Today we take a brief break from the Filipino discussion:
I’ve wanted to do a triathlon for awhile now. The only problem(s)? My swim form is UGLY (and I’m slow…). I’m not totally comfortable on a bike (and slow). I keep trying to fall in love with running but so far it’s, at best, a tumultuous relationship (and I’m slow…). Oh…and the idea of figuring out logistics of transitions? Terrified me. But despite all that, the idea of putting all those difficult elements together seemed, dare I say, fun! So in a move that made absolutely no logical sense, I signed up for the Y Not Tri back in early May. I mentioned it on social media and then never spoke of it (or really thought about it) again. I finished up the semester, I went to the Philippines, I came home & moved across town. Then the first week of this month I started feeling normal and human again…and realized the tri was the second week of July.
Originally I signed up for the 400m swim/6 mile bike/2 mile running. I figured I could do that with no additional training. And back in May, I COULD have. But two months, a couple of major events, and zero training later, I emailed the race director in a panic and asked to be moved to the shorter distance (exactly half the original). And then I began preparing…which consisted of a grand total of a ten minute open water swim at the race location 6 days before, a run through of the whole distance with a training group three days before and numerous panicked posts to the training group’s Facebook page throughout the entire week.
Surprisingly I slept just fine the night before. I think the run through on Tuesday helped make Saturday almost a non-issue…until I got there. Once I arrived at the race site, the nerves started to kick in a little bit. I met up with some of the people from the training group and promptly became BFFs with another woman doing the race for the first time. We set up our transitions together, we checked out the swim course together, we got marked up together, & listened to the race briefing & met up with other trainees together. Suddenly race morning went from intimidating to FUN. Some other friends from my life were doing the longest distance and they were out there to encourage and boost me as well. Bianca gave me a huge hug and helped get the swim cap on my head. Lynette (my Ironman friend!) took pictures and reassured & encouraged me. And as I was scurrying down the path to the start (because I got distracted by last minute “good lucks”, hugs & high fives), I heard my name and turned to find a former co-worker (Drew) standing in the spectators. He would normally be out there racing but is currently injured. He heard I was doing it though and headed down to offer support. Seeing him was the biggest surprise of the day and gave me a huge boost of energy right before jumping in the water.
The swim start was surprisingly calm. We all chatted & joked around on the dock. Most of us jumped in a few minutes before the start to splash around, the race director yelled “GO!”…and we went. There was no chaos. It was a very polite, calm affair. We were pretty spread out but I found a good spot right between two people maintaining a pace I could match pretty easily until I couldn’t and then I side stroked for a few yards, rounding the first buoy and I wasn’t sure if I had been in the water forever or just a few minutes but my shoulders had quit muttering quite so intensely so I switched back to the front crawl and found people to match again. I don’t really remember rounding the last buoy. I do remember thinking I would not side stroke into the finish so I didn’t. I probably stopped a few strokes early and had to wade through chest deep water but on the other hand, I’m not sure that pond ever gets any more shallow. A volunteer helped pull me onto the crazy high step and then I was jogging down the lane, hearing my name here and there and all I could think was “I’m not dizzy!” and “Don’t put your helmet on backwards!” (Swim time: 9:28)
Transition went…as well as could be expected. I didn’t rush. I stayed standing to put on my socks & shoes and I’m not sure if that slowed me down or gave me a few extra seconds. Ultimately I don’t care. (T1 – 3:10) I jogged my bike to the mount line, stopped & got on. I haven’t even started to try & master the running mount. Given my level of grace and coordination, that will be a feat unto itself. I waved to Lynette and Drew who were already out on the course cheering for me, gave them thumbs up for pictures and headed out on the first lap. What is there to say about the bike course? It was flat. It was also the loneliest stage. There were stretches where no one was around to cheer and no one was nearby to cheer FOR (which I did whenever I saw a member of the training group or someone passed me.) I found a groove and decided to hold it but ended up with the beginnings of a cramp in my right quad and an extremely dry mouth. Lynette was waiting for me next to T2 and asked how I was feeling. All I could say was “I’m really thirsty.” Lessons learned on the bike: Learn to get to my water bottle while pedaling and work on evening out my pedaling. (Bike time: 21: 31 – Also, I need more strength.)
I don’t have a time for T2. It couldn’t have been too long. I switched my helmet for a hat, gulped way too much water, grabbed my music, high fived Lynette and headed out. I jogged for a little bit, realized I was still horribly thirsty…and then both sides simultaneously cramped into the worst side stitches I’ve ever had. I slowed to a walk/limp and maintained that pretty much the whole course. I had one ear bud in but it was hot, my sides hurt, I was still more thirsty than I could remember ever being in my entire life and music was irritating me, not motivating. After the turn around (and more water), I tried to run a little bit but reverted back to my walk/limp when I started getting nauseous. I decided I WOULD cross the finish line running though. I glanced at the time as I came around the last bend and thought I was pushing the sixty minute mark for my total time. I had spent the past week saying I didn’t care about time but in truth, I wanted to come in under an hour – even without training that seemed reasonable – and I was going to be UPSET if I missed that by a few seconds. So I picked up the pace and tried to sprint my way across the line. (Tried being the key word). Lynette was on the other side of the fence, ready for her wave to start but waiting to cheer my finish. I remember touching her hand through the fence and hearing her say “You did it! You’re finished!” I don’t remember what I answered but I think she told me to go get water which sounded like the most brilliant plan in the world. I think I wished her good luck. I hope I did because she was amazing out there for me. I walked to the refreshments tent, gratefully took a bottle of water and a handful of grapes and realized that if I tried to eat anything else I WOULD throw up. I spotted Bianca and received a HUGE hug from her. I wandered a few minutes until I saw my BFF from that morning standing near some chairs in the shade. She didn’t know who they belonged to but I sank into one anyway. Coach Beth (from the training group) came by to check on me & offer congrats. Within a few minutes Drew found me and commandeered the chair next to me. I was already feeling fine but we sat and chatted for a while until the owners’ of the chairs came back and nicely reclaimed them so they could leave. He said he thought my time was close to 50 minutes. I thought he was crazy but didn’t argue. Turns out my total time was 52:58 so in the future I should probably trust my people out on the course who are more aware of those details.
All in all it was as much fun and a little harder than I expected. (95+ degrees probably didn’t help either.) I’m already eyeing a sprint in the fall and have started considering what time I’m aiming for next year. The activity itself is fun. But really it’s the community that elevates triathlon to such a great level. I had friends there and I can’t imagine doing this without them. People out on the course that I didn’t know encouraged and cheered me as I did them. Spectators I didn’t know, there for other participants, cheered for me. Sharing the details of the day and the giddiness of finishing with friends and training partners was not the icing on the cake, it was the cake. Getting to swim, ride & r…walk…that was the icing.