The Rage Triathlon was my first triathlon of the season, also my first olympic distance event. I singed up for the race an a whim, not really knowing what to expect. The timing was good and I wanted to get an early start to the season, as well as a lot of extra triathlon experience. With a location like the Hoover Dam, how could you go wrong? Well I quickly learned that a lot could go wrong, but despite the challenges along the way I finished the race and learned volumes that I can bring to my next triathlon.
The first challenge was getting to the Hoover Dam. It’s quite a drive out to Southern Nevada. Logistically, it worked out well due to it’s proximity to Las Vegas. I was able to convince my Dad to come along on the journey, promising him a few day in Las Vegas before the event. Spending time in Vegas before the event was a challenge in itself. But I was able to keep my diet in check and get an adequate amount of sleep. I was even able to get in a good training run at the Wynn fitness center.
There were a few things about this race that worried me. The first was the temperature of Lake Mead. Usually around 63° in April, I’ve never swam in water that cold. I had a brand new ROKA wetsuit, that I was excited to try out, but would it be enough? The other obstacle was the weather. The temperature looked like it would be mild and I was afraid of getting cold, especially with the swim. To make matters worse, winds were picking up, and I struggle a lot with wind. The course was also rather hilly, which I knew would slow me down a fair amount. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but I knew it was going to be a challenging course.
My Dad and I drove in from Vegas the day before the race. We were staying at the Hoover Dam Lodge which was located near the course. I thought it would have been walking distance to the staring line, but I found out it wan’t nearly that close. Before we checked into the hotel I wanted to check out where all the action would be happening. We had to enter the state park and they wanted a $20 entry fee! Luckily my Dad had purchased a senior park pass they summer before so we could get in for free. We drove down to Boulder Beach and saw the transition area. It was not walking distance at all, several miles from the hotel. I would have to drive in the morning. The good news was that I didn’t have to pay on race day because it was a free day at all the parks.
My fears about the weather were coming to fruition. The wind was intense and the temperatures were dropping. There was an announcement on Facebook that talked about having to wait until race morning to see if we could even do the swim. This made me nervous, but I was there to race, and race I would.
We got settled into the hotel, and had a pre race dinner. I had an omelet with bacon, a great high fat meal opposed to the traditional carb loading. Since I’m a fat adapted athlete, this was perfect. I got to bed early in anticipation for race day. I woke up about 9:30pm thinking it was time to go. I still had many more hours to sleep. I didn’t sleep great, there was lots of excitement and nerves flowing through my body.
When I finally woke up on race morning, I took it easy, drank some coffee and took ten minutes to meditate. Then I gathered my things and hit the road. The was an older gentleman in the elevator with his TT bike and a younger boy with his transition bag. It was getting real.
I arrived at Boulder Beach and was directed into a parking spot. I wasn’t ready to get out to the care, so I sat there for about five minutes contemplating the race. Finally I got out of the car to start getting ready. I had a big decision to make. Do I take my fancy new carbon race wheels, a 60/90 combo, or the shallower aluminum wheels. I was nervous taking the deeper wheels out in the wind, but I knew they were fast. The wind didn’t feel to strong at the time, so I went with the deep selection.
There were two ladies getting ready next to me. They were worried about air in their tires, I offered them my pump. We chatted a little bit and wished each other good luck and then headed over to transition to rack our bikes. The racks were assigned which was nice. I found my number and hung my bike and started to set out my stuff. It seems so simple, what was I forgetting. I when over everything and felt like I had it covered. It was time to check out the water.
I walked down to the beach, just as the sun was just rising. It was a beautiful site. The water on the other hand was rough from the wind and cold to the touch. I was getting a little nervous to start. I walked back to transition to drink my fuel for the race. I had one packet of Vespa and had prepared my special mix of UCAN SuperStarch, MCT oil, amino acids, electrolytes, and iskiate endurance.
The was a nice guy on the rack next to me. We chatted about triathlons a little bit, and he offered me some advice. It was nice that he was so friendly. He was in the older age group, and started in the wave after me.
It was about 30 minutes till the start of the race, and lucky me, I got to go in the first wave. I got on my wetsuit and had decided to get out in the water to warmup a little before the start. I was worried about getting the wetsuit on, but with a little Tri Slide, I was able to get suited up quickly.
I walked down to the water, and it sure was rocky. It actually hurt really bad. I wasn’t sure how that was going to feel coming out of the water. They also made an announcement that the swim course had changed. Instead of the rectangular course, it was going to be a triangle with two laps. This was because of the wind and rough water. It was a challenge swimming out, but coming back would be a little easier.
I got into the water, and it was cold, but not all that bad. I just went for it and dunked my head in. Swam out a bit. It wasn’t so bad, that was a big relief. The water was rough though, it wasn’t going to be an easy swim.
7:00am rolled around and it was go time, however there was an announcement that there would be a slight delay until all the kayaks could get into position. It was a few minutes but it seemed like it was forever. Finally the counted down and the race was started!
The was so much splashing and water crashing I didn’t know what was going on, but I was swimming headed towards the first buoy on the way to completing my first Olympic distance triathlon! I got a rhythm going, then suddenly I was having a hard time breathing. There were so many people around and the water was so rough, getting a proper breath was a challenge. I took it easy though, just focusing on getting through the swim. That first buoy seems so far out and it felt like I wasn’t getting any closer. Finally I rounded it, feeling exhausted, short of breath, and my stomach was turning. I knew this was going to be a challenge. I continued on to the second buoy, and now the sun was in my eyes. This direction seemed easier to manage and I got into a groove. When I looked up to sight, I was of course, so I had to keep correcting. This was the time I noticed red caps from the second wave starting to pass me.
I felt like I was dead last and really struggling. Rounding the second buoy and heading back to shore was an easier swim, but I knew I had to do another loop which I was dreading. The swim around the third buoy and back to the first was so hard. I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. I’d have to take frequent breaks and do some breast stroke to catch my breath. It was at this point, I lost my motivation and drive. I wanted to finish and get out of the water. Female swimmers started passing me at this point. I wondered what wave they started in. I felt like I was so far behind. I was sure I was in last. But I finally made it around again and was swimming to shore.
Getting out of the water was no easy feat. The rocks were difficult to maneuver over and on the shore they were sharp and hurt like a bitch. I was struggling to get my zipper on my wet suite, but finally managed. As I was coning out I realized there were lots of red and pink caps around me. I was far behind. I went to my watch to hit the lap button to start the transition time, but I noticed the workout has ended. This was frustrating. I didn’t know what was recorded or what to do. Thinking quickly I just restarted the triathlon mode and skipped to T1, this way I figured I could still record the bike T2 and Run.
When I got to my bike I noticed that they guy next to me was already gone, it was discouraging, but I moved quickly to get ready for the bike. I struggle a bit to get the wet suit off of my ankles, but finally managed to put on my cycling shoes. I grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. Strait off I could feel the wind. It has picked up substantially.
The first segment of the bike was a hill two. I was feeling a little dizzy from the swim and decided to take it easy. Suddenly I was getting passed, something I don’t like on the bike. But I couldn’t push much harder. After a minute or two I got into the groove, but the strong gusts of wind made me nervous. I could feel the bike catch in the wind and almost push me over. It to extreme concentration to stay upright. Because of this I wasn’t able to comfortably get into my aero bars. I was getting frustrated. Finally there was some relief from the climbing, a good hill. Surely I could pick up so speed here.
It was on this decent that I realized I forgot to flip the quick release levers on my brakes. So not only did I have to fight the incredibly strong winds, I had almost no breaks! I was scared shitless, so I road easy, feeling discouraged and like a failure. At this point I was just about done. The wind was too much, I felt like I had no energy and my stomach wasn’t happy.
As I approached the half way point, something started happening, I stared passing a few people. This gave me a little hope. My speed stared to increase and my energy levels picked up. I hit the turn around point and got a nice tail wind to push me forward. The second half of the bike course was like it was meant to be. The wind was still there, but I was able to move faster and build confidence in the wind. There were a few close calls with gusts here and there, but I was cruising.
There was a nice descent into transition, but there was also a strong crosswind. I wanted to book it but I felt like I couldn’t control the bike. I just cruised in firing it would b good to save some energy for the run. I was feeling much better now, discouraged, but with renewed hope. I racked my bike and started the run.
The wind was in my face and I was headed up a steep hill, not great start to the run. But there were many people coming back down the same hill finishing the run. I knew I would have the descent on the way to the finish.
Once I got past that first hill I started feeling pretty good with the run. My stomach was still bothering me a bit, and I had the trait of a side stitch, but I took it easy and kept going. I started passing people. It was feeling good. The wind was a challenge, but nothing like it was on the bike. My confidence was back, still discouraged I wasn’t doing as good as I had hoped, but I was gong to finish.
The run course has both the sprint and Olympic distance runners on it. It was fun too look at the back of their calfs to see which race they were in. As I came up on the turn around a guy passed me, and then immediately slowed down. I wasn’t having any of that so I darted around and picked up my pace a little bit. I’m not going to say the run was easy, but I was feeling good, I could keep a good pace despite the weather.
As I approached the turn around, the lady yelled out what’s your number! I was like, I have no idea. So I looked down and my arm and shouted out 398. You would have thought she could have seen that. Something magical happened when I switch direction though. I got a tail wind. This was amazing. I was able to pick up the pace and in conjunction with a down hill segment I was sprinting and it didn’t even seem hard.
I came up on a guy that was wearing the same tri suit as me. I called out, I like your style. He commented on how much he liked the suit, and which he had my stride. I told him I didn’t know how I had the energy. It felt good to hear that though. As I came up on one of the water stations, one of the volunteers gave me a high five, and that was great motivation.
The last stretch of the run was hard, I heading downhill, but there was also a head wind, a strong one. My left foot started to hurt. I had opted not to wear socks to save time in transition and my shoe was rubbing the side of my foot raw, you could see blood seeping through. I pushed through and crossed the finish line. I was done, I did it!
A lady asked me for my timing chip, but before I could bend over to get it, she said don’t worry I got it. The I was awarded the finisher’s medal. It was nice, I was so excited to have earned that. They gave me a water and I chugged it down. It felt so good to have finished.
Given the fact I that had almost given up the first half, made the result in the end so much better. I had no idea what my time was, and there was part of me that didn’t even care. It’s hard not to, knowing how much time you put into training try to get better. But it’s eye opening to see how things can change so much on race day. The bike is my strongest discipline, and it was one of the biggest challenges of the day.
I found out later that my watch had only recorded the first 8 seconds of the swim, so basically no swim data at all. It’s too bad, because that is something I would have liked to have seen. But I did get the bike and run data, although I stopped my watch almost 2 minutes after I was done with the run.
My official time was 3:05:26.4. Not exactly what I was expecting, but a few days later I’m able to be proud of that. You work so hard to prepare for these event, but there are so many factors that come into play. I learned a lot form this race, mostly what not to do, but also that adverse conditions may exist and you just have to do your best no matter what they are.
I now know I have to up my swimming game. I actually did the swim in about the time I predicted. I was slightly confused by this as it didn’t feel like that at the time. But I need to get more comfortable breathing in the open water. That was my biggest struggle. I also need to sight better, I wasn’t swimming strait and this slowed me down a lot.
I also know that I need to take the time to put on socks. While I had hoped my shoes would be kind to my feet they weren’t. I know that if I run with socks I’ll be better off. It may cost me 10 seconds or so, but that’s enough I can pick up from not having them rip my feet up.
I also need to do a better job inspecting my bike before the race. There were several things I didn’t do, that I should have, especially getting the breaks set correctly. I may have mad the wrong choice on the wheels, the wind was a lot to handle and I may have been better off with my other set.
Overall my experience was great looking back. I did struggle at the start, but I was able to turn things around and I can look back at this race as a learning experience. It was a little bittersweet so see one of the guys I passed on the run took third place in his division. He was in the age group younger than me, and had I been two years younger I would have been in his spot. But I’m in a competitive age group, and I’m going to have to learn to compete there.
The Olympic distance was a good, but it really scares me to move up to the 70.3. I’ve still got lots of time to train, and now I know what I really need to work on. I’m glad I did an early season race, and I also learned a lot about the traveling aspects of racing too. But the race is in the books, an now it’s on to the next event.