The Challenging, Beautiful, and Fun Triathlon

The 2009 Carpinteria Triathlon is in the history books.  The sprint course was my third triathlon this year.

If there are three words that I can use to describe the experience, they are challenging, beautiful fun.

The Swim

The morning of the triathlon, Carpinteria was fogged in.  There were rumors that the start was to be delayed.  However, I still took the opportunity to get in a practice swim and I got a surprise.  The water was cooler than expected, the swell impressive, the surf a little scary, and the fog disorienting.  Swimming back toward shore during my practice swim, something happened and I got turned around.  When I looked up to sight shore, all I saw was buoy.  I panicked momentarily was I swung a 360 to figure out where I was. The fog and swell hid the shore, testing my ability to stay calm. Luckily, I got back on track, but then realized how strong the current was carrying me toward the start line.  The swim portion was going to be interesting.

Lining up at the start line, I met a gentleman that I raced with at the Santa Barbara Triathlon, a person that had overcome extensive back problems to compete.  Meeting him was reassuring.   What wasn’t reassuring was when the race official pointed to the barely visible, narrow, red cylindrical buoy that represented our turn along shore.  Yep, this was going to be a challenge.  As my triathlon friend pointed out, just follow the caps in front of you and don’t worry.

The horn blew and we were off.  I walked a bit far through the surf and started a relaxing side stroke only to get tangled up in someone’s legs.  The buoy was more visible but seemed so far away.  But I kept a nice rthym of stoke, relax, breathe, stroke, relax breathe.  While progress seemed so slow, I kept up with and even passed some of the slower swimmers.   Getting out of the water, I almost fell over my vertigo was so bad, but I was happy to be on land again.

Time: 17:04 @ 0.5km and run up beach; 381st place


Going into T1, I noticed that my bike was the only bike still there.  oh well, start the mental checklist. Kick off the wetsuit, change heart rate monitors, put the socks on, shoes, gloves, helmet, etc.  It was leisurely. The sprint toward the bike out exit was long, running the entire length of the transition area.  Exiting the area, was a very happy moment.

Time: 04:45 includes a 60 second run through the transition area

The Bike

Some of you might recall my earlier post about the bike course and my apprehension.  Well, challenging fun describes it well.

Oh how fun it was to finally mount and get moving.  The power of my legs, the wind over my saltwater covered body, and the sound of the tires on asphalt.  Just after mounting, I uttered “Let’s go for a nice bike ride through the hills.”  A nice bike ride it was.  The legs was still recovering from the swim (the con of side stroke) so climbing up the shallow inclines along Carpinteria Ave. were a little painful.  Staying on the road proved a little challenging as the bike wanted to head toward the curb and loose gravel due to the crown of the road.

The 9-Mile Bike Course: Challenging, Beatiful, Fun
The 9-Mile Bike Course: Challenging, Beatiful, Fun

Flying down Route 150 toward 192, I had the opportunity to open it up and truly enjoy the wind in my face and enjoy the open, foggy farmland above Carpinteria.  Turning up Route 192, I had the pleasure of dodging slow riders.  Hearing a volunteer shout “go get ’em 688,” made me push harder up the hill, passing most riders in a heart beat.

Cresting the top of the tree lined road, it was all downhill.  Then I got a reality check. At 28mph, I went left to pass another, slow cyclist.  As I started to pass, she drifted left until my hip made contact with her handlebars.  The brief contact was enough to make me realize how dangerous the sport is.  But it was a mere brush and she was more panicked about it than me.  I accelerated and she braked, preventing further contact.   I hunkered down, shifted to high gear and cranked it down to the finish.

I was amazed to see Linden Ave so empty.  Here I was, 27mph down Linden Ave and not a soul in front of me; Felt great as I had left them in the dust.

Dismounting was hairy.  The volunteers didn’t trust my ability to stop on a dime and so they toyed with my head, reaching out to stop me well ahead of the dismount line.  Thanks, but no thanks!  Then it was time to sprint with the bike, again back to timbuktu.

Time 29:50 @ 9-miles, beat my goal of 30minutes by 10 seconds; 131st place.


Again the walk from the transition area entrance to my spot was long.  I ended up walking about half the way, no need to wear myself out running just yet.   Arriving at the station, it was just a matter of switching shoes, shedding unneeded bike gear and filling up on Perpetuem before walking 15 feet to the run out exit. Seemed to go by faster than what I was clocked at.

Time 03:21 includes a really long walk along the transition area.

The Run

The run has always been my weakest, most painful, and psychologically debilitating sport. While swimming leaves a lot to be desired, running after swimming and biking just isn’t my forte.   Starting out, I decided to keep it smooth and slow.  Going north of Palm Ave., I quickly realized that it was a long uphill jog to Carpinteria Ave. I made it, but then my hip started hurting and kept getting worse and worse. I believe the uneven road surface was causing my right leg to travel further than my left leg, causing the hip muscle abnormal stress.

Run Course: 5k through the quiet neighborhoods
Run Course: 5k through the quiet neighborhoods

At this point, I was averaging about 10:30 pace and I kept telling myself to just keep moving!  Keep moving!  Unfortunately, the pace slowed down nearing the halfway mark to about 12:00.  One thing that really kept me going were the local residents sitting in their lawn chairs routing for those going by.  Carpinteria is a great town and it was even greater to see resident’s enjoying the show.

Rounding the turnaround, I knew it was all downhill, but I kept my pace slow, letting my strategy of slow and steady prevail over spontaneous speed.   Entering the finish chute, I finally picked up the pace… it was almost over… and then it was over. The third triathlon was history.

(Looking back, the run should have been better… I know I left some behind that day and I will remember forever!)

Time 35:36 @ 5k, about 11:20 pace, 391st place


This triathlon was not in the plan originally.  I decided to participate in it, partially due to peer pressure, and mostly because I wanted to experience the Carpinteria Triathon that everyone has been talking about all year.  While my time is respectable and I had lots of fun, I think the run portion could have been better.  Sure I could have slowed down on the bike, but I don’t think that was the answer.  The answer was changing my psychology from getting by and finishing, to enduring a bit more pain and pushing through, giving it my all.

I certainly learned during this triathlon that my future is no longer about just finishing, but finishing in a respectable, competitive time and placing higher. Going forward, it is time to ditch the “just finish” mentality and get competitive, but maintain the fun!

This triathlon was challenging, beautiful and loads of fun!

Time 1:30:34 35:36 @ 337th place overall

Note: Click for official results for all races and divisions.

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