Reflections on Becoming a “WildMan”

At the beginning of this year, I shared nine things for 2009 that I would like to do–number three being my first triathlon.  This Saturday, that goal was achieved in competing in the 4th Wildman Triathlon in Moss Park outside Orlando, Florida.  This was in some ways a little birthday present for myself, having turned 30 just a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s a short summary. I was swimming for survival; biking with vengeance, and running on instincts. The race distance was 400m swim, 20k ride, and 5k run.  My total time, including transitions, was 1:26:05.912. Here’s the breakdown in splits:

Swim: 12:28.751
T0: 03:29.635  (from beach to transition area)
T1: 04.02.921   (transition from swim to bike)
Bike: 40:18.820  (20k or about 12.5mi)
T2: 01:08.379  (transition from bike to run)
Run: 24:37.406
Total Time: 1:26:05.912

Here’s the extended summary with a few reflections.

I loved it.  It is something I hope to do again and again in the coming months and years.  I was totally unprepared for this race.  My swim technique was terrible, and I practiced in 88° pool water by myself when the lake water was 75° and full of people kicking me in the face.  I had run a total distance of two miles in the past four months which was less than the actual distance of the run part of the race (!). Needless to say, I was quite winging it.

Working on a tight budget, I opted not to drive up Friday and spend a night in a hotel nearby Moss Park, so I asked a friend of mine to ride with me early Saturday morning and make a day of it.  We left around 2:00AM with less than three hours of sleep and arrived at 5:00AM as the first ones on the scene.  Due to our early arrival, I thought I would down some more carbs by getting breakfast at McDonald’s (two ham, egg, & cheese bagels and gatorade).  Registration began at 6:00AM, and it became obvious to the volunteers that I had no clue what I was doing!  I guess the “wildman” had not come out of me yet. 🙂

From the registration came body marking and picking up the transponder which you wear around your ankle and records your time.  Fortunately for me, I read up on a checklist of things to bring for the transition area, so I at least looked like I halfway was clued in by now.  However, having looked at some of the biked by this point, I was praying, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me bike lust.”  Good thing daylight hadn’t dawned, or that temptation would have been even worse to my weak flesh.

By this time I done everything needed to prepare for the race except stretch–something which I have a very bad record of doing.  I proceeded down to the beach area to figure out the swimming route and was inspired by watching the sun rise over Lake Mary Jane.  Unfortunately, I needed a little more than inspiration, especially when I hit the water.  I was in the third wave which consisted of the “My First Triathlon” group of men (probably about 50-60 in all; there were over 430 in the race total).  The cool water temp wound up knocking the wind out of me everything I went under, so the typical freestyle was not working. 200 meters in, I changed to lying on my back and varying between a breaststroke and backstroke, I finished with nothing but my pride left to hold onto.

T0 to T1 was the distance from the beach to the bike area which consisted of about a 300 meter run on the beach and another 400 meter run through the park area.  I was not running, however. I was doing everything I could to catch my breath and figure out how I was going to get the mud, sand, and crud off my feet before I hopped onto my bike.  Once on my bike, I felt much better.  However, the sand, grit, and early morning dew had made the initial ride interesting, especially when my bike computer broke off my fork. Not cool. Another first for me was trying out the PowerBar Gel packs.  Nasty, but tolerable with Gatorade.  I was able to pick off 15 people during the bike ride which seemed a little short for me (I was riding at approximately 75% energy level).

The T2 transition was much smoother, and by the time I started running, the distance between folks had widened where most of my run was solo.  Next to the swim, my biggest challenge was the first 1/2mi of the run where my calves feel like there are going to explode.  After I made it past that mark, the final run was simply instinctive.  Having run 5k, 10k, and half marathons in the past, I knew to get into a rhythm and tune out.  My torso, especially left hip area, began hurting quite a bit, but I knew I was nearing the finish.  As I neared the last turn, I asked how much further I had to run, and the volunteer said 200 meters.  I thought it was about 1/2 mile or more, so I basically sprinted to the finish line feeling like I had much more left in the tank (I was able to pick off another 11 during the run).  Not being able to gauge time, distance, and heart rate was a significant disadvantage in the end.

All in all, the experience was fantastic.  The weather was absolutely perfect. The people were really nice, and my body performed better than I expected (no cramps, no major hurts).  We hung around for the awards ceremony, hoping I would win the award for the least amount of sleep (three hours) to no avail.  To celebrate, my buddy Frank and I went to P.F. Changs in the Millennial Mall and feasted on lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef, candy almond shrimp, and spicy chicken.  Frank then persuaded me to go to Disneyland for desert at Ghirardelli’s to down their famous hot-fudge sundae.  I wasn’t going to complain. 🙂

So I’m back in Cape Coral, 30 and really sore.  I look forward to attempting another triathlon again soon and more importantly, challenging myself to run in such a way so as to win.

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2 Comments on “Reflections on Becoming a “WildMan””

  1. Glad you got the bug, brother – There’s still time to register for the Ironman in May!

    I remember my first tri several years ago… it can be a little intimidating because I think everyone just assumes that everyone else just knows what’s going on!

    Good stuff, thanks for sharing.

  2. Scott J Says:

    This is so encouraging! I’m also “training” for my first triathlon, and it’s nice to hear that you can live through it with so little sleep (and training).

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