It’s usually hard to find something to write about, this isn’t one of them!
This weekend I raced in my first ever Triathlon! Kusadası Turkish Triathlon Championships! Let’s back up few months.
At the beginning of summer, my teammate from METU Orienteering, Nermin mentioned that she had started swimming in our university’s pool, and that she was considering a triathlon in the not so distant future. Having had a lot of time on my hands, I started reading countless blogs, articles and started watching anything related with triathlon. I have always been comfortable with swimming, as we would have a vacation near the sea almost every year but I was aware that swimming against the clock and covering kilometers was something to work for. Although the longest distance, without taking brake, I swam throughout summer was 400m, and longest overall distance I swam was 1400m, I was confident that I could participate in a Sprint-Tri.
Checking the federation’s calendar, I noticed that there was a triathlon in October, just when my studies were beginning. I though that it would be a great motivation to get back to training, a great way to clear my mind for junior year and also a great achievement. Then I asked myself, ‘Why this one? Why not try one in the next spring, where there’s enough time to train properly?’ The answer was that I wanted to compete in my first tri before I was 20! The big ‘2’ ‘0’ is huge for me! Two decades! Proving to myself that I have accomplished such and such in two decades shows me that I could accomplish a lot more in the upcoming decades! That’s when I decided that I HAD to compete in the Kusadası Triathlon!
I frequently called, e-mailed the Federation in order to find out whether the triathlon was a sprint (which I was praying for) or an olympic distance (which was scared as hell). Right before the MUDRACE, it was announced! A Sprint-Tri! Although I had lost the initial motivation I had, I talked to Nermin, only to realize that she was already ready to race with me! So started the double training and triathlon preparation. Thanks to Nermin, I did not have to worry about transportation or accommodation as she had everything figured out!
One thing to mention here, I still did not and do not have a bicycle! I am not talking about a race bicycle, I don’t even have 2 wheels and a brake! Many thanks to METU MTB Team, I was able to borrow this red beauty, and get used to riding a road bicycle. It was so thrilling but tiring to ride it! When I was riding in my comfort zone, I couldn’t reach the brakes, which in turn pushed me out of my comfort zone 🙂 A dear friend Ensar, accompanied me during the 2 biking sessions, teaching me the ‘way of the cyclist’.
Busy with the Orientation Meeting for our Orienteering Team, I managed to get the bicycle checked out, pack my bag at the last second and get ready for the awesome weekend!
This was my first time travelling with a bicycle so I didn’t know if we would have any trouble with the bus and the staff. We had paid almost 35$ for the bus, just because the bus company, Kamil Koç had a welcoming policy to bicycles. Of course, although they had to take our bicycles, the staff was whining as 2 bicycles meant extra work for them, and carelessly tried to fit our bikes. I took initiative and used my advanced engineering skills to fit the two bikes, and lock them to each other so that they wouldn’t move 🙂 So much for the practical usage of my studies!
We got off the bus at Kusadası, early in the morning and were greeted with a cold breeze, the streets were empty, and we cycled our way into the city, and found our tiny, cosy hotel. We decided to cycle a bit more, see where would race the day after, and have breakfast. When we reached the seashore, where we would race the day after, they wasn’t a cold breeze, there was a god damn hurricane! It was cold, and very windy! We tried to warm up, cycling in the race track. Suprisingly, the cycling track was hilly. I couldn’t really paddle sitting down so I got up and showed my Spinning Class skills. Nermin was very comfortable going up the hill, as she often races in Mountain Bike Races. We didn’t have too much trouble going up hill but it really wasn’t what I expected to see. Having mixed emotions about the race, we decided to get some breakfast, where we ran into a bunch of friends of Nermin, who were professional triathletes!
It was a great opportunity to learn even the smallest details about what was waiting for us and what we should expect for the tri; however their description of the race wasn’t helpful a bit 🙂 They told us that this was ‘the hardest’ triathlon of the year, the sea would be full of waves and the hilly bike track was the hardest around Turkey! God was I worried! I filled myself up, with anything on the table, comforting myself that I would need it the day after. After breakfast, we decided to check the Running part of the tri, only to Hello to the waves that was aforementioned.
Being demotivated by all the conversations, scary waves and freezing wind, we decided to practice transition for the rest of the afternoon. Although the sun was shining brightly, we were freezing. I was pretty fast putting on my clothes in the transition practices however decided that I would take my time in the transitions and wear warm clothes for cycling.
We went for a nice hot pasta with the other triathletes right next to the sea. The food was delicious; and warmed me up! The sight probably helped, too.
We got up pretty early and had a decent breakfast. I made my secret mix for my morning drink, a little caffeine and carb loading at the same time! Let me share this secret recipe with you! Tea with 6 cubes of sugar! 😀 Believe me it works!
Ate some bread with jam, and ready to race!
We were in the race area, before anyone else. We got stamped, which is so cool! I was careful not to rub it off for days 🙂 I prepared and triple checked my transition, met the fellow transition neighbour, which was also a new triathlete! To my advantage, there was a beautiful old house right where my transition space was; I thought to myself that this would be a nice landmark to run to after swimming and cycling.
We watched the Elite Triathlete’s start, got motivated and it was our turn! More than 80 triathletes of all age groups filled the beach. There was a lot excitement, and smiles which really motivated me!
I really didn’t have any goals to achieve for swimming as I hadn’t even timed my 750m. I was expecting something around 19-20min and decided that I would swim behind the pro’s. I was a bit worried whether all the brushing of elbows and hitting would hurt me and push me out of the race so I decided not to risk it. Those were what was on my mind ‘before’ the race. When the start whistle was heard however, I ran right into the sea, trying to create a space for myself to swim and fighting my way through the age groups. It was fun! I had a few people hitting me and me hitting a few people back, thinking if I should stop and say ‘sorry!’. A few people insisted on being hit, as they were getting in my space, trying to push me out 🙂 First 300m were hard, struggling both with other triathletes and the waves slowing me down. I guess I checked for the checkpoint floating flag at least 6 or 7 times. When I reached it I, I checked for the other checkpoint and started to swim again for 50m. When I decided to check for it again, I realized that I had passed it for 10m or so. I was happy that I had covered the 50m fast and started to swim towards the shore! I caught a few people in front of me and really started to swim fast, compared to what I was expecting. Reached the shore and checked my stopwatch, 16:37! Cooollll!!! I was so motivated and ran into the transition.
Although the crowd was cheering for all others, there was almost complete silence when I was running through them, so much for motivation again 🙂
I said “They were out of words when they saw me” and kept on running.
First transition was verry slow, as I had trouble putting both the tshirts on after swimming, I took my time to dry off, and put my socks; however I felt like I was sprinting while running to the cycling line, as everyone else were acting as they had no energy and slowly waking to the line. I was so fast that I couldn’t get on the bike right away and had to slow down to get on it 🙂
I started with a moderate pace to the 2nd part of the race. I really didn’t have a clue if I would even finish the 20K. When I reached the hill, I tried my best to sit down and cycle but had to get up for the last bit a hill. The downhill was scaring me a lot, I had checked the ground for any holes and rocky parts of the road the day before. Again my plan was to slow down as much as needed for any rocky parts and for the little bit of turns there was. Reality Check: I hit the breaks for my first lap, however for the remaning 5 laps I was filled with adrenaline, doing my best not to lose any speed!
For the remaining of my turns I tried to increase my speed however lost track of how many laps I had covered so I was unable to really put all I had on the track. Self note to future: Really, really be careful while counting laps and put it all out there! For the hills I almost never sat down, I passed many triathletes on the way down but I was passed by a few pros on the way down. I guess I need to properly learn how to use the aerobars.
After my 5th lap, I wasn’t sure if it was my final lap or if I needed one more. I listened to my gut and did one more fast lap. After that lap, I still wasn’t sure if I should do one more, but decided that this was enough of cycling for today and ran to the transition. As I didn’t have and SPDs, this was a fast transition, me leaving my helmet and drinking a bit of water. The time showed 1:10:00, meaning 50minutes on the cycling track. -10 min on my expected of an hour. Coo,coo,cool! (Reference to Community Series)
Ok, so this was supposed to be my turn to shine! Just 4 days before the race, we had our 5K and 400m test as the Orienteering Team. I was very bad in the 400m, not able to run fast in the beginning and weren’t able to slide past the leading group in the last 100m; after the 400m test we had 20min to cooldown and rest before the 5K; however I had to talk to Nermin, about our upcoming race and travel arrangements, so I couldn’t really ‘rest’. In spite of this, I ran very well, although I again had trouble pushing myself to my limits, my time was 20:06!
A good warm up for the 5K in the sprint-tri! So when I started the running part, I was expecting the wind to brush my cheeks, and really run a fun 5K, however reality was again waiting around the corner! My legs were very heavy, my ankle started to hurt as soon as I started running. I had to stop and tie my shoes, making me focus more on my ankle pain. I pushed and pushed myself to try to run faster, in vain! I maintained a nice pace however; just not the pace I wanted to.
Last 100m was pretty nice, running just next to sea, however the wind again was very strong.
My stopwatch showed 1:35:07 however I think that was after having a sip of water and resting a little 🙂 My official time is 1:33:46, not bad eh?
After the award ceremony, we visited a photo exhibition by Barış Barlas. (http://barisbarlas.com/)
Inspired by him, here are a few photos of our trip.
Looking back to the race, it really wasn’t so hard. Was it worth it? I really think it was. It was a very different experience, and a very good opportunity to swim, cycle and run at the finest tracks, not being bothered by our most delicate traffic. However I am very sorry to say that it wasn’t what I expected. I always thought that it would be full of adrenalin, and a challenging race. I guess reality is that my adrenalin scale is a bit too high because of Orienteering. I guess my agenda will consist more of Orienteering trainings rather than triathlon. But practicing for triathlon really got me loving cross training, and I could blindly state that I definitely will race in another triathlon. My next goal is Tasucu Triathlon, an olympic distance triathlon, which I think will allow me to push my limits 🙂 Afterwards, there may be a small half-ironman on my agenda, but more on that later!