Only 500 meters in an open water Woodlands Lake swim to start the CB&I Triathlon. That's all. However, looking out over the seemingly far longer course, and the numerous individuals struggling to swim the distance, I had to admit to some nervousness since I'd never swum an open water competitive event.
To give myself encouragement I reflected on my high school years in the swim team, where 500 meters wasn't even a warm-up, and of my earliest swimming success when at age 12 I'd first swum a mile across a Wisconsin lake to earn a Boy Scout medal. With those thoughts, after strapping on my goggles and donning the swim cap appropriate for my group I waded into the very murky warm water with 102 others, and at the sound of the horn took off. After a few strokes in a flurry of white water I was surprised to bump into two swimmers on my left, and realized that owing to my being a right handed, and being stronger on that side, I was veering left with each stroke. Fortunately I realized the problem and compensated somewhat through paddling harder on the left side then popping my head up every four strokes to spot the next buoy and adjust my direction (later, a more triathlon-experienced friend advised that I alternate breathing between the left and the right side, as by doing so I'd swim a far longer distance between necessary buoy sightings). A slow thirteen minutes later I climbed out of the water, dried my feet to put on my bike shoes, strapped on my helmet and began the bike leg.
In the two years since my only prior triathlon I'd modified the pedals on my bike such that my bike shoes clip directly to them. This resulted in improved peddling efficiency, which became evident as my average speed was faster despite training far less, and the fifteen miles passed uneventfully. Nevertheless, I took away three bike-related lessons learned: 1) Increase my bike training, since that activity forms by far the largest percentage of my overall time; 2) Maintain a more aerodynamic forward lean via resting my forearms on the Aerobar; 3) Hydrate more.
I then began the 5K run, and after first satiating my extreme thirst I quickly picked-up the pace and was happy to run well despite the high humidity and temperature climbing into the lower 80's. Immediately after crossing the finishing line the race organizers provided a fantastic post-race food and meet/greet area, and I especially appreciated a convenient tent for the athletes to print their results, which were: Swim: 13:12 (my weakest event, #551); T1: 4:11; Bike 50:06 (#510); T2: 4:33; Run: 22:42 (strongest event, #111); Overall: 1:35:45 (#479/749; M50-54 group: 35/54)
The CBI Tri is a well managed and fun event, which I intend to compete in again - and do much better with significantly increased swim and bike training and practice.