July two years ago I completed my very first triathlon at the ChelanMan. It was an Olympic distance race that inspired me to complete in two full Ironman events in the following 1.5 years. Since my last Ironman event I have decided to shift my training focus to competing in CrossFit events, but couldn’t get myself to skip the annual ChelanMan event (my third ChelanMan). Going into the two months prior to the triathlon I had planned on doing a few training sessions to get ready. I especially wanted to do some swims to make sure that I was comfortable in the water. As the ChelanMan creeped closer I was having a hard time finding gaps in my busy schedule of work and CrossFit InvictusLINK workouts to get any swimming, biking, or running done. My first easy opportunity to swim came when I was in Chelan, WA three weeks before the race on vacation. It was about a quarter mile swim that felt hard and unorthodox which made me feel uneasy, and worried about getting extra swimming in before the race. Later on that week I went for another swim (about 7×50 yard sprints) and had a completely different experience, where I felt like swimming came easy. I grasp onto that feeling, and decided I was good to go! As for my riding and running, I went for a 10 mile ride, and 3 mile run (brick) about a week before the race. Both riding and running felt great which added to my confidence. Game time!
Thursday before my Olympic triathlon at the ChelanMan I created a checklist of “must bring items”. Here’s what I came up with:
Wetsuit (Blue Seventy)
Goggles (Blue Seventy)
Extra swim cap
GPS watch (Garmin)
2 water bottles
Running shoes (NewBalance Minimus Life)
Timing chip ankle strap
*I wish I would have brought a transition mat or towel. Not essential, but nice to have.
On Friday we (Coach Tara, Jill, Sarah, and I) tossed all of our gear into the car and made the 3+ hour drive from Seattle to Chelan, WA. The drive was as beautiful as ever, and on the way through downtown Chelan we stopped at the store to grab the essentials for a pre race night dinner. The dinner consisted of salmon, ground beef, salad, sweet potatoes, and green beans. It was delicious! If you’ve never made sweet potato chips before I highly recommend that you try them. Slice them as thin as possible and bake at 350 until slightly brown (time is determined by how thin you sliced them). I also recommend adding some olive oil, and seasoning (I use Slap Ya Moma which I found in New Orleans). After this dinner the prep was done, and it was time to get some sleep for race day.
Race Day Morning
At 4:30am the alarm sounded, and it was game time! I scrambled out of bed, and immediately drank 40 ounces of water (this happens every morning, not just race day), then made scrambled eggs (6) with spinach, and coconut oil, follow by 1 cup of blueberries and a banana. After preparing the breakfast I hopped into the shower. Once clean I put on my tri kit and it was time to consume the breakfast. I waited to eat the breakfast because I wanted it to reach my belly as close to 2 hours before the race (7:30am) as possible. It’s common that most people like to have their pre-race meals 3+ hours before the race, but I’m so used to eating every 2-3 hours that I’ll be starving if I eat too early. After eating and packing our transition gear in the car we drove to the race start. During the drive I sipped on Cellucor C4 as my pre-race caffeign source (which I’m liking more and more).
At the race start I walking into the transition area and set up my gear next to my bike so it was ready to go when I got out of the water. This meant putting my helmet on my bike handle bars, making my race bib (number) accessible, putting my watch in one bike shoe and sunglasses in the other, and making my bike shoes easily accessible (my running shoes were beside my bike shoes). Finally I pumped up my tires to 110 PSI (they lose pressure overnight). After everything was set up for my swim to bike transition I sprayed myself with sunscreen, and used the bathroom two times to make sure I wouldn’t NEED to go on the course… Then it was a waiting game. At 7am the half Ironman racers walked into the water and started their race. That was my cue to head back to the transition area and put on my wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles.
I hadn’t put on my wetsuit for about 8 months, and as I zipped it up, I was getting a little bit worried about the tightness around my lunges, and if I would feel restricted in the water. I quickly pushed those thoughts out of my head and worked my way toward the water. I reach the race start about 15 minutes before 7:30, and thank goodness because it was at that time that my stomach turned, and I realized that I needed to use the bathroom one last time. The unfortunate thing was that my wetsuit was on, and not easy to get off… I decide it was worth the work, and literally ran back to the rest room to take care of business. I’m sorry if this sounds inappropriate to any of you, but if you have done a triathlon or plan on it, I promise that this info is worth it’s weight in gold! You NEVER want to be in a situation where you have to go #2 while swimming with a wetsuit on! It turned out that I had just enough time to get done what I needed to get done, and get back to the race start. Even if I was late to the start it would have been worth it…
7:30am hit and we were off into the water. Having gone out too fast in the water before my goal was to go very slow, and focus on my stroke and slow deep breathing. Also this race has a rope about 10 feet under the water that guides you along the buoys, and I made sure to be right on top of that rope. Doing this allowed me to know that I was going in the right direction without having to look up out of the water to sight (look for the next buoy). It’s not very exciting, but the swim went great with the exception of my left goggle leaking about 3/4 of the way through the swim and causing my eye to be irritated the rest of the day. After doing Ironman distance swims (2.4 miles), this 1500m swim seemed incredibly short. Before I knew it I could see the bottom of the lake coming back into view, and I only had about 100m’s left to go. As soon as my hands started hitting the sandy lake bottom, I popped up and ran into the transition area.
To get ready for the bike I ripped off my wetsuit, strapped on my bib (number), put on my helmet, sunglasses, shoes (I went without sox for the first time), and GPS watch. From there I ate two Cliff blocks, and ran with my bike out of the transition area. The bike course was a 25 mile out and back of rolling hills. None of it was too difficult, but having not ridden my bike in months I was expecting areas of my body other than my legs to be potential problems. If you’ve ever had to spend any amount of time in the aero position you know what I’m talking about. It turned out that I was correct, and a few miles before the turn around point (about mile 10) my neck and back started to tighten up. I was wishing that I would have packed some Bio Freeze which worked wonders on the bike leg of Ironman Canada last August. As a result of my tightening back I varied my riding position from aero, to upright, to out of the saddle to keep the pain down. I’m certain this slowed me down, but it helped with the back pain. It sucks to have your limiting factor on the bike be your back and not your legs. My legs felt great for having not ridden a bike in training. That being said, my multi position approach worked, and I finished out the last 15 miles without any issues. From a nutritional standpoint I realized once again that Hammer Perpetuem isn’t for me. For whatever reason it really upsets my stomach. For my next race I’ll be testing Infinit Nutrition’s custom blend. They have a pretty cool process where you answer a bunch of questions about your body and racing, which spits you out a custom bled based on your answers.
I rode into the bike dismount area, hopped off my bike, and ran down the grassy hill into the transition area. As a strong runner I’m always disappointed when I first start running during a triathlon because my legs feel like the aren’t working correctly. When I found my bike rack in the transition area I hung up my bike, took off my helmet and shoes, and pulled on my running shoes. I wore my New Balance Minimus Life running shoes because they’re easy to slip on (no laces), and I don’t wear sox with them. As I ran out of the transition area I swallowed down two more Cliff blocks, and started the pursuit of the runners ahead of me. I hate how crappy my legs feel when I get off the bike, but I think that unlike most people my legs feel better, and better as I run. On a complete side note… most of you probably know me as having long hair, but a few weeks before the race I cut off my hair for my sisters wedding. I’m liking the shorter hair, but I have to say that when I had the long hair there was zero helmet head, and my hair would just flow in the wind during the run (it was amazing…). Now with the short hair (after seeing pictures) I’m going to need a stylist ready to help me once that helmet comes off! Anyone interested? LOL! I’m joking! Kind of…
My run started out nice and slow, but I could feel my legs coming back with every mile, and each mile was faster than the last. Like the bike, the run was a straight out and back. The weather was starting to heat up, and at the aid stations my process was two gulps of water down the trap, and the rest over my head. There were also some awesome kids out on the course spraying us down with those canon super soaker things. That was great and really helped me stay cool! When I hit the half way point I couldn’t believe I was already there. After doing a few of the really long races (Ironman and ultra marathons), and being so accustomed to large doses of suffering, this seemed almost too easy (or not painful enough). I continued to pick up my pace as I ran back toward the finish. I should mention that although I keep saying that I was running faster and faster, my pace for this race was between 8:30 and 7:30 min/miles (getting faster as I ran), so it wasn’t too fast, but having not run at all for distance I was happy with that. I was also happy that it just felt good, and was fun! Shortly after seeing the final mile marker the finish line came into view, and for whatever reason, as soon as I see (or hear) the finish line I get a boost of energy. It’s a great feeling, and I hit the gas for the few hundred meters to the finish line.
After cruising through the finish line I was happy to be done, but had this feeling like I couldn’t believe that was it. I had swam, biked, and run for 2 hours and 51 minutes, but my body felt way too fresh to be done for the day. It wasn’t that I didn’t push hard enough, but my body didn’t feel totally wrecked and needing days of sleep like after an Ironman. After some thought I let my rational side prevail, and rather than deciding to do more work (maybe a park WOD), I concluded that I didn’t need to be totally thrashed from this event, and the most important thing was having my body ready to hit my CrossFit workout on Monday (in two days). So I sprayed on some additional sunscreen, and hit the recovery buffet for some Hammer Recovery fuel (I forgot my Progenex Recovery :-/) that was all you could drink out of a big orange jug.
The conclusion of this day, and the takeaway for me and people reading this is that with some sport specific skill work (swim, bike, run, or whatever your event may be) and CrossFit training your body can be ready for some pretty amazing things. I was able to have a great, and fun Olympic distance triathlon with less than 2 hours of actual swimming, biking and running. What I’d like you to realize is that you can do this too, and all it takes is getting into a ROCK SOLID routine of doing your workouts 5+ days a week, and eating like a champ everyday. If you’re able to go to work 5 days a week, you can certainly hit an hour long workout 5 days a week, right?! Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions about anything that I mentioned in the post drop a comment below or email me directly.
Now get outside and have fun by working hard! 🙂