This was the first triathlon I registered for – with shaking fingers and my heart in my throat – about five months ago. Back then I could hardly run a mile, and hadn’t been swimming since middle school, unless you count my kids’ infant swim classes at the YMCA. So a triathlon with a kayak leg sounded a lot friendlier than a typical swim/bike/run format.
Naturally, anxiety loves company, so my first goal was to get some girlfriends to join the insanity with me. (I apparently missed the memo about team uniform).
Fast forward five months of training, including a swim/bike/run sprint triathlon in July, a 50 mile ride a few weeks back, and getting these girls comfy(ish) on their bikes, and we are at the starting line.
The Run 29:42 (51/59)
Running is by far my weakest sport. My training has been interrupted with injuries more often than not. For this race I was sporting a pretty sore hip flexor on both legs, so my main goal was to avoid further injury. I was psyched it was up first, because given the choice I’d rather get the most painful part of any process over with first. We all lined up and off we went. For the first ½ mile or so I paced Friend #346, who is a long term runner and training for the Boston Marathon next year. My Garmin said 8:30 minute miles, so I decided it must be broken bc I don’t run that fast. Eventually Friend #346 took off, and I settled into my usual 9-10 minute pace. I knew I was toward the back, but I didn’t care, because holding that pace and focusing on springy calves and short steps to avoid aggravating my already hurt hip was my goal. The route was pretty hilly – I couldn’t catch up to many people on the downhills, but the uphills were a different story. I don’t know if its cross-over from biking being my strongest sport, or that I’ve focused my training runs in hilly country, but I can run up when others are walking. So. One of my race goals was also to smile for the cameras to avoid the hideous race photos from my previous tri – a shining moment was when I saw the camera girl, told her I was gonna LOOK at her this time! and grinned as big as I could. The rest of the run went smoothly, holding that pace until I crossed the mat and headed into T1. My Garmin said something that was less than 30:00, but as I had earlier decided it must be broken I didn’t give it much credibility.
My loving husband, after watching me comically try to take off my bike shoes, put on socks, take off socks, put on running shoes, etc. and then fall on my butt in frustration at a previous tri, kindly bought me a 5 gallon bucket and painted it bright orange for me. Does it scream “serious athlete here!!!”? No. But darnnit if I wasn’t happy to sit my tired buns down and put on my bike shoes with no drama. After patting myself down head to butt to make sure my helmet was indeed on, my race belt was indeed backward, etc. I was off on the bike.
The Bike 47:56 (29/59)
I love my bike. I extra loved it today because yesterday it was having shifting issues and I managed to fix it myself, with no help from husband (who had tried to fix it for several hours the day prior with no success). The fact that the shifting issues were caused by my fumbling attempts to learn to remove the wheels and change a flat tire is neither here nor there.
Knowing that the bike would be where I could make up time from my run, I settled in and spent the first 2 miles or so getting my breathing nice and steady after being a little winded from the run. The road course was pretty cracked in places, with a good number of sharp turns, so not falling was also a big goal. The first 5 miles were all downhill or flat, and again I couldn’t pick off anyone. Then around mile 5 the first long climb started after a sharp right turn. Hello hills!! I started passing several people up the hill and on the long rollers that followed, including Friend #346 who had smoked me on the run. It was around this stretch where I got to witness some truly frightening biking behavior – like riding near the double yellow line, three abreast. Sorry folks, but if you are going to do any kind of ride involving a bike on non-closed roads, pleasefollow safe riding practices. I always feel extra motivated to pass these types of people, so that when they get squished by a car I am ahead of the accident, not right behind it….. Around mile 9 is what the race director termed the “Big *ss Hill” – it was tough but again I felt good and picked off a few more. The last 3 miles or so is all flat and downhill, so I threw it in the big chainring and kept checking the bike computer to keep above 20 mph back into T2.
There wasn’t much to do in T2 except rack my bike and pull off my shoes (and forget my hat). I I stuffed my still-socked feet into some flip flops and ran over to the kayak launch. ran slow and made sure to give big waves to hubby and kiddos who had been diligently spectating for over an hour at this point (which is a lifetime when it is hot and sunny and you are 4 and 5 years old). What is NOT reflected in this time is how long it took me to grab my boat and get it in the water while several other people did the same. There was only space to launch one at a time, and after I was cut off by at least 2 people it became apparent that my being polite and taking turns wasn’t going to work. So I threw my 50 lb boat in front of the woman who was trying to edge me out and launched.
The Kayak 18:56 (25/59)
By the time I was in the boat, I definitely felt like the big portion of the race was over. After all, I had zero idea what to expect or what the kayak would be like – even what a decent time would be. After the first turn buoy it was a free for all. No one seemed to know exactly the route – people going in and out were crossing. Paddling straight was not a skill many of us had. Kind of fun to watch all of us so focused on the run and bike paddle in zigzags and laugh to each other. So we all kind of water-bugged around, a few people shrieking and throwing spiders out of our disused rental boats once in a while. I enjoyed kayaking without a preschooler in my cockpit throwing off my steering, and eventually made it back to where we came in. My shoulders and arms were all done! When it was time to stand up and exit the kayak, my legs wouldn’t work!! I had to try twice, finally got up and stumbled onto dry land, then ran up the slope through the finish line!!!
My family missed my finish due to the kids having “had it” and my husband underestimating how quickly I’d finish the kayak leg (I forgave him as soon as he told me that). The feeling was amazing. I felt SO GOOD finishing this triathlon, compared to my last one where I almost fainted at the finish line. Had some water, cheered my girlfriends in, and it was a great day!!!!
Overall time was 1:38:35 (34/59). If there were age groups (the race was too small) I’d have been 2nd out of the 30-39 year old women! Not. Too. Bad. Most importantly, I felt like all the hard work training I’ve done since my last race had really paid off. Which is great incentive to keep doing it!