Ironclad Sprint Triathlon 2010: My First Tri with VFFs

The morning of the Ironclad Sprint Triathlon arrived way too early. My alarm went off at 4:30am and I slowly dragged my butt out of bed. I got dressed, prepped my water bottle for the bike and a bottle for the drive, walked the dogs, grabbed my gear and stumbled out the door. At this point I was only running 15 minutes behind schedule.

In my truck I quickly programmed my Droid phone to use as my GPS and pulled out of the driveway. It was a 1 hour drive to race sight and the bulk of it was uneventful. As I neared the race sight I started to see more and more cars loaded with bikes, obviously going to same place as me.

As I neared the race I had a growing line of cars with bike behind me. However, just before I got there everyone disappeared. As I noticed this I realized I had goofed. There was no parking at the race site, we were supposed to park a mile away at a school. I had programmed my Droid incorrectly and I was going to lose even more time. I searched for a place to turn around and doubled back to where I had last seen the other cars and followed the cars I saw with bikes to the parking area.

Once parked, I pulled out my pumped, got my tires up to pressure and took bike off of rack. I then gathered my gear out of the various bags it was in and stuffed into one bag for transport to transition. I put numbers on my helmet, bike, and race belt. All of this I’d meant to do night before and never got around to. I took my time and once everything was set I got on my bike to ride to the transition area.

About midway to transition I glanced at the time and realized transition closed in 5 minutes and race started in 20. I was running way behind and cutting things a bit too close. I sped up on bike and rolled up to transition as they were starting to push everyone out.

I hurriedly racked my bike, and set everything up. I put on a liberal application of bodyglide to both legs from knees down and both arms from elbows down, but, as I realized later, forgot my neck. This done I picked up my wetsuit and goggles and started to head for the swim start. As I was leaving transition one of the volunteers came through yelling out a reminder to the athletes to pick up their timing chips and swim caps.

Oops, I knew I was forgetting something…

I sprinted to the nearest tent and got my timing chip. Unfortunately that was all they had. The swim cap was at another tent over 200 yards in the wrong direction.

I quickly ran to the tent to get my swim cap. When I got there however the volunteer who was there was just watching the tent. He had no idea where caps were and once found what color I was to get. After what seemed like ages, but was probably about 5 minutes the correct person showed back up and gave me my cap. It was 2 minutes to start of 1st wave and I was in 3rd wave and had yet to put on my wetsuit.

I dashed off for the swim start about 300 yards away. I got there as the first wave was lining up to start. I hurriedly pulled on my wetsuit, causing 2 small tears in the process, put on my cap and got my goggles ready. By this time 2nd wave was starting, I had managed to get ready with a whole 3 minutes to spare. Not a good way to start things off.

A few minutes later I entered the water and off we went. The swim took place in the Long Island Sound and when I had checked the water temp online a couple days before it was only 54 degrees. It definitely hadn’t warmed up much since then, and my face was hurting from the cold before I had reached the first buoy. The swim, other than the cold, was uneventful. I exited the water with a swim time of 16:42 for a half mile.

Coming out of the water my feet were numb. This was probably a good thing though because the beach was very rocky and full of broken shells. I ran as fast as my numb feet would carry me to transition. The top part of my wetsuit I had shed as I came out of the water and I had taken my goggles and cap off as I ran.

When I got into transition I struggled out of the bottom part of my wetsuit which got caught up on my timing chip. Once free of the wetsuit I got my cycling shoes on, put on my number belt, sunglasses, helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. I jumped on the bike and off I went.

The first loop of the bike was uneventful. I was flying by other riders on a regular basis. It seemed like no time before I was starting on the second loop and this was a little more difficult. On the second lap we started mixing the faster racers with the slower novices that really didn’t know what they were doing. High speed passing the slow and erratic made things a little dangerous and crazy.

I completed most of the second lap without incident when ahead of me I saw my friend who was doing his first tri. I caught him quickly and I glanced over to say hi and encourage him on. As I did this I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. There were people rushing into the road to slow us down. I had to lock my brakes and went into a slide barely missing a couple other bikes. (I would find out later that I had torn most of the rubber off of a section of my tire as a result, but it held long enough for me to reach the finish.) There had been an accident and they were trying to keep us from running into the downed rider.

I was quickly around them and finished the final miles without incident. I slipped my feet out of my shoes as I approached transition. My odometer told me I had only rode 12.5 miles instead of the 13.5 they had told us. I hopped off of my bike and ran into transition. Despite my toes being numb making it difficult to feel toe holes, I quickly pulled on my Vibram Sprints, grabbed my number belt and hat and was off and running.

The run course was mainly off road, with a good portion of it being on well groomed trail. There was a lot of gravel in opening stretch but my feet had become well adjusted to it and this caused me no problems. The trails themselves were a bit of an adventure. There were a couple mud pits we had to run through and at the first I hesitated a bit. If had been running in shoes I would have just jumped in but for some reason I paused a moment and contemplated my alternatives. I quickly realized I was being silly and just plunged through and didn’t slow for the remainder.

The only other concern was the sections of trail that had large roots crossing them. They were a concern for any runner because they were an easy way to trip or twist an ankle. But, with VFFs I was also concerned with injuring my feet if I stepped on them incorrectly. I just carefully watched my step and danced my way through them.

The run was over before I knew it and I found myself sprinting for the line. The race itself wasn’t much of a challenge because of the short distance, but I still felt like I had made a huge accomplishment. I had run longer distances in my VFFs but this was the first time I had used them in a triathlon. My feet felt great in them and they made running the trails a true joy. I found myself anxiously awaiting my next tri in them (the next weekend).

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About Douglas Sawyer, MS, ATC

I am an athletic trainer who is also a very avid athlete. My first love is running, but I also love cycling and triathlons and many other activities. I'm not a swimmer though, I just don't drown for 2.4 miles... As a athletic trainer I work with sports injuries. I currently work at a school with athletes in 7th-12th grade in a wide variety of sports. I can be found on twitter at two different names: @IronmanLongRunr - where I tweet about run, bike, tri, & more @Longrunr - where I tweet about athletic training
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