I completed the St Patrick’s Day Sprint Triathlon in Keller Texas yesterday with my brother-in-law Kevin who recently turned 50 years old. He has 8 years on me and is in great shape for any age. This was the second sprint triathlon we have competed in together. The last one was the Tom Landry triathlon in Dallas back in 2019. Both times I have beat him by only a few minutes. He’s a stronger swimmer than me and we’re pretty evenly matched on the bike but I usually overtake him on the run. That has always been my strongest sport. 2020 was a wash with every race being canceled. I had signed up for a 5k as well as the Ragnar relay race last October but they were not to be.
I’ve been talking about doing an Olympic distance triathlon for years now but the longer swim terrifies me however it’s time I put the training in and go for it this year. As we waited outside in transition before the start of the swim it was freezing below 40 degrees before the sun came up. I could hear the bagpipes piping away and I could feel my Scottish blood pumping as I was inspired to rise to the challenge as my ancestors once did as they prepared for battle.
I noticed plenty of really fancy bikes and aerodynamic helmets. I could tell the elite triathletes from the rest by the way they had set up their bike shoes already attached to their pedals held in place with elastic bands so they could just jump on the bike and slip their feet into their shoes rather than spend valuable time putting on their cycling shoes. I got talking to an older triathlete who has completed 6 Ironman triathlons and is trying to qualify for Kona once he has completed 10. A fantastic achievement by anyone in my opinion as I know the amount of training required to get to that level.
I made the mistake of overestimating my swim time when I registered for the race as I never time myself when swimming so I was the second to last person to get in the pool and the guy behind me overtook me! However, I was still able to overtake a few other triathletes who were really struggling and I came in 236 out of 294 so at least I wasn’t last. It took me 8:41 to complete 300 meters which I know is slow. I think the average is closer to 7 minutes. I was glad when the swim part was over but the shock of running back outside into 40-degree windy conditions took me a minute to recover from. I spent way too long in transition 4:29. I need to work on shortening this significantly as the elite guys are spending less than a minute in transition. The average is between 2-3 minutes.
The bike route was 12.5 miles with a strong headwind for the majority of it and quite hilly in parts. It was 2 loops total and my average pace was 17.1mph with a top speed of 33mph on the downhill. I placed 157 out of 294 with a time of 44:46. I was pleased with that result considering the conditions. My second transition took slightly longer than my first as I took time to put on my kilt, running shoes, and baseball cap. I had some trouble getting my kilt on as I bought it in my early 20’s when I was 20 lbs lighter. The fact I can still fit into it is an achievement in itself!
After spending 4:36 in transition I headed out on the 5k run as my alter ego The Healthy Highlander! I felt this was an appropriate event to wear the kilt as a nod to St Patrick’s Day and my roots. I was worried the heavy wool material would make it difficult to run however it kept me warm and I got a lot of cheers and support from the crowd for wearing it. I completed the 5k in 28:06 with an average pace of 9:03 placing me 162 on the run and 194 overall out of 294 with a time of 1h:30min:39 secs
Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my performance and review my times I know what I need to focus on moving forward. The purpose of this triathlon was to motivate me to train for an Olympic distance in the fall. I plan to do another couple of Sprints with a longer open water swim next time. I really need a swim coach to analyze my swim technique and help me become more efficient in the water as I’m using up far too much energy in the pool just to stay afloat. I need to shave a couple of minutes off my swim time and shorten my time spent in transition. I also know I’m capable of running an 8-minute mile pace without the kilt to slow me down. I’m sure I could also go slightly faster on the bike depending on the course. Watch this space as I document my training and race performance over the next 6 months in preparation for my first Olympic distance triathlon. My goal next year is to complete a half Ironman and eventually an Ironman once I’m ready.