I did it! I completed my first (since 2002) triathlon on Saturday. The first thing I thought of when I was done–why didn’t I keep this up in 2002? A lot of reasons, I suppose. I started graduate school, my husband was already in grad school, we didn’t have a lot of money, I was riding on a mountain bike, etc. I wish I would have.
I’ve been slow in writing about the race because I’m really not sure what to say (this almost never happens to me.) Like most things, I decided the race is at least 51% mental. There was a lot of positive (and some negative) self talk going on during the race, which kind of made me laugh. It is a bit demoralizing to have so many people say “on your left” as they pass you on the bike, or to see a huge hill when feel like you are about to die. But I digress.
My friend Sarah and I got there in enough time to get everything done–set up our transition area, get our bodies marked (my race number, 3 digits, in 3 inch high numbers on both arms and my right thigh. My race age, 30–note: I do not turn 30 until the end of the month!– on my left calf. I learned that permanent marker does not come off very easily, even after swimming in a lake, sweating profusely on the run, two showers, and a dip in the hot tub.) I pulled on my wetsuit (those things are not easy to get on, and of course look ridiculous) and we joined the rest of the triathletes near the edge of the water for a pre-race pep talk/recitation of the rules. I randomly ran into another friend who was doing the race–small world! The first wave of men started, and my wave got in the water. It wasn’t very cold, luckily, but being a lake, was full of squishy and gross muck that we got to stand in. Eeeww. My nerves had been going crazy as we drove to the lake, with my stomach doing flip flops and all that jazz, but once we got in the water, I calmed down. I was telling the girls that I like to have a song stuck in my head, but couldn’t think of the perfect one. Pitter-pat by Erin McCarley has a good rhythm, as do a few Dixie Chicks songs. I was worried I would get the Black Eyed Peas “Tonight’s going to Be a Good Night” stuck in my head. Sarah said, “What about Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies?'” I don’t know if she was kidding or not, but yep. That was what was in my head the whole time. There are only a few hundred times you can sing “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it” before you feel a bit crazy.
The race started. I tried to swim fast. At one point, early on, I got edged out by a girl on my right and a girl on my left, who were swimming in sort of a V. They crashed a bit. Its hard to spot buoys in a lake, and to pick your line from the start to the next buoy. I don’t feel like I swam very straight, but I guess you get better with practice. I did better once we rounded the first corner. (Triathlon buoys are arranged in a triangle, with one at the shore and two at other spots in the lake.) I felt slow slow slow, but apparently I wasn’t. My (sort of secret) goal was to get a top ten time in the swim, which I did. It was kind of fun passing a lot of the men in the first heat. Not as much fun having them all pass me on the bike.
From the swim, we jogged in the sand, then ran up about 3 stories worth of stairs to the transition area. Of course it felt like about 13 stories worth. I couldn’t decide if I should swim as fast as I could and just deal with being tired, or if I should hold back. I didn’t hold back much, so felt a little woozy in the transition area. I got my helmet on, sunglasses, bike shoes, snacks, and away I went. More or less. It was a very hilly course–the first three miles felt like all hills or false flats. I felt (and was) so slow. I was steadily passed throughout the race, but I knew that would happen. Come to find out, I am weakest on the bike, and middle of the pack on the run. At about mile 3.5 out of 17, as I was turning a bend, a big black dog came out of nowhere and started chasing my bike. I picked up speed considerably. Apparently, I can ride very quickly when I need to. I was luckily able to avoid any accidents; a girl 10 feet in front of me wiped out on her bike (luckily into the grass on the side of the road) and a friend got a flat. I escaped with just a little game of chase. I wish I had gone back and taken some photos of the scenery, but it was gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking farmland, hills, green green trees and fields with beautiful red barns. I decided to take a bit of time to enjoy the scenery on the ride, while peddling quickly of course–it would have been a shame to miss it.
As we all know, after the bike, there is a run. I think I would have been fine on the run, if not for the killer hill on mile 16. I yelled something like “you’ve got to be kidding me,” I heard others yell less polite things. I was just glad I didn’t have to stop. 5 mph is slow, but not quite stopping. One of the best things about the race was the cheering section! There were six triathletes and families there that I knew, and then two additional families came down to cheer people on and enjoy a weekend away. It was fabulous to come round the bend with that many people cheering. Of course, a little voice yelling “go mom!!!!” went a long way too. By the time we ran, it was hot. It was humid. It was hilly. I was done before we started. I didn’t have a watch, so I was sure that I ran a 42 minute 5k. Turns out it was 30:38–I had been hoping for 30, so I was pretty happy.
Overall: I felt such a sense of accomplishment finishing the race. And meeting, for the most part, my goals. With not a lot of sleep and a baby who doesn’t take a bottle, I’m pretty proud of my training effort, my performance, and my level of fitness in general. I finished in the top half of the race field, but more than that, I felt a bit of relief. I could make a goal that seemed a little unattainable, work hard, and achieve it. It makes me think perhaps there are other things in my life that I can do the same with (clean house, anyone?) Of course, I couldn’t have done it without J encouraging me, setting up a training plan, making time for me to work out, etc. etc. etc. Thanks! (A shot of the cabin we stayed in. Who wouldn’t want to stay here!!!)
A few lessons learned:
* Tape your number to the front part of the horizontal bar on your bike, not near the seat. Your legs will hit it every time you pedal. Not fun.
* Find yourself a cheering section. It totally helps!
* If you do better than people expect (your husband included), they may want to do a triathlon with (against?) you sooner than you expected
* Its much more fun to have a friend brag about you than to do it yourself
* It is possible to drink 2 gatorade water bottles during the race, then 3 bottles of water and a store-brand cola post race, and have it not affect you at all
* Being a mom gives you a certain amount of stamina–both of our husbands’ took a nap on Saturday, but Sarah and I didn’t! (we did all go to bed at 9:30)
* You will hurt more on Monday than on Saturday or Sunday
* It is possible to slurp down Gu without gagging. Almost.
* After completing one, you are either done or thinking about the next race. I’m in the latter category. A 5k with a friend on July 2, and a team triathlon with J and a friend on October 2!
* Its possible to feel totally content with your first race results. I thought I would feel a lot of things, but content wasn’t one of them.
* A nice bike makes a huge difference. I rode 2 miles (on my mountain bike) and ran 1.5 miles today, just so that I didn’t totally fall off the wagon. I didn’t realize how nice my bike really is.