Our First Triathlon ~ Queen City Tri

May 21st marked our first triathlon, the Queen City Tri.  Since mid-January Veronica and I have been training nearly every single day for this event.  We signed up for a beginners triathlon course at our local health club, Crossroads Fitness, and with about 18 other people we’ve been learning to swim, running together, and taking out the road bikes together.

The class has been incredible and has certainly provided the motivation, accountability, and structure we’ve needed in order to get in shape for the Tri.  It’s safe to say, Veronica and I are in nearly the best shape of our lives because of this class.

The triathlon we chose to make our first was the Queen City Tri.  It’s a “sprint” tri designed for newbies like us.  Registration was limited to 90, and we heard that although the race filled up super quick, 57 of the 90 participants were first-timers.  Pretty cool to see so many new triathletes considering Helena is a fairly small town and this is a pretty “local” event.

Registration is capped at 90 because the swim component of the race is done in an outdoor heated pool with capacity for 10 swimmers at a time.   The distance of this Tri was a USAT sanctioned “sprint” meaning, 1,000-yards of swimming, 12-miles of biking, and 3-miles of running.

1,000-yards of swimming didn’t sound like that much at the beginning of our class. That is, until I tried to swim just 500-yards and felt like my lungs were going to explode.   All of a sudden, 1,000-yards felt unattainable, and I realized quickly this would be the most challenging component of the race.  Even after countless hours in the pool doing swimming drills, and endless laps, the swimming leg did prove to be the most challenging for me.

The outdoor pool was heated to a hot-tub-like 83 degrees, which felt nice initially since it was a cold, overcast day.  The heat certainly began to wear on just about everyone, and from what I heard from the pro’s it slowed everyone down quite a bit.  After about 23 minutes of swimming, I was out of the pool and onto the bike.  Veronica finished the swim in about 26 minutes, although our transition times were a bit screwed up, so I’m not sure what our “actual” swim times were.

Going through the transition from swim to bike meant a brief barefoot run, down a sidewalk and through some soggy grass to get to our bikes.  We had set up our bikes hours earlier and placed all our gear on a towel below our suspended bikes.  Sunglasses opened, laying in our helmets, socks rolled to go onto our wet feet easier, speed laces in our shoes… all these things were little tips we learned to help the transition go a little quicker.  Once on the bike, we sped through town as fast as possible, weaving through the pot-holed streets of East Helena.

With heats of 10 people, the course quickly becomes deserted as people get spread out very quickly.  This is a bad thing for me, as there’s no one to “chase” down, or no one coming up on my heals to provide a little extra motivation to pound it out a little quicker.  I was simply out there on what felt like a leisurely peddle through the countryside.  I felt like I could go quicker with a little extra motivation, but coming off the swim, the motivation was just gone…

12-miles later, the biking was done, and it was on to the trail running on a rocky cobble/ dirt trail.  Getting off the bike feels good, that is, until you take your first step to start running.  My legs felt like iron tree trunks, and everything inside of me screamed to stop running.  Even my brain was saying, “it’s ok to walk a little… there’s no one behind you, go ahead and walk…” But I gritted my teeth and kept running.

At about 0.75-miles I glanced back and saw someone coming up on my heels.  I told myself I would not get passed and kicked it into high gear to prevent that from happening.  I ended up passing someone on the run and crossing the finish line with a total time of 1-hour 31.43-minutes, good enough for 3rd place in my age group.  Only 1-minute off from my goal of an hour and a half.  Veronica raced two heats ahead of me and finished with a time of 1-hour 39.4-minutes, placing 4th for her age group.

People keep asking us if we’ve got the Tri-bug, and when’s our next race… Although there are several other races this summer, there are also so many other adventures we’d like to have, from backpacking to rock climbing to simply traveling.  Our weekends are filling up fast.  I do think the triathlon class and this race were exceptional experiences and were perfect timing in our lives.  It’s motivated us to get back into shape, and getting in shape all winter has opened the door to a summer full of high-energy pursuits.  We will certainly do other triathlons in the future, but for now, there’s nothing else on our calendar for this summer… That could change tomorrow though.