July 10, 2012

Triathlon Training Tuesday! Race Recap: Xxtra Mile Run/Swim/Run

Or, Swimming Peril + Speedy Transitions
The Race
As I've already mentioned about 1 billion times on this blog, this is the summer of tri training!  If you're sick of hearing about my training, feel free to skip this post.  ;)  During my first triathlon last month, some things went great (like my speedy bike ride!), some things left room for improvement (ahem hyperventilating at the swim start...), and some things were pretty darn pathetic, namely, my transitions.  Transitioning should be simple, right?  Well, with a T-1 time at 4:46 for the tri, I definitely had something to work on for #2!  I was excited when I found out the Danskin tri I am doing at the end of next month was hosting a "Come run and swim the tri course and have fun!" event and signed up right away.  What a perfect opportunity to work on both my swim and transitions!  The race was Sunday and ONE of these two goals was successful...

The day started with a 5am wake up call...ugh...before hopping in my car with my bag o' gear and driving to the race site about an hour away.  The "race" was tiny and casual with a fun, friendly atmosphere.  For the first (and likely last) time, I had a number in the double digits!  I'm pretty much an elite athlete, what can I say...I mean no, they totally didn't just hand out numbers in the order we checked in...
Leg 1: 2 mi run
The race started with a 2 mile run.  I felt great, kept a steady pace, remembered to hit start on my watch, and even forced myself to stick to the 3 min run/1 min walk intervals I do in my training instead of getting caught up in the atmosphere and plowing ahead.  I figured jumping into a lake with tired legs wouldn't be the smartest plan! ;)  I finished the first run leg in 19:39--way speedy for me--before hurrying into the transition area and getting ready for my swim.  It was super weird to rush to take my shoes and socks OFF and put my cap and goggles ON!  Since the swim is first in triathlons, I always practice it first in my bricks and never rush through that part!  I managed to make it out quickly though with a time of 1:45, waded out into the water, and got my swim on.
Leg 2: 1/2 mi swim
This is where things fell apart...the lake was nice and warm, but even though it was small, the water was pretty choppy!!  I felt like every time I tried to breath I got splashed with a wave of water into my nose and mouth!  You can imagine what this did to my anxious swimmer self...Yup, I started panicking.  Since I don't have a picture capturing this awesome moment in my race, I've taken the liberty of sketching what I'm sure I no doubt looked like...
I know, I should probably quit this teaching thing and take up a full-time career as a stick figure artist.  If you'd like to commission a stick figure sketch for your own blog, I'd be more than happy to oblidge. ;)

Just like at SheRox, I just couldn't catch my breath and kept freaking out about how far I still had yet to go.  I paddled along, rested on my back a few times, and then when I realized I was only a quarter of the way through the swim and was still hyperventilating, I realized I might be in trouble.  The course had "swim angels" on it offering noodles to struggling swimmers, and I decided the best thing to do would be to take a short rest.  I hung out on a noodle and caught my breath for about two minutes, chatting with my "Angel."  (And an angel she was!)  She let me know that I was more than welcome to take a noodle and swim with it (it wasn't a timed race so no risk of being disqualified), and many other women were doing this.  I decided I would rather take a rest and make it through the full half mile using my own swim strength rather than use the noodle, though, and just rested until I felt ready to move again.  When I let go of the noodle and started swimming, I tried to focus on my breath (you'd think all of the yoga I'm doing would be helping with this...) and EVENTUALLY found a rhythm.  I felt much stronger when I realized I had made it to the halfway point buoy and managed to (miraculously) finish strong!  My total swim time was 21:30:53--not awful, but my SheRox swim time for the same distance was 16:08...so much for improvement!  
Leg 3: 2 mi run
Just grateful for having survived the swim in one piece, I mustered what energy I had left to run up the beach and back to the transition area.  Even if I couldn't improve my swim, I was determined to improve my transitions at this race, so instead of taking a minute to dry off like I did at SheRox, I just quickly wiped my feet, pulled my socks and shoes on despite the fact that they were still wet and sandy, and took off.  T2 time-1:38.  Not bad!  The last 2 mile run leg was a little tougher (duh), but I still finished in a respectable 21:38 bringing me to a total time of 1:06:13.  Phew!!

I'm a little frustrated that I'm still struggling with the swim leg so much.  I've been putting in plenty of time in the pool and really building my stamina, but I just can't seem to shake this!  One good thing though was that pretty much everyone else I talked to after the race struggled wth the swim.  Darn choppy water!  (This experience confirmed the fact that I will NEVER do a tri in nearby Lake Michigan which has ACTUAL waves and currents...I'll stick to tiny lakes, thanks...)  I definitely need to get myself to the lake for a few more open water swims this summer!  I also plan to experiment with mantras to use during my practice swims to help me keep a rhythm for my breathing and stay positive and focused.  Mantras always help me dig deep during long runs--maybe one can help me stay calm in the water!
Cutting Time Off My Transitions
To help speed up my transitions, I did a few things differently during this race.  First, I put these handy dandy stretchy laces in my shoes.  I was able to slip my shoes on and off really quickly and didn't have to spend time tying them.  I'm usually super picky about my shoe laces and insist on tucking the ends in so they don't hit my ankles when I run (can we say control freak?), so as you can imagine these saved me some time!  I love them--$5 well spent!
Second, instead of swimming in a tri sports bra and pulling on a shirt, I tried wearing a tri top for the entire race to save a few seconds of "outfit change" time.  I pinned my number to my spi belt and put the belt on as I was walking out of the transition area.  A few more seconds saved!

Third, while this was a short race and I didn't really need fuel during it, I wanted to experiment with fuel to prep for the next tri.  At my first tri, I took a Gu during T1 and T2.  I experimented with shot blocks during this race because they're a little easier to fuel with on the go, and would be way easier to fuel with on a bike. I liked them, but will continue trying them out on some longer brick workouts as the tri gets closer.

Any tips to help me not freak out in the water????


  1. NOne from me! I will never never do a tri in the ocean! Did anyone wear wet suits? To put on a wet suit during transition would be awful!

  2. Well done, Amy! Though things didn't go exactly how you planned, you still gleaned new things and improved. Way to go! I think swimming is THE hardest thing to do in a tri, especially if you have to swim in open water. Unfortunately, training in a pool, which I'm assuming you do, doesn't prepare you for the choppiness of the water. That may be something that you'll probably have to work on and use your mantras like you said to help you settle into a good swimming rhythm. I know I couldn't do it! I'd be on one of those noodles for the entire swim! Keep up the great work! All of this is preparing you to smash your previous tri time you are so on your way! PR, here you come!

    Happy Training!

  3. You are doing SO well (and the stuck figure drawing was awesome!). I don't tri, but friends that do found that just going and having practice swims in open water really helped them feel more confident. It's away from the adrenalin fest of the tri proper, but gets you more and more acclimated to the choppiness of the water. Love your training posts!

  4. I don't know any panic free water tips, but just try NOT to think about all the people -- or that elbow you just got in your eye. Do your race! The one you've trained for. I always tell myself, and this may sound horrible, "you're not interesting enough to die so fabulously as in a triathlon race!" It makes me realize that I'm over dramatizing the whole situation. (I say the same thing about getting eaten by a shark in the ocean but that's another story.) Good luck. Can't wait to hear results....just think how far ahead you are of everyone who's still just thinking about doing one. Congrats already, right!

  5. I think you are amazing!! You have inspired to think about doing one. I already am a spinning fanatic and swim for 30 minutes daily.. It's just a matter of seeing if I could do those one right after the other and then .. well.. the running is what worried me the most. I wish they had a bike/swim... type of thing. LOL

  6. Amy, I'd love to email you about something. If you read this and am happy for me to have your email address (I can't find one on here!), please get in touch at linaire@yahoo dot com. Have a great evening!

  7. Hi Amy. No tips from me. I've only watched my son do mini tri's. I do know that he tries to practice swim in the lake as much as he can. I just wanted to stop by and tell you how amazing I think you are. The fact that you're working on conquering the swim fear is very impressive!
    My Running Shortz


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