It hit me as I was laying out my gear on Saturday night for my traditional pre-race layout photo that this was my first such photo in 2017 (I raced one other time this year, my February 15k, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to run that until I woke up that morning, because of a fender bender the day before).
One other race in 2017. Wow.
2017 has not been my favorite, and it certainly hasn’t been about “me” at all, due to some health issues with a member of my family. I’ve been fairly low on the totem pole of priorities, as are most moms, I’d reckon. So, after a few summer months of a fairly disciplined training cycle preparing for this triathlon, I was especially disheartened to get sick the two weeks before this race, not to mention a crazy Aug/Sept schedule that only allowed me to get to the pool 6 times in the 5 weeks leading up to the race.
I left the house at 5:50am to drive the 30 min to the race site and have time to set up in transition and get my chip before the 6:55am transition lockdown and 7am Olympic distance start. My husband would leave later, closer to 7am, with the 3 kids. All 3 volunteered (no guilt trip, bribes or directives involved!) to come cheer me on, which I really appreciated. I almost always schedule my races on weekends when they’re with their Dad (because 3 teenagers. Enough said.), so they rarely see me race. I’m actually not sure my races are even on their radar, to be honest. They asked me at dinner the night before what I actually do in a triathlon.
They’re teenagers. But they’re really sweet kids.
The weather was gorgeous for the swim start, although it was a balmy 90 degrees by the run. It was my first time at the Stonebridge Ranch triathlon (okay, only my 3rd triathlon period), and my 3rd ever open water swim. Which is all to say that I am still very much a triathlon newbie.
We lined up on the area by the dock to watch the Olympic triathletes start their swims. While I was waiting, I saw a former student (I taught him senior year English) exit the water in third place, which was incredibly cool. I cheered his name loudly as he dashed by me (roughly 10 yards away) towards transition, and he told me after the race that he heard me yelling.
The swim: We entered the water (man made lake) off a dock, one by one, ants-marching style. It was too warm to be wetsuit legal, which worked for me as I do not have a wetsuit. I felt pretty strong throughout the swim; I sighted well, did not weave off track at all, and steadily picked swimmers off. I kept telling myself to slow down, pull back, and save it for the bike and run, but yet again, I cannot follow this advice.
I don’t know how to not “race” on the one leg that I can do well (more on that later). When I exited the water, I glanced at my watch, and saw I was sub-14 minutes, which was about where I thought I should be, given my conditioning. I also suspected, given how many swimmers I passed, that I did fairly well.
This turned out to be true. I was first in my AG out of the water, and the 7th woman overall.
I wish I could end my race report here, because that’s where the good news ends. #swimmer
my husband caught this picture of me exiting the water from his viewing point.
See the guy in the neon yellow/green shirt in my husband’s picture? This is what he captured. Um. Okay, the good news is that I was running. The bad news is everything else.
T1: I noticed when I looked up the 2016 results (do all triathletes do this? Because I have to do this. It gives me an idea of the size of the field and how competitive it might be) that the T1 times for my AG were almost all between 4-5 minutes. This struck me as very odd. That is a long transition time.
It turns out that there is a very long run from the water exit to the transition area. As in, run down a big hill, across a field, between 2 sets of tennis courts, and then finally into the transition area. I’m not kidding. It was a hike.
running down the hill towards transition. I look fast because I was trying not to fall down. It was a fairly steep decline.
see the edge of a tennis court in the far left side of this picture? We had to run over there, down the width of the court, then hang a right and run between two full court-lengths.
The bike: What to say about the bike? I am still slow as molasses. I mean, okay, positive reframe – it was my first race using the clip-in pedals, and I did not wipe out at the start or finish. On the other hand, there were 10 and 11 year olds that were flying by me and doing those obnoxious yet graceful running-leap mounts and dismounts that would quite certainly land me in the hospital if I ever attempted them. I, on the other hand, very carefully and gingerly swing my leg over and settle myself and check left, check right, making sure I am not taking anyone out before slowly-grandma-style start to accelerate (and vice versa on the finish). It was hot, and there was a monster hill on mile 1 just out of the start (and then again at the beginning of loop 2) that was kind of brutal.
At least I handled it better than the person in front of me on my 2nd loop, who abruptly had to hop off her bike halfway up the hill because she couldn’t keep the momentum going, which then led the poor guy behind her to also half-fall/half-jump off his bike to avoid crashing into her. This all happened about 15 yards in front of me, which led me to involuntarily call out “oh shit, that sucks” as I swerved to avoid them.
me on my trusty $200 Schwinn.
The run: As in my previous 2 triathlons, there is an initial euphoria for me going into the run because I am off the bike and alive praise Jesus all I have to do is keep my body moving forward I will not crash! (remember this. Wait for it.). Then, within a few minutes, the hurt locker sets in and I think “how in the WORLD am I supposed to run right now? This is not possible!”
Every time. Every. Time. (all 2 previous times).
I don’t know, y’all. I’m not a runner. I mean, I am in the sense that I have taken up running and I do it regularly, but let’s not forget that I am slow. I’m fine with that in half marathons. I’m still so proud that I can do half marathons. But in triathlons, it bothers me that I’m slow, and despite following training plans and really putting in the hours and training, not having the endurance to even do my pace for the 5k/10k part.
On this particular run, as some sort of cosmic balancing act for not crashing on the bike, the universe decided it would be fun if I tripped and fell with roughly 1/2 mile left of the 5k. I went flying. Down for the count, skidding across the gravel sidewalk trail. Immediately 2 other runners came to my aid (because athletes, whether runners or triathletes, are seriously the nicest people), and I had to do that embarrassing “fine! I’m fine! I got it!” while holding up my bloody palms and brushing off my bloody knee and immediately hobbling-jogging again, so that I wouldn’t slow down their race.
So that was fun.
this smarted more than it looks. Road rashes are the worst.
I finished the race around 9:15am, and had to wait around for transition to open again, since we weren’t able to take our bikes out until the last cyclist left the field. My finishing time was a 1:38:08, which was a good 7-8 minutes slower than where I wanted to finish, so I was not pleased with my performance, but happy to be done.
We headed out to brunch with the kids, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked the results page at almost 11am and saw that I was 3rd in my AG. What? How was that possible?
It turns out it wasn’t. When I checked the results page this morning (to get the swim split picture for this blog post), I saw that while those times were accurate for myself and the two women in front of me, the other women were (previously) listed at their “finish” times, vs chip times. They actually finished in front of me – it’s just that I came out of the water before them by quite a bit.
With my former student. He won his AG, and placed 3rd overall for all men. He’s a rockstar.
Triathlons are long. And hot. And boring.
But they love their Mom
So, I have many thoughts about triathlons, and none of them very positive (this week). Three times, I have won my AG, and placed very, very well in the entire female field (without anything beyond the bare minimum for pool training), for the swim portion, and three times, I have done abysmally on the bike and run. I don’t know where I want to go with this (and fortunately, since my triathlon season is done, I don’t need to make any decisions right now).
I have considered trying Master’s swimming next summer. I’ve considered focusing on aquathlons and open water swim challenges. I’ve considered that at some point I will get better on the bike and run. I’ve considered that maybe I should just try to be okay with being a rockstar on the swim part and merely average (or below) on the bike and run and just do it to have fun.
I don’t know. It’s an awfully expensive and time consuming hobby to be left so wracked with emotional frustration. But who knows. For now? I’m looking forward to getting a bunch of road races on the calendar, where simply getting that finisher’s medal really is an accomplishment for me.