Monday, July 22, 2013

Race Report: NJ State Olympic Triathlon

Swim: 1,500 meters Bike: 22.5 Run: 6.2

I normally don't post such personal stuff, and prefer to keep the blog about nutrition and diet rather than my personal life; however, with the encouragement of a few friends, here is the story of the NJ State Olympic Triathlon from Sunday, July 21, 2013. This was my first triathlon! It was every bit as fun as I expected it to be!

shortly after finishing

Last November I ran the Philly Marathon and as soon as I completed it, I said to my friend, okay, I can check this off, now it's time for triathlon. I was already a relatively strong runner and was getting better at cycling every day. The big challenge was I needed to learn to swim. A knee injury shortly after the marathon meant no running or cycling for 10 weeks, so I jumped feet first into the pool (literally, I have no clue how to dive). Despite having a high level of fitness I could barely complete two laps of the pool before I ran out of breath and would need several minutes to recover. However I remained determined and within a few weeks I was completing thousands of meters in the pool a few times a week and swimming 1:40s to 1:30s for most sets. Once the knee was ready, I added running and cycling back into the mix and mentally began preparing by learning everything I could about triathlon over the past few months.

After going to the NYC Olympic Triathlon a week earlier with a friend, I had large expectations. Like all events in New York, the NYC Tri is a pretty big event. They had a large and well organized expo and a fun and challenging course. Cheering for this race got me crawling out of my skin with excitement for the NJ Tri that I registered for. Two days before the NJ race I went to their expo. It was outside, a bit small, and I had trouble just staying cool. There were only a few venders and none seemed to be offering great deals. It was well over 90 and the sun was blazing down - the weather did not seem promising for the race. I picked up my packet and then checked out the transition area. Despite having grown up in the town the NJ Triathlon is held in, and having done most of my most of my marathon training on the run course, I decided that I needed a refresher. Earlier in the day a good friend of mine joined me on a slow and easy bike reconnaissance mission of the bike course which they changed from the year before. The heat was brutal but the course seemed as if it would be pretty fast, despite a bit of an odd turn-around point in a college parking lot. 

When I got home I realized that my packet didn't have a race number for my bike. I went back to the expo and was assigned a new number. Unfortunately this new number was much higher and as such bumped me from the front of the transition area to the very last rack. This means that I would have to walk/run barefoot with my bike further to the bike mount area, basically it just added time to the transition from swim to bike. So annoying!

Race morning finally came and I was a mix of nerves and excitement. As four time Triathlon Kona Champion Chrissie Wellington says, our nerves are a sign of how much we care. I was still a bit worried about the temperature. The past two weeks had been in the high 90s every day with a heat index of over 100 (37 Celsius). Even the lake was over 88 degrees. However the morning of the race we got a break. It was only 80 or so and overcast. Really couldn't ask for anything better. I set up my transition, gave final spectator instructions to my mom who came to cheer me on, saw a few people I knew, and then did a few minutes in the lake to warm up. As I was entering the lake my mother gave me some 
sage advice: “You better come out of that water alive.” As if I wasn’t already nervous!

                                          about to enter the swim warmup.
Racing in the under thirty wave meant that I was in the first wave to swim immediately after the elites. I ate three dates and then was sent out into the lake and forced to tread water for several minutes with 100 other competitors before they finally blew the whistle! Off we went. I've read and watched tons of videos on the infamous swim start to triathlons. Even so, it's hard to imagine what it's like. To put it bluntly, it's a full contact sport. You swim into and over people, get kicked, pulled, and bumped from all sides. 

I managed to get to the front but I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed with the mass start and I soon got dropped from the fastest swimmers. My heart was racing and I was having trouble breathing and sighting (making sure I was going in the right direction) but I eventually settled into a groove around meter 600 or so. At this point the swim field was broken into two groups a faster group which I was dropped from and a slower group which I found myself towards the front of. Due to low visibility I couldn't quite tell how many of my age group was still with me. I assumed that I was distanced by most of them and felt disappointed with my swim even though I passed a few of the elite athletes (clearly they were struggling) but I still exited the water with a 29 minute swim split. Not as slow as I thought but definitely no record!

I flew over to my bike, dropped my goggles and swim cap, grabbing my helmet, and then endured the long run to the bike mounting area. They call this Transition 1 and I managed to get in and out in 2:22 (better than I could have hoped!) I felt I had let myself down with the swim and as such I decided I would hammer the first of the two laps pretty hard on the bike to make up a bit of time. I saw my family cheering for me as I hopped onto my bike. Reminding myself about the old Bruce Lee quote: "The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be," (I have this quote taped to my aerobar) I relaxed and smashed down on the peddles. I passed several people on the first lap- some of who spent tons of cash on super bikes- and was riding strong. Despite having a bottle tossed when I hit a large bump, (thankfully I wasn't given a littering penalty!) the first lap went better than I could have hoped! The course was flat but by the second lap it was much more crowded as most athletes had exited the water by this time and were starting their first lap of the bike. I flew by most of these people and pulled into T2 (Transition from Bike to Run) having finished the 23 mile course in 1 hour even. I was feeling pretty good!

As I was running my bike into T2 I took off my helmet and unfortunately the magnetic visor fell off twice forcing me to stop and back track to go pick it up. Lesson learned, unclip the helmet but keep it on the head until you get to your rack. Even with the two stops, I got my running shoes on and was off 
to the run in a 1:44 T2 time! 

 Tossing the visor to my family

I felt strong but definitely knew I was going out a bit too fast. My first two miles were sub 7 min per mile pace. I saw my family again cheering for me around mile 3 and by this time I settled into a more manageable pace. While on the bike I started to feel some stomach cramps. This is the first time this has ever happened to me while exercising. I think it was caused from my gasping for air and swallowing water in the first few hundred meters of the swim. This pain became more noticeable during the run. I pushed through this discomfort and still managed to choke down another date which I grabbed during my transition. I was able to finish the entire thing off with a 44:18 run split. A bit slower than I would have preferred, but it was hot and I killed it on the bike so I wasn't too disappointed. As I ran into the finisher shoot the announcer saw that my race kit has the words "GO VEGAN" printed on it and he yelled "this guy is powered by vegetables!" to a loud cheer from the spectators. 

My total time was 2:18:00, over 10 full minutes faster than my goal. My tank was empty and I was exhausted at the end. I found out shortly after that I came in 19th place for my AG (out of 91) and 113th overall (over 1,000 athletes!). Not too shabby for my first triathlon!

 such a terrible finishing photo!

My only complaint, well besides the fact they messed up my race packet during the expo, was with the post race activities. The race organizers said there would be free massage, race day photos, and a few other goodies for the athletes. However, after you crossed the finish line there was almost no direction and most of the volunteers only knew about their specific roles. After a few minutes of wandering around I gave up and went home without getting a massage... 

What an amazing time! I have a second, longer race coming up in September and can hardly wait for it to get here!


  1. Awesome! I had much the same experience, only a lot slower!

  2. Ant, this post was amazing; so glad you decided to get a little personal because it's good to see what a feller "powered by vegetables" can do! Congratulations on coming so far; you should be very proud.

  3. First and foremost, congratulations!!! Great job on your first triathlon. Sounds like an amazing race! And thanks for sharing your race recap! I really enjoyed reading it. I'm a fan of incorporating fitness into your blog!

  4. Wow, sounds like an amazing first race! But of course, I would expect nothing less :) Congratulations!!

  5. Ant, you are powered by vegetables!!! Great review and very inspirational. Keep up the great work!

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