Zack’s 1st Triathlon & Caitlin’s Under 1:15:00 Challenge

28 May


As April 30th became May 1st, I awoke from an odd dream that I’d just finished a triathlon and did surprisingly well*. I paid special attention to this dream, because any other workout dream I’d had in the past was a nightmare. A quick Bing search revealed there was a triathlon happening in Austin on Memorial Day. And they had an entry level distance. And the cut-off day to sign-up for the reduced rate was that very day, May 1st. Oh, and two days earlier, my boss had asked me if I wanted Memorial Day off, with pay**. These couldn’t all just be coincidences, could they? Could I do this? Before work I went for a bike ride to the pool, swam laps, biked home and felt more confident I could do this. I asked Caitlin and a couple friends on g-chat if I was being crazy (Caitlin thought I was, the others weren’t sure)***. I signed up that day. I had less than four weeks to prepare.

*He can correct me if I’m wrong, but preeeeeetty sure in his dream Zack won the whole thing. It wasn’t clear if I won. I just knew I did well. 

**That’s a happy surprise for me! I thought it was without pay.

***I was worried he wouldn’t have time to safely train and that he’d hurt himself. In the end, I had nothing to worry about.


The “First Time Tri” was an ideal distance for someone with a short training period. The race consisted of a 400 m swim (13.2 lengths of the pool at Deep Eddy*), a 10k bike ride (6.2 miles)** and a 5k run (3.1 miles)***. When I begun training, I could swim 13 lengths at Deep Eddy, but only if I did the much slower breast stroke at least half the time. I could bike 6.2 miles without issue, and did often, but every practice ride ended up with at least a few mandatory breaks for stop signs and/or red lights. And running? I hadn’t run 3 miles straight since, jr. high school. I hated running. I’d tried running with Caitlin a few times, but was always wildly unsuccessfully. I got only two successful 3.1 mile runs in before the race****. Not once did I try running after biking and swimming in the same day. But at least I had my tri suit and my mix.

*But sans the wall to push off of. This swim was in open water, and was the part I was most worried for Zack about/wouldn’t be able to do myself.

**This was the part I knew Zack could do. We biked that distance together frequently, so there was no question he could handle the ride.

***I wasn’t worried about Zack drowning for this part, but I was concerned he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to finish this distance. Zack hates running, more than almost anyone I’ve ever met, and the only time I’d seen him try was many months ago, before he’d gotten especially health-conscious, and he’d only make it about 5 minutes and then stopped because it’s just not his favorite physical activity.

****He’s being modest. He DESTROYED two 3.1 mile runs before the race, completing one of them in 19 minutes. This was the point at which I started to believe.

smile run

This is how I hoped I’d feel as I headed into the bike section of the race. Then everything started to unravel. Two days before the race, the official triathlon info comes out and casually mentions that headphones are prohibited on every section of the course. Crushing news. Then it rained hard the Friday and Saturday before the race and I couldn’t practice. Then I had a few beers Friday night. Then stayed up until 2:30 a.m. Saturday night watching “Arrested Development.” It felt like the event was slipping away from me. But Caitlin kept encouraging me. And coached me as I practiced my transition from pool to bike over and over. And made me believe I could do it*. Seeing her at this moment, after an exhausting swim, put the biggest smile on my face. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

*I knew he could. We’d made a bet that he wouldn’t finish in under 1 hour and 15 minutes, and I felt certain it would be a close call, but the more I saw how dedicated Zack was to the cause and his training, the more I really knew that he’d be able to do it.

Friend & Family Guesses

  • Herb: One hour Sev (1:07:00)
  • ACTUAL: 1:07:57
  • Dad: 1:09:30
  • Sam: 69:69 (1:10:09)
  • Isaac: 1:13:00
  • Beth: 1:14:24
  • Benson: 1:14:58
  • Mandy: 1:14:59
  • Brittany: 1:15:10
  • Robert: 1:17:42
  • Jordy: 1:19:45
  • Max: 1:19:55
  • Michael: 1:24:14
  • Caitlin: 1:24:16 
  • Suzy: 1:30:00
  • Andy: 1:55:16
  • Rob: 2 days, 15 hours, 36 minutes, 23 seconds
  • T.O.C: A million

In the weeks before the race, I obsessed over what my time would be*. The week after I signed up, we were having happy hour drinks with the Nelsons and I mentioned that the average guy time was 1:20:00 and said I bet I could beat it. Caitlin scoffed. She said it would be closer to 1:35:00**. I drank more and more of my free margarita and my liquid courage had me tell her I could do it in under 1:15:00. She offered to bake me anything I wanted, knowing I wouldn’t do it***. I had my family and friends guess my time with an offer of a $15 gift for the closest. Personally, I felt confident I could do it in around 1:10:00. I had no doubt about 1:15****.

*He’d always say things like, “My goal is x, but, you know, if I speed up on the transitions and really kick into gear at the bike, my STRETCH goal is y, and of course if I’m just really feeling great, maybe I could even make z but that’s just, icing on the cake.” I worried he was setting himself up for disappointment when the ‘z’ became under one hour and 10 minutes.

**Keep in mind, this is before he’d even attempted a run. At all. I run regularly, and I know what my times are, so I was basing my guess off of that. What can I say — I run for distance, not speed (read:  I am a slow-moving clown.) Hehe, you are no clown, dear. 

***I wouldn’t say “knowing” at this juncture, but again, pre-timed run I definitely felt confident.

****Perhaps in his heart he had no doubt, but verbally he certainly faked it. This is Zack’s trap, where he’ll build up the confidence of his competitors and then sneak in to destroy them when their guard is down. Classic Teibs move, I should have seen it coming.


The swim went shockingly well. I’d planned on staying near the back, but once I got in the perfectly warm 77 degree lake, I got just behind the first wave of swimmers and flew through the short swim in 9:20:20, almost half of what I expected*. I surprised myself by swimming the front crawl the entire race and stayed near the front of the pack the whole way. I found the ideal speed, just below a sprint and felt peachy until I got to the dock.


My legs felt like jelly as I climbed the ramp out of the lake, but once I got a glimpse of Caitlin at the straightaway run to the bikes, I posed with an arms up “Ehhh?” motion and felt a second wind as I rounded the bend**.

*We’d talked it over at length and agreed that it would be safest for him to take his time so he didn’t hyperventilate and get over-excited, causing him to stall out in the water. But when I watched him make moves, I knew I was in trouble with the bet and that Zack was in it to win it. He moved so smoothly through the water and made the distance look half as long as the ones he did in training. It was awesome.

**It was awesome to see him running down the chute, and I made sure to take tons of pictures. What was also fantastic and serendipitous, setting the tone for the rest of the event, was that the White Stripes’ “My Doorbell” was playing as Zack rounded the bend. I couldn’t even hear it. Too locked in. I knew then that it was all over. He was going to beast this race.


I ran through the transition zone confidently, not knowing my swim time, but knowing it was better than expected*. Then I remembered I now had to face by toughest mental hurdle: finding my bike and executing the transition**. I knew my bike was in the back row, one row away from the giant light pole, but if you know me at all, you know that I could still find a way to screw it up. Badly. And once I found the bike, I had a lot to remember in the transition.

*None of Zack’s fans knew his exact swim time, either. We were supposed to be getting text messages with time updates but we all got zero. I was the only one who had an inkling by using the start time and Zack’s iPhone as my guides.

**This is where I really messed up on the timing. I had guessed it’d take 5-7 minutes for both transitions, due to Zack’s well-known lack of directional ability and also due to thinking, based on the race map, that the transition area was quite far from the other events/that there could be a LOT of traffic from other competitors. I didn’t realize how much all of the racers were being split up in groups. Lots of things went wrong with my mental timing of the event, really.

where's my bike

Even if you can’t see my face, you can almost sense my fear as I see hundreds and hundreds of bikes in front of me. 

The transition sequence was complicated. Well, complicated for me. Pull water bottle from bike. Drink. Dry feet*. Dry legs. Put on sunglasses. Put on helmet. Strap helmet. Roll up right sock. Pull on right shoe. Adjust shoe tongue. Roll up left sock. Pull on left shoe. Adjust shoe tongue. Pick up race belt. Click on race belt. Grab bike off rack. Hold bike by handles. Run bike out of biking area on foot. Turn right. Cross mount bike line. Mount bike. Ride. I had to focus. A mistake like taking the bike off the rack without my helmet being strapped on could get me disqualified. Again, it went shockingly well. I knew exactly where my bike was, and executed the transition to perfection. My 3:06 transition was well under my predicted 4:00. With Caitlin’s coaching, I’d more or less perfected the first transition after just three practice runs**.

*This is also an incredible complicated action for Zack. The boy retains water on the outside of his body like a sponge, but one that leaks a whole lot. Whenever he gets out of the shower, even though we have a bath mat and even though I have seen him wipe his feet vigorously on it, he still manages to create a small lake on the rest of the bathroom floor as he walks around getting dressed. It’s uncanny.

**Again, when we practiced this together, I started to see my bet on Zack’s time become less and less of a possibility, but in the best of ways. Before the race began, I knew he was going to beat his 1:15 goal.


Going in, I was sure the bike was going to be the easiest part. At times it felt like the hardest. I figured I’d cruise at around 18-19 mph and would get a 20-22 minute time easily. I didn’t figure how exhausting the swim would be, or how hilly portions of the bike track would be. I had some nice sprints, but I often found myself holding back and cruising at 14 mph, trying to save a little something for the run. I ended up averaging 15.7 mph for the course and finished with a 23:42, at least a couple minutes behind expectations, but still way ahead of schedule factoring in the swim. I had a slow transition from bike to run, struggling to unhook my bike helmet and when I found my bib half off with the safety pin having ripped through one side, my confidence was shaken. I struggled to secure the bib and got out of the transition in under two minutes, feeling like the last thing I wanted in the world was to run*.

*I gathered none of this from seeing Zack run through the sprint start. He seemed a little oblivious but was all smiles. 

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 2.20.17 AM

Caitlin found me and Vine’d this as I was dazed and making my way out of transition two to the running course. 

By the time I got to the first water station a block into the run, I decided to come to a complete stop. I’d put some energy gel into my mouth too soon and it felt weird and sticky and I just felt spent. I’d never been this exhausted when I’d started a run in training. I’d had three practice runs end in me stopping to walk for the majority of it, and I feared this was going that way. I spent about 10 seconds stretching my now aching back by the water station, got my bearings back, and started a slow jog. I wanted to walk. I heard no music. I really wanted to walk. My estimation for the run skyrocketed to 35-40 mi

nutes. I’d probably have to walk. As I jogged at a slow pace, I took stock of everything. My back was a little tight, but stretching helped. My legs were a little sore, but just minor cramping. I was awful tired, but I had something left in the tank. I dug deep. I had something to prove to Caitlin*. And everyone who encouraged me and was supportive, but guessed a time in the 1:30s or 1:50s or “a million.” I knew I could do better than that. Much better. I’d dreamed it.

*I believe in Zack so much all of the time, 

so I hope that this just fueled him and wasn’t something that made him feel bad. That was always my fear throughout his training — he assured me all of my doubts just made him more determined but you never feel good trying to tell someone you love that you think they might be reaching a little too much.


It was slow at first, but a half mile in, I found my fuel. A guy announcing and encouraging runners was on a microphone and giving out “free high fives.” I high fived the crap out of him and into the mic he said, “That guy knows how to high five! Wow!” Huge boost. I gave like 40 more high fives the rest of the race. Since I couldn’t listen to music, it became a thing to focus on. Find the next person to high five. Unfortunately, mile 1-2.4 was pretty high-five free, but I did see a couple funny signs* like, “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear” and, “Remember – you PAID for this,” that made me smile.

*My favorites were a group of women wearing pink “Tough Cookie” shirts I sat across from who cheered loudly for passers-by and tried to describe what they were wearing so they’d know that cheer was just for them.


I wanted to stop and walk so often, but stayed mindful of the fact that I actually felt pretty good. Then I thought about how much better my post-race meal would taste if I beat my goal and knew the faster I ran, the faster it would all be over. Still, it wasn’t an easy run. I got a nice boost halfway through the race, running across the Congress bridge, thinking about how it’s Caitlin’s favorite view in Austin, but mostly I just felt tired and fighting off reasons to walk. One time I heard “Sexy and I Know it,” though I’m not sure that helped. I jogged pretty slowly during mile 1-2.4 or so, but I never stopped running. Eventually, I felt the end approaching, found the time, did some quick math and realized 1:10 was in reach. I turned on the jets for the last stretch, ramping up the random high fives and found just enough left to sprint across the finish line.


Apparently as I was deliriously waving my arms and sprinting, Caitlin called my name out, but was so out of it, I almost forgot my participant medal and water bottle. I still didn’t know my time*.

*Neither did I.


After the swim and transition where Zack had seen me, I contemplated attempting to find a space along the bike route, but it seemed futile as so much of the area was closed off and I knew Zack would only take about 20 minutes to complete that section anyway. I posted up by the opening to the run, and Zack almost passed without seeing me. Finally, I decided to go try to find a space along the finish line. Zack had wanted me to be on the right side of the track at the end, but there was no way for me to get across to that side because there was a big fence I couldn’t get around and tons of security not allowing anyway to cross the street, since that was the racing path. I found a spot right in the front at the head of the chute before the turn across the finish, and figured there’d be no way for Zack to miss me there. I yelled out his name when I saw him, and thought he looked over and waved at me, but apparently that was just when he started waving his arms madly anyway and he never saw me standing there cheering him on.


I found Caitlin in our designated meeting spot, called her name and we shared a big hug. She congratulated me and told me how great I’d done and I looked at the triathlon app to see my time and felt on top of the world. It was so exhilarating. Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t imagine a time like 1:07:57. Caitlin made me feel even better as she gave me not one, but two thoughtful, sweet, cards in which she made me know she believed in me the whole time, writing “P.S. So what am I baking you?*” I couldn’t have felt more loved. And the answer is probably lemon squares, but I’m gonna look at some recipes tomorrow. I know I couldn’t have done this without Caitlin, and hopefully next year we can both do the first tri together. I can’t wait to cheer her on and be half as great of a partner and supporter as she was for me in achieving my dream**.

*By the time the month was up and the race was on, I knew Zack was going to win the bet. I was more than OK with that.

**Zack is being very sweet, but this really was all him. He trained on his own aside from the transitions I helped with, and he knew he was going to be able to do this. Zack is just that kind of person. He will make you believe in him and yourself.


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