in Colorado in June, I have been spending a lot of time training on hills .  And this race has a very hilly course. Good times!

One of the other benefits of having a ridiculously over-equipped bike for an 11.2 mile Rookie race is that you don’t want to be “that guy” who looks like he thinks he’s Lance Armstrong, but ends up getting passed by overweight, middle aged folks on a $89 Huffy from Walmart.


I quit trying to adjust the helmet and just went out and had fun.  I am very familiar with the roads on this course and equally familiar with the fact that they tend to get these crazy skinny-bike-wheel-eating cracks.  Since I am so used to riding with a group it is second nature to point to crack, potholes and debris in the road when I ride passed it to warn the folks behind me, but not many folks do in a race (after the race, I had a gal thank me for pointing to the road hazards after I passed her, of course right after I passed her there were some of the worse road hazards on the course).

I had fun climbing the hills (and more fun riding down) and I felt pretty strong.  I can say that no one passed me on the bike.  One of my friends asked ‘No one?  Not even the guys.”  Well, of course not!  Besides the guys and all of the gals under the age of 45 started the race in front of me, so yeah, none of them passed me either! 😛

I was off the bike and into transition 2…

Bike 34:18 at 19.6mph

Got rid of the bike, helmet, shoes; put on a visor and running shoes and was off on the run.

T2- 1:30 (better…)

I got out on the run.  My goal was to try to keep my pace below 9:00min/miles.  Since I had not been running and every time I tried was sorta a disaster, I was just hoping to not be hobbled and have to walk it in.  I had replaced the insoles in my running shoes with new fluffier ones to cushion my heel, and the run was almost entirely on grass or soft dirt, so there was that. Wish me luck!

I was mindful not to look at my Garmin.  Whether I was going too slow or too fast, knowing and adjusting for what I thought I should be doing would probably not behoove me. So I plugged on.  My foot felt alright mostly.  I had been having a nagging pain all week and did not expect it to get better, but I did figure it would get a lot worse.  Luckily it never did.

I ran down the grassy hill, then up the grassy hill and was passed by several people.  But that was ok.  I was not going to win this thing, but I would do my best.  I shouted out to some of the cyclists as I ran next to the bike course, and some of the cyclists shouted out to me (I even recognized my friend, Elle!).  I was passing a gal as my Garmin beeped indicating one mile.  “Only one mile left.” I said for both of our benefits.

Because I usually am running a three mile course at this venue, I wasn’t entirely familiar with where the 2 mile course went, but once we turned in to the woods, I knew there wasn’t much longer to go.  I could see a guy up ahead that looked like my buddy, Roy.  As I got closer I realized it was Roy… just as he started a walking break.  “Don’t walk!”  I said, “One of your friends might see you.”  I was certain that he would just take this break, then smoke me in the finish shoot since I knew we were pretty close.

Once you leave the wooded area, you can see the finish line, but it is on a long gradual hill.  I tried to pick up the pace a bit for a strong finish (I have no idea if I was successful but two guys passed me just as I entered the finish shoot).  And like that, I was done.

I do have to say that the Run – 16.10 8:05 min/mile freaking amazed me and I am still not certain it is accurate, because it didn’t feel near that fast.

Overall for the race I had 1:02:15 my friend Julian was all about how he beat me by three seconds, but that was only in transition.  Apparently I need to learn how to put my shoes on a heck of a lot faster.

Somehow I was able to pull 3rd place in my age group, which was equally amazing considering my lack of training, but I will take it!


About jredtripp

Triathlete Extraordinaire!
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