On Sunday, my husband and I got a chance to race in our very first triathlon. We participated in the first race of the Club Med Triathlon series at the Club Med resort in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The resort was a 72 mile drive from our house, so we woke up at 4:45 AM in order to get to the race venue in time to do packet pick up, collect our timing chips, get body marked and set up our transition area with all of our swim-bike-run gear.
You can never bring too much gear with you. I brought two pairs of goggles with me, a clear pair and a mirrored pair. It was kind of an overcast day so I decided to race with my clear goggles and left the mirrored ones in transition. When we got down to the swim start we saw a few triathletes doing a swim warm up. Our friend Phillip went to put his goggles on and we heard a loud snap, the strap to his goggles broke. I handed him my clear goggles and did a quick sprint back to transition to get my mirrored pair.
Club Med Race Series Dates
- Sunday, February 6 - sprint triathlon
- Saturday, March 26 - 5k & 10k running races
- Sunday, March 27 - sprint triathlon
- Saturday, May 21 - sprint triathlon, 5k & 10k running races
- Sunday, May 22 - Olympic triathlon
- Saturday, July 23 - 5k & 10k running races
- Sunday, July 24 - sprint triathlon
- Saturday, September 10 - sprint triathlon, 5k & 10k running races
- Sunday, September 11- Olympic triathlon
- Saturday, November 5 - 5k & 10k running races
- Sunday, November 6 - sprint triathlon
Mr. & Mrs. Bike Diva's First Triathlon
My husband and I have done a few duathlons; run-bike-run, during the past two years but Sunday's Club Med race was our first triathlon experience. With all the duathlon racing we have done, we are more than familiar with the bike and run portions of the race, but swimming competitively was a whole new experience for us.
Our goal was just to finish the race. I am NOT a swimmer and knew I would be really slow during the swim so I didn't set a time goal for myself, I just wanted to get through the race. My husband hasn't been able to do very much training during the past few months so his goal was also just to finish. He broke his arm November 20, had bladder cancer surgery December 15 and under went the second of one year's worth of cancer treatments on Thursday afternoon. So the fact that he was even at the race was pretty amazing.
Swim Bike Diva Swim
My husband grew up in Surf City, which is located on Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore. His childhood home is within walking distance of the original Ron Jon Surf Shop. He used to be an EMT and was a rescue diver, so he swims like a shark. On the other hand, I grew up in a city and never really was a comfortable swimmer. I've been in south Florida for 20+ years and our last two houses had pools, but I NEVER go in the water. So with zero swimming background and only one month's worth of swim training I participated in my very first triathlon. I would recommend A LOT more swim training before deciding to do your first triathlon, I am just a crazy, insane person, but be smart and get comfortable in the water before your first event.
I picked this race for my first triathlon as I was pretty sure there wouldn't be that many people racing as it is a brand new race series. There was a total of 79 participants at the race on Sunday. Since so few people were racing, there were only two swim waves; fast swimmers and not so fast swimmers. I went with the second wave, my husband said I might want to think about jumping in on the tail end of the first wave, to get a 5 minute head start on the second wave, but I was in major freak out mode at the swim start.
We did a brief swim warm up near the starting line a few minutes prior to the race start. When we got out of the water I was fidgeting with my swim cap, probably due to being nervous, and tore the back of it. Dang it! I removed my goggles and swim cap, and turned the cap around so the torn portion would be near my forehead, and tucked the torn bit underneath the cap.
Rob asked me if I wanted him to stay with me during the swim. I told him no, go and have your own race, because he is a very strong swimmer and would be going 2-3 times my speed. But I guess he thought I looked totally terrified so he sacrificed his race to stay with me during the swim. What an AWESOME husband! I was the last one out of the water, and had my own personal escort of rescue kayaks and rescue boats. I was talking to them at the end, telling them not to worry, they wouldn't have to come get me that it was my first triathlon and up until a month ago I NEVER went in the water. I even told the rescue boat guy that my goal was to do an Ironman distance triathlon in three years and how crazy I must sound. He was like, at least you are out here doing it, that's a lot more than most people would commit to. Yes, I am insane, I should be committed.
I did not like the St. Lucie River - pitch black, zero visibility, mucky slime bottom. I knew there wouldn't be any lane lines, like at the lap pool at the YMCA, but I've done a couple of ocean swims and thought my swim confidence would be fine. Ocean water is clear as glass, couldn't see a thing in the river. I did about 20 yards of freestyle before totally freaking out and hyperventilating. I also have exercise induced asthma but I think most of my breathing problems was because I was having a panic attack. So I did the swim using 2/3 side stroke and 1/3 back stroke. I was slow as molasses, but I got through the swim. There was a couple of times, before I got to the buoy marking the half way point, that I thought about turning around. But my goal was to complete the swim and become a triathlete even if that meant I was the last one out of the water and the last one to cross the finish line. I was the last one out of the water, but I wasn't the last one to cross the finish line. YIPPEE!
Club Med Pros and Cons
I have mostly positive things to say about the Club Med race series, so I will quickly list a few cons. You do have to give them the benefit of the doubt, the Club Med race series is a brand new triathlon event and Sunday was their very first race.
Con #1 - Transition
There was no security in transition. Transition is where the triathletes place their bike and all the other gear they will need during the race. You go through transition twice during the race; during the swim to bike transition and again for the bike to run transition. So while you are out on the swim and run portions of the race, your bike is sitting in transition.
Every other race I have been to has security guards and/or volunteers at each entrance into and out of transition. They make sure the only people to enter transition are the athletes doing the race. Each athlete is assigned a race number which is placed on their run jersey, helmet, bike and written on their body. The athletes race number must match up with the number placed on the bike they are taking into and out of transition or else the guard/volunteer will not let you take the bike in/out of the transition area.
This was a HUGE error on their part. Between Rob and I we have about $12,000 invested into our two bikes. And we did NOT have the most expensive bikes at the race. Anybody could have entered transition and walked off with any bike they wanted. We were fortunate that our bikes were still there when we finally left the race site, but it could have ended up in an unfortunate situation.
Con #2 - Packet Pickup
Packet pickup was a bit confused on Sunday morning. Many people that registered for the event through Active.com weren't on the list of confirmed athletes. It turns out they printed out the wrong list. I registered Rob and myself for the race but they could only find Rob's name on the list. I had printed out my race confirmation, so they assigned me a number which I took to pick up my timing chip and get body marked.
When we got into transition, Rob placed his bike on his race spot and said, "you're name is printed out and next to my spot". That was a different number than what I had just been assigned. So I had to go back to the registration tent, hand in the wrong race number, get my pre assigned race number, then turn in the timing chip for the old number and get the correct timing chip then go back to body marking, get them to scratch out the old number and write the new number. Have you ever been body marked? They use thick, black Sharpie permanent markers. So my arms looked like somebody scribbled all over them, got a lot of interesting looks in transition.
Above: My husbands bike and gear in the transition area. Each athlete was assigned their own spot on the transition racks. Pretty cool, no getting to the race site early to "fight" for the best spot on the transition racks, very classy!
Pro #1 - Transition
Yes, transition was also a major CON due to lack of security. But they get primo points for setting up an excellent transition space for each athlete. Transition was in a section of the Club Med resort that has astro-turf, so they couldn't set up transition racks that would damage the astro-turf. They built racks made out of wood which were placed directly on the ground. Each athlete was assigned a spot on the transition racks - a sheet was printed out with the athletes name and race number. You placed the back wheel of your bike in a thin rectangle of wood which kept the bike upright. There was a larger rectangle where you placed the remainder of your race gear: bike shoes, run shoes, race number belt, etc...
Pro #2 - Club Med Race Venue
The Club Med site is very nice. The swim portion of the race took place in the Port St. Lucie river. The Club has a large beach access to the river on one side of the resort. The swim was an out and back in the river, which was well marked by buoys, for a total of 500 yards.
The bike portion of the race took place on the roads surrounding the resort. The bike course had a lot of turns and round-a-bouts to maneuver through but each turn had a traffic cop directing traffic and one or more volunteers telling the cyclists where to turn.
The run portion took place on the golf course next to the property. The Club Med resort is a very nice venue. Athletes were given a complementary buffet breakfast at the resorts restaurant. Friends and family members of the athletes were given the chance to purchase the buffet at a reduced price of $10.
Pro #3 - Volunteers
There were a ton of volunteers throughout the course. Lots of volunteers at packet pick up, body marking, swim start/finish, bike course, run course, pretty cool. They even had wetsuit strippers as you were coming out of the water. That was awesome! I was worried about loosing time trying to get my wetsuit off after the swim, as this was my first triathlon and I just got my wetsuit last month. After exiting the water, I undid the velcro closure, grabbed the zipper to unzip the suit and peeled it down to my waist. When I got to the wetsuit strippers, the two girls told me to sit on the ground and they peeled the wetsuit off my legs while I removed my goggles and swim cap. Then I stood up, they handed me my wetsuit and I did a quick dash to transition to start the bike portion of the race.
Pro #4 - Finisher Medals
I didn't even know they had finisher medals for the race until I crossed the finish line. This was our first ever triathlon so Rob and I thought it was pretty cool to get a medal. At most races you only get a medal if you win an award. They had nice award plaques for the triathletes that placed on the podium. Age groups were awarded three deep.
The Club Med triathlon is a series of 6 races. If you do a minimum of 3 of the races, you also qualify for the points series.
Bike Diva's Race Results
Full results of the Club Med triathlon can be found on the Race Smith website: www.racesmith.com.
Because of my horrid swim time, I finished 71 out of 79 triathletes and was close to being the last person to cross the finish line. But I don't let that discourage me from my goal of doing an Ironman distance triathlon in 2013. I have LOTS of room for improvement, always look on the positive side of things. :)
The Club Med sprint distance triathlon was comprised of a 500 yard swim, 10.72 mile bike and 3.1 mile run.
Bike Diva's Results
- Swim - 19:02
- T1 - 1:35
- Bike - 34:27
- T2 - :50
- Run - 31:57
- Total time - 1:27:50
Even with my horrible time, I almost got an award. We checked the print out with the race results that was near the area where they were going to do the awards ceremony. The results showed there were only three girls in my age group, and since they award age groups 3 deep, that meant I was in 3rd place. But at the awards ceremony they didn't mention my name.
Turns out the printed race results showed Masters 1st through 3rd place but they decided to only award Masters overall. That meant 2nd and 3rd place Masters were placed back in their age group. The 3rd place Masters was in my age group bumping me off the podium and into 4th place. Oh well, it's all good. Although I talked to a few girls at the swim start who were also doing their first triathlon, none of the girls registered as a first timer. If I had registered as a first timer I could have won 1st place, pretty funny. Rob registered as a first timer, there were a total of 9 guys in that category.
Bike Diva's Sponsors
I would like to give a shout out to some of my sponsors, and their wonderful equipment I used during portions of the race:
- Brooks - Racer ST 5 running shoes.
- Lock Laces - quick lacing system for running shoes.
- Mission Skincare - fast drying sunscreen spray, anti-sting sunscreen facestick, revitalizing lip therapy gel.
- Profile Design - Wahoo sleeveless wetsuit, Aerodrink water bottle, Elite triathlon crop top, Elite triathlon tank top, Elite triathlon tri shorts.
- Rudy Project - Wingspan time trial helmet, Sport Mask performance sunglasses.
Club Med website: sandpiperbay.clubmed.us/fitness/race-series
Register for the next race on Active.com: www.active.com/running/port-st-lucie-fl/club-med-race-series-race-2-2011
Lynn Smythe AKA the Bike Diva