I did it! I finished my first Oly tri! With a smile on my face, no less…and in spite of yucky weather and a major crisis of confidence the week before.
If you want to read my detailed race report with times and everything, look here.
Here’s a more emotional, long-winded summary:
After a night of fitful sleep, I got up, got dressed, and forced some breakfast and coffee down. I packed up my bike and headed to Cathedral Park, which is less than 20 minutes from my house. (Finally! A race I don’t have to drive an hour for!)
Since we weren’t supposed to park IN the park, I found street parking approximately 17 miles away, unloaded my stuff, pumped up my tires, and plodded to the transition area. On the way I ran into a couple ladies I’d done a training swim with, and we swapped hellos and well-wishes for the race before parting ways at the body-marking area. Since it was chilly and windy out, this race required our arms to be marked, instead of just the legs like I’m used to. I held up the line for a minute while I struggled out of multiple layers of clothes, got marked, then headed over to transition to set up.
The weather forecast had called for rain, so I had brought along a couple large plastic bags to place my socks, shoes, and jacket in to keep them dry while I was swimming. As it turned out, it didn’t rain much during the race, but it was a good thing that my shoes were pinning down my bags, because the wind was blowing…hard!
After pretending to listen to the pre-race briefing while putting on my wetsuit, I headed down to the boat ramp. I had a pair of throw-away flip-flops on, which meant I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the dagger-like texture of the pavement underfoot. I debated whether or not to even warm up in the water, since my wave wasn’t scheduled to start for 18 minutes after the race started. I did the smart thing and got in, got used to the water temp, then got out and shivered for what felt like forever until they announced my wave. I kicked my sandals off to the side near the boat ramp and tried to find a promising-looking area to start. It was a big wave, though…At least 60 people, and we were all sort of crowded together like cattle.
Needless to say, when the swim started, it was a madhouse. It took forever to make any forward progress, and I was struggling to find any place where I wasn’t swimming over or into another body for at least a hundred yards. After we rounded the first buoy, it started to thin out, and I found a rhythm of sorts. It was pretty windy, and the water was choppy, but I concentrated on keeping my breathing and my stroke as even as possible. It seemed to take forever to get to the turnaround, but it seemed a little easier on the way back. (The race directors had said to expect the opposite, due to an incoming tide, but maybe the wind direction had something to do with it.) I eventually made it back to the boat ramp, and climbed out of the water feeling like I’d done pretty well. I glanced at my watch and was surprised and a little disappointed to be about 3 minutes slower than what I’d expected, but I was soon distracted by the tiny knives of pavement that were trying to shred my feet on my way up the hill. Running wasn’t an option; I just sort of tiptoed, saying “Ow, ow, ow,” until we were on soft grass again.
When I got back to my bike I did a pretty good job of shedding my wetsuit, but could not for the life of me figure out why my helmet wouldn’t go on my head right. I took it off, looked at it, put it back on, took it off again, and finally realized my ponytail was too high and the helmet wouldn’t fit over it. Obviously the cold water had slowed my thought processes. I adjusted my hair, jammed my helmet on, and headed out for the ride.
The bike is by far my weakest event. I rode as fast as I could comfortably, and as usual was passed by a multitude of people of all shapes and sizes. I was able to pass a few myself, but they were almost exclusively on mountain bikes wearing running shoes. On the positive side, I was able to eat a few energy chews and drink lots of Gatorade, so I felt well-prepared for the run. Besides that, I was able to tolerate the ride pretty well, without too much “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” running through my head (though there was some, to be sure!) There was a mean headwind for most of the ride, which seems impossible, but I swear, the wind shifted about halfway through, and I was riding into it all the way out, and most of the way back.
My second transition went smooth enough, then I steeled myself for the run. It should be my strongest leg, but I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after a long ride. Also, the run course had a long, steep uphill climb pretty near the beginning, which is just not fair. (Seriously, it was about a quarter of a mile of around 18% grade. Cruel.) This is the only place I walked during the run leg, and it was only about 15 steps, to keep me from crying. But when I hit mile marker 1, my pace was near 9 minutes/mile, which was way faster than I’d expected! I contemplated slowing down to conserve energy, but my legs felt okay, and I wasn’t huffing and puffing, so I decided to roll with it for a while. I started noticing the spectators along the course, and had enough breath to compliment them on their signs. (My favorite one said, “Hey! Where’s everybody going?”) I also chatted a little with some of the runners I passed and who passed me. The course stayed flat for the next couple of miles, and my pace stayed strong. Then it was time to climb over the St. John’s bridge. I was demoralized for a little while at how tired the climb made me, and I almost lost my hat in the wind. I thought about taking a walk break before telling myself I didn’t need it, I wasn’t that tired, I was strong, etc. etc. The positive self-talk worked, and pretty soon I was crossing back over the bridge and heading downhill again.
Remember that 18% uphill? Well, the course came back down that same hill. A runner I’d been exchanging leads and jokes with since mile 2 finally blew by me for good at that time, and I told her to go crush it. But my quads (and my nerves) can’t handle a downhill sprint, so I took it a little slower. Good thing, because I still had almost a mile of trail along the river and through the grass of the park before I was in the finishing chute. I passed a young woman who looked like she was struggling a bit, told her to push hard and finish strong, and then ran hard the last 50 yards to the finish. I’d run the best 10K time of my short career, and I knew it! I also couldn’t bend over to take off my timing chip without falling down; thank goodness for kind race volunteers. I traded my chip for a medal and a slice of watermelon, and wandered aimlessly in a post-race stupor…”Must text husband…Need water…Call mom…Where’s phone?…Hey, chocolate-chip cookies!” I ate some of the post-race food and eventually packed up my stuff and headed out as the gusts of wind started lifting up tents and knocking over fences. I walked the 17 miles UPHILL to my car (Seriously, not cool…) on tired legs, and headed back over the bridge just as a torrential downpour opened up. Whew…Thank goodness THAT waited until after the race!
So now it’s time for some rest and recovery. I know this was no Ironman race, but it did require a significant amount of training time, especially in the last couple months, and I’m a little burned out. I’ve got a few body parts (hip, back) that are begging for some time to heal, and frankly, some long-neglected housework to attend to. In time, I’ll set some race goals for the winter and next year, but right now I’m just going to enjoy having nothing to train for!