After over a year of talking about it, buying a bike and then never riding it, and pretending to come up with a training “plan,” I finally said screw it, signed up, and on a whim participated in my first* triathlon.
Sometimes, instead of planning and planning and getting every detail just right, you just have to put your reservations and excuses aside and just go for it. This is how I approached this triathlon…in a, “You never know until you try” kind of way.
Survey says? A+ experience!
I totally loved this race. I have many thoughts on triathlons overall and the things I did right and the things I did wrong (i.e. barely ever riding a bike beforehand), but that’s all for a later post.
For now, my race report!
After staying out too late on Friday followed by a restless sleep, I woke up both groggy, dehydrated, and out of whack. I realized I had no idea what I was doing, and I could feel my mind turning in on itself and try to resist the unknown. Alas, the show had to go on, and I stuffed my bike and all my gear into my tiny car and headed to the race.
My “I have no idea what I’m doing” fears didn’t subside upon arriving at the race. I felt so out of my element. There were ladies everywhere with awesome bike racks and buckets full of their gear (is this a thing?) and generally everyone seemed to know what they were doing. I felt like a lost puppy. Why can’t I just use a bib and my running shoes???
I racked my bike at one of the few spots left and laid out my transition area, basically just copying the veterans around me.
Finding Lindsay, Becky, and other new friends helped get me excited for the actual race, and I cannot stress enough how helpful it was to be doing this race with other first-timers. After a little time of waiting around watching the Olympic distance start, it was our turn!
I was so, so thankful that the wave start to this event meant that there would far fewer ladies starting at once than I’d anticipated. The only part of the swim that I was especially nervous for was getting clobbered at the start, but luckily not much of that happened.
Once we were off and separated a bit, I found a good rhythm and felt much more in control than I expected. I spotted every ten strokes or so, and for the most part I stayed right on track with the buoy. My breathing was a little heavy, but I attributed this mainly to adrenaline and tried to stay calm.
After rounding the final turn and coming into the beach, I started to get really excited. 1/3 of the disciplines done! There also weren’t a ton of gals around me, and I thought I’d done pretty well time-wise.
My first transition went smoothly, albeit a little slow. It’s amazing how fast some people go through transition! Mine was a little under two minutes I think, and I just did the best I could.
So many things to say about the bike. Both good and bad. Of all the legs, I was probably most intimidated about the bike primarily for two reasons:
1) I literally just learned how to clip in. I’d ridden clipped in all of three times before this race, and while I knew it was a little risky to go for it on race day, I knew I’d be much happier in them than not. And after last weekend’s encouraging ride, I felt confident enough. However, the fear was definitely still there.
2) I suck at riding a bike. I never, ever ride my bike. I don’t even really go to spin that often anymore. Since I bought my beautiful new road bike (Daisy) this past spring, I’ve ridden her approximately three times. Two of those times were in the last week. I know, I know..but marathon training trumped bike riding.
Despite these two fears, I was still excited about the bike. It was a beautiful day, and since I wasn’t doing the race very competitively, I just wanted to have fun.
I got clipped in right away and never had any issues with them (huzzah!), and I felt strong and smooth right off the bat. It was pretty exhilarating to be doing something that I’d thought about for so long but had never pulled the trigger.
I quickly realized, though, that while I may have been a biking newb…most of the women in the race were not. I started getting passed fairly soon into the ride, and continued to hear “On your left” throughout the course. It was humbling, I’ll admit, and although eventually I was able to maintain a good clip and keep up with everyone…it became very obvious just how much the bike can probably make or break a race in this sport.
One of the people who passed me was Lindsay, and holy ish that girl can RIDE. I probably had a two minute lead on her after the swim and not only did she pass me on the bike, it took two miles for me to catch up to her on the run. Inspiring!
As I’m sure you can imagine, I was giddy upon getting to the second transition. Knowing that the run was all that lay between me and the finish line was so encouraging, and I was ready to make up some ground. My transition was really fast also, and although my timing chip malfunctioned and didn’t log my bike, T2, or run time (FAIL), I knew I had a great turnaround.
So that whole thing about how your legs feel weird after riding a bike? So true. Although I had been warned and anticipated it, thanks to my lack of any “brick” workouts and never practicing a transition run, the jello leg feeling was alarming.
I felt like I was moving so slowly and I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to shake off the feeling in time to make up ground for my slower bike. I was sure I was around a 9 minute mile (slow for me) so when I looked at my Garmin and saw a 6:40 pace looking back at me, I was shocked. I guess my legs knew what they were doing better than my brain. Runner intuition!
So I went with it. This was only a 5k, and although it followed the two other disciplines, I intended to capitalize on my running strength.
I started passing people almost right away. I knew about 12 ladies had passed me during the bike, so I thought it would be fun to try and see how many I could reel back in. And yes, I realize how horrific my habitual competitiveness is coming across right now. I can’t help it.
I definitely slowed down a little (a sub 7 pace is probably beyond my capabilities right now), but I kept up as best I could and eventually fell into a rhythm. I felt tired, but my legs were starting to feel more and more normal. Eventually, the only pain I was feeling was residual fatigue from the rest of the race and the tight lungs from running faster than normal.
Passing people was also encouraging, and it was so fun to both root on other people and have others cheer for me as well. Everyone was SO friendly and enthusiastic the entire time, and no offense to my runner brethren…triathletes are hands down so much nicer during races.
Anyway, after the mile 2 marker, I started getting really excited to finish. I felt strong, and I was really pleased that I was able to keep up a ~7 minute pace on the tail end of the race. Actually, I was really happy to see those paces in general, as I’ve been doubting my speed recently.
When I made the turn into the parking lot before finishing the final loop, a guy shouted, “You’re all alone! Finish strong!” so it was nice to know I didn’t need to worry about anyone creeping up behind me in the end.
I had a huge smile as I rounded the final corner and headed to the finish line, and the announcer definitely noticed as she called out my name in conjunction with a, “She’s got a huge finisher smile on her face!” Cue: more nervous smiling from embarrassment. But it didn’t matter; I crossed the finish line feeling great and totally inspired by the experience. It was one of those finish line crossings that remind you why your train and why you race.
After receiving my medal and meeting up with all the other ladies doing the race, I found out that I’d finished 3rd in my age group on top of everything! The prize was a box of chocolates, which while not exactly something to mount on the wall…it was still exciting.
Like I said earlier, my chip malfunctioned so all I have is my ranking and final time:
Final time: 1:25 Overall: 21 Age Group: 3
This race was a perfect first* triathlon experience, and I’m excited to expand the possibilities of what my sporting future could hold.
A big thanks goes to Becky and Lindsay for helping to push me to do the race and to Dawn for coming all the way down to cheer! Big congrats also to Julie, Kerrie, and all the other great ladies I met who dominated the race! And a final HUGE thanks to Nicole for loaning me her wet suit!
So, when’s the next?
*Technically speaking, this wasn’t my first tri. Back in high school, I did a sprint tri both individually and as a relay. But, both times were very causal with hardly any care at all for pace, transitions, or any kinds of technicality. I didn’t even exercise regularly at that point in time, so I don’t really count them in my current racing resume.