Warning: This post is going to be long as hell.
Saturday I had to pick up my packet, do the grocery shopping and laundry, go to my pre-event meeting down where the event would take place, and then of course make sure I was hydrating and fueling up before the big tri.
Getting my race packet at Tri Sports was intimidating and shook up my resolve in a way I was not expecting. Everyone there had rock-hard muscle bodies, expensive gear and even more expensive bikes, they all seemed to know what they were doing and were, in every way, exact opposites from little old me. I started crying in the car after I picked it up. I was absolutely terrified. Being with all those professional looking athletes made me realize I had no idea what I was doing.
I called a friend, Carlie, who is also training for a triathlon, albeit a longer, more intense one, and she talked me down off the ledge. She even offered to loan me her tri-suit, but I declined, and she agreed I should just wear what I've been training in so as not to throw me off my game in any way. She calmed me down, educated me on how to fuel up and hydrate all day, gave me tips on getting my legs ready for the run while still on the bike, and did I say she talked me down off the ledge? I owe her so much.
That night I had bizarre dreams, and woke frequently, convinced my alarm hadn't gone off and I'd overslept. The reality couldn't have been further from the truth, since I woke up 36 minutes before the alarm went off. 3:24am to be exact. I laid there, thinking and thinking and thinking. The cool thing though was that my nerves were settled. All I was, was amped up and ready to attack the triathlon.
At 4:00am the alarm went off, I sat up and said "It's time!" to Todd, and then bounded to the bathroom to brush my teeth, etc. I rattled around the house, putting a final load in the dryer, cleaning up a house I knew I'd be too exhausted to clean afterwards. We left around 5:00am and got three houses down before I remembered we forgot the camera, and a too-tired Todd thought he had forgotten the cell phone that was in his pocket.
5:15am we arrived and I got my transition area set up, which is when I realized I forgot an extra pair of pants, flip flops, and a towel. The towel situation was solved when I remembered I had my little diaper battle pack in my purse: An extra large burp cloth wrapped around a diaper, travel pack of wipes and a second burp cloth. Hurrah! Thanks to Alexandra, I had my towels.
But the pants and shoes... See, you have to set up your area before 6:30am, regardless of when your wave goes in the pool, and I was due to go in around 7:25am. So yeah, I had to spend that hour wandering around barefoot and with no pants. Needless to say, my feet were like ice blocks, and my chunky pale thighs were a sight for sore eyes, I'm sure. But it didn't matter.
I hung out on the balcony with Todd, watching the first wave swim. It was inspiring to see, because the first wave was made up of the slowest swimmers, and it proved that you don't have to be a professional athlete to do a triathlon. These people weren't my exact opposite after all. At that moment, that whole day actually, we were exactly the same: we were all triathletes.
My parents showed up and all too soon, it was time to head down to the pool. Taking off my jacket and hopping downstairs was a chilly, chilly adventure. My lane was empty of swimmers so luckily I was able to slip into the water a bit before my wave started, and that 80 degree pool was like a warm blanket comparatively. I treaded water, adjusted my cap and goggles, and suddenly it was 10 seconds til start... 5 seconds til start... I said "Oh my God" and the woman next to me laughed and told me not to worry, that I'd do great. And then we were off.
It was hard and intense. I'm so glad they make you time your swims, beforehand, in a 25y pool because there is no comparison in feel to a 15y pool. You hardly have time to get out of breath in 15y. Anyways, I was mistakenly put in a much slower wave than I should have been, and I'm glad for it. It was a confidence booster, passing my lane partner every time.
Eventually I stopped going "Oh my God, I have 25 more laps to do" and started listening to the rhythm of my breathing, of my arms slicing into the water, my torso swiveling, my feet fluttering. Suddenly I had no idea how many laps I had to go, which was a blessing and a curse, because I kept hoping to see the paddle dip into the water, signaling that I had just one more lap to go. And then my counter said "30. Three laps to go" which I could barely hear through my ear plugs. And all of a sudden it was over, and I was struggling to get out of the pool. A helper pulled me up and I heard my family cheer me on, and I was running through the lobby, down the lenth of the parking lot and into the transition area.
I got to my bike, dried off, pulled on my clothes, my helmet and gloves, and off I went. Since I had been placed in a slow wave, I was the only one out there for a long time. I had to do a four mile loop around the university campus three times, and I didn't see another cyclist for maybe 10 minutes or more. It was hard the first lap, but I found my bike legs soon enough and really enjoyed the second lap. The third, I was starting to feel nauseated due to eating two hours beforehand (I have a VERY hard time working out when I've eaten even two or three hours before), so I had to slow down, stop gulping water, and try to breathe very deeply and evenly.
Then all these damn women started passing me, so I said fuck it and tried to keep up with them, which lasted about a mile before I said fuck it again and had to slow down. I wasn't there to be a hero or a bad ass, I was there to do it for me, to finish on my own terms (which as I have repeatedly said, was: don't vomit, don't walk, don't stop mid-swim). When I was finishing up my third lap, and coming down the last bit before turning back into the transition area, I saw my parents and it boosted me up. I grinned and pedaled harder.
I got off the bike in the transition area and my legs were, as I feared, simultaneously like lead and like jelly. I was somewhat shaky, too, but I put my bike on the rack, got my helmet and gloves off, took a cautious chug of water and told Todd, who was waiting right there for me, that "I'll be right back!" and headed off in a woozy sort of jog.
Here's where it gets awesome. The woman in front of me was the woman who had passed me on the bike a couple of times (I did manage to pass her once, but for less than a quarter mile, haha), and soon it became clear that we were well matched in jogging paces. We fell into a rhythm and chatted (breathlessly of course) about this and that, occasionally going "Oh my God" and "Jesus this road looks long" as we headed down the university mall. Another athlete, a slightly older guy, fell into pace with us and for the last lap we all kept a steady pace.
As we neared the finish line, I threw out the idea of sprinting, if I could even do it or not. The woman on my left decided on a start point for our sprint and we all agreed. We neared the mark, I counted to three and we burst forth. The announcer made a discovery that had evaded us. He announced something he'd never seen before, three athletes, with consecutive bib numbers, in order, all approaching the finish line together. Keep in mind, we were like a foot apart from each other and sure enough, the guy was 97, I was 98, and the other woman was 99. It was hilarious, and sort of magical too. Even more so when I realized that the guy had shared my lane, that the woman had been the one who told me not to worry in the pool.
So, I had done it, I had finished my triathlon, my first one ever. I finished 80th out of 125 women, and 12th in my age group of 23 women, in the middle of the pack which makes me super stoked.
Swim: 13:23 (ranked 23rd)
Bike + Transitions: 53:42 (ranked 111th - lol)
Run: 27:35 (ranked 46th)
I was amazed that I ran those three miles so quickly, considering how exhausted I was. I think I owe it to my two running buddies, who likely helped me keep up a brisker pace than I would have had I been alone. I was, and still am, extremely proud of my swim; I had started this journey a pretty weak swimmer, and now I basically kick major ass.
And I laughed when I finished. Later, walking the bike back to Todd's truck, I hugged him and cried a couple of times, and later that evening I sobbed while reading my scores, because it really was an emotional adventure. I had overcome a lot of things, but I had overcome myself, my fears and doubts, my body issues and my psychological ones too. I had seen it through to the end and along the way, I fell in love with triathlons. I've decided I'm doing it again next year unless I'm pregnant. And I think Todd wants to join me, because honestly, this stuff is seriously fun, and the high you get afterwards is amazing.
I encourage everyone to do it. And before you say you can't, let me tell you that you don't have to be fast, you don't even have to run the 5k. You set your own pace in a triathlon, you set your own goals. So just go set it. All you have to do, is tri.
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