My First Triathlon

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I DID IT!! 1 hr 35 min!! I AM A TRIATHLETE!! I cried at the finish line.

That's the text message I sent out right after the race. Wow, the adrenaline and excitement at the end were just too much. But let's back up a bit...

I had been keeping a secret for a couple days. This past Wednesday I started getting a sore throat and it got worse every day. I woke up on race day and it was worse, swollen and hurting. But I did what I'd been doing up to that point - ignored it. A sore throat by itself is nothing, right? It didn't seem to be effecting my energy level or anything. Still, after the alarm went off I laid in bed thinking, "Why did I sign up for this? Maybe I'll just sleep in." Nah, I got up and got moving. After all, I have a triathlon to do!

Despite every book and article I read saying to get to the event location as early as possible when Miguel suggested the night before that we shoot for getting there at 6am instead of 5:30am I agreed. We got up on time but left later than planned and didn't get to the event until 6:15. And wow, that place was packed. I was so nervous and excited I was almost numb. There were a line of cars down the street waiting to get in. But we got in and made our way to the registration booth to pick up our numbers.

As we were standing in the registration line with our bikes I hear over the loudspeaker, "Don't take your bikes to registration! Rack them first and then get your bib". Oops. But I was too close to leave so I got our numbers and then went to the racks. They were full. I noticed people just laid their bikes on the ground in open areas so that's what we did. Here are our bikes with our towels holding all our stuff pre-race. Notice Miguel's transition "bag"? He didn't bring a backpack so he put all his stuff in that NorthFace shopping bag.

With our bikes and stuff set up we headed off to get our numbers marked on our bodies. Wow, this makes it seem so real. They had an organized assembly line set up and a woman marked my arm while a man was marking my opposite leg. Darn-it if I don't feel like a friggin' athlete now! And I got the coolest number ever, 1010. How friggin' awesome is that?! I'm hoping that red ink stays on my skin for at least a month.

And that's my tri swim outfit. Those are Sugoi Blast Tri Shorts, which I wore throughout the race. They have a thin bike pad built in so they dry fast after the swim but you still get a little cushioning for the bike ride. The top is a SkirtSports TRIKini Tank. I wore my Moving Comforts Melbourne Sports Bra under the tank. It all matched very nicely :) Here's a picture of Miguel and I all ready to go.

At 6:45am we headed to the beach to hear the "newbie talk" from a coach. She was very encouraging and gave great advice. Wow, lots of people milling around. I found myself looking at all the different outfits and all the different body shapes and sizes. I thought, "we're all nuts but isn't this cool?!". The coach described the swim route, tips on how to get around the buoys, how to get out of the lake, etc. Miguel and I decided to go on our own so he was in Wave 2 with the men ages 18-39 and I went 10 minutes later in Wave 4 with women of the same age. Here we go!!

I watched Miguel take off and then went to see if I could find my mom. No luck. Back to the beach, it's almost my turn. Eek! I was in the water, which was perfectly temperate and calm, and nervously waited for the airhorn. Off we went! It all happened so fast. The route was out, sideways across the lake, and back to the beach. As I rounded the first buoy I noticed I was breathing really hard and got nervous. Wait, I'm swimming too fast. I slowed down and got into a rhythm. I bumped a few women and a few bumped me but all in all things were going well. I spotted halfway across the sideways portion and realized I was swimming too far inland. I corrected and barely rounded the second buoy. Whoa, the swim's almost over. I swam until my hand hit the ground just like the coach said and got out, looked around for Mom (no luck there) while I walked to the transition area. Yes I walked, but quickly :)

I was so amped! I put on my Shebeest Cycling Jersey and then realized that, Oops!, I'm supposed to take off the Tankini first. Took the cycling jersey off, which had my race bib pinned to it so that was no easy task, off with the Tankini and back on with the cycling jersey. Put my Injinji socks on (each little toe gets its own sock!) and then my cycling shoes, sprayed sunscreen (I am IN LOVE with KINeSYS sunscreen) on my arms and face, on with the helmet, sunglasses, and gloves. Grabbed my bike and walked out of the transition area.

The bike route started with a little hill up and out of the park. My bike was in the granny gears and my adrenaline just pushed me up that hill without any difficulty. The lanes we rode in were closed and I thought, "Wow, I am doing this, I am in a triathlon, riding along with a number on my chest and wow, wow, wow." I passed some people and some people passed me. About 1/2 way through the ride I started chatting a little bit with other women, which was fun. I noticed that the longer the ride went on, the more people I passed.

Still, I wasn't flying by people by any stretch of the imagination. I did get quite irritated with this guy with whom I played leapfrog the last few miles. He never stayed to the right (so that faster riders could pass him) and never announced when he was passing ("on your left"). And once, when I called out that I was passing him, he sped up! Come on, man, this isn't the highway, move over! Oh, and the people on the sidewalks cheering us on made me SO happy. They were just out walking their dogs or what-not but they shouted, "good job" and "you're almost there" and I could have cried I was so touched.

There was one short, steep hill (other than that the ride was fairly flat). A fellow rider with whom I was chatting warned me about it and gave me all the details. It was nice not to come around the corner and be surprised or scared by it. Granny geared up it and then downhill all the way! Wheeeee! Wow, there's the park, we're done!? I rode back into the park, unclipped my shoes and, hey! There's mom! Hi! See you soon!! I took my bike into transition, switched shoes, off with the helmet, on with the visor hat, more sunscreen, grabbed an AccelGel ("do I really need this? oh, well, I'll take it just in case") and off I went.

I have no idea what time it was (wasn't wearing a watch) but it was getting warm. We're in the middle of a heatwave and the sun was beating down. I started out jogging and made it up the first hill to the first water station. I drank some water and shortly after got a cramp in my side. Ouch. I started walking and thought, "Well, that's it, I'll be walking the rest of it." Then I thought, "Wait, why accept that? Don't be afraid to jog, you can always walk if you have to." So I walked for a little while longer and then started jogging. I don't know how much time I spent walking vs. jogging but I definitely did a lot more jogging, albeit at times quite slowly. And the side cramp never returned. After probably a mile I was getting tired and remembered my Accelgel. Yes! I ate it and think I felt the effects about 15 minutes later. It was just the boost I needed. The run was on a trail and there were a fair number of hills. I chatted with more women and played leapfrog with many of them. More than a few times I thought, "I will NEVER do a tri longer than this, this is enough for me".

As I neared another hill there was a volunteer at the top shouting, "It's the last hill! You're almost there!!" Oh my goodness, the last hill, thank you volunteer lady! I jogged up and over it, then down the other side (Don't fall, Michelle!) and around the bend. Concrete path again, I must be getting close. Then there they were, the cheerers lining the finish area. They were screaming and shouting and banging bells and I started crying. Oh my God, I'm here. I jogged along glad for my sunglasses so they couldn't tell I was crying.

I crossed the finish line and started looking for Miguel and my mom. As soon as I saw Miguel I hugged him and cried a bit more. Whew! I made it! I'm tired, but excited, and happy, and whew! I made it! Miguel gave me an orange wedge, which I couldn't manage to eat, and some juice. We figured out my time, which (after subtracting 15 minutes for Wave 4) was 1 hour, 35 minutes. Not bad. It took me a while to calm down. What do I do now? I know, go cheer on the others. It felt so good to have people cheer me to the finish line I just had to do it for other people. I screamed and shouted and clapped for I don't know how long. I was just so happy for everyone. Here I am post race, followed by me next to the lake post-race...

Here's the route I uploaded on for those that might be interested.  

When it was all over we headed back to the house for a quick shower and then out to breakfast. I wasn't hungry for a while after the race but once I got hungry I was really hungry. Pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggbeaters (yep, eggbeaters!?), hash browns, and water. Yummmy. And then I was exhausted. Wiped out, finished, kaput.

Well, there you have it. My very first ever race report ever after my very first ever triathlon. The day was perfect, I couldn't have asked for anything more. I spent this morning researching future triathlons. I think I'm hooked. It was a blast and a half and I want to do some more. I think I can do a little longer one too, despite what I said on the run. Apparently after a women gives birth her body releases a hormone that causes a mild amnesic effect, the end result being she doesn't remember the pains of childbirth. I think the same thing must happen after a triathlon. All I remember is the glorious fun of it all.


*(many moons later) Addendum: Turns out I was newly pregnant when I did this triathlon and didn't know it. Also, I did this same tri again a couple months later. For all race reports click here.

I recommend two books for women like me considering their first tri:  Slow, Fat Triathlete and Your First Triathlon.  

To see the original post with all the incredible atta-girl comments click here