The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Race Report: My First Olympic Distance Tri

National Capital Triathlon - July 30, 2005.
Terry Fox Stadium at Mooney's Bay, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Woke up at 5:00, watched the clock for an hour and fifteen minutes, got out of bed trying not to wake everyone else up. I couldn’t eat too much for breakfast, I only managed one bowl of cereal, and forced myself to eat a banana on the way out of the door.

I arrived in transition zone about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, surprised to see that there was so much activity already. The first 2 people I saw were Brad and Danielle from the Thursday night duathlon group. They were setting up close to the Swim-in/Run-out spot. There were still lots of free spaces around there, so I set up camp there too.

During setup, there was an announcement about the long swim-to-bike transition, and that it would be a good idea for everyone to familiarize themselves with the route. I’m glad I did. It was a looong 250 meters or so, over a field, through a fence, over another field: Walking, running or carrying your bike.

20 minutes before the start, after convincing myself that my transition area was set up appropriately, I decided to pull my wetsuit on up to my waist and head down to the beach. The first transition was sure going to be long, in addition to the long distance to the bike start, there was also a good 150 – 200 meters from the beach to the t-zone.

I got down to the beach, reviewed the swim route with an official – pulled up the rest of my suit, and got into the water. It was fairly warm, I was a little worried that I might be too hot during the swim, but I tried not to let that bother me.

The Swim (1500 meters)

“Five minutes to start – everyone out of the water please!” It was going to be a beach start. Oh boy, something new. I positioned myself at the front, and then had a change of heart, and moved back towards the middle. 5-4-3-2-1. I can’t remember if there was a horn, or a gun, but we all started running towards the water. What a mess. There were bodies upon bodies. I seemed to be doing the right thing – dolphin diving while I could still touch the bottom – however, with every lunge forward, I’d just land on someone. I tried to not let it bother me, and I convinced myself things would settle down eventually.

For a while, I was still caught up in everyone else’s feet. I’d hang back a bit, fearing I may get kicked. Eventually, at the first turn, things had settled down. I was swimming smooth and unhurried. Although, I noticed I was breathing every 2 strokes, instead of every 3. I tried to change to bilateral breathing, but somehow felt more comfortable breathing every four strokes, with what felt like a modified Total-Immersion freestyle technique. I was happy with that, as I was making good forward progression, and seemed to be swimming in a straight line.

When I got the halfway point, I was so close to the buoy that I actually reached out punched it as I passed by. “You don’t own me!”

I had a hard time sighting the buoys because of the sun, and the fact that my goggles had fogged up pretty bad. Instead, I just sighted off the splashes ahead of me, and the swimmers that were around me. I never managed to get a good draft of anyone though.

Eventually, I arrived at the swim exit and ran out of the water. I hit the lap button on my watch: 29:50. Woah, slow I thought. Not to worry, unlike my races last year, where I pushed too hard on the swim, I felt relaxed throughout, and not too tired on the way out.

Transition 1

When I got out of the water, I saw Ilona, from the Duathlon group cheering. “Good swim Phil” she called out. It made me smile, and gave me a little extra boost to get up the hill. As I ran, I fumbled a bit with collar but managed to get the top half of wetsuit off with little trouble. I held on to the arms of it while I ran the rest of the distance.

I got to the bike, finished peeling off the suit, put on my shirt, helmet, cycling shoes, un-racked, grabbed my T1 jam sandwich, took a swig of water and ran out to the bike-mount line.

The Bike (36 KM)

I got on the bike, hit the lap button on my watch, and started to go, realizing (again) that I forgot to reset my computer. I messed with it and reset it – and off I went.

The bike consists of 3 loops of Colonel By Drive, from Hog’s Back Road to Pretoria Bridge. My strategy was to take it easy for the first part of loop 1, go hard for the rest of loop 1, loop 2 and the first half of loop 3 and then easy for the final leg. I would drink Gatorade, at each turn near Pretoria Bridge, and water at Hog’s Back turns. I had two, quarter jam sandwiches in my pockets that I would try and eat at the half-way mark.

I pretty much kept to my game-plan, and averaged 34.3 km/hr for the first 2 loops. I hadn’t eaten my sandwiches though, and a third of the way on the final loop, my speed was dropping, and my thighs were cramping. I ate my sandwiches, chased them with some Gatorade, and things picked up. At the final turnaround, Greg Cosgrove, from my office was cheering me. I drew some motivation, and hammered it for the return of the 3rd leg. I got to the dismount line, and felt pretty good.

Transition 2

I was recharged, and energized. I passed people running into T2. I got to my spot, took off my shoes, put on my socks and running shoes, took off my helmet grabbed the remaining sandwiches I had, and headed out for the run with a sandwich hanging out of my mouth. At the “Run Out” an official was cheering people on – “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” She saw me, “Eat that sandwich, let’s go!” I smiled, and charged out onto the run.

The Run (10 KM)

The run is two 5 K out-and-backs through Vincent Massey Park. I had been dreading this part – this is what I would consider to be a hilly park, with one huge hill. Going down would be almost as hard as going up.

I am not a runner -- but, I was fully energized, and was totally psyched up at the thought of soon having an Olympic distance triathlon under my belt. The first aid station was about 200 meters out of the Transition area – “Gatorade!” yelled a little girl – she was about 8 or 9 with white, white hair. I slowed down and carefully plucked it from the palm of her hand. “You’re an angel” I said, “Thank you so much.” Which made both her and her dad smile proudly.

Off again. I got to the 1K marker, hit the split on my watch; 4:15. “Oh God!” I’m going way too fast. How can that be? I felt good, but not that good. I convinced myself, maybe they hadn’t put the marker in the right spot. The second kilometer, 4:34 – “Wow” I’m going strong – and I was.

I had caught up to Lindsay Murphy, and “Big Jim” Penman, from my duathlon group just before the first turn-around. I half wanted to run with them, but I didn’t want to slow down any. “It must be the new shoes, Jim yelled out.

At the turnaround, I was so pumped, I put my hand out and high-fived the race official.

At the 5 K turnaround, I was still feeling good, and around 5.5 K, Greg from my office, was cheering me on again, and gave me a high-five. Lindsay and Jim had caught up to me, and eventually, Jim had backed off but Lindsay was right in step behind me. His breathing was helping me keep going. We got to the 7.5 K turnaround together and he took the lead – “Let’s keep it up Phil, you’re pacing me.” I was starting to struggle. I hadn’t eaten on the run, I probably should have. Finally at about 8K I conceded. “I can’t keep it up, you go on.” He protested a little and tried to keep me going, but I sent him on his way. I was still feeling ok – I was running as fast as I could – which actually wasn’t very fast, but I knew I was going to finish, so that kept me going. Big Jim caught me too at the last kilometer, and passed on by.

The last 150 meters of the run, takes a turn into Terry Fox stadium, and the finish is a 100m sprint down the track. Heading up the hill to the stadium, I took a look behind me, and could see someone about 40 feet behind me. Shortly after entering the stadium, they blew by me. I grimaced, but pushed on. I could see the finish clock, It still said 2:30 and change. 10 feet from the line and I was energized again. I jumped up and slapped the Finish banner.

The Stats
My splits
Swim: 1500meters 29:50 (1:59 / 100m)
T1: 5:07
Bike (36K): 1:06:23 (32.5km/hr average)
T2: 1:02 (actually, this is half of T2, the bike time includes some of it too, I forgot to split)
1K: 4:15
2K: 4:34
3K: 4:20
4 & 5: 9:58 (forgot to split, walked through a water station)
6: 4:20
7: 4:43
8: 4:37 (Right about here, I should have eaten a sandwich)
9: 5:41
10: 6:10

Official Splits
Swim + ½ T1 = 31:17 (26 / 86 overall)
½ T1 + Bike + T2 = 1:10:49 (33 / 86 overall)
Run = 49:04 (38 / 86 overall)
Total Time = 2:31:09 (33/86 Overall, 31/62 Men, 5/10 Men 30-34)

Post Mortem

  • I had a great time.
  • I was thrilled to have finished my first Olympic distance triathlon.
  • I had hoped for a 2:30:00 finish, but given the length of the transitions, I’m more than happy with my final time.
  • My swim and bike were slower than expected, but my run was much faster.
  • I raced MY race - on the bike, I didn't get too concerned when people passed me. When I passed, I didn't feel I had to hammer it to stay ahead of them - if they passed me back - so be it - I'm racing my race not theirs.

What to do next time

  • Not be afraid of the swim start. Admit that I am a good swimmer, and can start at the start.
  • Not cruise through the swim, put a bit more effort into it. Don’t be afraid of going too hard – those days are behind me – enjoy the swim, but put more effort into it.
  • FUEL up on the run – I totally bonked at the last 2 km, I should have had a sandwich.
  • Don’t give up - I’ll admit it. I gave up on the run. If I want to have a better time, I have to learn how to dig into the reserves, and push myself through the discomfort and run faster – I had resigned to just finishing, which at the time sounded good – but if I’d just pushed myself a little harder I could have broken 2:30.