SWIM. BIKE. RUN.
I survived my first triathlon! The distances of the race were 500 meter swim, 10.5 mile bike ride, ending with a 3.1 mile run. When James and his brothers planned to compete in the Tidewater Triathlon as a relay team, I thought I would one up them a give a sprint tri, a try! The triathlon and the weeks leading up for it were definitely an interesting, humbling experience.
I wasn't trying to be the fastest person on the course. All I wanted was to cross the finish line within regulation time. As far as the bike & run, I felt confident in my ability. I ran a 10k in April (with no training) and have been riding around town since getting a big girl bike for my birthday. I knew the swim was going to be my biggest challenge. I had every intention of properly training for this triathlon, but things didn't quite work out that way.
I made certain that my gear was organized! My unofficial tri-suit was a Patagonia Juanita Spring Wetsuit that I got for my birthday. I put it on my wish list because I do intend to become a surfer within the near future. For now, I have been using it in swimming pools and SUP Yoga. It fits perfectly and I have to admit, I love that it accentuates my curves! I chose to wear it for the entire race, so that I could save time during transition. The triathlon provided the swim cap and socks! Of course, I had to match my Speedo goggles to my Adidas running shoes. I can't tell you how many times I double-checked my triathlon bag.
I started my morning at 4:15am with smashed avocado on hemp toast. I had to make sure to get to the race super early, so that I could set up my transition area in peace. I filled the water bottle on my bike with BodyArmor lemon-lime sports drink and coconut water. About 30 minutes before the race, I ate a Health Warrior Protein Chia Bar. I chose to bring my flamingo towel, so that I could spot my area better. How could anyone really miss that beautiful bike though?
Hands down, almost every triathlete that I have met agrees that the swim portion is the hardest part. Perhaps, this is why it is the first leg? I have always felt that I was a good swimmer. I planned on practicing swimming while I was in Key West, but I let my vacation vibes overrule. Swimming from our boat to an inflatable rock wall was as close as I got to an open water swim. A couple of weeks before the tri, I finally decided to hit the gym pool. I am so thankful to be a student right now, because the VCU Aquatic Center is so decadent. (It wasn't like that 10 years ago.) My gal pal Rachel swam in high school and gave a few me pointers; I also watched a million tri swim YouTube videos. I spent time swimming laps as well as swimming against the current in the vortex pool. I really enjoyed swim training and I was bummed on myself for not getting to it sooner.
The first wave of swimmers hit the water at 7am. My wave started at 7:16am and was about 89 people. Athenas, clydesdales, novices, and relay members all gathered around. The first wave was out of the water, long before we even got in. I was feeling nervous because I didn't want to be surrounded by people who might be kicking and punching me. The best part of all: we were swimming against the current. A million laps in the pool could not have prepared be for open water bay swimming. I was in the water for 10 seconds and started panicking instantly. My goggles were fogged; I kept swallowing water. I wanted to bail immediately. There were 2 rescue boats and about 15 lifeguards chillin' in kayaks, waiting to offer you their rescue can. I was alternating between free style and backstroke; shameful, I know. Everytime I closed my eyes, I knew I would be getting closer and closer to the buoys. I had to talk myself out of a panic attack. I wasn't about to call to get pulled out of water, although I so badly wanted to. I wanted the bragging rights of being able to say that I did a triathlon, plus I didn't want my nieces to think I was a quitter, so I just kept on swimming! 19 minutes later, I was the last one out of the water. I jogged to the transition area where I couldn't believe that I had survived that swim. I threw my bike shorts over my wetsuit and laced my shoes as quickly as I could. I shoved Berry Pro Bolt Bar Organic Energy chews in my mouth and hopped on my bike!
So maybe, I mounted before I was supposed to, but I promptly got off and re-mounted in the correct spot. The lady directing was super chill about it. Being the last person out of the water made me feel like I was going to be in last place overall. These were my thoughts for the first 2 miles of the bike ride. I knew this was where I had to come back strong. I had to make two loops on the bike course, I was a little discouraged because I knew people were already on their second loop, when I started my first. Actually, there were people beginning their run portions by the time I hit the road. I saw James on the course and his knuckles were bloody! (He fell on a turn but saved himself quickly.) The course was pretty flat, just minor road bumps. We looped at Fort Monroe . The sunrise over the bay was a beautiful sight! The salt air was the perfect way to catch my breath after such a challenging swim.
Now, I truly understand the term 'second wind.' By the time I made my second loop, I was feeling pumped! Charging down Mallory Street, I realized that I was in a position to pass a couple of people!! I wore my Polar watch for timing and I couldn't believe how fast 10.5 miles flew by. I felt an unbelievable amount of joy as I came up to the last turn back to the transition area. The lady directing the bike portion commented on how I really caught up after being the last person on the course! So that had me feeling jazzed. I raced into transition area where James and fam were there to cheer me on! One of my nieces made a sign that said 'My Aunt is faster than your Aunt!', I got verklempt and felt so ready for the last leg of the race!!
I got off of my bike and threw on a different pair of shorts. This wasn't in my race day eating plan, but I shoved another package of Pro Bolt Bar chews down my throat. It was going to be a scenic run down the Buckroe Beach boardwalk, we head through the neighborhood and loop back to the finish line. I might've eaten those chews too fast and was feeling kinda barfy as I started to run. I decided that I would run/walk. I wouldn't normally stop during a regular 5k, but didn't care considering all that I just put my body through! I set one large goal: finish under 2 hours. The sub-goal that I set was to finish by 9am (I finished at 9:03.) I loved passing other runners on the course and cheering each other on! The camaraderie is the whole reason that I have gotten into races. I always loved cheering people on from the sidelines that it inspired me to become a participant.
In the last stretch of the race, I was creeping up behind participant #418. I caught up to her pretty quickly and sprinted past her while we crossed the finish line. She didn't look very happy, so I did some research about finish line etiquette. I'm sure others have different opinions, but an editor for Runner's World reminded me that it's a race, so who cares. My final time was 1hr; 47 minutes for my first sprint triathlon!
2015 Tidewater Triathlon: #447 & Team #490
You mean, your family doesn't participate in triathlons for fun?
I had such a fun time participating in this triathlon. I wouldn't have be able to conquer this, if I didn't believe in myself. I'm so lucky to have friends and family who believe in me too. Every time, I thought about bailing (before & during), I thought I would be letting everyone down. Judys don't play that! Next time, I have promised myself that I will train properly. :) Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this entire experience!!