Tucson Triathlon

I enjoy getting “Word of the Day” emails, even though some of them are pretty obscure. Try working clepsydra (water clock) into a conversation organically. Still, there are plenty of gems. One of my recent favorites is swivet: a state of nervous excitement, haste, or anxiety; flutter. Six months had passed since my last triathlon, and I was in a raging swivet.

I knew I was trained. I had been running well. Except for a little lapse around my marathon and over the holidays, I had kept up with my swimming, even on some 24 degree mornings. If there’s such thing as triathlon karma, I deserved a good race just for that, right? I had acquired a shiny new bike since my last race and I was eager to see how she’d do on a flat course. Plus, I had just gotten my fit adjusted and felt much more stable in the aero bars (thank you, Ross). I had done enough of tris by now that I no longer woke up two or three times during the night to throw extra things into my backpack. Still, I had some self-imposed pressure. I had improved my time at each of my five Tri Tucson races and wanted to keep the streak going (1:13:55 was the time to beat). I had placed second in my age group twice, and wanted a first. Plus, there’s also always the possibility of a flat or crash on the bike…

I had been assigned to wave 8, transition which was slated to start around 8:48. All bikes needed to be racked by 6:30, though, so I set the alarm for 5:05. It was a brisk morning (48 degrees is chilly to a near-native Tucsonan), and I was glad that I wasn’t in one of the early waves. I walked back and forth through the racks a few times before I found a place to squeeze my bike in. I got body marked and headed back to the car. Is there any other sport where people’s ages are scribbled on their limbs for the whole world to see? I ate my standard Greek yogurt breakfast, leaned the seat back, closed my eyes, and listened to music for about an hour.

As always, it’s fun to see friends at these events. Kristen, the fast and funny dominator of all things aquathlon decided to make peace with her bicycle and compete. It was Ross’s first race in two years. Caroline, whom I’ve had some close races against lately, was in my wave. I saw fellow RPM instructor Amy and her insanely fast biker husband Wally. Tri Girls Leah and Chrissy weren’t competing, but they were there volunteering and spreading good cheer. Susie came to offer support and kindly took pictures during the race. Jeff showed me where the less crowded bathrooms were. Pat, who’s in her seventies and  a regular in my RPM class, was there to cheer for me and other folks from our gym.

Last year the female race had been won by a Canadian professional, but she wasn’t here this year. There was what looked like a Canadian youth team, or so I gathered by their official looking suits, complete with names across the butt. They ended up finishing toward the top.

I had my caffeinated Clif shot and was amped up. I swam 250 yards in the warmup pool and headed over to the main pool. I think I tend to swim under my abilities at these races. I think it probably has to do with nerves and going out too fast. With running, it’s easy to check your pace and rein it in if necessary, but during the swim it’s like time doesn’t exist.

Swim (unofficial)
13:46 | 825 yards | 01m 40s / 100 yards
Age Group: 6/28
Overall: 89/305

The swim is simple: 33 laps, two to a lane. A volunteer sticks a red sign in the water at lap 32. I also keep count in my head so I have an idea of where I am. We got in the water, and ready, set, go. One lap, two, three… I had been doing some 500 yard straight swims in training, but I hadn’t done an 800 since last tri season. It feels like a time warp. Fifteen, sixteen, start counting down, sixteen, fifteen… At least the laps give me some sense of progress, unlike being in an Endless Pool. I wondered if the Endless Pool folks had ever asked Lionel Richie to make a commercial for them. “My… Endless Pool.” Do other triathletes have Lionel Richie songs in their head during competition? Ten, nine… I saw the red sign in the pool when I figured I had at least 200 yards to go. I popped up at the wall and my watch said 10:22. No way was I done. I was hoping to swim around 13:20 – 13:30. My lane-mate, who had stayed even with me from what I could tell, got out, but I kept swimming. When I saw the sign again, I decided to get out even though I still thought I was short. I have been known to miscount.


I’m in the blue cap

Bike (unofficial, includes transitions)
37:50 | 11.5 miles | 19.4 MPH (estimated speed after taking transitions out)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 85/305

Transition was simple and quick enough (for a person who doesn’t do flying mounts, anyway). It took me a couple of seconds to get clipped in and I was off. I checked my Cateye, and it wasn’t showing the cadence field. There are about 10 different data screens and I didn’t want to scroll through them while I was riding, so I let “Love in an Elevator” run through my head. Thanks to teaching Spin classes, I knew that its was a 93 beats per minute song and I tried to pedal in time.

A whole lane was coned of for our use, but as I headed west on Broadway, there was a car in the lane and an officer to its right. If I were to pass on the right, I’d be in traffic, so I maneuvered left. Then the car started to move left, so I slowed way down until it turned onto a side street. I probably lost a few seconds, plus I had to expend a little extra energy to get back to speed. In retrospect, I’m happy that I didn’t get hit. I’m assuming the car didn’t see me. I’m not sure what I should have done – yell something?


There weren’t a lot of bikes on the course, but I passed a few people and vise-versa. Most of the course is smooth, but Euclid still rattles the brain. As I accelerated out of the turn onto Speedway, the phrase wind it up passed through my head. This led to Gwen Steffani’s song “Wind it Up” and eventually to “The Lonely Goatherd.” Mental DJ, what are you doing to me? Give me some power songs, please! I decided to think on “Rag Doll,” another 93 BPM Aersosmith song.

Yes I’m movin’
Yes I’m movin’
Old tin lizzy do it till you’re  dizzy
Give it all ya got until you’re put out of your misery

Better. I was holding the aero position and feeling pretty steady on the smooth sections of the course. I saw one guy running with his bike, probably the victim of a Euclid pinch flat. I was pushing, but was able to breathe deeply. In several previous triathlons, my breathing was sharp and shallow after the swim and stayed that way for most of the ride. Three laps down, and it was back to the transition area, and off for the run.

Run (official)
21:47 | 3 miles | 7:15 min/mile
Age Group: 1/28
Overall: 37/305

I had put my race belt on really quickly, and a volunteer yelled, “Your number is upside down!” I did my best to right the situation without breaking stride. The legs felt funky after the ride, but I’ve done enough tris that I’m used to it now. I started to turn where I’ve turned in the past, and I heard a someone yell, “Go straight, Michelle!” There was some campus construction going on, so they had to tweak the course a bit. I hadn’t noticed it while riding, but my toes felt a little numb. I checked my watch to see how I was doing, and it still showed the little swim icon. Crap. I had pressed stop instead of lap during one of the transitions and not pressed anything during the other, so as far as it was concerned, I was still swimming. It made for a very interesting race file, as most of the bike leg interpreted as backstroke. Even though I had no feedback from the watch, I felt like I had found a good pace.

Run with Caroline

Running with Caroline. Matching pace, matching Tyr gear.

I heard breathing behind me, then Caroline pulled up alongside and passed me. I didn’t feel like I should try to catch her at this point, but I stayed close. There were several shouts of “Go Caroline!” as we ran by. The lady has fans! Keeping my steady pace, I eventually overtook her again. The run was pretty uneventful. I passed some people, and no one else passed me. I was feeling decent, and started to question if I had held back too much. During the last quarter mile I started to feel nauseated, so I guess it was a pretty good effort after all. I was still nursing a little strain from my 10K a few weeks ago, so I didn’t kick hard, but I finished strong. Caroline finished ten seconds later.Finish

I ended up placing second in my age group. The Garmin lap data confirmed that I had only swum 725 yards. I was almost five minutes ahead of third place, so I feel I was a legitimate second despite the swim count mishap. I figured that it would have taken me about 1:41 to swim that extra 100, so I added it to the results to get the unoffical time shown below. I showed small improvements in all three disciplines and kept the streak alive, so I’m happy, even though I didn’t get to go home with the blue towel.

Final time: 1:13:23 (unofficial)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 60/305

2nd Place Towel

4 thoughts on “Tucson Triathlon

    • Thanks. I think a sprint tri is totally doable for most people who are in decent shape (assuming that they have some swim skills, you can’t fake the swim). I am planning on doing a Half Ironman later this year. A full Ironman doesn’t interest me, but that may change someday 🙂

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