I did it! I survived my first sprint triathlon. I did not fall off the bike, or cause anyone else to crash (I was honestly more worried about the latter).
packing for a triathlon is a lot more complicated than a half marathon
As the triathlon got closer, I slept less. I checked the weather, which fluctuated from 60% chance of thunderstorms, to 80%, to 100%. Then I tried to figure out if it would be worse to have the triathlon canceled (I wouldn’t have to do it! But then I would have stressed and worried for weeks for naught), or to have it move forward (biking on wet roads. Enough said.) My best friend and I texted back and forth about 238 times on Saturday, discussing everything from the weather, to transition tips, to where to put all the stickers in the race packet (note: if you advertise a triathlon as “beginner friendly”, you might want to consider giving some basic instructions for that type of stuff.)
Race day dawned. Or rather, thundered. As we parked at the activity center, right on time at 5:45am for transition opening, it wasn’t quite raining yet, but the distant sound of thunder could be heard. I barely noticed, though, because I was too busy staring at ZOMG ALL THE SUPER FIT PEOPLE.
I have done 5 half marathons, 3 10ks, and 7 5ks at this point, so I’ve now had a lot of experience at race events. No offense to my lovely running community, but triathletes are athletes. I mean, I usually like to consider myself fairly fit and toned (especially for a middle aged mom of 3) but I was out of my league, here.
We hustled it over to transition, trying to beat the rain. My husband chivalrously asked if he could push my bike for me. On any other day, I would have taken him up on it (since I am still not even walking beside my bike with ease at this point. No, I am not exaggerating) but I decided that would look rather lame. I prepare him for not being allowed in transition with me.
Then comes my absolute favorite vignette in the entire day.
As we approach transition, there are 3 people loudly and cheerfully calling “body markings! Who wants some body markings?!” (you know, the numbers written on the arms. I know about this because I have extensively prepared by watching YouTube videos).
My husband, without a trace of sarcasm, excitedly turns to me and goes “OOOH! Body markings! Do you want to get them?! That sounds FUN!” (he really didn’t know about them).
I love him so much.
I enter transition, and start the Magoo-eyes squinting (keep in mind, it’s still dark) at the little signs with all the numbers written on them. That is when I realize just how many people are at this race. It takes me awhile to find my row. I carefully lay everything out, then stand there with my hands on my hips, wracking my brain to see if I forgot anything, while half listening, half trying to to tune out, the clearly-a-triathlon-coach giving instructions and reminders to his “team” the next row over.
What the hell am I doing up with the “team” people?!
the last picture I snapped before tucking my iPhone away in my bike bag. My carefully rolled socks in each shoe, designed for maximum efficiency (I watched YouTube videos) was rendered pointless when I had to wring out each sopping wet sock before putting them on.
I had decided to tuck my iPhone in my bike tire care pouch thing under my seat so that my husband could track my location. No, I did not need the contents in the pouch. I do not need them, because I do not know how to change a bike tire. Convenient!
I went inside, and picked up my timing chip. Remembering my best friend’s story of her chip falling off her ankle in the pool at her last tri, I nervously fasten, then refasten, the chip cuff roughly 17 times. By this time, it’s almost 6:30 (7am start) and they start ushering athletes in the gym. Deanna finds me, and I instantly feel better.
For about 5 minutes.
Between the time when I came inside the building from transition (6am-ish) to 6:30, the distant thunder turned into crashing-overhead thunder, with lightening flashing. We wait in the gym with the over 600 other triathletes, waiting for the verdict.
- 7am: we’re waiting until 7:10am to make a decision.
- 7:10am: we’re waiting until 7:20am to make a decision
- 7:20am: it will be one of three possibilities – we’re going to cancel the triathlon, we’re going to do just a swim-run, or we’re going to run it like usual. (this is where I squealed out loud and said SWIM-RUN YESSSSS)
- 7:30am: there is lightening overhead but the radar looks like it will clear out by 7:45am
- 7:40am: we are going to begin lining you up in 5 minutes. We will run the tri as usual, but you are welcome to use the option of only doing a swim-run.
Well. Shit. Here’s the thing you need to know about me. If the race itself became a swim-run, through no fault or choice of my own, I would have been thrilled. But no way could I wimp out and choose to not do the full triathlon.
- 7:45am: cue the “the roads are very slick and given the weather conditions, please no one try to get a record today. Just have fun! Please be careful!” What I hear: you will die on the bike.
feeling great at this point, dry and warm, at around 6:20am. I wouldn’t get in the pool until almost 2 hours later.
fortunately I was able to kill time while waiting for the lightening to pass by hanging with this lady.
We line up in groups of 50, and since I am number 119, I am in the 3rd group. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a little surprised I’m so far back, given that we are seeded according to our swim time. I estimated a 4:20 swim time (pure guess, given how little I have been in the water), but that’s a fairly decent clip for a 275 yard snake-lane swim.
As it turns out, people
lie can be really inaccurate with those swim seed times.
For the first 5-6 laps, it was swimming perfection. I talked myself out of going out to fast (something I knew would be a really easy mistake to make, since I can sprint the heck out of 100 yards even completely out of swim-shape), and got a strong, methodical rhythm. Breathing every 4, easy flip turns under the lanes, dolphin kick off the walls, perfectly timed behind the guy in front of me, no one catching me behind.
And then I started passing people. At least for the next couple lengths, the people were easy to pass. The guy right in front of me was pretty much right on my pace, so he would pass someone, and then I would come up behind them in another 7-8 seconds or so, and pass them just as easily. It threw off my rhythm, but definitely didn’t affect my time.
Until the last 3 lanes, when I tried to pass a guy who just wouldn’t have it (it did make me feel better that he gave the guy in front of me the same amount of trouble). I cruised in next to him right at the wall (unable to flip turn because we came in together) and he wouldn’t let me by. Rude! Then, in the last lap, there were swimmers on both sides of the lane all the way back, and I got boxed in. It was very frustrating, since I knew it was costing me precious seconds in the one part of the race I could do very well in.
Which is all to say that maybe I need to shave some hypothetical seconds off my swim seed time in the future, so I can race the entire swim.
I love this picture so much. My mother can attest that this was my exact “on the block” stance of utter concentration from my competitive swimming days. I was 100% focused, waiting for the go signal.
I remember this girl was easy to pass. I cruised by her well before the wall, and still did my flip turn.
this guy, on the other hand, totally messed up my mojo by not letting me pass at the wall when we came in at the same time, even though I was CLEARLY SO MUCH FASTER THAN HIM (wrong seed time, much?). This was me kicking it into high gear on the next lap to get around him.
Out of the pool, and on to the run to transition 1 (that’s called “T1” in triathlete lingo. See, I know it now). I ran out the back pool door, remembering to pull off my swim cap and goggles as I’m running. And OH MY GOD IT’S COLD AND WET AND I’M BAREFOOT AND TIRED ALREADY.
Fortunately, I used the (YouTube video) trick of making sure I looked for a touchstone in transition when I set up, so I would not get lost and confused. I put my bike right under a parking lot lampost, and found it right away. Success! I got this! Helmet: ON! Goggles and cap: DOWN! Socks ready to roll right over my feet: wait a minute, I have to wring them out first. Oh good god, everything is SOAKED.
On the bike. I got this. I got this. I got this. *lightening flashes* I’m going to die.
The race route had us going 2 loops to equal 10.8 miles. The entire first loop, it was a steady stream of “on your left” and then a WHIZZ as people FLEW by me. Remember, I was up front with the fast people. I am not fast on the bike. I’m pretty sure I was the only person carefully braking on downhills (yes, really). There were many sharp turns in the bike course (I actually heard several other athletes talking about the turn-challenge aspect of the bike course, so that is not just my scared neophyte opinion, it really was a thing), which meant each and every time, I would sloooooowly brake and very carefully wobble my way around the turns.
I wish I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but honestly, it was bad. It was pouring rain and actually thundering and lightening, and all I could think of was my bike wheels skidding out from underneath me.
BUT, as I worked on my second loop (which was a HUGE relief because at least I knew what to expect), I actually passed some people! At that point, there were some of the later swimmers starting their first loop, and I was faster than some of them. Of course, it took me forever to actually pass people. First, I had to see if any hills were in the distance (I would not pass on uphills or downhills). Then, I had to look behind me to see if I was going to get in anyone’s way by moving over. Then, I would spend several minutes evaluating if I really would be fast enough to pass them.
I still passed at least 5 or 6 people. I know.
I think this is me finishing the bike, about to enter T2. I was ridiculously relieved.
Off the bike (carefully making sure to dismount before the dismount line. Unlike Vancouver, when I wiped out in the street and split my knee open, careful to get my leg all the way over my seat upon dismounting), and on to T2. I jog my bike over, find my spot, and carefully hook my seat on the bar.
I try to unclasp my helmet. My fingers are shaking (from cold or exhaustion, I’m not sure which). I spend seconds, which felt like minutes, fumbling with my bike helmet. I feel disoriented, and loopy. Helmet: DOWN! Visor: ON! Oh crap, I almost forgot my belt with my number. I forgot to lay that out this morning. I frantically feel around in my Speedo bag, and tug out the belt.
I start jogging, and realize that I only remembered to look for the bike exit from the transition area, and not the run area. As a result, I start running towards the wrong corner of the transition area, until I hear a volunteer yelling “Runners exit over HERE!”.
I have no proof, but I think he might have yelled that specifically for the goofball in the blue visor booking it towards the wrong corner.
I’m out, and running. Everything hurts. I tell myself that I will settle in, that it’s just the first mile, that my body will remember the running cadence.
I tell myself that for 3.1 miles, which hurt with every. single. footstep.
I look like I’m running at a good clip here. Good job, husband. In truth, I was absolutely dying.
At almost a mile in, I pass my husband (it was a weird loop in and around the activity center location). He’s beaming at me, pumps his fist, “You got this babe! Look at you!”
I look at him and say “I’m dying.”
His fist slowly comes down.
But I did it. I finished. Here’s the kicker: I estimated a 1:50 race time. I didn’t anticipate any type of impressive performance, for a plethora of reasons.
Swim (275 yds): 4:33.5 Bike (10.8 miles): 43:13.4 Run (5k): 32:27.6
Finish time: 1:23.41 9th in my AG
I seriously can’t believe it. I mean, I really can’t believe it. For my first triathlon, with very little sprint triathlon training, I feel like I turned in a very solid performance.
At brunch afterwards, my husband asked me: “So, are you going to do more triathlons?”
Me: “Well, it was terrible. I mean, I hated it. But apparently I’m good at it.”
Him: “So you’re doing more triathlons.”
notice my blue lips? I passed De going the opposite way on the run loop, so I waited for her to finish (she placed ahead of me, but because of the swim differential, I “finished” the race 10-15 min before her). I was FRIGID waiting in the rain for her, but I had to see my girl come in.