temve: Chibi figure of me running (Run Tem Run)
[personal profile] temve posting in [community profile] tri_me
So today I did my first triathlon, the Frankfurt City triathlon. Which, coincidentally, was not only my first tri but also the organisers' first tri. Unfortunately, the latter fact became rather unfavourably evident at various points before and after the actual race, but the event itself went smoothly, at least for me.

I did the sprint distance, billed here as the "Everyman's Triathlon", consisting of 400 metres of swimming, 13.8 kilometres on the bike and then 5 kilometres of running.

Actually, I began to very much doubt the "Everyman" billing yesterday when I went to check my bike in because my Randy was virtually the only one with flat bars and sturdy aluminium tubes; everywhere around was bristling with slender steel and carbon fibre and drop handlebars and tyres thinner than my finger. Still, for all that she looks like a big girl, she has roadbike gearing and rigidity, and much like the woman riding her, is capable of more than you'd think at first glance.

I finished in the top half of the Everywomen (43rd out of 116 finishers if I remember correctly), and smack in the middle of my age group! (4th out of 8 women in the 35-40 range)



The swim was in a local sandpit lake that I know fairly well because it's my go-to place for officially sanctioned skinnydipping, since it has a large and friendly nude beach. As such, I knew that renting a neoprene suit would not be necessary because that lake stays frigid well into June, and consequently stays nice and warm well into September. The water temperature was 19°C, which is just fine in a sports bra and bikini bottoms... except out of the 250+ Everyman folks in my starter wave, I spotted a total of four that were in regular swimwear as opposed to tri suits or neoprene suits. One of them bonded briefly with me over wearing 'just swimsuits' and riding 'just regular bikes' and we had a good grin at all the expensive equipment we were surrounded by, much of it no doubt rented or borrowed.

Surprisingly enough, once we were in the water and off, I stood out only by dint of not wearing a red rubber swim cap (my goodie bag had not contained one, and I find the things uncomfortable anyway so I chose to go without one), and not by dint of my chosen swimming style - breaststroke.

Yes, I know. But I'm not a particularly good swimmer, and I made the decision fairly early on that rather than do a terrible crawl, I'd rather do a decent breaststroke and actually see where I'm going.

To my great surprise, the majority of the people in my wave did the same. Then again, it's the style that every German kid learns at school... and they were polite too - making way for faster people or saying 'sorry!' when they accidentally bumped you. Even though the water was pretty choppy from so many people swimming in it so close together, the swim felt pretty comfortable and safe, and I made it out shortly after the second wave had started, so somewhere between 10 and 11 minutes.

My swim splits say something like 16 minutes but that's including the time it took me to run up a bloody long and very sandy incline, find my bike (note to self: choosing a leaf green frame was a very good idea!), dry off my feet, put all my clothes on, jog the bike out of the bike parking area and then actually get on.


This was totally uneventful. Randy did a fine job being my first fast bike and provided me with a nice smooth ride along a completely closed road. Because the road was so open and smooth and there were barely any hills at all and not much headwind either, the pack really separated out and for long stretches of the ride, I couldn't see anyone behind me and only one or two riders in front. I passed a few people in my starting wave (among them the woman with the bib number one above me, who was riding a touring bike), but mostly stayed solitary until the end of the ride when the fastest folks from the wave that had started 10 minutes after me started passing me at lightning speed, announced loudly by the airplane-like sound of their disc wheels.

Downtown we were directed into a maze of bike racks with a stripe of lavender carpet serving as direction. I hung Randy and the helmet on a rack, switched shirts, had an energy gel and a drink of water, and started running.


It actually took me a kilometre or two to get my breathing properly under control because I suspect I was going way faster than I usually do. Having the elite guys from the wave behind mine and the Olympic-distance guys all pass me at great speed probably didn't help with that, but after a while I latched on to some people running closer to my speed, so I spent the rest of the run keeping an eye on the guy in the gaudy bike jersey with the Bad Homburg logo on it (advertising a local town rather than substandard hats) and making sure I was always a little behind him. Over time, a loose group of me-speed runners aggregated, most of them older men, and by the time I got near the finish line, I had settled in enough to allow for a final burst of speed at the finish line.

My transponder went 'beep' at 01:15:59.

Allegedly, according to the preliminary results pasted up on a teal city bus parked in the finish zone, I ran the 5K in under 27 minutes... which would be near-impossible for me. However, I overheard several other athletes saying they'd gotten improbably good running splits so the current theory is that the run was a little less than 5K. Still, I'm very pleased with my result, and if I really want to know whether I can do an actual 5K in under 30 minutes, I always have next week's charity 5K to look forward to.


I even got a medal... much more importantly, I got free apple juice spritzers and a nice piece of butterkuchen (think really fluffy white bread with sugar, melted butter, and shredded almonds on top and you're nearly there) that made my little Northern heart very happy.

As it turned out, my decision to travel light in terms of clothing was definitely a good idea. That way I minimised the agony of waiting in a million lines to get my various bags of stuff back after the race, because anything I cared about and wasn't wearing (helmet, long-sleeved top) was with the bike and would be picked up along with it.

If (when?) I do another one, I may invest in one of those cute little tri suits though. Provided they come in my size. But then, I saw women bigger than me in neoprene suits so I'm confident that by this time next year, I should have found something :P

Things I Thought Would Be an Issue But Weren't

Sand - of course it's impossible to get your feet sand-free when you've just come out of a lake and run up a beach. Surprisingly, I didn't feel the sand between my toes during the run, and my socks did a good job keeping my feet comfortable. The sand didn't rematerialise until I was in the shower... apparently I had some up my butt crack too though :P

Chafing - I'd originally planned to take off the wet bikini bottoms and change into the running shorts under cover of a towel (the joys of European sports events - the 'no nudity' clause isn't even mentioned and I'm sure you wouldn't get disqualified unless you did a full-on strip-tease XD) but the changing area was rather crowded so I ended up just pulling the shorts on over the wet bikini bottoms even though [personal profile] ell had warned me that would probably chafe. It didn't, possibly also because the bike ride was rather short, and was completely problem-free for the run too. And that way my swim-to-bike bag ended up containing only a dirty towel, which I didn't even bother getting into yet another mile-long line to retrieve.

Swimming with lots of people - I'd been warned about 'first tri panic' hitting when the crowd hits the water and everyone starts swimming over everyone else. I'd started near the back of the crowd though so I was with the polite folks, and if it hadn't been for the hundreds of identical swim caps and the neoprene suits, it could have been any other day swimming in the lake, except with a few more people. Quite pleasant really...

Things I Thought Wouldn't Be an Issue But Were

Information - these organisers did not live up to their reputation as Germans at all. The web site (the only way to get any information) was badly put together, the English version was terribly translated, and transportation information was utterly absent for people without cars (and scarce for those with cars). The fact that they'd chartered a measly four Offenbach city buses to cart people to the lake from the nearest train station did not filter through until the night before the event, and I'm positive those will have been horribly crowded because this lake is out of the way and actually best reached by bike. Except, you know, we'd had to stage our bikes there the night before. Suffice to say that if I hadn't accidentally found out that my goddaughter's mother's sister's boyfriend was also doing the tri and had a car, I would have had the choice between paying for a very circuitous taxi ride that avoided the closed roads, or taking the train and walking 3K at dawn on Sunday morning.

Organisation - their system of colour-coded bags for all your various clothings sounded good at first (at least once you got your head wrapped around which bag goes where and when and what goes in it at what point), but broke down horribly at the event. Apparently they hadn't arranged for the bags to actually get to Frankfurt via anything other than the closed roads, which meant that I spent an hour trying to get my yoga pants back from a corral of unsorted bags staffed by grumpy people spending more time shooing athletes away than actually looking for their bags (thankfully it was warm in the sun because sports bras Do Not Dry, like, Ever). After that, I decided not to bother trying to get my dirty towel back, which had just arrived with everyone's neoprene suit bags, piled on a garbage truck (!) that had been "stuck in traffic" for two hours. They're welcome to my dirty towel - it was cheap to start with.

Security - possibly as a result of the super-late bag arrival and check-out and people getting restless, the bike check-out was a giant free-for-all. After being told for weeks that 'Your Bikes Are Guarded!1!1!!', I was very grateful to be at the front of the melee and looking for a leaf-green bastard bike that was probably one of the cheaper ones in the corral... because the only identifying features that linked a bike to the person checking it out was a tag attached to the rear brake cable.

A tag printed on regular white label paper, with a laser printer, in an Arial Rounded font, with no logo or anything. This would have been so easy to fake it's ridiculous - and I actually wonder how many people went 'bike shopping' at check-in and at least thought about coming with their desired bike's starter number pre-printed for the check-out... my only consolation would have been that that would have been impossible to find in the lavender-carpeted maze that was the bike-to-run changing zone.

Anyway, I have my Randy back, I will probably be sore tomorrow, and I finished my first triathlon.

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Tri Me

May 2011


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