Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why just run when I can also bike AND swim?

I did it. After years of consideration and months of training, this past weekend I completed my first sprint triathlon. I've complained for months about the inconvenience of swimming, and I swore I would do one and only one. I may, however, have been googling other triathlons in the car on the way home. It was a fantastic challenge, and I absolutely loved it.

I was up at 4 am on Sunday a complete nervous wreck. I think there are two big factors that have kept me from doing a tri before this: the swim and the logistics of transitions. My friend and I (along with our awesome cheering sections) headed to the Waterloo Recreation Area in Grass Lake, Michigan (translation: the middle of nowhere.) We arrived about an hour early and started setting up.

I can't remember being this nervous for a race. Ever. I was relatively nervous for the Marine Corps Marathon last year, but it was nothing like this. We grabbed our packets and timing chips (which are velcro bracelets that wrap around your ankle.) I nervously pulled my stuff together and pinned my bib on the tank I would put on after the swim.

All nerves prepping for the race.
Striking a pose after getting marked up.
There was a mandatory meeting on the beach before the swim. Nearly everything about this race was impeccably organized from the pre-race registration to race day logistics. The Tri Goddess Tri race is an all women's triathlon with more than 300 women competing in their first tri. It was made easy for us. Despite the organization I stood on the beach listening to final instructions and trying not to panic.

The face of terror.
My friend is a super swimmer, and she took off with the elite swimmers. I stood on the beach shaking off the nerves and trying to remain calm. I ran into the water still trying to calm my nerves. Unfortunately the first part of the swimming course was REALLY weedy. Here's the thing: I don't love lakes. The idea of an open water swim is pretty much terrifying. So pulling weeds off of me (including from around my neck - gross) during the first few minutes was almost making me panic. Once I got past the weeds I had to work for a few minutes to calm my breathing. I was just repeating the phrase "nice and steady" in my head over and over again. Finally it worked, and I pushed through the swim in 26 minutes and 4 seconds. Not fast. At all.

And we're off!
Into the water

The transition from the lake to the bike was challenging. We had to run up a hill for quite a ways barefoot to the transition. Another thing I dislike as much as lakes is being barefoot. I HATE having my shoes off. I wear shoes in my own house. Running barefoot with grass, dirt and water on my feet is not ideal, but I powered through. One of my tri veteran friends suggested a small pan with water to clean off my feet before putting on my shoes. It was genius and made a huge difference.

Transition time

I quickly put on my tank, shoes and bike helmet and set off on the bike. I must confess - I barely trained for the bike portion. It's biking. How hard can it be right? I did some spinning workouts and took the bike I'd borrowed out twice before the race. I was a few miles in before I realized getting through 10.7 miles would be harder than I thought. Couple that with the hilly course, and my legs were burning. People were flying by me during the bike, and I felt like I was taking forever. I pulled back into the transition area with a time of 42:49.

Starting the run felt like coming home.

I saw my husband and said, "Finally, the easy part!" It felt great to use my legs in the way they like best - running. It took a few minutes to get into the groove, but in about a half a mile I was flying. We turned onto a wooded trail a half a mile in, and I was booking it. I didn't have a single person pass me during the run, and I passed probably 50 people. The other racers were so supportive. Nearly everyone I passed said, "Good job!" or "Get it" or something else encouraging. I navigated the trails and hills with a smile on my face. When I came around the corner to the finish I put it in high gear and pushed it - hard. It felt amazing to cross that finish line giving it 100 percent. I completed the three mile run in 24:05 which is a great time for me.

I wanted to finish the triathlon more than anything, but I had a secret goal of 1 hour and 45 minutes in my head. I didn't want to get wrapped up in time, so I didn't really tell many people. I crossed the finish in 1:36:36, well ahead of my mental goal. I loved every single minute of it (okay maybe not the weeds or the barefoot part but the rest). It was such a fantastic challenge, and I feel strong and amazing. I do feel like a goddess. Seriously.

With my awesome friend afterward.

It appears that competing in triathlons won't allow me to complete races downtown, so I may do one every now and then while continuing to run half marathons on a more regular basis. After all running these towns is pretty much my thing. But the all out challenge of pushing my body and my mind in such a different way was amazing. I love being a tri goddess. Think "I Tri These Towns" has the same ring to it?


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