A Tale of Two Triathlons

In 2000 I decided to sign up for a Triathlon. I can’t for the life of me remember why I wanted to do that. My workout schedule consisted almost entirely of swimming 4 or 5 days a week. I had run the San Diego RR Marathon in May of 1999 and since then had done little to no running. I didn’t bike at all. I thought I hated biking. The only bike I owned was a Schwinn Varsity 10 speed that I had paid 10 bucks for at a White Elephant Sale and let rot in my garage for 10 years. It had 2 flat tires and an assortment of other problems.

None the less I chose to sign up for this event and recruited a couple of other women to do it with me. They were 22 and 25 – I was 46. No matter. I got my bike tuned up and had new tires put on and I rode it a grand total of about 3 times before the Tri. I ran a few miles here and there. I had been swimming, though!

On race day I got in the water in my regular swim suit and soon found myself thrashing and in a panic, on my back floating, on my stomach breast stroking, treading water, sputtering and desperately wishing I were somewhere else. I did manage to finish the swim and get on my bike. I rode the bike like a tourist on Nantucket Island, and of course got passed by everyone. When I finally came in and did my T2 thing (which was really easy because all I had to do was get off the bike and take off the helmet) I started running and thought – YEOWCH! MY LEGS! But I ran on and hit the trail and it was hot and there was no water left and I was clearly way behind everyone else. I don’t believe I had any nutrition, either. I bonked at about 2 miles and pretty much walked about 1/2 of the rest of the thing with the occasional jog tossed in.
Time: 2:31
Place: 254 out of 260 women. 3 men had a worse time than me and one of them was 11 years old.

I hated the whole thing with every fiber in my body and swore I would rather run a marathon a week than ever do THAT again. Little did I know.

This year was different – way different. Same event, different contender.

Last night I got back from San Diego at about 9 PM. I had spent a busy day with Pookie, schlepping luggage and boxes and bags of stuff. My arms were sore (I will write up the trip another time). I started plotting reasons I couldn’t really do this Triathlon but chose instead to report in that I was doing it and to get my stuff ready.

4:45 AM came way too soon (as it always does) and I didn’t want to get up. Didn’t want to put my bike in the car, didn’t want to go. I had a million reasons – my arms were sore, I was tired, I had to go all by myself and that made me sad, and blah, blah, blah. Mostly I was just afraid – afraid of failing to do any better than I did last year.

I got to the park, took my stuff to the transition area and went to check in. ID please. Crap – the bike rides never actually ASK for the ID. I had to go back to the car to get it. Got my license, signed the waiver, got my bib, got marked and headed over to set up transition. At this point I was still equivocating over bike shirt vs. run shirt; jacket or no jacket; what food to take. I was driving myself nuts but I pushed on and pinned my number to my run shirt, put my food in my bike shirt and called it good. I line up my shoes and socks.

The guy on the mic kept yelling out instructions and telling people to “Rack your Bike and get your wetsuite ready!” WETSUIT – I DON’T HAVE A WETSUIT… THE REGISTRATION SAYS YOU DON’T NEED A WETSUIT. I DIDN’T WEAR A WETSUIT LAST TIME. Panic, panic, despair. I look around and see that about every 10th person has a wetsuit. The fact that about 95% of the other people are wearing tri suits and I’m in a 1 piece Tyr workout suit bothers me but only a little bit.

Then I had to figure out about the Garmin. I realized that I was very anxious about swimming with it but I really wanted to give you all the swim, T1, bike, T2, run breakdown. Then I thought it doesn’t matter. Do what feels right. Oh yeah – SHIFT FOCUS! I said to myself and decided to wear my HR monitor watch for the swim and put the Garmin on for the bike and run. Good choice.

Off to the water for instructions and to wait. The air was chilly but tolerable as I stood there in the suit that screamed I’M A TOTAL ROOKIE – SEE? LOOK AT MY SUIT! but I didn’t mind that much. I was too freaked out about getting in the water. You see, my dirty little secret is that I’m terrified of fish. Really. I hate open water swimming but oh well… too late now!

We watched as wave 1 took off and soon saw that they had collectively veered way over to the left of the target buoy. Those poor guys (18 and under) must have added another 150 yards to a 700 yard swim. Oops. It was an excellent reminder to look up early and often and make sure you are headed in the right direction.

I was in wave 6 which is women over 40 and teams. I lined up over to the right and at the back to avoid the churning and broiling and to give me ample room to freak out. 3-2-1 go! and we were off. The water which was only about 72 degrees felt great at first but I found my heart was pounding. Oh My Stars… swim, swim, swim… you are okay, you know how to swim, just keep swimming! Mouthful of lake water – ugh! rotate! pull! ….. I thought I was having a panic attack and then I thought no – you are cold – this is just happening because of the cold… KEEP SWIMMING and I did.. I kept swimming. I was pretty much with the women in my wave and was even passing some. Look up – find that buoy… keep going… rotate, pull, blow out, breath… no panic… and finally I got in a rhythm and I was swimming and I hadn’t freaked out or rolled on my back or started breaststroking other than to sight. Around the first buoy, past the second buoy and BRING IT ON HOME THIS WATER IS GROSS! And it was gross. I soon got to the part where the lake weeds grow almost to the surface and your hands touch them and THERE ARE PROBABLY MONSTERS HIDING IN THERE SWIM – FAST! and I kept swimming. I swam hard and finally the weeds went away and there was sand and I swam some more and then I touched and ran out of that nasty water good and hard.

Swim Time 15 something. 15!!! That was 5 minutes better than I had expected. ROCKIN’!

I ran to my bike and my whole body was abuzz in that sports high buzzy way we love. My heart was pounding like hell and I felt a little dizzy but I remained calm. I forgot that thing about ‘pants first, then shoes’ and put my socks and bike shoes on and then had to pull on my bike shorts. Oops but keep moving, girl! Turned on the Garmin, strapped it on, got on the shirt, grabbed my unnamed bike and headed out. I have no idea what T1 was.

I rode, baby…. I rode hard because I had this idea that I should hit 18 mph only I couldn’t get there. I passed a few people whee! I was so proud when I started gaining on the first one and then I saw her face and realized she was at least 70. Way to go. But on I went. I let myself let up a bit at the start so my heart could come down and so I wouldn’t kill myself. The bike ride is 2 loops and the guys were passing me like crazy, heading out on their 2nd loop. I refused to be intimidated- that is their ride and I was on mine. The ride was unremarkable other than being a bit slower than I wanted it to be but it went fine and 1:03 later I was back in the transition zone making a switch. At this point my transition area looked like a bomb had gone off in my bag. Honestly – if I had left the management of my stuff up to a 14 year old who never puts anything away it couldn’t have looked worse. This came back to haunt me later but in the moment I got off my shoes while chatting with a guy who was already done (he did the whole thing in 1:26. Ih ate him), put on my running shoes, pulled off the bike shirt, got on the run shirt and took off again.

T2 1:45 or so it seems. I think that’s not quite right but whatever.

The run on this thing is hard because it loops around a couple of times. I kept thinking I was done but then there was another loop or another hill. The thing that made the run so much better than it was last time was the Forward Motion Race Club who came out to pass out water and encourage the participants. This is the club I believe I will join so that I don’t have to cry in my beer about doing these events alone any more. They were fabulous, yelling out ‘Way to go! Looking Strong!” and that meant a lot to me because I was tired. My Garmin was not functioning at all or so I thought. Also, I couldn’t switch it from ‘speed’ to ‘pace’ which turned out to be a great blessing. I just let it go and decided to focus on my breathing and my footfalls.

Finally I came into the home stretch and they had mic guy calling out the runners names which was SO fun. I thought I heard the guy say my time was 2:11 but the clock wasn’t running. I had a composite Bike/T2/Run time of 1:47 and knew the swim was 15 minutes and after doing a little math I believe that 2:11 is correct but for some reason my results were not in. The guy said they probably transposed my number or something – he’ll let me know. In any case I passed people on the run and I saw plenty of people behind me so I know for sure I won’t come up almost last again.

After I came down from my finishers high I gathered up my stuff that was spread all over hell’s half acre, put it in the bag and took it over to the car. I leaned the bike on the car and started looking for my keys. No keys. I pulled everything out of the bag. No keys. I checked every pocket. No keys. I left my stuff at the car and walked back to the timing desk and asked if anyone had turned in some keys. No keys. One last thing to do. I walked over to my transition area and there they were, lying on the ground – the casualties of my bag bomb. Phew!

Here’s the really good news – I rocked that run – rocked it!
Mile 1 – 9:59
Mile 2 – 10:34
Mile 3 – 11:08
Mile 4 – 10:18
last .25 – 9:59

Those are good times on a day when I get up, have coffee and toast and hit the road without the swim and the bike. Seeing those numbers still has me smiling. So I rocked the swim and I rocked the run. Not bad.

I realized when I was out on the run course that one of my goals, one that I had failed to articulate even to myself, was to have a better experience this time and I met that goal in spades. I feel great. Another goal was to finish with a time I felt okay about and if 2:11 really is my time then I’m happy. That’s a middle of the pack corrected time.

Miission accomplished. What I really like about this race is that when I did it last time I was 6 years younger so that must mean that instead of being 6 years older, I have gotten 6 years better.

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16 Responses to A Tale of Two Triathlons

  1. nancytoby says:

    It sounds like a great day!! Well done and congratulations!! Thanks for taking us along for the ride! And yeah, that’s some great running!!!!!

  2. WADDLER26.2 says:

    Great day-Youd did rock! Those run splits were exceptional. And you enjoyed it too. You are just getting better!

  3. jeanne says:

    WOW!!!!!YOU ARE SO SIX YEARS BETTER!what a great recap, and congrats on having a great time, too. You so ROCK!

  4. Laurie says:

    Six years better is a great way to look at it. Congratulations on a strong performance. We knew you could do it!

  5. Bolder says:

    definitely 6 years better.so.proud.you toe’d-the-line. you represented. you ROCKED that course!15 min swim on 700m! HELLO!!great race, great report.well.done.You are a TRIATHLETE!

  6. Mother of Chaos says:

    AWESOME!!!I’m so proud of you. I had nothin’ to do with it, of course, but I’m still proud! 🙂

  7. Dori says:

    Getting better with age, 21CM! Great job! I’ve never done a tri, so much of this report was over my head, but that’s some speedy running you were doing. Congratulations.

  8. Angela says:

    Great post!I’m gonna be late for work but I just needed to finish the race report. Way cool Mom!

  9. David says:

    There you have it: another great day in the neighborhood. Good time. Good time.

  10. 21st century sister says:

    Of course you are 6 years better and smarter!It occurs to me that your journey has been one that could benefit us all. It took you years of working at it, to find real pleasure in what you are doing. In almost every account of a run or ride, there is a spot where you have had to talk yourself in to staying with it. Your conversations with yourself are always fun, but I always feel the point at which I, personally, whould have said “why am I doing this?” and would have stopped.Bravo to you for keeping on keeping on!!

  11. m says:

    Way to go on that run! Those are impressive times. I love your closing paragraph well said!Now why do I keep reading all these tri blogs? (WiL got me hooked) Is that the next thing on my list? I can’t even imagine training for one, but am so impressed with all of you for kicking ass!

  12. Bob says:

    Awsome job, rock on sistah.

  13. susie says:

    A second chance. How cool is that? Definitely six years better. Congratulations

  14. Stillwater Heron says:

    That’s just rocking!!Great report, great effort, great results!!!I’m proud of you, and I agree with everyone else, your are 6 years better!Way to kick it out 🙂

  15. Bex says:

    Most excellent race report. Next time I’m in NoCal I need to pick your brains for tri advice.

  16. Juls says:

    2:11. You ROCKED indeed. Congratulations!

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