Dewey is an ideal place for a first sprint triathlon, with a great beachfront backed by a classic beach town and straight, flat roads. Overall, I’d say the plan to race my first sprint triathlon here went exactly as planned. There were a few surprises and many things learned for next time. It was a memorable day that I enjoyed start to finish.
Race morning: I awoke at 5:30 am ate a decent breakfast, digested a bit and then started to move my stuff to the nearby state park in anticipation of the 8 AM wave. I was scheduled for wave 10 of 14, the first of four novice waves. I walked about 1/2 mile to bring my stuff to the state park, then rode the bike a mile or so to get it to transition. I warmed up by going for a light jog for 8 minutes, and the intensity was just enough to get my heart rate up to 170 which is my race rate. Transition area was buzzing with people and activity . The morning was breaking into a blue-sky and the morning chill was subsiding. The sleeplessness of the night before was a long-faded memory by the time I donned the wetsuit with the help of a fellow novice and headed to the beach. The current was moving south, so we marched 1/2 mile up-beach with the 1000 or so athletes and many onlookers, finding ourselves right in front of my house where the first 2 waves were already in.
I went and splashed around for 5 minutes or so, then came back to get set up for wave 10. At the sound of the horn, I was relaxed and looking forward to finally doing what I’d been thinking about for months. That quickly turned to mild panic as I fought through surprisingly big surf to get swim toward the buoy. I was breathing hard and had to go to one-sided breathing. I struggled with balancing sighting of the first buoy with avoiding but following others and keeping myself under control. A few minutes later, I was amazed by the strength of the current sliding me past the first buoy. This relaxed me a bit, and after finding myself on top of one guy and twisted up with a woman from the wave before, I finally got stride almost halfway through the swim. I sighted on the last of 3 buoys when I got high enough in the swell to do so, and ended up going about 20 feet too far around it, then headed to shore with some good pace.
Standing up on the beach, I was thinking about going slow to aid the adjustment to not lying prone in the water. I took a few slow steps and checked the watch, which I was shocked to see had already clocked 15 minutes on what I thought would be a 12-minute swim. I eased up the beach, but finally got caught up in the excitement of all the people cheering and running and started to run up the dune. By the time I got to the top, my HR was 180 and I felt a bit woozy. I slowed down, got into transition and went through my mental checklist to get the bike ready. I organize my transition routine using numbers. I know in T1 I have to drop 3 things and put on 4 others, so when I put on the fourth, which are sunglasses, I was ready to go. As I approached the bike mount line, I was dripping wet but feeling ready to ride.
Thankfully, in the morning I’d put my number on a race belt and had it under the wetsuit, as that would have been a lot to manage at that point. I mounted the bike with my HR around 170, and I don’t think it fell below that for the entire ride. I was cruising along down my old familiar route, passing people from the outset. I took a minute to eat a gel. I had forgotten to eat the one slated for pre-swim but luckily had one taped to my handlebars in T1. While I was eating the gel I was passed by I think the only person who passed me on the bike course. Then I hammered it out, moving around 22 mph downwind to the turning point, then going into the headwind and maintaining 15-17. The only challenge I had was a few stubborn people who wouldn’t move right when I was coming up to them, and one who ran me onto the edge of the highway despite my screaming at her. I believe I said ‘on your left’ at least 100 times, and did the ride in a comfortable 25 minutes, only letting up at the end to get the legs ready for the run.
T2 was a much more business-like affair, dropping 2 and adding 2 items and then bounding out the other exit to the run course. I was still on 170 bpm, so my run plan was to cool off a bit, then start ratcheting the effort up for a final strong stride and sprint in. Despite my gentle effort, the HR wouldn’t drop, and as I made it through the aid station and to the halfway point, I decided it didn’t matter. Like the bike, I was passing multitudes and only recall being passed once, but in both cases these were people from the prior waves. I waited a bit to switch gears into my final sprint, but then came through the ‘chute’ and sprinted the final 75 yards with great speed.
Overall, I feel like I put in a strong effort here. I was focused on enjoying the day more than time, and in fact never looked at the time while I went. I believe I was slower than necessary on the swim and spent more time than necessary in T1. I crushed the bike course, and went a little too easy on the run. I also soaked it all in; high-fiving spectators, joking with other athletes and volunteers, and saying hi to friends of mine. I had the feeling of speed since I was passing tons of people and only got passed twice.
The winning time overall was 50 minutes, the second guy coming in at 57, and tons of people between 60 and 75 minutes. My finish time was 1:13:35; 13th among male novices, out of 75 or so, 196 overall out of about 1000 and middle of the pack for the male 35-39 age group. I came in at 17.5 minutes on the swim, 23.5 on the bike and 28 on the run.
In my view, this is a great start and it was more fun and exciting than I could have ever imagined. The post-race snack, music and celebration, racers and volunteers were super-cool in all respects.