Monday, June 25, 2012

Wendy's Triathlon Recap

I completed my fourth triathlon two weeks ago and I'm calling it an automatic PR.  It was a sprint distance tri but I'm pretty sure the swim course was a little short (was supposed to be 1/2 mile) and the bike course was loooong.  Usually a sprint tri has a 12 mile bike but this advertised as 17 miles.  And in reality it was closer to 18.5 miles.  Anyways, I came blazing across the finish line in 2:27:15.  I say this not because I'm fast but because I have now completed THREE triathlons that have taken place on the thresholds of hell.  It was HOT!

Now for the nitty gritty details.

It was a 4:15 am wake up call.  I told The Pilot that the early wake up calls are by far my least favorite part of racing.  And also one of the main reasons why I'll never do the Goofy Challenge again.  I slowly wandered around the house and got ready.

 Off to the lake!

We got up to the lake around 5:45 am and I picked up my timing chip (which for triathlons looks a lot like a house arrest monitor, not that I know from experience) and my swim cap.  The race had different color swim caps for the different age categories.   I was rocking out the red swim cap, representing the 30-34 age group.
 Hey kid, I'm an elite athlete.  Can't you tell?

I headed to the transition area to set up while The Pilot acted as my sherpa and paparazzi.  Isn't he the best?
 Super Sherpa Spectator!
He's loaded down with a folding chair, a man purse full of camera lenses, the camera, and a backpack with dry clothes for me to wear at the after-party, sunscreen, water and if I know my husband, a snack.

It was a party in transition since there were 5 of us teammates in the 30-34 age group so our bikes were all racked near each other. Our other teammates were close by as well.  Team in Training had a tent set up near the beach and we all met there.  It was also time to meet up with my own personal race stylist, also known as Lisa, who has some serious French braiding skills.  I've found the best way to keep my mass amounts of hair in check during a tri is to have it French braided into two braids.  It will fit into a swim cap and a bike helmet but it will also stay out of my face during the run.

There was supposed to be a mandatory meeting in transition with the USAT officials at 6:30 and then the race was to start at 7.  I knew this was more of a guideline than a hard and fast time.  This race company is notorious for late starts.  Normally that bugs the hell out of me but time was flying by on race morning so I was ok with it.  We made our way to the beach and I was squeezing myself into my wetsuit as the first wave of people started.
Coach!  I need assistance!  Can you make it so its not so tight??

 Suck it in Mary!

Our team was milling around on the beach and then wading around in the water as we waited for our waves.  I never actually heard them call each wave, it was more a follow the crowd kind of vibe.  Before I knew it, there were a bunch of red swim caps lining up at the buoys in the water.  30-34 age group.  This was an in-water start, which I had never done before and I have to say, I liked it!  It started in about chest deep water (for me) and there was no running from the beach into the water and getting your heart rate all jacked up in the first 5 seconds of the race.

 A very anti-climactic start

As the siren (?) went off indicating we could start, I swam a few strokes but quickly realized my swim buddy wasn't next to me.  My teammate Susan, while a tri alumni, hates open water swimming.  She was really freaked out before the race started and so we decided to be swim buddies and stick together.  When I looked back, I saw Susan still standing at the buoy.  She yelled to me that she couldn't do it and was in the process of turning towards the beach when I swam back for her.
 Susan, I will drag you through this if I have to!

No way!  Not on my watch, swim buddy.  I told her we'd walk it if we had to (the swim was along the shoreline so the depth stayed anywhere from knee deep to chest deep) but we were going to finish that swim.  I gave her some encouragement, which included me telling her that I don't like the swim anymore than she does.  She slowly started walking towards me and slowly but surely, we started to make some progress.  We walked.  I did the side stroke.  I would swim a few strokes and then make sure Susan was still with me.  We'd walk a few, swim a few.  Susan finally found a groove and got her head down in the water.  And that's when I thought I was going to get dropped!  Susan is a strong swimmer and can easily kick my a$$ any day.  Once she started swimming, I was giving all I had to keep up with her!  We finally made it to the last buoy and made the trek up the beach and into transition.  I must say, swimming with someone sure is better than being in the back all alone.  Swim buddies never leave a man behind!

Heads in the water!

Susan, look at us looking like hot stuff coming out of the water.  See, we are beating that guy in the Speedo (never mind the fact that he started in the wave behind us).

Swim time: 17:00.  Supposedly that is for a 1/2 mile swim plus the run up the beach into transition.  Considering my time last year was 21:00, I'm thinking the swim course was a little short.  Or as a race walker, I have an ability to walk really quickly through water and made up 4 minutes.

Again, I had a picnic and knitted a sweater while in transition.  4:39.  I have no idea what I was doing for it to take me so long.  I pulled off my wetsuit with no trouble.  I squeezed the water out of my braids (mass quantity of hair = super absorbent).  I sprayed on some extra sunscreen on my arms and legs.  I put on my cycle shoes, gloves, helmet and off I went.  I had to run the bike for what felt like a quarter mile before I reached the bike mount line (mounting the bike before the line will give you a penalty).  4:39??  I have no idea.

Once on the bike, I just told myself to push as hard as I could and deal with the consequences on the run.  I'm not sure why I went with the strategy.  I had no strategy at the start of the race but for some reason, I wanted to prove something to myself on the bike.  Prove that I can average faster than 12mph on a ride?  Maybe.

Remember that mandatory meeting I mentioned?  During it they mentioned that they had to re-route the bike course due to some local construction.  We sort of expected that.  The course was advertised as 17 miles (which was already long for a sprint distance tri) but they announced that because of the re-route, it would be closer to 18 miles.  Say what?  I was certainly glad I got in a couple 20+ mile rides during training.

The bike course was a lot different than I expected.  I knew the original course and was mentally prepared for it (including a long climb at the end).  But the course was completely different, though it still had the long climb at the end.  This course was full of rolling hills.  Not long or steep, just a large quantity.  And I hate hills.  But I will say, I've improved a lot this season at reacting more quickly when I need to change gears to prepare for a hill.  That meant that I was able to get up the hills.  Most of them went by without much difficulty but there a few out there that I was completely sucking wind.
 Why the heck did they put a photographer right at the top of  a hill
(at least I hope this was at the top of a hill)??  Not cool.

And in a complete first for me, I was actually passing people while on the bike.  That never happens.  Granted the majority of those people were on mountain or hybrid bikes (heavier bikes) but there were a couple on road bikes.  While I don't climb hills well, I have no fear on the downhills and that is where I tended to be able to pass some of those people.

Some of my teammates started passing me in the last 5 miles of the bike and while it sometimes sucks to get passed, its awesome to get passed by teammates who are doing amazing.

As expected, there was the long, slow climb in the last mile.  I managed to stay out of my granny gear and I even passed someone on the uphill but boy was I breathing hard when I got to the top.  Luckily it is literally downhill back into the transition from there so I was able to spin out my legs and catch my breath before getting off the bike.  Bike time: 1:19:02.  The course was closer to 18.5 miles but a 14 mph average?  I'll take it!  14 is faster than 12!

 Finally back from the bike.

Don't fall!

The second transition wasn't as slow as the first but it still seems like I was knitting a sweater.  2:39.  I racked my bike, took off the helmet, gloves, cycle shoes and shoved my feet into my running shoes.  I also made the call to take off my tri top and throw on a jersey.  I blogged about the tight tri top previously and even had my mom cut and hem the sides so it would at least work for the swim and bike.  But it was still uncomfortable.  I could have survived 3.1 miles with it but I also realized just how hot it was getting as I was still about 5 miles from the end of the bike.  My mouth felt like cotton yet I was sucking water down like it was my job.  I needed to protect myself from the sun so I took off the tri top and put on a jersey with sleeves so at least my shoulders were covered.  I instantly felt more comfortable...

...that is until I had to start actually running.  More on that later.  When I came into the second transition, Team in Training had a HUGE group of cheerleaders that situated themselves in between the transition area and the last 1/4 mile of the run.  It was perfect!  They could see people coming from both directions.  As I came in from the bike, I heard the cheer team go nuts but when I saw them, I realized they all had their backs to me in transition.  I looked up and saw one of my teammates, James (Susan's hubby), running towards the finish.  I won't lie, my first thought was "holy sh#$!  He's finishing already?!"  James was in the same age group and started the swim at the same time Susan and I did.  As quickly as I had that thought, I suddenly was so excited for him.  It was his first tri and obviously he was rocking it out like the hero he is.

Cheer team!

Once I completed knitting my sweater and having another picnic, I headed out of transition to start the last leg of the race.  A 5k.  It seems so simple.  Hello, I've completed full marathons.  I survived all 39.3 miles of the Goofy Challenge.  3.1 miles seems so short.  But remember how much I hate short distances?  I'd rather do a half marathon than a 5k.  And a 5k after I just swam 1/2 mile and cycled 18+ miles?  Ugh.  If you'll also remember, I only did one brick workout this season (much to my coach's chagrin).  As soon as I started to run, it felt like I had concrete blocks tied around my ankles.  From experience, this is normal.  I just needed to get through the first 1/2 mile and typically that feeling goes away.

Guess what?  That feeling didn't go away.  I don't even think I made it 1/2 a mile before I started to walk.  I didn't walk too long before I tried to run again.  No such luck.  The first part of the course was on a gravel/dirt/grass path.  It was uneven and difficult to walk on.  But running was so uncomfortable.  I just kept moving forward and cheered for my teammates as they passed by going in the opposite direction (it was an out and back course).

I finally made it up to the dam and was on blacktop for a little while.  I tried to run again and while my legs were starting to cooperate more, the sun was beating down on me. I was so thankful that I put on a shirt with sleeves so at least my shoulders weren't baking.

This is about when I started to contemplate my triathlon "career."  Why was I doing this to myself?  Why do these races always have to be so damn hot?  What am I always running on top of a damn dam with no shade?  I decided around mile 2 that I was never going to do another tri ever again.

I also decided that I never wanted to wear my race belt ever again.  This race required that a race number be worn during the bike and run.  With the number written on our arm, I have no idea why they also required a race number.  Anyways, I wore it on a race belt which I had never worn before.  I tightened it up before the race and tried it on and it seemed to work fine.  But because I probably lost 5 pounds worth of sweat during the race, that thing wouldn't stay in place at all.  I spent the entire 5k messing with it because it kept riding up.  I came close to taking it off and carrying it but I was already carrying a water bottle and didn't want something else to focus on not dropping.

 I'm pretty sure it was thinking about Parker and Seth that kept me going.

I walked much more than I ran but I kept moving.  I eventually made it off the dam, made a brief jaunt through some trees (shade) and back to the beach.  Before I rounded the last corner though, I heard The Pilot.  And soon enough, there he was in all of his Super Spectator glory, rattling his noise maker with camera in hand.  I was walking but even seeing him couldn't motivate me to run because I knew I didn't have the steam to run to the finish from that point.  If I was going to run again, it was going to be for the last time and I wanted to run across the finish.

Lucky for me, one of our amazeballs alums, Stephanie, jumped out of nowhere and started running next to me.  Well, ok then.  I guess it's time to run.  She pumped me up with some encouragement, got me running and ran with me through the last stretch along the beach.  I love that the tables turned because it wasn't long ago that I was cheering and encouraging her through a race as a coach and here she was doing the same for me.  Reason # 1,098 why I love TNT.

That's Stephanie running with me but then jumping off the course to let me have my "glory" as I made the last turn to the finish.  The little guy is my nephew and the cutie in the watermelon dress is my niece.  Super spectators in the making!  My niece was only 18 months when she was at the finish line when I crossed my very first marathon back in 2006.

And after 43:57 of trudging my way through, I completed the 5k and came across the finish line for a total time of 2:27:15.  I could have walked the entire 5k in the same amount of time, if not faster, but after the swim and the bike, that's all I had.  And that's all I needed because I finished.

That was one goal.  The ultimate goal was to raise money for research and patient services for blood cancer.  Thanks to my amazing supporters, I was able to raise $1,305.  We are getting that much closer to finding cures.  And that brings me to by far, my favorite part of race day.  I've been racing for a couple of years now in honor of Parker and in memory of Seth.  Two amazing boys who, with their families, battled cancer.  Parker is a success story and is 6 years in remission.  Seth didn't make it, but there are still a lot of people still fighting in his memory.

Like the joy of finishing another race isn't great enough, this time around, Parker was at the finish line.  He has been a super spectator at a lot of races along with his family but this is the first time I've been in a race he's been a cheerleader at.  His dad and his aunt were also racing so he, his mom and little brother, Miles (a "side-hero") came out decked with signs and noise makers.  Awesomesauce.  I think Parker is still surprised when he finds out people do these races for him but he's also very thankful. 

Parker and I at the finish
Super spectators!  Because real men wear purple!  Parker, Miles and The Pilot.

And let me tell you, seeing Parker and his family at the finish, along with all of my teammates who finished before me, it made the pain and the heat go away.  While I was telling myself I'd never do another triathlon again at mile 2 (and beyond), seeing what I saw at the finish made me realize that my work isn't done.  Whether it is racing, coaching or donating time and money, I will keep fighting until there is a cure for blood cancers.

 I love this picture!  Hugs all around!  I'm getting a hug from Meg.  She's famous for her amazing hugs.  It doesn't matter if you just met her, she gives full on bear hugs!  :)

We all finished and raised over $18,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!

Thank you to all of my amazing donors:

Jack and Pat
Carrie J
Shelly and Zac
Steve and Both
Sharon and Steve
Lia and Brent
Tom and Rachel
Julie and Stacy
Rosemary and Robin
Carrie S
Richard and Vicki
Penny and Don
Kathi and Bob
Robin and Dan


  1. I've done about 30 triathlons includeing 2 Ironmans and I have NEVER done a race where I've contemplated my multisport career and decide it sucks and the run hurts and that I'm NEVER doing this again! You are normal :)

  2. Thank you for doing what you are doing for Leukemia research.
    A few years back (20) I gave bone marrow to a little boy with Leukemia, and since the chances of being able to give again are very rare, I've thought about joining Team in Training so that I could use my running for a good cause. How difficult is the fund raising? Honestly,I'd like to know. Thanks!