Moses Lake Olympic Triathlon

AKA - a wide range of emotions on a one mile open water swim...

With the warmer months having arrived, the water temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are rising and that means triathlon season has started!  Our first triathlon was Saturday the 8th in Moses Lake, WA, about 90 minutes away from Richland.  They offered both a Sprint and Olympic distance, I opted for the Olympic while Alicia registered for the Sprint.

Now, I have previously completed an Olympic Triathlon, but the swim was shorter in that it was in a river going WITH the current, which means that a one mile swim really feels like a half mile.  Now, I'm not a strong swimmer.  I only started swimming last summer and still am not that great.  Compound that with the fact that I'm not a great open water swimmer, you can see where this is heading.  Oh, and did I mention that though I went through the registration process, it turns out I never received a confirmation e-mail, CC was never charged, and of course I wasn't on the registered participants list?  Fortunately, they did offer day-of registration, so crisis averted.

The race was held at Blue Heron Park in Moses Lake, and it's a really nice park, I should have taken some pictures.  Weather was great too, perfectly clear, about 60 degrees at the start, water temperature in the upper 60s, and warming up to the 80's by late morning.

Setting up Transition

Set up transition - for the first time in a race I'm going to transition with my pedals clipped in and use the "rubber band" trick (not shown above).  Also, a chance to try out my new aero helmet.  Warm-up was OK, didn't have as much time as I planned, but no big deal.

After the pre-race briefing they had us sing the national anthem.  Cool I guess?  It gave me a chance to try to get used to the water which felt really nice actually.  I position myself towards the back and side of the group as I don't want to get run over by other swimmers.  It's a two-loop course to make up a one mile swim.  Men started at 8:00 and the women started at 8:05.  


GO!  We're off.  First two minutes go great - then we round the first buoy, a lot of people around, getting clawed/punched/etc and then it starts - panic sets in.  People new to open water swimming often talk about panic attacks; to me it's a combination of claustrophobia, fear of drowning, can't breathe (because your face is in the water), and fear of failure.  My mind goes into a frenzy and the following goes through my head:

My arms are tired, shit did I not pull my wetsuit high enough?  
Why are there so few people behind me, am I really that bad?
I've never continuously swam more than 20 minutes before, how am I going to complete this?
Let's do sidestroke for a bit
Let's roll onto my back and try backstroke
This is impossible, this is going to take forever, and I'm not going to make the swim cutoff.  
Is there a swim cutoff?
Why the F am I doing triathlons, why don't I just stick to running and what I am good at?
F it, I'm going to get to this first buoy and bail, I don't care about triathlons any more, I don't care that I signed up for Ironman, I'm done with this stupid sport
Wait, who is that big group behind me?  Oh, it's the women's wave!
Wait a minute, I have a 5 minute head start on these women, I highly doubt I'll be the last one finished!
OK let's try swimming for 10 strokes, not bad
OK let's try sighting every 6, not bad
OK let's try bi-lateral breathing, not bad, now sight - ohpfhgs water in my mouth
OK let's do sidestroke for a little bit and then go back to freestyle 

Repeat the last 4, my total time was 38 minutes for one mile.  Good for the 88th fastest (or 13th slowest) swim time out of 102 finishers.  Far from great but it was was indeed the longest open water swim I've done and the longest continuous swim (IE not stopping on side of pool) I've ever done and for that I have to be pretty happy.

Don't let the smile fool you, that swim really sucked at times 


Alright!  Swim is done, let's bike and see if I can catch anyone.  The bike course was fine, though about as plain as you can have, one road out-and-back.  Consumed two gels on the bike and my legs felt good.  I was passed by two women and one man; where I passed three men and one woman.  It turns out I didn't do this as fast as I would have liked, the 22mi ride was completed at an 18.7mph average - good for the 68th fasted bike time.  I was hoping for high 19s mph. However, after the race I did notice that my front tire had low air and my bike felt squishy when I was standing at the end to wake up my legs.  Did I really just complete a race with a low-aired tire?  I pumped it up in the morning but didn't double-check at transition. Maybe, and that could affect the speed a bit, but whatever, not the end of the world.

Coming out of transition from swim to bike


Generally, swimming is my weak sport and running is my strong sport.  Fortunately for me, running is last.  I was able to get my legs into running mode relatively quickly, only about half a mile into the 10k and I was feeling fresh.  Let's play a game - how many people can I pass in the run, and how many people will pass me?  It was a really fun game, in total I counted eleven people that I passed and no one passed me.  At the half-way point downed another gel and finished the last 5k.  My run time was 46:02, good for the 31st fastest run.  

Finish Line

Overall time was 2:36:55, which placed me at 62nd out of 102, and pretty low in my age group.  Admittedly, I'm a little disappointed in my placement, but that's what happens when you're in 88th (or 13th to last) place after the first activity.  Though, I have to remember what my objectives were for this race:

  • Complete the swim
  • Not injure myself
  • Test a nutrition plan
  • Have fun!
I would say all four objectives were achieved, and so I must say this was a success!  I had no regrets in participating in this race and I am glad I did the Olympic.  Even though the swim was a struggle and it really sucked at times, it's actually a very big confidence booster.  I just need to get into the river and practice more open water swimming and it'll come around..
Also, out of curiosity, I decided to take all 102 finishing times with the splits for swim, t1, bike, t2, and run and decided to calculate a total time removing the swim time (obviously not realistic), and I had the 43rd fasted time out of 102.  THAT sounds better!  Let's get that swim faster!  And the bike.  ...and the run too :)
Next on the race plan is the Vancouver WA (USA) marathon this Sunday, then a mountain bike sprint triathlon in town on June 29.

Some other pictures from the day

Alicia on the bike in the Sprint Triathlon

Alicia completing the Sprint Tri!


Packed up, heading home