Half marathon take approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete - for me anyway.
Apparently signing up for a sprint triathlon on a whim is a different story entirely - even though those things also take about 2 hours and 20 minutes for me to complete.
Last Thursday evening I decided to sign up for the Guelph Lake 2 Triathlon. The event was Saturday morning. I hadn't really thought much about doing it but I was aware that it was coming up. I was supposed to run 18k in preparation for the Niagara Falls half but, after a bit of agonizing, I rationalized that it would be ok to push the run off by a week AND it would still be a really tough workout. So I signed up...on a whim.
Saturday morning, at 6:15am, we were in the car for the 75 minute drive to Guelph Lake Conservation Area. Doug was generous enough to a) come with me even though he wasn't competing and b) do his 24k run the day before so he could join me. I packed all of my swim/bike/run gear and he packed all of his photography gear. I was about to become the best documented athlete there.
This being my second sprint tri, I did have some knowledge to build on in terms of blood sugar management. I tweaked my plan and avoided the big mistake I made last time which was to take in too many carbs before the start of the race. I turned down my basal to 50% an hour and a half before race time and I took a 75% bolus with my breakfast since I was eating at 5:45am and not racing until 9:09am.
Marker station: race number on your left arm, age on the back of your right calf. One of my goals in these races is not to be last in my age category so these ages are helpful. When I'm passed by a girl with a 28 or a 42 on her calf, I ignore her. But when someone between 35-39 passes me - game on!
Pre-race blood sugar check #6. Gotta know where I am and what my sugar is doing so I check every 15 minutes or so.
Setting up the transition zone.
It's 8:30am. Time to take off the insulin pump and tuck it in my cycling shoe (thanks Jeff for that tip!). When I leave the transition zone at this point, I won't be back until it's time to hop on the bike.
My blood sugar at 8:30 was 4.8. We walked down to the lake for my warm-up swim and I had a gel before going in. I swam for about ten minutes to calm my breathing and get a feel for the water.
Heading in for my swim as the kayak rescue boats headed out to get into position. The lake level were really low so we had a long walk to get to deep water and a very long beach run back to the transition zone.
Bring on the swim!!
After the warmup my blood sugar was 5.4. Climbing but still a little low for my comfort zone. So I had a pack of fruit chews and joined the swimmers who were gathering en masse. There were 7 waves of swimmers based on ages and genders. You are assigned a swim cap colour based on the wave that you're in. I was hoping for green, blue or purple (just because I like those colours) but ended up getting my second yellow swim cap of the swimming season. Wave four it is then.
Ready or not - it's TIME!
Blue caps go first, then green, then pink, then me.
Lesson 1: I decided, now that I've mastered the art of wearing contacts while cycling and running, that I was going to wear them for the race. I wanted to be able to wear sunglasses during the event but also wanted to see clearly. So the big risk was swimming with them. I figured at long as I didn't get water in my goggles I'd be ok. What I didn't think about until I got there was that I probably shouldn't wear prescription goggles when wearing contacts. FYI: you don't actually see better when you double up on your prescriptions. You see worse! Oh well, I don't need 20/20 vision to swim - just enough to see where the buoys are. Lesson learned.
The swim was great. It was pretty busy at the beginning (as expected) but I placed myself in front and in line for the buoy. I wanted to be on the inside of the group so I didn't have as far to swim. I had to swim head-up front crawl for the first bit because there were too many flailing limbs and I found it easier to navigate around them that way. Once it settled a bit, I put my head in and swam. I made tight turns at each buoy and staying on course thanks to frequent sighting. I caught up to the pink wave and even caught the slower green folks who had left 6 minutes before we did. That felt good.
The transition went fine and I headed out to the bike course.
Coming to the top of the last hill - for the first time.
After the bike it was time for a blood sugar check. I was 11.2 which is better than the 15.6 I was in Grimbsy after the bike but still a little high. I didn't bolus though because I figured I'd drop another point or two during the run and then adjust at the end.
Lesson 2: I put a gel in one of the pockets of my tri top. It's there during the swim in case I run into trouble. It's there on the bike but I have backup stuff on my bike bag. It's there on the run in case I drop quickly. I reach back periodically to feel it but it's more a reflect than anything else. I checked as I headed out for the run - it was there. I checked 500m later - it wasn't. It must have bounced out. I knew my sugar was 11 and knew I probably wouldn't go low during a 7k run but I now had no backup if I did. Scary. Thankfully, races have water and gatorade stations during the run so I was hyper-vigilant about how I was feeling and figured I'd drink gatorade if there was any risk of a low. Worse case - there were several hundred other runners out there with pockets full of gels who would probably share if I needed it. Next tri - I'm tucking a gel in my pocket for the swim and ALSO pinning on to my race belt for the run.
Heading out for the run. Doug told me that it was rolling hills. I would argue they were more hill and less roll but perhaps I was just really hot and tired by that point. An out and back course meant that the up/down/up/down hills on the way out were down/up/down/up hills on the way back.
Made it! Hot, tired and grateful to see the finish line.
I walked about 15 steps to the nearest tree and collapsed in the shade. Cancel basal rate and bolus 2 units to bring my sugar back down again and I was good to go.
That ends the 2012 triathlon season. In 2011 at this time I thought triathletes were crazy and I couldn't swim 100m in the pool. Now I sign up for triathlons on a whim and live to tell the tale. What difference a year makes!