I know for a fact, that if you want to do something and train for it, you REALLY can do anything. Yes, we all have the power and strength to do amazing things (things you think are very far out of your reach), and it feels great to work hard and then accomplish your goals. Before the end of April, I had never run or swam before in my life. Both sports were completely new to me, and I had a lot to learn. It sure felt great crossing the finish line, but I must admit that it felt pretty good as I trained for it along the way, feeling myself get stronger and more confident week after week.
Back in May, my goal for this event was just to be able to finish. The race consisted of a 700-meter swim, 12-mile bike ride, and 5k run. Through my training and participation in the Penn Trafford Sprint Triathlon, I realized that I would be able to finish and I set a new goal to try to finish the swim in a reasonable time (25 minutes) and not feel horrible when I got out of the water.
36 hours Pre-Race – I received the email from the race director saying that they have established a swim cut off at 22 minutes and anyone remaining would be moved from their lane to one of the two slow lanes. This was a big concern for me because I was comfortable just barely finishing my swim in the 25 minute cut off. I left the office a bit that day and went right to the North Park 50 meter pool to practice. My husband suggested doing breaststroke instead of stopping to catch my breath at the end of a length, so I had tried that a few days before and pulled in a time of 22 minutes at the 25-yard indoor pool. I found out in the email that I was assigned to Lane 2 which is in the deep end, so I wanted to practice my first all deep water swim and circle swimming. Darn southpaw, being a lefty and breathing only to the left is just awful swimming counterclockwise because the ropes are always on your right. Even worse, in the deep end, the line is so far below you and painted light silver that I couldn’t see it at all and found myself swimming all over the lane. How was I possibly going to circle swim with four people per lane without any guides? Arghhh. I pulled in a time of 18:33 and was very happy. Still nervous that race day I will be much tenser, feel the pressure and now unsure of how I will handle blindly navigating Lane 2.
24 hours Pre-Race – 3 of my four kids participated in the North Park Kids Triathlon, and it was a beautiful day. They were all amazing, and we are very proud of them. After the kid’s race, I picked up my race packet, got my body markings and had a quick chat with the RD (race director) who said that they would try to move me to another lane in the morning (I felt a little better). That afternoon when we were done I did a quick spin on the spinner at Oxford to get the legs moving and then a great pancake dinner with Matt and Zane at the Freedom Diner. I went home and went to bed, yes it was a little after 6 pm, I was nervous and anxious and just wanted to try to sleep (anything to stop worrying). It never happened. I tossed and turned all night, probably got in a couple of hours from 2 to 4 am, and then my alarm sang to me at 5:45 am.
Race Day – I felt great, the body was all working, nothing ached, drank my shakeology and mixed up my Infinit for the bike, and I was off to the race. Setting up in transition was a breeze (yes I used post-it stickies on my handlebars so I could count my bike laps) and I was able to watch all of the earlier heats through the swim and T1. They announced that the water temperate was wet suit legal (which means the temperature had to come in at 78 degrees or below) so I became even more concerned about freezing in the water. I saw my little guy come out of the water the day before just freezing and I was told the water temperature had dropped 6 degrees since then. In the very first heat, I saw people struggling with the swim. As the morning progressed I saw side stroke, breaststroke, floating and backstroke so I felt a little better knowing if I had to mix it up I wouldn’t look like a complete idiot. It was 15 minutes before my heat and Carly, and the kids arrived. I was lined up in the pool area, and I saw my four kids, my husband and our new puppy coming around the corner. Too cute and I was so happy to see them. I then heard someone yell for an ambulance and saw a woman on the cement. The orange cap (even-numbered race numbers that were on my side of the pool) lane director was super nice and said that I could move down to the other end of the pool but I would have to count my own laps and I would have a longer run. Done. My oldest, Matthew said he would count my laps with his phone and yell at me every time I came to the wall. Perfect. The stretcher passed whisking the pool girl away, and I just wanted to panic completely. “What had happened? Is that going to be me? Stop it, you idiot…you can do this,” I kept saying to myself.
I jumped into my new lane, omg it was cold. I started jumping up and down in the water to stay warm, quickly went under and tried with all my might not to panic. I was very happy to have a lane all to myself, and then some guy at the other end of the pool jumped in and started sending me hand signals. At first, I had no idea what he was trying to say but then quickly realized he was asking me if I wanted to circle swim or up and back. I overly exaggerated my up and back elbow/hand jerks, and he seemed to have nodded. The horn blew, and we started, the first 50 was a breeze, I was calm and focused on believing that my body was warm and not cold and reached the far wall turned to make sure he understood my gestures, and he was already on his way back on the same side. Yippee. I put my head down and pushed off, about half way back I realized I was swimming (yes I was distracted until then) and only had 12 1/2 more lengths. Matthew yelled, “one mom, you did one mom” at the end of the pool, and I was so happy to have my family support system (no I can never remember laps when I try it by myself). About mid way through my swim, I lost focus and started to feel a rush of panic coming on and did a few strokes of breaststroke to get myself under control. I also started to sing a song Kat and I were singing the day before over and over again by Matisyahu called Sunshine repeating the lyrics:
It’s time for a champion – Soothe the soul of the land – Mend the heart from the sea and the sand – Till the sun comes up again (twice) – Reach for the sky – Keep your eye on the prize – Forever in my mind – Be my golden sunshine – It’s raining in your mind – So push the clouds aside – Forever by my side – You’re my golden sunshine
Yes, this helped, anything to keep going and forget about what I was doing. I kept seeing my family screaming the next number above the wax of my ear plugs until I was finally coming in for my final number 14 ready to see the sunshine and get the hell out of the pool. I pulled myself out and at that point realized I had won my race. Yes, I won my race because I was racing against my mind and strength to get through the swim.
I knew I could get through the rest of the race and my swim time was 17 minutes 50 seconds. Wow, I was thrilled. The remainder of my race was to learn how to listen to my body, race next to other people and keep lots of fuel in the tank because the trail run was pretty challenging. I ran around the pool, looped the cone and headed to TI, thanked some volunteers on my way wiped off my feet and got all my gear on for the bike. I don’t always snap right into my pedals (and did practice in the street the day before over and over again), so my next challenge was mounting the bike and snapping into my pedals. Snap, yes, accomplished. I was on my way and felt great, so great I think I was cheesy for the camera and just thrilled to death that I did not drown in the pool. I think every picture of me I was smiling (too funny). I promise next time to only smile for one picture. I immediately started passing people, I couldn’t believe it, I know my heart rate was low, and I was zipping right through the crowd up the steady incline. I trained a lot with high cadence and just spun my legs over and over again around the ball fields to the screaming crowd at the main intersection around the pool to the only large hill on the ride. The hill was a breeze and passed at least 3 people sometimes 6 on each of the 4 hill loops. The climbs were my chance to move a few people ahead and then level off in a good comfortable position on the flat. My family was under the tree’s at the top of the hill now synchronized together yelling how many laps I was on for the bike course. I remember Kat and Remi yelling, “only one more mom, just one more “and I was close to riding it home for T2.
My transition was simple, just sliding on my Newton’s with my lock laces and grabbing my belt. I decided earlier in the morning to carry one bottle on the run so I could drink when I needed. I knew from my practice runs that the hills were steep and that two water stations would be available. Right away my legs felt like concrete blocks. I started up the grassy hill and heard my 10-year-old, Kat yell..”only three more miles to go.” I slowed my pace and just trekked ahead paying close attention to my feet as I landed on rocks and sticks along the path. I was pretty much alone in the woods for a while, was passed twice along the course but I passed at least eight people along the way. A few people I went out of my way to tell them that they were doing a great job and keeping going. At the 2nd water station, I grabbed my water and did stop running and walked up the huge hill dumping the water over my head. Once I hit the road, I knew I was on the home stretch and just sprinted. It felt great knowing I was off the trail and as soon as I rounded the corner, I could see the finish line. I gave it all I had and raced to the line, looking for my family. I was done… I kept thinking that I survived the swim. The rest was gravy.
My watch showed 1 hour 32 minutes, but the official results came in at 1:36. Not sure how that happened but I was happy with that result since I registered at 1:43. I came in 5th in my age group. I know I can improve in the following:
Swim – #1 I am still not comfortable but have made tremendous progress. I would like to be able to come in comfortably under 15 minutes and need to learn to breathe from both sides.
T1 – I was so thrilled on my swim I was talking to people, sitting down, taking my good old time getting my stuff. I was in a complete oblivion of happiness and relief being done with the pool. I can speed this up in the future.
Bike – I passed a lot of people, was comfortable and had no equipment malfunctions. I took the bike cautiously, and I know I can get a lot faster and more comfortable with more practice on the road. I never left the bottom sprocket on my bike and gave about 70% trying not to overdo it in preparation for the run. Looking back, I think I could have given a lot more on the bike, and it really would not have affected the run. The run was hard no matter what I did beforehand.
T2 – Good time, no issues. Fast.
Run – I finished strong but had to walk a couple of times. The trail run is relatively hilly, and I can shed a few minutes with more training and some more running practice.
All in all, a great experience. I would give the volunteers and race coordination an A+.
I know that I would have struggled a lot more and finished a lot slower if I didn’t have a coach who set up a strong training program. Thanks, Jeremy!
I also just loved my fan club and family support. My Carly although teases me a lot for being tentative and a big sissy has supported me through all my training runs, bikes, and swims. It was great to see him smiling along the road. I especially loved learning from the kids that he said he might just show me that he can do a race too, someday. Love it! My kids were so cute following me around the course and screaming all day.
It was just wonderful to see Christi and Ryan both cross the finish line. Christi is so inspiring and has accomplished so much in the last year and a half. Ryan, hats off for taking on the challenge and kicking butt!
I learned a great deal from this experience and looked forward to many more triathlons…challenges and stepping outside my happy little comfort zone.