Well, I did it! Officially conquered my first triathlon today.
I’m a big fan of inspirational quotes, and one that has always stuck with me is from Ralph Waldo Emerson- “Always do what you are afraid to do.” Now, I can safely say I followed his advice!
So let me start from the very beginning. I set my alarm nice and early (5:50) and crawled out of bed for some coffee and 2 pieces of whole wheat toast with my newest creation- (I’m going to call it Amazing Almond Nutella, recipe soon to come!) and a banana for good measure.
I tripled checked my list of supplies (didn’t forget anything- phew!), and soon we were off. My mom, dad, and I crammed into my dad’s truck because it’s the only car we have big enough for the bike, so it was a bit cozy as we drove over. Luckily, we didn’t have to go too far as the race was right in Lowell.
I checked in, got my race bib and loot (another t-shirt! SCORE!!), and went into the transition area to set up and get marked.
I didn’t really have any in-depth system to laying out my things. Mostly, I just tried to copy what everyone around me was doing.
After that, I went to watch the start of the Olympic distance group- they began an hour before the sprint was set to go. This is when things went south for me, mentally/emotionally. First it’s important to note that on this course, the Olympic was doing pretty much double whatever the Sprint distance did- they did 2 loops of the bike course while we only did 1, and they had to run twice as far. SOO, it stood to reason that they would have to swim twice as far too. And looking out at their course, I started freaking out because just 1 loop of the course of buoys they had to swim looked WAY TOO FREAKIN’ far for me to swim. I started panicking- it looked so much farther than .25 miles! I honestly felt like I was going to throw up (or cry.).
Feeling doomed, I went to put on my wetsuit and go to the beach for a little warm-up swim. As I was hanging out with other folks doing the sprint distance, I overheard people talking about the course WE would have to swim, and finally realized I was not going to have to swim the full loop- turns out the loop is half a mile, and the Olympic group was doing it twice for a full mile-long swim. I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt reassured. I could do this.
Before I knew it, we were off! After hearing numerous horror stories about getting kicked in the face, swum over, and having panic attacks in the water, I decided to play it safe, starting towards the back of the pack and a bit on the side. I just wanted to be able to do my thing, and I knew I wasn’t going to break any swimming records!
And I actually passed some people (my dad counted 7 people that I passed while watching me with binoculars!). That gave me a serious mental boost, and while I was one of the last ladies out of the water, I did manage to catch up to a couple of men from the previous wave! Not too shabby.
Then it was time for transition! I was pretty flustered, trying to quickly change out of my wetsuit without falling over. My plan was to do a vanilla GU before the bike, but with my wet hands, I could only get it half open, so I took one swallow through the partial opening, and considered it good enough.
Off to bike 11 miles I went!
I’m going to be completely honest. I totally underestimated the biking. I had done some rides in and around the neighborhoods near my house, but it wasn’t the best prep for this course. Tight turns in the neighborhoods kept me from really building up any speed, and apart from a couple, sudden, steep hills, the course I trained on was relatively flat. This course had long, straight stretches that I tried to pedal hard on, but it also had a number of long, gradual hills. HILLS, THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE! Well, I tried on those hills. I really did. I put my bike in the easiest gear and I pedaled as hard as I could, and I barely. Moved. Yeah, mountain bikes are really not made for speed. People whizzed by me on their super-fancy, light road bikes. But everyone was so nice and supportive- one guy told me I was doing great and to keep it up. I guess I looked like I needed a bit of encouragement.
My legs were shot when I rolled in for the second transition. But I was happy. The bike was done and all I had left was to run 3 miles. 3 miles?! Psshh, that’s hardly enough to warm up!
I finished my gel from earlier, guzzled some Gatorade mixed with water, switched my helmet for a hat, and got going.
My pace starting out felt incredibly slow, but I didn’t stress about it. I was going to finish this triathlon, and THAT was all I really wanted. I passed a few people, reached the turnaround point, and finally started heading back. The end was within sight! And that is when a niggling pain in my left knee really started rearing its ugly head. I’ve run on tired legs before (the end of a half-marathon, for example!), but this was the toughest pain I have ever run through. I just tried to focus on my mantra- “Light, quick, relaxed” (ie, what I want my form to be!). It didn’t help that a few times I felt my Gatorade almost come back up- I think I may have drunk too much too quickly. But luckily, it stayed down and I avoided the trauma of upchucking.
Finally, I could see the Finish archway, and I pushed to give it all I had. And I did it. I completed my first triathlon. YES!!!
After hanging out a bit and sampling a free Greek yogurt swirled with caramel, we packed up my stuff, and went to a diner for a post-race breakfast. 2 chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes and a side of scrambled eggs for me. I was ravenous, and absolutely devoured the deliciousness. (I had taken pics of the yummy food, but I think I accidentally deleted them. Oops.)
After a shower, it was time for an ice pack for my knee and a little couch action.
Words cannot describe how I feel. This was such a different experience for me, and I really started to freak out there in the beginning. BUT I DID IT. I didn’t drown or hyperventilate on the swim, didn’t crash my bike, and I ran the whole 3 miles (except when I had a little water at the water stop. But that was a really short break, so it doesn’t count )
On to the next adventure! (After I rest a little more, of course.)