by Tobin Villalva, GH Team Member & Cal Poly Student
My athletic career has mainly consisted of running, so when I was offered a free entry to compete in our local March Triathlon Series (MTS) I was a little hesitant to make the change from one sport to three in one race. For those out there unfamiliar with MTS, it’s the longest running collegiate triathlon on the West Coast. The Cal Poly Triathlon Team hosts this event every year at Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande, CA.
Since finishing my cross country and track eligibility at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo last year, I haven’t competed in many races. I’ve completed a half marathon and a couple of 5k’s, but nothing too serious. I figured that MTS would give me a good reason to get back into racing shape and hopefully have some fun competing. I wasn’t disappointed.
Training went well enough, although I don’t think I could have said I was “ready” for the race. Who knows how long I would have had to train to be “ready.” The 5 AM wake up time on race day was welcomed as I couldn’t really sleep too much anyway. I did the usually race-day “stomach-anything-you-can” breakfast, which mainly consisted of a breakfast sandwich and coffee from Starbucks. When we got to the race, I headed over to set up my transition area. The first thing I learned while setting up was I should have given myself more than 10 minutes to set up and get my wetsuit on. I felt like I was already racing as the officials were rushing me out of the transition area and over to the starting area. Of course I ripped my wetsuit (my roommate’s wetsuit) while rushing to put it on. I got to the starting area for the swim and before I knew it was in the water heading to the first buoy. Swimming in open water is not as easy as you would think. The first half of the swim was awful, but after figuring out how to swim and pop my head up to see where I was going I got in a rhythm. 28 minutes later I emerged and was pleasantly surprised to find that wetsuits come off much easier than they go on.
I threw on my cycling shoes and jumped on the bike. The first half mile I tried to take down a couple of Clif Shot Bloks and it wasn’t an easy task. I chewed for a minute or two and finally was able to get them down. Next time, I might try some liquid calories (Fluid Performance probably). The first half of the ride was great, hammering a winding downhill and watching other riders struggle back up the other side. Then I realized why they looked so unhappy. Uphill biking is not the same as uphill running. After what seemed like an eternity of struggling up the hills, I made my way back to the transition area for my favorite part of the race (or so I thought).
This was the first time I had EVER ran off of my bike. That was a mistake. I felt like Gumby (remember that claymation green guy that was all bendy?) through the first 2 miles of the 10k. The good news about the run? I was passing people right and left. The bad news about the run? I pretty much got slower ever mile. Positive splits (each mile getting slower and slower) are a distance runner’s worst nightmare. The run seemed to fly probably because I had been on the bike so long. I trotted through the finish and immediately got that post-race feeling of exhaustion, which is one of the best feeling for an athlete.
My first triathlon was a very rewarding and humbling experience. I learned a lot of things I will definitely use in my next triathlon, but mainly I gained appreciation for a new sport. If you’re a runner, swimmer, or cyclist (or even if you’re not any of those), I definitely recommend getting out there and giving triathlons a shot.