I decided to train for and attempt this race as my first triathlon three months before it happened. I followed a training program from TriNewbies.com and worked my tail off. The day of the race, I knew that I would probably finish. But, wow, I was nervous. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing – and they looked fast. My goal was simply to finish and have a good time…
The day of the race came, and I ripped Alex out of bed before the sun was even thinking about coming up. My mother-in-law stayed with us and watched the kids, so we didn’t have to worry about bringing them. We snuck out of the house and made our way to Lake St. Louis. The wave starts were set to begin around 8am, but I needed time to get there, set up my transition space and work out my pre-race jitters (read: have nervous diarrhea). Just being honest here. I wasn’t the only one – the toilets smelled like horse shit. We found a parking spot and made the long walk to the transition area. It became pretty obvious that my hybrid bike was greatly outnumbered by all the road bikes. It was almost embarrassing. I took the time to lay out everything in my transition area and mentally went through each transition to make sure I had everything that I needed. I went and did body marking (a race volunteer writes your race number and age on your arms, hands, and legs), and then went through my transition stuff again.
Time passed, my cheering section arrived, and I found myself on the beach waiting for my wave (I was in the Athena group, which is women who weigh more than 150 pounds) to start. I was excited. I was nervous. And, to be honest, I was a bit scared. I watched all the other waves start out in the lake for the swim. My wave was the last to go. I kept toward the back of the group because I’ve heard that you get punched around if you are in the front or middle. People will literally swim over you if you are in their way. My wave started and I took off. Swimming is my strongest sport, by a landslide. I did get kicked in the face and my goggles moved a bit, but I was still able to raise my head and spot like I needed to. Before I knew it, the swim was over. I was back on the ground jogging toward the transition area. I looked back to the water and realized that I kicked ass – I passed almost my entire wave in the swim. In hindsight, I probably went too fast – my heart rate was high which hurt me later on. My cheering section was in full force and I could hear them yelling for me. I gave them running high fives on the way by. I was having a blast.
I made it to the transition area and sat down. I wanted to make sure I got this right – throw my cap and goggles down, dry my feet, put on socks, put on running shoes, clip on race belt with bib number, put on helmet, put on glasses, grab a quick drink, grab my bike off the rack (be sure to not knock over the other bikes), and take off running.
The bike leg was manageable. I was having major road bike envy as they effortlessly zipped by me. My hybrid does well for a casual ride, but it wasn’t cutting it for this. The corse was full of hills and was pretty intense. About half way through, I watched a guy slide out and crash. I saw his head bounce off the street (he was wearing a helmet – you have to in order to compete in a USAT event). They guy went completely limp on the ground and was loudly moaning. I started to stop, but then saw some race officials and police officers running toward him. I said a little prayer and kept going. I passed the ambulance that was coming for him on the way back. (I heard that the guy was fine.) Eventually, I made it back to the transition area so I could stash my bike. I was having fun, but dreading the run. I knew that I had to quickly put my bike on the rack, toss my helmet, turn my race number to the front, and take off running.
Going into the second transition, or T2, I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the run. I’m a horrible runner – I always have been. It’s just really not my thing. Running by itself sucks, but running after you’ve just given it Hell on your bike is enough to never make you want to run again. My legs were tired – it was like running on spaghetti noodles. I kept trying to just push through. ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going’ was on repeat. Eventually I started to walk a bit. Anything to try to get my leg adjusted to running. I can’t lie, I walked quite a bit – maybe half of the run. It was only 2.5 miles, but it felt like an eternity. Everyone that was passing me or going the opposite way (on the way back) would yell out encouragement. Triathletes are notorious for being extremely supportive. It was contagious. I would breathlessly squeeze out a ‘great job’ or ‘keep it up’ for everyone I saw.
I hit the half-way point and felt myself gain some energy. Maybe I could do this? I kept up with my walk/run until I could see the final stretch. It was now or never, so I took off jogging. When I rounded the corner for the finish line, I was in a full out run. Let me clarify, it was a fast run for me – most likely a slow jog for everyone else. I saw the finish line. I focused on it. Before I knew it, I was across.
The next thing I knew, someone was putting a finishers medal around my neck and someone else was asking for my time chip. I had to sit down to unwrap it from my ankle and give it to them. I was shaking, I was tired, but I was a triathlete. I had completed the race and it felt awesome.
After I was able to go into the transition area to grab my stuff, we loaded everything up and went to lunch. I was hungry! I felt good the rest of the day and the days that followed. The training worked, and I was prepared! Two days later, I went to a bike shop and walked out with a sweet, new road bike. I’d rather die than do another triathlon with anything else.
Official Times (1/4 mile swim, 12.5 mile bike, 2.5 mile run):
- Swim: 9:58 (rate of 2:16)
- T1: 4:25
- Bike: 59:06 (rate of 12.5 mph)
- T2: 2:40
- Run: 41:03 (rate of 16:25 per mile)
- Overall time: 1:57:09
- Division Place: 10/11
- Overall Place: 252