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My First Olympic Triathlon

My First Olympic Triathlon Medal

On Saturday, April 28, 2024, EnduraMan, at age 50, swam, biked, and ran his first Olympic triathlon organized by St Anthony’s. At 7:25 AM, he started the race swimming on North Shore Park Beach in St. Petersburg, FL. The temperature was 72 F (22 C) with partly cloudy skies and strong 17 MPH (27.4 km/h) winds from the East / South East.

Racing at Sunrise

At 6:52 AM, the beautiful sun rises above the horizon of water. I stand on the beach in the 16-to-20-minute swim corral with thousands of triathletes crowded on the beach. With a loud bang and smoke, the first wave of pro triathletes starts swimming from the yellow buoy out in the water.

Swim Practice

The water temperature is under 78 degrees Fahrenheit, so wetsuits are allowed. I got to the beach at 6:30 AM and stretched out for a few minutes. Then, I join other swimmers in the water, and the temperature feels like a cool 76 F (24.4 C).

The salty beach water is shallow for the first 100 feet (30.5 meters), then the water deepens. During my swim warm-up, I circle the first yellow buoy and return to the beach. The water visibility is bad. Under the water, it’s dark, and I can barely see my arm.

Once I’m out of the salt water, I feel the need to urinate. Fortunately, North Shore Beach Park has a restroom, which I use.

750 Meter Swim

The Olympic triathlon swim distance is 1500 meters. However, the swim was shortened to 750 meters because of the strong winds and very choppy sea with wave heights of four feet (1.2 meters). I’m wearing a Synergy tri suit under my Syngery wetsuit (shortie), yellow swim cap, and blue-mirrored polarized goggles. The foam-padded timing chip is attached to my left ankle and my Garmin Forerunner 255 is on my wrist.

As I cross the timing pad on the beach, I run into the knee-deep waters and put the goggles over my eyes. Running in barefoot, I step on something sharp, “Ouch!” Probably a shell or small rock. When the water gets deeper, I start swimming freestyle.

The swimmers in front of me kick close to my arms. I slow my pace to avoid getting kicked. Then, the swimmer’s hand behind me hits my feet. Looking for an opening, I swim outside and around the slow swimmers. As I reach the first yellow buoy, my heart rate is fast, and I’m out of breath.

Normally, my heart rate doesn’t get that high. I now realize it was the sprint before the swim that elevated my heart rate. With the choppy waves and other swimmers, I swim with my head out of the water to navigate.

Then, I see a swimmer ahead of me backstroking. I think that’s a good idea, so I switch to the backstroke. I’m swimming North, and the waves hit the back of my head, making breathing much easier. Looking back I have lots of space ahead of me, so I keep backstroking.

I catch my breath and feel better. Then, I turn around at the wrong time, and a wave of salty water hits my face and enters my mouth. “Yuk!” I swallow some of it.

Turning around, I return to freestyle and get into a groove. Swimming faster, I pass the last yellow buoy. My swim time is 16:10, which is pretty good considering the conditions.

Run to Transition

As I approach the beach timing mat, I unzip the back of my wetsuit and pull it down to my waist. Since the Olympic swim is half the distance (750 m), we run barefoot for about half a mile. Getting out of the water, I need to urinate again. I run on the cement sidewalk and see a row of port-a-potties on the grass nearby. Inside the porta-potty, I urinate for a minute. Then, run out onto the cement walkway, passing lots of slower runners.

Transition 1

As I run through the fenced gate, I cross the timing mat. Running to my bike station 901, I sit on the ground and wipe some of the dirt off my feet. After applying Vaseline on my toes and feet, I put on socks and biking shoes. Vaseline helps prevent toe and foot blisters during the run.

Next, I slip on my sunglasses and secure my biking helmet onto my head. Before leaving, I consume a Sea Salt Chocolate GU Roctane energy gel with amino acids, sodium, and caffeine. Then, I unrack my bike and run it out of the transition area.

My 9:18 transition time includes using the restroom, running half a mile, and time in the transition area.

40K Bike

My Garmin watch has a triathlon sport that automatically transitions from swim to bike and from bike to run. It recorded my bike distance of 24.5 miles, a time of 1:18:56, and an average speed of 18.6 miles per hour. This is close to the official race time of 1:19:49 (40km) at the same speed.

During the bike ride, I drink Gatorade Endurance from a bottle attached to my bike. I ride using my bike’s aerobars most of the time, except on turns and speed bumps. I pass many riders with road bikes like mine. The only riders who pass me have expensive carbon fiber bike frames and aerodynamic time trial (TT) wheels. Those high-end bikes cost several thousand dollars or more, while mine cost several hundred.

After riding for an hour, I feel the muscle strain in my hip flexor. The 40K distance on this flat course is perfect for me.

Transition 2

Entering transition two, I roll my bike and mount the seat to rack 901. First, I sit down on the ground, remove my bike shoes, and slip on my running shoes with elastic laces. St. Anthony’s Triathlon gives athletes elastic shoe laces, which I used as a strap for my running bib. I pull the bib over my head and down to my waist.

Next, I consume a second GU Roctane energy gel. Removing my bike helmet, I begin to leave. Then, I return and remove my sunglasses. Finally, I run out of the transition with a time of 3:19.

10K Run

I had run a half mile before my Garmin watch transitioned to running. So, it didn’t record the correct running stats. Here are my official Olympic Triathlon running splits:

  • 1.5 miles at 13:52 and 9:34 per mile pace
  • 5K at 27:16 and 8:48 per mile pace
  • 10K at 52:53 and 8:32 per mile pace

As you can see from my run splits, I ran a negative split, progressively running faster. I stopped at every water station drinking water and Gateraid, except for the last two miles. I got to consume a new apple flavor GU Roctane energy gel that tasted yummy.

Olympic Triathlon Results

The official finish time of my first Olympic triathlon is 2:41:27. My 10K run results ranked 33 out of 87 in my age division of male 50-54. Compared to the swim and bike, I performed best in the run, finishing 452 overall out of 1191. My overall triathlon place was 629.

Based on the average Olympic Triathlon male finish time of 2:47:50, my 2:41:27 time is more than six minutes faster than average. To learn more about the average times, paces, and speeds of men and women, read the ebook The Average Triathlete.

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