10 Lessons from a Newbie Triathlete: The UC Irvine Zot Trot
By Hannah Heimer
The first official race of the 2014 season was a complete success! Well, I’m a newbie, so what do I know? But if success equates to a well-organized and enjoyable challenge, then a success is what it was. Throughout the entire weekend I learned a lot more about this crazy sport. The first lesson I learned was on Saturday, in the beginning leg of our journey as we prepared for the short drive up to Irvine. Lesson one: you can fit more in a car than you ever thought imaginable. One tiny car managed to fit three bikes and three passengers, with the bikes taking up the majority of the space.
Finally, after all of the bikes and bags were packed, we smooth sailed to Irvine to pick up our race packets. Lesson two: always have your USAT card on you! I happened to read over that line in the packing list and showed up at the store ignorant of what I was missing. After struggling with the Wi-Fi on my phone, I finally pulled up my confirmed USAT registration and was able to get my packet. After that scare of potentially not being able to race, I will never again forget my USAT card.
After getting our packets, we drove to our most gracious host’s house. Kaitlyn’s parents had prepared lunch for us and naturally, we overindulged a little. Which brings me to lesson number three (a lesson which I have been taught many times and have yet to learn): don’t eat too much before a workout! We headed over to the course and rode the 12 mile bike route and part of the run course, the whole time regretting those Paninis, chips, and cookies.
It was then back to Kaitlyn’s house for some R&R where lesson four appeared: there is no use in bringing homework during a race weekend. Sinead and I stared at our books every now and then as if we were actually reading, but with the good company and thrill of the winter Olympic games, homework never had a chance.
4:30am came faster than I had expected. We packed up, ate, and got ready to compete. The morning was perfect for a race. It wasn’t too cold, but was overcast and comfortable. At 5:30, while setting up transition, lesson five occurred: after you put the wheels back on your bike, make sure the brakes are engaged. My obvious “newbie-ness” came out when Esther came to check our bikes and informed me of this. Thank god for good teammates!
It was finally time to get started. The Zot Trot is a time-trial start, meaning everyone starts at a different time and results are determined by chip timing. After a warm-up, we all found our position in line, waiting to jump in the pool and start our race. Unfortunately, the warm-up wore off because I had to wait about 30 minutes after the first person jumped in to start my race. During that time, my nerves grew stronger and stronger, but I learned lesson six: trust your training. I had been given advice earlier to “trust the Sergio workout,” so during this time, I calmed myself down by remembering the training I’ve done up to this point. I have come a long way since fall quarter, so no matter how it ended I knew it would be rewarding.
Swimming is by far the weakest leg for me; I am just learning the most efficient way to swim. Bill was the first to jump in the water from the team – he quickly zoomed off and was on the bike in no time. Gina was the first girl, making a great entrance into the water and gliding swiftly across its surface. The swim proceeded on and went by extremely quickly. Lesson seven: 500 yards is really short. In the swim workouts we do, 500 yards is simply the warm-up, so I should’ve known that I could go much faster than I did. I was fearful that I would go out too hard, so I conserved energy. But the swim was over just as soon as it had begun.
Off to the bike, my favorite part! When I got out of the water I felt disoriented and weird, so I was stoked to hop on the bike where I feel comfortable. The bike route was about a 3 mile loop, repeated four times. I felt that on each loop I got faster and faster, although the long and gradual hill at the start of the loop was a challenge. Going down that same hill was my favorite part of the whole race. So much speed! Lesson eight: pass or be passed. Once I realized how good I felt on the bike, I knew that this leg of the race would be my strongest.
The bike ended and it was on to the 5k run. Having been a very competitive soccer player, I used cross country and track to stay in shape throughout high school. I was looking forward to the comfort of the run. However, after getting off of the bike I quickly realized that this was not going to be a normal 5k. Lesson nine: a 5k is also extremely short. It took me awhile to find my stride and shake off the heaviness of my legs. Finally when I started to go at a decent pace, the run was ending. As odd as it sounds, I wanted the run to be longer. The last 800 meters was a downhill finish. By this point, my turn over had finally come back in full stride. The finish line was crossed. My first triathlon completed.
For the men’s team, Bill Jones came in first with a time of 55:34.9, followed by Daniel Heineck with 59:44.4, and Charlie Chen with 1:02:18. For our ladies, Gretchen Stumhofer was first with a time of 1:06:15, but not far behind was Gina Horath (who actually biked more than was required and lost her timing chip) with 1:06:59, and Esther Walker with 1:08:59. The newbies on the team all survived and performed well for having never raced a triathlon. Kaitlyn Van Peursem was the first newbie to finish with a time of 1:14:56.
Overall, this was a great experience for my first triathlon, and I can’t wait to work harder in practice and see how much I can improve my time. The last lesson, lesson 10, came after all was said and done: when you’re gluten free and you eat sun dried tomato bread after a race, your stomach will hate you. I was in pain during the whole car ride back, but if this was the worst part about the weekend, then I’d say it was a complete success!