My First Olympic Triathlon -- Will it be my Last?

Today is a day that will live in agony.

I rose lethargically from my sleep number mattress at 0430 wondering what I was doing up so early on a Sunday morning and why I had put myself through this regimen over the last few weeks. I even contemplated blowing it off and staying in bed. "What if I chocked water, what if I cramped," I thought. "What if I made a splashing fool out of myself because I was too chicken to do something I had already committed to do." I certainly had not trained sufficiently, but it didn't matter now.

And today, Sept 14, was the big day and there was no looking back now. I headed to the kitchen to prepare myself a huge breakfast: cereal, pasta, peach, coffee. Goodness knows, I needed this nutrition today, every stinking ounce of it.

Then with a full gut and sleepy head, I headed downtown on an almost-empty tank of gas to the Nation's Capital for the fourth annual, and emergingly-popular Nation's Triathlon. http://www.thenationstriathlon.com/index.html

Lots to do to prep my bike, my running gear and my swimming gear. A lot on mind--it had the ingredients of a complex military exercise and I was both the General and the foot soldier about to get shot.

Arriving at the Race area was no small feat. Getting my body marked, my chip, even waiting for the porta potties took almost forever. I could pee in the water, but I had to take care of number two, and Number two couldn't wait.

And when my wave finally meandered on deck, I plunged into the brackish Potomac River, wondering if I would end up regretting this whole experience. Wow, the water temperature was nice and warm in the mid-70's but trying to stay afloat while waiting for the start was a challenge and now I was wishing that I had worn a wetsuit to keep me bouyant.

The 1500 meter swim was off and the greatest thing about this race was that you get to swim about 700 meters all the way under the historic Memorial Bridge, hearing the eerie echo sound of waves splashing against the steel beams. Almost immediately, I started cramping in my stomach, probably due to all the hard food I ate just a couple hours earlier. Shouldn't have eaten that spaghetti --but I pressed on. The next challenge was that the visibility was poor and I kept on running into people and got kicked hard a few times. It was literally chaos in the Potomac.

Under the bridge, passerbys cheered and that made me feel good, until I started tasting the diesel from the Police vessels nearby and that tasted quite bad.

(Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

On the down leg, the current was on my side and the swim improved dramatically and I could go 20 strokes without stopping to take a look.

As soon as I got out of the water and sprinted to transition to the cheering crowds ashore, my legs locked up. I was kicking way too much and now had to hop on the bike for a 40Km ride. What a delight.

Yes, past the White House, to the Capitol, up Rock Creek Park and all the way along the Whitehurst Freeway and along the scenic Potomac River Freeway, all the way to Maryland and
Glen Echo and then back down. I had never rode this length non-stop, let alone having to swim and run, too.

The bike ride wasn't so bad but it was only on the return route, did I realize that I should shift up on my front gears instead of just using my rear gears. This made me go much faster and I was finally passing a good number of the women who passed me on the way up. Yeah! But no shame.

I also used my aerobars a great deal. Didn't really make me that much faster, but it rested my upper body for the ensuing run. Part of the strategy of a triathlon, you have to conserve your muscles for the next sport -- this was important if you wanted to survive.

So, I was ecstatic--I did not fall, I did not hurt anyone and I had a good ride--not bad since I just bought the bike just barely a week ago and I had never used aerobars in my life, didn't even know how to spell it.

Then the transition, which took me over 8 mins -- way too long. And finally the run -- which should have been the easiest for me since this is my sport, but this time, it was a Bear. My legs locked up and the temps were already a blazing 95 degrees in monotonous Haines Point. I was so glad that I brought my sun visor with me -- this was a life saver.

This turned out to be my slowest run ever, and I stopped and walked at every water stop, all 5 of them. I was completely out of breath and that was probably the worst feeling I've ever felt since boot camp.

Then finally down Penn Avenue for the Finish Festival -- what a delight. Ate lots of pizza, got a massage and dipped my feet in ice. Oh so, good.

Only after the run, did I realize how hot it actually was and that today was one of the hottest days of the year. If I had known that, I probably would have just walked the entire route.

And oh yeah (how can I forget), my final time: 3 hours, 21 mins, about halfway of all the 3800 finishers. Nothing to write home about, but not bad for a benchmark for my very first Triathlon -- something to strive to beat for my next right? Right :)

I took the rest of the day off and likely won't work out on Mon. Even ate ice cream and drank a beer. But will be back at it on Tues. Marine Corps Marathon is next in 5 weeks. Yes, the fun never stops.

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