My First Triathlon — Kansas City Corporate Challenge, June 21, 2015


It wasn’t supposed to be my  first triathlon. My arm had been twisted back in 2014 to compete in the triathlon, but then it got canceled due to threat of lightning.

Which led to a funny circumstance. This time I was signing up in advance. The disappointment of not getting the change before made me want to do it this time.

Before I had been swimming, I had just gotten a new bike after a several month hiatus, and hadn’t been running. This year I had been swimming, I was biking 200 miles a month, and I still hadn’t really been running

I learned that this was enough to ensure I had no problems finishing the triathlon. What I also learned is that I would need more than just that to compete in a triathlon against other people than myself.

The KCCC Triathlon is really a mini one.  The swim is a mere 500 meters in the open water of Shawnee Mission Park Lake. That for me was no problem. I was glad that we started individually, in three-second intervals, instead of in the wave method of other triathlons. I found myself in collision with enough swimmers.

The chief challenge of the open water swim, besides the distance itself, is a question of visibility. In a pool you have clear water, and you swim straight, following a line painted on the bottom of the pool. In open, cloudy water, there is no line, and no really seeing your other swimmers.

Most people choose the Australian Crawl (freestyle) as their swim stroke. It is most efficient, but you are also always looking down and don’t see where you are going, or who you are running into. For me, it also means a battle with my breathing reserve.

So I chose to swim the breaststroke the entire way. You come up for a look after every stroke, and I can keep my breath going on that indefinitely. I am glad that I did. I passed a few people, got passed by fewer, and managed to have several people cross directly in front of me that had no idea where they were going, while others kept hitting my feet with their hands.

I was fine with the swimming, but the other people kept hemming me in with their lack of vision. Then it was my turn for lack of vision. We started early morning, swimming west, but turned a corner and finished swimming east to reach the dock. The sun was at a perfect angle to glint off the water and reflect in our fogging goggles to obscure where we were, or how close the dock was.

So I finished the swim with a respectable time and took over 5 minutes to change and pull out for the bicycle portion. They have a 4.5 mile course in the park, and the individual triathletes go around the course twice. I didn’t find that a problem. You have a “flat” stretch at the beginning that seems a bit rough, has a feel of uphill but looks flat, and a fight against a headwind. Then the course goes across the flat road that tops the dam, and climbs the big hill on the other side.  Everyone complained about that hill, but for me it was just a matter of shifting down and keeping cadence with the bicycle pedals.

Once you get to the top of that hill, you aren’t done. It never quite levels, always keep going up, until it definitely starts another hill, then down a hill and back up another big one. Then a few small rolling hills and a level section of almost a mile before a gently climb back to the starting point. And around one more time.

Once again, I finished with a respectable time — within what I had set for myself, and set off on the run — a 5K.

Well, not exactly a run, I found myself walking, swiftly, but walking, from the get go. It took me until the dam to start a serious attempt at running, which didn’t last long.  I ended up counting 100 paces of walking to 100 paces of running (A pace for me was the number of times I advanced on the left foot) for the rest of the course.

I saw a lot of people walking the foot portion, I passed many while running, and many running people passed me while I walked. I did finish the course at a run, but I had a lot of energy left in reserve.

I did finish the course at a run, but I had a lot of energy left in reserve. Another time, if I get the chance, I need to put more energy into the running portion, and mor practice into the running to have a greater willpower to use up my reserves.


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