Sooooo, a few days ago, I woke up at 5:11 a.m. (it ended up that I didn’t need to get up at 4:00 a..m, whew!) to take on a 1,500 meter swim, a 40k bike ride and a 10k run. I think the experience could perhaps be summed up with the conversation my husband and I had just about an hour or so after the race, as I lay on the floor of our living room, SO happy to be sitting, my leg muscles shooting sparks of, not pain, but just flashes of feeling through my body such that I wouldn’t forget that they were slightly traumatized. I said, “you know, triathlon is weird – each one of the work-outs is really not a big deal by themselves, but you put them all together and…” hubby finished for me “ and it’s one loonnnggg workout.” Precisely. 2 hours 58 minutes and 35 seconds long. You add in that I’m push’n the pace a bit, and it’s a lot more than I would do on an average day. Here’s the play by play:
The Swim. 35:57. What I consider my weakest event, I at least felt like I was going to be able to muddle through the approximately 1 mile. After waiting around for ~45 minutes for the other waves to start, me and 60 other 40-45 year olds, put on our royal blue swim caps, goggles, and for myself, my bright orange kiddie-sized ear-plugs (I have tiny ears). The next thing I knew, we were ‘on deck’, which was quickly followed by our invitation to jump into the water. We had an AMAZINGLY pleasant morning (really, a miraculous gift that a “cold-front’ blew in the night before and it was in the ‘70’s). But the first submersion in the water had me wondering if this was, indeed, a good idea. My first few moments in water always make me think this, so I wasn’t too concerned. I was speaking with a plump-faced woman about where we could/should start from when suddenly I heard the countdown from 10. I looked at the woman with the “oh my gosh – here we go!” look and we were off. And then I sort of wasn’t. I went out, searching for my person to draft behind, as instructed by my ex-triathlete husband. But I couldn’t keep up with anyone, and then I thought I was going to vomit. I suddenly felt so ill that I was sure I was going to have to stop. Oh no! 5 minutes in and I have to stop!? My mind raced as I fell further behind the pack. I need to look for one of the guys in a canoe…wait, I don’t really want to stop, but I think I have to, oh I’m going to be sick, all the while my body felt light and airy and I had no strength. I truly thought I was done. And then I decided I didn’t want to be done. Just make it to the first buoy, and then decide. I really want to bike and run! And so it went…I found my own (slow) rhythm and didn’t worry about drafting off of anyone. One stroke at a time was my mantra. Suddenly the mile seemed like a very very long ways, but I kept convincing myself that if I just kept swimming, I WOULD, in fact, reach the end. In moments like this, simple messages really do the trick.
The Bike. 1:26:08 I was so looking forward to getting on my bike after that swim. I was pushing my bike out of the transition area, which I spent way too much time in. I wanted to wear a biking jersey for totally vain reasons – a 40-year-old 2-baby tummy, albeit a pretty fit one, when leaning over on a bike is just not that pretty. My husband advised against the time it was going to take to put on a shirt. I scoffed at this arguing it would take a number of SECONDS to put it on. As it turns out, I had not anticipated the fact that I was going to be wet when I put it on. The jersey rolled when I put it on and it was absolutely stuck at the top of my back. I strained and pulled, jumped and contorted to get that thing down. My husband’s words were revolving around my head like a stock ticker. I finally left the transition area, running my bike out to the course. And I ran and ran and ran. The distance we had to cover while running our bikes seemed excessive and I started wishing I had not put on my biking shoes yet – if you don’t know, biking shoes have clips on the bottom where the ‘pedals’ go in, so they are not flat. Let’s suffice it to say it is VERY AWKWARD to run in biking shoes. But alas, the bike ride began. Because of our miracle break in the heat-wave, I am not allowing myself to complain about this little thing that I did encounter on the bike ride (the wind), which did provide some challenge (the wind), but since I am NOT complaining about it (that damn wind!), let’s just say, by the end of the 25 miles, I was tired. There’s also something else about triathlon that is ‘interesting’. Because we start in waves, there are always stronger people who are going to pass you at some point. In our case, the men were after us, so I had a few giant swimmers plow over me in the water, which was slightly annoying, given I was dealing with my mental freak-out, but in triathlon, totally expected. THEN, on the bike, I’ve got these guys F-L-Y-I-N-G past me riding a good 5 – 8 miles per hour faster. Lots of them. Between that and the thing I’m not mentioning (the wind), it made me wonder if my odometer was incorrect and I was not going 17 miles per hour, but actually 3. I like to name people during races, those that I end up playing tag with, based on some characteristic of theirs or their clothes. These are the folks that I pass, who then pass me, who I then pass etc. etc. etc. During the bike ride, I was playing tag with Tattoos (huge beautiful tattoos on her calves), Sweet Tea, Blue-top and Pinky. It’s sometimes frustrating that the same people keep showing up to pass you AGAIN, but it’s better than having them pass you and never seeing them again, which is most of the super-power biker dudes I just mentioned, so it’s with a fond frustration that the tag continues. It was also on the bike that one of the best parts of the race showed up– my husband and two small children appeared holding a huge “go mama go” sign. My husband cheered while my 3 year old stared into the road, having no idea who or what she was supposed to be seeing (in her defense, I have trouble picking out my own husband when he’s on the bike – everyone looks the same. The numbers we wear might be for the race officials and photographers to know who we are, but they are equally so our family can pick us out and cheer for the correct person.), and my 5-year-old, who had already told me he didn’t want to go watch my race (sigh, we try to instill good sportsmanship, but anything interrupting lego-building on a weekend is a mere distraction from what is truly important ) so he watched me go by with as much enthusiasm as the rocks he was sitting next to. In addition, one of my best friends and her family were there. She let out such a whopping ‘whoop’ that I was first energized by, then verclempt over. I had to focus on the road to keep myself from crying. I have the best family and friends ever. Sorry, I do.
The Run. 49:03 As I got off of my bike, an excruciating pain shot up from the utmost top part of my inner-thigh. Panic. I’m sure it’s just from the bike, it will work itself out… I ran, again, awkwardly, through the sand in my biking shoes, towards my transition area. I was awkward because of the shoes, but also now because of this muscle…pull? Strain? Cramp? What was happening? No! Not the run! This is MY event! I’m a runner! I can’t be injured for this!! Ack! Deep breath. I whipped off my biking top (too hot), which really did only take a few seconds this time and sat down to put on my running shoes and massage my inner thigh – very ladylike of me, I know. I was supposed to put on a visor, pick up a small water bottle, a goo and small case of sugar and salt tabs, in case I needed them. I was so distracted by my muscle problem, however, that I put on my shoes and hobbled off. I continued to massage my upper thigh, which now looked like I was grabbing my crotch as I literally hobble-ran out of the transition area. I was running a whopping pace of 101/2 minute miles. “My” event didn’t look like it was going to go very well. AND I needed to, in every-day terms, “use the restroom”, in running terms, “pee”. I had planned at stopping at the porta-potties next to the transition area, but as I hobble-ran PAST them I realized that they were partitioned off from the course. Now I had a bum leg and a full bladder. ‘One foot in front of the other’. A few minutes later, my muscle was hurting less and I was able to increase my pace, little by little, until I was actually AT my goal pace. Woo hoo! And at the first mile water-break stop, there was my lovely, vacant porta-potty. I hated to waste the time in there, but it just had to be done. My 40-year old 2-baby bladder just wasn’t going to hold that much liquid for the duration of a 45+ minute run. This is why we compete within age-groups – because 24 year old bladders vs. 40 year old bladders is just not fair. “Fifty” kept me going – he was the guy I played tag with on this race – the person who body marked him made a very large and exuberant 50 on the back of his calves. The rest of the run was pretty great – I ran my goal pace (not my ‘I would love to run this pace’, but my ‘I’ll be happy if I run this pace, pace). The support from my friends and my own family, again, really kept me going.
I finished, with the immediate thought that I wasn’t sure if I was going to do another one of those for a while…that it was, very simply, hard. There’s a reason not everyone just wakes up any morning and decides to work out doing 3 sports for 3 hours. Later that night, when I was feeling back to my normal self, my husband found the results on-line. I came in 18th out of 54 women. Not bad. Then I noticed that the woman’s time who came in 10th (in our age group) was 2 hours and 55 minutes and 24 seconds. Remember in my last post, when I said something about not having a competitive bone in my body? Only 3 minutes and 12 seconds faster and I could have been Top 10!!?? That about translates to a non-freaked-out swim and/or a faster transition (no bike top). So, as it turns out I DO have a competitive bone in my body. I am now thinking I may just have to do another triathlon – Top 10 or bust!! But don’t worry, I’ll still hand out energy along the way.