So I'm finally getting around to Part 2 - pre-race morning
I left off in part 1 leaving my car at my in-laws house in the village of Skaneateles. They live (well there house has sold, so "lived" will be more appropriate after the closing October 1st) only a few blocks from the park.
So I unpacked the bike from the van and installed the front wheel, being careful to properly tighten the quick release so I wouldn't need to worry about it later. I had already pumped up the tires the night before and checked my repair kit to make sure I had 2 new tubes, a patch kit, tire levers, patch kit, and a new CO2 cartridge for my "pump." Once the bike was assembeled I grabbed my gear bag and my pre-race water bottle I had been sipping from since I got up that morning and headed down to the transition area.
As I approached the transition area I saw a couple of folks milling about, but not many. I am a bit of a morning person, so I hoped arriving early would let me be relaxed about setting up my transition. I really didn't want to be stressed about my first tri. All the advice I had read and been given said show up as early as you are comfortable before the transition area opened so you can get a decent spot for your bike.
I'm a big guy and I really wanted a spot on the end of a row in the main isle through the transition area. Well, there were less than 20 competitors there when I arrived, so I got my wish! I didn't car about being so close to the bike exit, so I let the elite folks worry about being there. I chose a spot about half way through the swim to bike transition with my bike on the end of a row. The right side of the transition (facing the bike exit) was on a slope and I didn't care for that too much, so I picked the left. It was still pretty dark as you can see from the photo above, so I was really glad I had grabbed a headlamp (total afterthought, but I was sure glad I did and I'll use it again next time!)
Since I had picked up my packet on Thursday evening at Syracuse Bicycles (the shop that was a sponsor of the event) I didn't need to go to the registration tent. I did, however, need to pick up my timing chip. I had never used a timing chip before so this was a new experience for me. I guess I fall outside the 90th percentile for the disposable straps they provide for the timing chip, I needed two to create a strap long enough to fit around my ankle. This surprised me, I know I'm a big guy, but I don't have "cankles" (calves that don't stop and reach down into my shoes.) But I guess skinny ankles is another triathlete physical trait I don't have! I had heard that people brought scissors in their transition bag, and now I understand why. The two straps together were WAY TOO LONG. That long excess strap annoyed me of and on the whole race. Scissors are now on my check list for the next Tri.
People really started to arrive by this point, so I set out my shoes (bike and run), socks, and helmet. I remembered to continue to hydrate, loaded my race bottle on my bike (I had a third bottle for after the race as well) and put my gel packets in my Bento box. I laid my wetsuit (I borrowed a wetsuit from my friend Mark K. - Thanks again!) over my bike seat so it would be all set when it came time to suit up. I then went to find the porta-potties to get rid of the remnant of my coffee/hydration.
I started seeing people I know entering the transition area to get their stuff set up. My friend Bob S. who is a pretty active triathlete and Brian A who has done the Skinnyman a number of times before were both encouraging, thanks again!
By this time I was thinking about getting my wetsuit on because things were getting a little hectic in the transition area. I needed to pee once more before I suited up, so I headed to the other row of porta-johns near the bike exit of the transition area. There was already a bit of a line so I queued up with Bob and Brian. The energy was pretty high and folks were obviously excited about the race. I was trying to chill out and not let myself get anxious, that was pretty hard to do but I think I handled it well. I went right back to my transition spot and sprayed on my Trislide, put one foot in a disposable plastic grocery bag (a tip from my older brother Henry Hidy, a much more experienced Tri and adventure racer, that worked great) and slipped one foot at a time into my wesuit. I invested in two pieces of tri specific clothing this summer. My first purchase was a pair of Craft triathlon shorts, which I liked ok but the pad left a little to be desired. My second purchase was a Louis Garneau Shark Triathlon Suit. I'm pretty tall and have a long torso for my height. I wear exclusively bib shorts when I cycle so I should have known I wouldn't like my top riding up in back (or worse belly exposing front.) So the tri-shorts have been relegated to swim "jammers." The Louis Garneau suit has a nice fleece chamois pad, while not enough for my bike specific pad accustomed butt, was much nicer than the Craft shorts. The tri-suit fit easily beneath the wetsuit with no rolling and little adjustment needed. I had worn it once under my wetsuit in the past week to make sure there were no fit problems, thankfully I was able to reproduce this experience on race morning.
More pre-race photos to come.
My wife was home sick with pneumonia and my daughter was also sick with a mild cold and wasn't prepared to come early with me. So my sister, Lynn, was home visiting our mom and to attend the "Great New York State Fair." She had gone to the "Rush" concert on Thursday night and I hadn't expected her to come. But she decided that since my wife and daughter wouldn't be there, she would accompany our mother. I was excited to find them right before the start. Lynn was great and took a few photos before the start, in each transition, and after the finish. Our dad had headed out to Lincoln Nebraska for the SCCA Solo National Championships (an auto racing event) earlier in the week so he couldn't be there either. I also met up with Jordan and Chris B., friends from church who were racing as a team with another friend. Jordan swam, Chris rode and their friend ran. I had decided to swim with the "novice" group as it was my first Tri, and I didn't want to try to keep up with more experienced folks on the ride and burn myself out. Since the teams were placed in the novice group wave we would be swimming together. Jordan and I had similar time goals for the swim so we spent some time chatting before the start. Although I was able to swim a bit faster than Jordan but missed Chris as he exited the transition faster than me and didn't see them again until after the finish!
There was supposed to be a "meeting" before the start, and there may have been, but I never heard anything they were saying. Being in the novice wave, we were staged at the end of the line of swimmers. The north end of Skaneateles Lake has a rock retaining wall. There is a swimming area with stone stairs leading down to the water. The start to the swim was in the water, between two buoys.
Each wave waded into the water, line up and started at 3 minute intervals. There were 5 waves, and with 3 minutes between them, that meant our novice wave would start 12 minutes after the first wave. The swim was 800 yards and the fastest time was just over 10 minutes. That meant we saw the leaders getting out of the water before we even started! It was a bit hectic as the organizers hustled the novices down the stone stairs. They were quite slippery with a thin layer of algae on them so it was a little disconcerting to have them hustling us along!
As predicted, we watched as the first swimmer exited the water soon after we made it down the ramp. So I swam a few yards to get some water in my wetsuit, made sure to get my swim cap and goggles just right. I had volunteered as a kayaker last year and learned that competitors are allowed to swim inside the buoys marking the course except for the turn buoys. So I lined up to the right of the right hand start buoy so I could sight straight out to the big turn buoy about 300 or so yards out. I explained the rule to a couple of other novice competitors and they were thankful to know they didn't have to worry so much about going "off course."
We were off!
More to come in Part 3 - the race!