Monday, March 11, 2013

UBC Triathlon Race Report

Race: UBC triathlon, short distance, March 10, 2013

[I apologize in advance for the ridiculously long report on this short event. Being my first triathlon I wanted to remember every detail.  :) ]

Yesterday I did my first triathlon: UBC Triathlon, short distance (400m swim, 11K bike, 5K run). I had a blast, and I definitely want to do this again. This event is well-organized and executed.; thank you very much to UBC Rec for putting on a great event. Finish time was about 1:20, but no times are listed in this report (see explanation below).

I only decided to enter this race on Friday. I had thought about it for a while, but for various reasons I had decided against it for this year. But on Friday I started to regret not entering, and realized I could still enter on site. UBC is really the only local triathlon that offers the “short” distance, and I thought it would be a good introduction to triathlon for me. I had been making excuses for too long, and just wanted to give this a try. To quote a friend: "Don't wait till you're ready; just do it." My swimming was going pretty well, and my Achilles has been behaving well even with some short tempo runs. I haven't been on a bike since the summer, and haven’t even been using the spin bikes at the gym for a while, but how hard can 11K be? Slight problem: I don’t actually have my own bike. I decided I would borrow my son’s mountain bike. It needed some adjustments, but I decided it would do. Saturday’s “workout” was a short test ride and then a very short run off the bike. My legs felt like the proverbial bricks; this would be an interesting race. My race plan: Relax and enjoy the swim, survive the bike, autopilot the run.

Race day:
I got on the bus to UBC with my bike, arriving at just before 10:00 to register and get my bike inspected. My swim heat was set to start at 12:50, so I still had lots of time before I had to be there. I was able to watch some of the earlier racers in transition, and chatted with my swim coach for a while. He gave me a few last minute bits of advice about the swim and the bike. At about 11 I checked my bike into transition, but did not leave anything with it except my helmet.

At about noon I went to the pool to change and get ready. We could check a wetbag which we would get when exiting the pool; in the bag I put my towel and all the clothes I would wear for the bike and run, including my running shoes. Everything else went into a locker in the aquatic centre. We were lucky that the temperatures were pretty mild and there was no rain, despite a soggy forecast.

The swim:
When I went to check in at the pool, they did not have the timing chip to match my bib number. They told me not to worry, that many chips were missing. I was given a different chip and was told that they would work this out in the results. I still got “branded” with my original registration and bib number. All of us in the 12:50 heat assembled in the area outside the outdoor pool, in rough order of expected swim times.

They sent us off in time-trial format. I started off pretty slowly, and was passed in the second lane by a girl who started behind me. I kept right with her the rest of the time, wanting to pass but knowing that I probably could not swim faster. We caught some other people and ended up swimming in a bit of a pack—the guys would stop at each end and I was not sure if I should wait for them to go sometimes. It was a bit crazy, but I guess easier than an open water swim. Overall it went well; I think I was swimming faster than I expected, but would get slowed down and held up in the traffic. I was surprised that they had us going under the rope after each 50m instead of each 100m, and I was not able to do this with any efficiency because of the congestion. But I just relaxed and figured it was a good chance to save some energy.

In the change tent I took off my swim suit, put on my shirt and long tights, and shoes. This was not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be, although I was not fast. We then had to run about 400m to the transition zone, where I quickly clipped on my helmet and ran with my bike to the bike exit.

The bike:
First problem on the bike- my chain had fallen off the front derailleur, probably when I was lifting it onto the rack in transition. I had had this problem when practicing on Saturday, but I thought we had adjusted it properly. It was pretty easy to get back on (thanks to one of the officials for help), and only took few seconds. Less than a kilometre down the road I heard a rubbing sound on the back tire, which turned out to be a loose fender (which I should have taken off before the race!). It probably had gotten loose when the bus driver was helping me put my bike on the bus bike rack; now I decided to just take it off and leave it with the bike marshal. He did bring it to lost and found later on.

Thankfully, I had no other issues on the bike. I was going faster on the slight downhill grade on the way out on Marine Drive, and then slower on the way back. There were cyclists from all of the distances out at the same time; the duathletes and sprint triathletes were doing two laps and the Olympic distance did four, so I was passed many times by faster cyclists. I can’t wait to do this again when I have trained on the bike and with a better road bike.

T2 and the run:
I saw Rob filming me as I as was coming into transition. Racked my bike, took off the helmet, and I was off on the run. My legs felt like piles of lead. I was definitely tired out from the bike and slowed down by my poor bike conditioning, but the run felt fine. I just could not move very fast. My legs sort of felt like they do at the end of a marathon, but my body was not as tired. The route was an out-and-back loop, and I was enjoying watching for people I knew and the other participants. I was holding about 6:00/km according to my watch and the kilometer markers, and I could not have gone any faster.

Rob got some video of me finishing as well I was ecstatic to have finished, and knew this would not be the first.

I wish I had a proper official time to report; I am listed in the results as finishing at 1:39 (at least I'm listed!). I am not usually one to complain about chip times, but the results have me listed as finishing several minutes after two people I know I passed. And all my times look too slow. I am assuming that the substitute chip was not matched properly to my name, and perhaps someone else actually had my missing chip. I was wearing my Timex, but stopped it by mistake somewhere after the swim and restarted it a few minutes into the bike. I know for sure my run time was about 30 minutes. Rob’s videos have time stamps and he was also watching the time so he could follow me; from those we were able to figure out that my swim time was about 17 minutes (including changing and the 400m run to bike transition), and bike and run were both about 30 minutes for a total of about 1:20. That’s good enough for me. [Update:  I think I figured out the chip time mystery. There was another girl listed with a bib number that matches the chip number that they gave me. It seems they didn't make the correction. I hope they do. If I am right, my official times would be: 15:55 (swim + change + run to T1) 0:37 (rest of T1) 33:55 (bike) 29:12 (run) 1:19:35.94 (total). That makes much more sense.]

Thanks for reading and thanks for all your endless support.

Here is a link to the videos:


  1. WOW good for you!

    Sounds like you did awesome and your 'tone' is definitely sounds like you will be doing another!

    CONGRATS! great race!

  2. Congrats again, sounds like a great first experience.