Back on the race track… with a side of procrastination!
I promised you all that I would blog more.
And I am! Hooray!
But the downside of that is that I enjoy writing more than I enjoy cleaning or cutting small rectangles out of the newspaper… so here I sit in my office, surrounded by paper, typing away!
Oh well. I can only do one thing at a time, right? RIGHT! So today we will talk about triathlons!
My good friend, (you know the one who motivates/challenges me to try new things), encouraged me (aka double dog dared me) to race in a triathlon.
I, obviously, told him he was out of his mind. He told me to suck it up because I could definitely do it! So I started to look into it. Turns out there are a lot of tri races right near my house. And most of those races fall into the wonderful category of a “sprint triathlon”. Now if you watched any of the olympics this year (or if you were 100% obsessed with it like I was and watched it as much as possible) you hear the word sprint and think really fast, right? Well, while it’s true, MANY of the racers are really fast, in the world of triathlons “sprint” = short distances. I liked the sound of that. I had already run a 5K, I had also completed my first mud run, although I will admit, there was not a lot of running for the first half of that challenge as it was literally straight up a mountain, (YES, A MOUNTAIN… UP, VERTICAL!!!) So I knew I probably COULD do this, but would I?
As it turned out there was a women’s only race about 15 min from my house on Mother’s Day. They had a short distance race, 400 m swim, 8 mile bike, and 2 mile run.
My interest was peaked. I was riding 8 miles or more regularly on my bike anyway, I had previously run 3.1 miles straight, so 2 is certainly possible, but could I still swim 400m AND could I do it all at once? Yes, I love to swim, but these days it’s more like swimming up to the poolside bar on vacation instead of rocking out the laps like I did on high school swim team. But, I thought, yeah, I could possibly do it.
So I signed up.
About 10 days before the race.
Not a lot of time to train! But also not a lot of time to freak out or procrastinate!
With the clock ticking, I jumped right in. First up I needed to see if I could bike 8 miles, then jump off and start running. Let’s face it, I can barely run 2 miles on fresh legs, so this was a challenge. I was able to do it with just a little bit of walking during the run. I have to tell you the first few minutes of running my legs feel like they have anvils strapped to them! It’s such a different sensation to ride ride ride, then run. But I did it. (Then enjoyed a cold beer with some neighbors immediately afterwards.) Check that off.
Step two: swim the distance! And let me tell you what, if you haven’t swam laps in, oh say, 15-18 years, get ready, because it’s a lot harder than you remember! That being said, I didn’t drown, so that was another check.
Basically I switched off between biking and running each day, then I added in swimming where ever I could. Since I only had just over a week to get ready, I had one goal in mind… cross the finish line.
Night before the race arrives. I had gone to get my race packet and went to the meeting to learn all about the crazy things you need to do at a triathlon, like where to put your three different race number tags, where to rack your bike, and how to transition as fast as possible. The order for the race is swim, bike, run. So basically you are WET for the entire race.
Now, I am ALWAYS hot. It’s just how I’ve always been. When I was little my mother used to tell me my furnace was broken. So being wet, actually feels really good while I am racing. HOWEVER, running through a parking lot, dripping water, then trying to pull on shorts and shoes, while completely soaked, not so easy. The pros have all kinds of tips and tricks, like have your socks folded open so you can just shove your (soaking wet) feet into them, have your helmet flipped open with the straps out so that you can just pop it on your head and clip it (this one is REALLY important because if you get on your bike and don’t have your helmet strapped you are DQed!!) and much more. So just a lot of little rules and ways of doing things (like how to use their crazy custom bike racks) that you have to get used to.
I am slightly freaked out, and I ask Curtis to pump up my bike tires and put the bike onto the rack which we borrowed from my sister in law. I’m inside packing and repacking my race bag, making sure my helmet is tagged, and generally obsessing. Curtis walks in to tell me that the bike won’t fit onto the rack. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! It’s 9:30 the night before the race. All I want to do is go to bed and now I have NO WAY of getting the BIKE (a key part of swim, bike, run) to and from the race!!! I throw out some language and he returns to the garage to see what he can do. 10 LONG minutes later, he returns. “No problem, Just needed to put it on at an angle.” (grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) All into the jeep. Off to bed.
The start time is 7 am. I had to be there by 6:30 to get marked. This is where you have a (FULLY DRESSED) stranger writing on your arms and thighs with a sharpie while you are standing in a parking lot wearing nothing but a bathing suit… not the most comfortable feeling for a chubby momma. Then they write your racing age on the back of your calf, and for good measure, it’s your age at the end of the year… *thank you USAT for rounding UP! (eye roll)
We then stand around the parking lot (after setting up our STUFF: helmet, bike, biking shoes, running shoes, racing bib, clothes SOCKS etc etc) in a 2×2 square on the ground next to your racked bike) in a bathing suit and swim cap for the pre-race instructions. It was at this moment that I looked around and while I had known I would NOT be the most fit person there, (not by a long shot), I suddenly realized I was definitely not the least fit either. Right then I knew I had this.
Sure enough, I did pretty well. The swim was crazy. Even though this was an indoor staggered start swim, you still have feet and legs and bubbles and body parts everywhere. People swim over under and around each other. It’s WILD! I can only imagine how out of control an open water swim is! (If all goes according to plan, I’ll know what it’s like next April!!)
Finished the swim, still breathing, ran out to the transition area. Threw on the socks, shoes, helmet, etc and took off running with the bike. (You can’t ride in the transition area, another big no no) Crossed the mount line, hopped on and off I rolled! The bike I’ve been riding for the past 8 years or so is a cruising bike. You can ride it through the dirt, on a gravel road or on the highway, it’s going to perform the same way. Fairly smooth, fairly slow. Then you see the road bikes, briefly, as they wiz by. But I held my own.
Finish up the ride and back to transition. Off the bike, run it to the rack, switch shoes, throw on a shirt and racing belt with the bib, grab a water and an energy gel (makes me feel bad ass when I take one of these, like I’m some kind of marathoner even though I’m really only about to embark on a 2 mile blip…) Then off I go. Start out running with wobbly jello legs from having just gotten off the bike, grab a water, dump it over my head and turn the corner. I actually ran pretty consistently. Not fast, but still trotting along. Now I have ZERO sense of distance, time, direction, etc. (Curtis will emphatically vouch for this.) So when I did a loop down the street and back, circled around the building and saw the finish line ahead I was thrilled! I thought, WOW, That wasn’t bad at all! I ran the whole way!! Then I realized that my path was to pass next to the finish line and run another mile and a half or so. That CRUSHED me. I walked. It just took all of the wind out of my sail.
I would chug along a bit with a run, then walk, run, walk. A few minutes later I met up with a woman who was running at my same speed. We started chatting and pushed each other to just keep running. Neither one of us wanting to let the other down, we pushed through. We did have a brief walk about about half way through our remaining distance, but just for a minute. Then we finished strong!
I had done it! A Triathlon!! The day before as motivation, I went to the running store and bought one of those oval magnets for the car. I was originally planning to get the one with the pictures of the swimmer, biker and runner, but I saw the one that says “Tri.” and to me that means more than just triathlon. It’s becoming my mantra. Try it! Just TRY(tri), because you never know what you can do!!! It was a seriously sweet moment after the race when I staggered back to the jeep and slapped that magnet on the back! Ive participated in two more tris since then. (Still Sprint Tri, but longer distances) I love the camaraderie at the races. No one is there to look down on anyone else. They are all there to push themselves and to have fun!
Three very cool things happened that day. #1 My parents came to the race to cheer for me. They obviously don’t come to the gym with me, or follow me on my bike in a golf cart, so they haven’t really seen me do anything athletic since high school (and that usually involved a trip to the dr. with a sprained ankle). Having them at the finish line as I ran across was awesome. #2 When I got into the jeep at 6:10 am there was a sign in the car that my husband had made for me cheering me on. (He was not coming to this race as the boys were still sleeping and no one wants to wake the little Tasmanian Devil when he is sleeping!) #3 When I got back to the car to pull my victory magnet out of the glove compartment I saw my phone already had congratulations messages from my buddy who inspired (dared) me to give it a Try(i). He really did know I could do it before I did. It’s so important to have support from people who know and love you (family and friends) and even from those you just met (my running buddy!)
My next race will probably be in September for another Sprint Tri, but I have a goal. An Olympic Distance Tri: 1500m (0.93 mi) swim, 40 kilometres (25 mi) bike, 10 k (6.2 mi) run in April. I’m working on the running distance right now. It’s HARD!!! But I’ve got some time…
Anyone want to join me?? I dare you to give it a tri… 😉