That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tri for Joe race report!! (this is seriously long, ya'll!!)

....and then I'm going to PASS OUT. :)

Official time: 1:38:51. 209th place out of...? 11/12 in my age group, but whatever. Most of my age group was within a few minutes of my time. They don't have the swim/bike/run times posted yet, so I'll edit this when they do.

Woke up at 5 am. My first thought was, "wow, I don't feel nervous about this at all." Did my pre-workout ritual: coffee (while catching up on facebook), poop (VERY important pre-workout; let's just say I discovered that the hard way), and breakfast. By the time I got to the last part, the nerves were back and my stomach felt like a rock. Discovered my wonderful husband, not realizing that I NEEDED a peanut-butter slathered English muffin before a race, had eaten all but a tiny bit of the pb. So I had the muffin with a thin coating of peanut butter, and, afraid that wouldn't be enough, made a protein powder/yogurt/banana smoothie. This had the dual purpose of trying to wake up the husband with the blender, because he would NOT wake up. I gave up on him waking up. I planned to leave at 5:45. At 5:46, as I was putting my shoes on, he came stumbling into the bathroom. YAY!! I was sooo not looking forward to doing my first tri minus the moral support.

Drove up to the bike garage (we don't have a garage, but the apartment complex has a place to store them), tossed the bike into the truck, and drove my very bleary-eyed husband to Coney Island. By that point, I had a full-fledged case of nerves about the race and about getting there on time to do everything that needed to be done - which, when you're used to just showing up and running, seems like a LOT. Had a brief moment where I considered throwing up out the window. Did a LOT of yoga breathing. Breathed a sigh of relief when I saw lots of other people arriving at the same time that we did - 6:15.

Pre-race stuff was not nearly as intimidating as I thought it might be. Got my new swim cap, timing chip, and two paper wristbands - one for me, one for my bike - and went to my assigned transition area. I was bummed that triathlons don't have bibs - or apparently, this one didn't. I guess I'll have to hang the wristband on my wall.

My transition area was close to the exit, which I decided I liked. I talked to the girl next to me, who was very nice and encouraging and told me not to stress about it and to go have fun. Got everything set up (with a brief moment of panic because I had lost the timing chip ALREADY), wetsuit on, hung out for a while, nervously re-adjusting the wetsuit every two seconds.

Swim: The swim was a time trial, and we had been assigned our numbers based on our estimated swim time. I was really doubting my estimate (15:00) at that point - I was 179, and I saw numbers as high as 282. I can swim faster than 100 people here?? Not likely! Not being pessimistic, just realistic - I CAN swim, but I swim slower than most everyone I see working out at the gym. I did get a chance to get in the water and get adjusted to it. It wasn't too cold, but I was thankful for the wetsuit because it was only in the high 50's outside. The swim course was two zigzaggy loops around the ginormous outdoor pool. People were running right into the shallow end, so when I was told to go, I imitated them and high-kneed it until I thought I could swim. As it turns out, my hand was still skimming the bottom, so I got up, ran more, and swam again.

I was so obviously out of my element. It was NOTHING like swimming relaxed laps at the pool. I think between the nerves, the excitement, the wetsuit I'd only swam in once before, and the new environment, my brain got ten kinds of messed up. I couldn't take deep enough breaths and the idea of putting my face in the water - even though I can swim well over a mile's worth of laps at the gym with a pretty decent front crawl - freaked me out. So I swam front crawl with my face out of the water. I saw other people doing it, too, and I saw a guy backstroking. OK, I'm not the only one a bit freaked out, and I know it's normal to freak out during the swim portion of a tri, especially your first tri. I can do this. I can complete the swim even if I keep my face out of the water the whole dang time. I gave up on any sort of idea of how long the swim should/would take and decided I was just going to get through the dang thing even if I was the last one left in the water. Then I had to turn around a giant inflatable buoy thing....into a mass of people. I was being accosted by limbs, people were pushing my feet under, every time I tried to open my mouth for a deep breath I was getting splashed in the face. Holy crap, I have to stop. Put my feet down and.....I was in the deep end. No stopping. I fought back panic and flashbacks of every time that I've been frightened in water, down to when I was 8 and got in over my head at the wave pool at the Beach waterpark. I saw a guy hanging onto a ladder attached to the island in the deep end. See? He's freaked out too. You're so not alone. You're normal. See the ladder? Can you get to the ladder?? I had a clear path to the ladder with no people around. I could do that. Doggie paddled there (although someone got between me and the ladder so it was my turn to shove, sorry 'bout that), where I could hang on and put my feet on a ledge. I inched across the ledge like the other guy was doing, caught my breath. At the end of it, I felt ok to swim for a minute. I stopped shortly after to hang on to another inflatable thing, but soon ahead of me, I saw people walking in the water. Short swim later, and I could stand up and walk.

Saw the husband standing there. He held up one finger and I nodded. CRAP. I have to do that again. I wanted nothing more than to NOT go back to the deep end. I had a thought of getting out and calling it a day. Oh no. I wanted to do this thing too much. I am NOT going to not finish because of a stupid swim. Lap #2! I did wade for a while. I was water-running alongside some swimmers, so I figured I wasn't losing any time. I cheered on a guy who appeared to be some variety of disabled, who had someone coaching him to put his head in the water. I reminded myself that wetsuits are quite buoyant and I wasn't going to sink, no matter what. When I couldn't wade anymore, I swam. Tried backstroking, realized it was not a good idea to not be able to see where I was going, and flipped over. That part of the swim went much better, although I was still getting smacked around a bit. Can people not see where they're going?? It's a POOL, not open water! But I didn't have to stop again. By the end of it, I was able to manage an actual crawl stroke, and then it was time to get out. Husband took a picture and I managed to smile for it. "That was SO HARD!" I yelled at him. Then I started running the wrong way out of sheer disorientation and desperately trying to get that stupid constricting wetsuit off while running. Luckily, I got back on track quickly and managed a jog to the transition area.

T1: Got the wetsuit off the rest of the way, shirt, calf sleeves, socks, and shoes on. (Bra and shorts were under the wetsuit.) Ripped open my gu packet but didn't really want anything in my stomach, so I just kinda sucked on it while I got myself together. Husband showed up on the other side of the fence to snap what I'm sure was a flattering picture. I told him about my near-death experience in the swim. "But I did it!! I'm going to finish this thing, I don't care how long it takes!!" He told me the bike would be a nice break. "Yeah, if I can get on it...."

Bike: Got on it I did. I got clipped in to the pedals faster than I think I ever have. (Soooo thankful to Pete the bike coach for helping me get used to that!) I almost forgot to pedal one-footed to get my momentum going, but then I remembered, and my right foot clipped right in too. It was just FUN from there. I was passing people! I got to yell, "On your left!" Some people passed me too; it's ok, I was happy with my pace, which felt fast but not too difficult. The bike course turned right out of the park, went down a short ways, then turned around and went past Coney, further down the road for 12 miles total. As I passed, I looked through the spectators, but no husband (who had taken an ill-timed restroom break, not knowing when I'd pass again. Oh well!) The bike was by far my favorite. I had the gu in my hand (I had taken off on the bike with it still hanging out of my mouth) and forced myself to swallow it a little at a time until it was gone. In the process, my hand, handlebar, and the side of my face got nice and sticky. Oh, and I had snot everywhere. I was so glad I had decided at the last minute in t1 to throw on my arm warmers. It made the temperature quite tolerable, and they catch snot rockets very well. (Lest you think triathlon is a glamorous It's disgusting.) I decided to have fun with the bike. I wasn't going to push myself too hard, because I still had a run left. So I concentrated on keeping up a good cadence with the pedals, and making happy small talk with the riders who passed me and those I passed. People were very friendly - it's like running, middle-of-the-pack, non-competitive cyclists are the best. For a while, I didn't have anyone ahead of or behind me, and I pretended like I was just out for a fun solo ride. I forced myself to take a few swigs of gatorade during the ride because I knew I needed hydration, just didn't feel like consuming anything (or riding one-handed, which I still find a little scary!) I had my empty gu pack wedged behind the water bottle, and I lost it in the process. Sorry, Earth, hopefully that's forgiveable and you won't take revenge by sending more tornadoes to Cincy....

When I got to the turnaround, I freaked out a little - it was a tight enough turn and I had to slow down enough that I could see myself falling over. But I didn't! I excitedly told an older volunteer that I was halfway. "You're more than halfway! Good job!" The volunteers, for the most part, were very encouraging. I made sure to thank as many of them as I could, especially since I know how it feels to be a race volunteer! The course was nice and flat, although there were a couple of small hills that were downhills on the way out and uphills on the way back. They probably weren't so bad, but I was starting to realize that I was tired and I slowed way down on one. It's all right, as long as you're moving forward, you're good, I told myself. The downhills were fun. I'm good on downhills because I'm not afraid to go fast. So where most people were coasting, I'd shift into the hardest gear and power forward on them. Whee! Saw the giant waterslides....and we were back!

T2: I unclipped waaay before I needed to, because I didn't want to fall in front of everyone. I didn't! People were jogging in the transition area with their bikes, but my legs didn't want to move that fast, and jogging in bike shoes is difficult anyway. I got the bike back on the rack, took a few seconds to breathe and gulp down more gatorade, and change shoes. They were announcing that the 5k was about to start. That meant it had been less than an hour. Really?? I must've started the swim after 7, and I had estimated that the swim and bike would take me about an hour. Maybe I was ahead of my predicted finish time! I gave Speedy the turtle a kiss on the head for luck. OMG. I really have to run 5k after this??? I was not feeling capable of it, but I ran out onto the course for the spectators' benefit.

Run: I was running soooo slowly I felt like I must look ridiculous. My legs and brain didn't seem to have proper communication anymore. I knew from practice that it would pass and I'd feel better about a mile in, but it was such a struggle to move forward. Other people around me were about my pace. I walked for a few seconds to re-adjust my hair, and then kept plodding along. I ended up taking way more walk breaks than I wanted to, and I recognized fully that I was physically ok, but my mind was far beyond gone. It was stuck in a permanent "WTF" state. I tried chatting with someone else, a duathlete, who asked me about the swim. I started telling her about it, but I realized that re-living that experience was NOT doing anything good for my state of mind, so I shut up and let her go on ahead. The run seemed to stretch on for an eternity. The Anderson High School pep band was playing "Ironman", which made me smile and gave me some drive to keep going. We passed the pool and I turned my head away from it. Not thinking about that. I kept trying and trying to just find a comfy running pace, and NO running pace felt good. I kept myself going by taking very short walk breaks, and there were plenty of landmarks - that cone. That trash can. That tree. Now run again. My longest running stretch was a half mile, from the first mile marker to the turnaround. I took fewer walk breaks, but the last mile still felt like an eternity. I tried thinking of other things, singing in my head, just get to that dang finish line. I took some water at a water stop and it felt like a brick in my stomach.

And then....I heard people! KEEP RUNNING! I ended up side-by-side with a power walker in a knee brace. I saw the home stretch and all I could think was that I didn't want to cross the finish line with a walker, so I broke out as much speed as I could and flew by him.

And was over. They announced my name as I crossed the finish line, and someone immediately took my timing chip. Holy crap....I just did a triathlon!

I'm good with how it went. I wish the swim wouldn't have been panic-inducing, and I intend to try to join in some group swim practices and some open water swims so it won't be next time. Plus, I really know what to expect now. I'd been told, but you don't really know until you're in there and people are trying to crawl over you and your head's spinning. I wish the run would've gone more smoothly, but I was injured. I'm three weeks in to re-learning to run after nearly two months off. Next time, running will be a much more comfortable thing for me. And I think without the mental insanity of the swim, I would've had better focus on the run.

I have new respect for triathletes, for sure. That was probably the hardest thing, physically and mentally, that I have ever done - and that was just a sprint tri. I've got a ways to go to be ready for longer races.

I think that what I yelled at my husband as I crossed the finish line sums up my race quite nicely: "THESE PEOPLE ARE ALL INSANE!!!!"

Can't wait to do it again!

(Oh yeah, the gimp leg = tired, a little tight, but not sore. No injury site pain!)


  1. GREAT JOB!!! How exciting!!! My son and I were just down at Coney yesterday to pick up our season passes. It would have been neat to go down this morning and watch the race! Congrats on kicking your first tri's butt! :)

  2. Welcome to the club, triathlete.

    The swim was crazy, its like an OWS but in a controlled enviroment, because you can see in the water too. Thats how most swims are. It gets better. I still freak out from time to time.

    Congrats on your first race, you completed something that less then 0.2% of the world has done. Congrats

    I tried looking for you, didnt find you

    I just finished my race report today

  3. I didn't anticipate the insanity of the swim. Even with the time trial, I started right in the middle so the faster people were on their second lap, and I swam right into a mass of people when I rounded the buoy. I think just having that experience will make the next one easier!

    Sorry we missed each other! Maybe next time we do a race together we'll catch up!