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My First Tri

Posted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 3:17 pm
by MattyK
A brief report from my first event today - Corporate Triathlon Melbourne 2016.
Sorry to all the bike purists who wouldn't fancy running or swimming, but you're missing out. If you think you're fit/fast on the bike, try those sports, you'll be painfully surprised.

Backgroundy stuff:
There are a few guys in my office who do a few tris. I figured I know how to swim (well I did lessons when I was young), I used to be able to run, and I ride most days (commuting), so it shouldn't be too bad. The Corporate tri is a relay format - each team member (of three) does a complete short tri (400m/10k/4k) before handing the timer to the next person. I got to go second in my team.

Spent the summer training, usually lunchtimes with the workmates, particularly swimming (discovering I suck pretty badly) and running (intervals/sprints, did alright there as I used to run - at school, many years ago!). Had some hip pain problems a few weeks ago and got a bit worried by that, but my running pace was reasonable on the day, and going to a physio a few times helped.

Got a wetsuit for Christmas (cheapest one at wiggle) and it was great, barely needed on a warm Melbourne day following a week of hot weather, the water temp was very pleasant, but I figured a bit more floatation wouldn't hurt and should cancel out the time to remove it.

Picked up a one-piece tri suit cheap from the 2XU online outlet ($280 down to $108), very tight but very comfy (better than another pair of cheap tri shorts I got earlier from wiggle). Didn't get a chance to fully test it before raceday (apart from a brief run) but it's a very nice piece of kit and gave me no issues.

Found some 3T aero bars on ebay and bolted them up to my road bike, slammed the stem, jacked the saddle forward, up, and dropped the nose a bit. (SMP Glider, not the greatest for comfort in this position as the edges are a bit sharp, but the cutout made it better than with a flat saddle.) Mounted my Garmin 500 to the right extension just back from the grip, it doesn't get in the way there just twisted in a fraction, no need to buy a special tri bar mount. Maybe not the perfect setup, but it felt alright. I made sure to ride as many commutes as possible on the aero bars to get as familiar as possible.

Got there nice and early to get parking not to far away. There are something like 5000 entrants, so car space is pretty scarce but we got a good spot at 5:30 am.

Set up transition. Decided to leave my bike shoes on the ground and pull them on before running out with the bike (rather than clipping them to the bike). They are Shimano RT-32 touring shoes, actually pretty good for tris as they have two velcro straps only, and a recessed SPD cleat so you can actually run in them.
Running shoes and socks (maybe not needed but I got blisters last time I ran without socks), extra water bottle, gel (didn't use it), all on a bright orange towel.
Turned the bike computer on so it wouldn't wait to find a satellite (and I have it set to NOT auto-power-off).
Remembered at the last minute to go back and put my bike on the big chainring and a suitable sprocket so I could jump on and pedal off effectively.
Then met up and hung out with the workmates til the sun came up.

Walked to the beach and watched the starts, which looked like mayhem; glad I wasn't going first. Got my wetsuit on, cap and goggles, and hung out at the team transition area for my leadout man to arrive. Quick change of timing band and off we go!

A long run down to the beach, already puffing by the time I hit the water. Luckily it's only a 400m swim. Felt fast out to the first buoy, but then felt my ankle band (timer) coming loose. Paused, tried to strap it up, eventually waved for assistance and had a rescue boat assist in strapping it up again. Veered off course in the mid section as my goggles fogged and I forgot to keep sighting. Definitely not like following a line in the pool. But made it through to the beach.

A loooong run back to the transition area (like about 800m), trying to undo the wetsuit all the way. Eventually got the velcro and zip undone, but managed to pause my watch (technically my wife's but she let me borrow it) in the process, so the timing messed up a bit. Shoved my first foot into the bike shoe, strapped it up, then realised I'd not taken the wetsuit off... :oops: Shoe off, wettie off, shoes on, helmet on, HR armband on, sunnies on, (all of which were all over the place thanks to someone knocking my bike down), grab the bike and run for the exit.

Made a brilliant flying jump onto the bike, thanks to the shoes mentioned earlier. They have a full rubber sole, so just stand on the upside down left pedal (which I had made sure was forwards), no slipping, swing the leg over, clip in the right, clip in the left and away. I passed two people who were stationary and trying to clip in with road pedals 8) Cranked off on the bike and got into a rhythm. Realised the watch was paused and had to restart it and trigger the transition point. Luckily I also used my bike computer so it gave me more reliable data and something I could actually see on the bike.

5 ks out the turnaround and 5 ks back, all essentially flat. Had one rider pass me, but passed several others myself. Started feeling uncomfy downstairs on the homeward leg thanks to the sharp saddle, but not too bad. Otherwise, the aero bar setup was working well, stable and relaxed.

Following a tip I read on the web (so it must be true), for the last few hundred metres I got out of the saddle and cranked it standing. The aim is to start activating your hammies and glutes before the run, but when you've been tucked down for 10 ks, standing up results in jelly legs. Still, better to do it at ride pace than run pace. Unstrapped the shoes and pulled the feet out with 150 metres to go, rolled to the dismount line and hopped off pretty smoothly.

Another long run back to the bike rack, nearly forgot to take the helmet off. Decided to go for socks (20 second penalty), shoes on, race number belt on, and set off again.

Followed a couple of similar pace people out, one lady at about 5'nothing" just ahead at about 200 cadence doing well (I'm 6'1" and do long slow strides); pulled ahead of her and spent the rest of the run with her on my heels. Good motivation to have someone of similar speed with you. Tried to grab some water on the run, but no go swallowing it when you're breathing too hard to drink... Oh well, it's only 4km, not much need for hydration. The last 1.5 km you can see the event flags in the distance down the beach front, easy to gauge how far to go. Pushed the last of my speed out (well, didn't get any slower anyway), dodged the swimmers coming out of the water in the crossover area, and on to the team transition area to hand over the timer.

Drinks and rest time. Urgh this sponsor's sports drink is awful... Catch the breath, wander to the timing tent and print out some time slips, then down to the serious business of comparing to the workmates, giving excuses, giving cr*p, trying to calculate total times for each person, trying to work out the time delay of not starting your swim on the beach if you don't do the first leg, and generally relaxing as the sun picked up in heat and the third leg racers brought it home. Finally down to the finish line to find the team mates recording their final times.

All in all: A fantastic event, well organised and run (given the massive numbers), heaps of fun. Couldn't have asked for better weather.

Learnings for next time:
a) there will be a next time! Lots of fun, and lots of improving to do.
b) Gotta find some more bike speed; but fairly happy with run pace, and get a bit better in the water
c) Practice transitions (or learn from silly mistakes!). Easy to lose valuable time there.
d) get a more suitable saddle and a straight/forward seatpost.
e) organise a team kit so you can recognise each other.

It's a great event for first timers. There is a huge array of talents and speeds, but everyone was having a good time, so little tension. Most of my gear that I got isn't at all necessary for this event if you just want to have a go, but like good riding gear it just makes everything a little nicer and more comfortable, if not a little faster and easier.

Cheers! :o 8)

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 10:30 pm
by Mjainoz
Nice write up. Felt like I was there watching ;)

FYI It's 31 years since I did my first tri. Your enthusiasm reminds me why I do the sport.

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 1:14 pm
by MattyK
Just to prove I was there :)
(images from Sportsfoto)




Re: My First Tri

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 7:34 am
by dillyboy
Awesome write up - I'm looking at doing my first tri in mid-May so am hoping 2 months is enough to get me into shape. It's a longer course than this so here's hoping...

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 12:48 pm
by MattyK
You should be able to get a bit done in two months, but get in as much time in the pool or ocean as you can assuming that is a weak point (usually is). Learn to sight in open water rather than just pool swim. There are a few six week type of plans online you could follow. Good luck!

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 1:30 pm
by foo on patrol


Re: My First Tri

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 1:47 pm
by JdM
Nice stuff MattykK. If you're going to persist with it, definitely get some triathlon bike shoes and then learn to mount with them clipped onto the pedals. Saves a good amount of time in T1 once you know what you're doing.

MattyK wrote:Following a tip I read on the web (so it must be true), for the last few hundred metres I got out of the saddle and cranked it standing. The aim is to start activating your hammies and glutes before the run, but when you've been tucked down for 10 ks, standing up results in jelly legs. Still, better to do it at ride pace than run pace. Unstrapped the shoes and pulled the feet out with 150 metres to go, rolled to the dismount line and hopped off pretty smoothly.

Dunno about that one - I was always told to change into an easier gear and spin at even higher cadence for the last couple of km to loosen the legs up for the run. The jelly legs feeling is pretty much unavoidable (you should be using your hammies and glutes on the bike anyway) you just get used to it after a while!

Your position on the aerobars (in my non expert opinion haha) looks pretty good, as does your running form from those photos.

Good you enjoyed it, go have a crack at a longer one!

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 3:20 pm
by dalai47
Well done MattyK!

JdM wrote:Your position on the aerobars (in my non expert opinion haha) looks pretty good

Way too high at the front, but restricted by using a road bike.

Tip was always to increase your cadence on the bike to match your run cadence in the last km to transition...

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 3:41 pm
by MattyK
Thanks guys.

Yeah, can't get the body lower without a change of stem.

Before the next one I'll be looking at a tri saddle (maybe the new Fabric Tri) and a straight or forward seatpost (probably a Thomson Elite turned backwards, the current seatpost is set back) at a minimum. Then swap them in for Tri season. Maybe a track stem or inverted MTB stem as well, but might see a fitter to get that stuff sorted. Depends how many I get to do; I'm not near the point of investing in a dedicated bike...

Didn't really get jelly legs at all, apart from the first few seconds when I stood on the pedals as I said, so it seemed that technique did something.

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 4:35 pm
by dalai47
Unless you really want to step it up a notch, current will be fine and much better than many tri set ups (which you will see scanning through the cycling photos from your race).

Did you do any brick sessions before the race? I found it invaluable to at least one Brick (Bike - Run) a week, even where the run was maybe only a couple of km's after ridng. Leave the running gear inside by the door, so get home, quick change into running gear and then head out the door. Helps the body adapt / handle that change from riding to running muscles.

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:33 pm
by MattyK
I did a couple of bricks, but not a huge amount of specific training on transitions etc. Some days I would ride home via the pool, have a swim, ride the rest of the way, and if I was up for it run around the block as well.

I did it by the book as much as I could (ie reading everything accessible on how to get transitions sorted), and it came together pretty well, though I lost a little time to the faster workmates who have done it before. I didn't get a chance to practice jumping on the bike with shoes clipped to it, so I left that one for another day.

The saddle upgrade is mostly a comfort thing, the scranus wasn't too happy that week. I figured a second seatpost makes it super easy to swap them in and out; fit a clamp collar to the post as a depth gauge and it would be easy to repeat the correct height each time.

Re: My First Tri

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:08 am
by JdM
A lot of these things will come into play more if you go for a bigger distance race where position on the bike and muscle fatigue will come into play a bit more - you can probably handle a slightly uncomfy saddle for 10k, but if you do a standard distance race, the 10k run might be a somewhat different proposition after 40k of discomfort.

As for bricks there is a lot of conjecture over how useful they are - I definitely over-did them in my earlier days of triathlon training, where I should have focused more on quality sessions in the bike and run separately rather than sticking them together for a 'super' training session.

As dalai says, a few kms off the bike is good to get used to the sensation of changing disciplines is good - a lot of respected coaches (like Joe Friel) advocate this sort of session, where you run for about 10-15 minute at race intensity purely for the feeling of it, as opposed to gaining run fitness.

It's only really an important skill in shorter races if you're at the pointy end of the field anyway (I was far too weak a swimmer to be in the mix here), where it's a bit of a sprint out of T2 - if you look at some of the elite Sprint and OD races often the 1st 1km split is ridiculously fast as the strong runners deliberately try to put the hurt on and drop some of the weaker guys.