Monday, June 11, 2012

Sometimes, you just gotta Tri

I honestly don't know what's gotten into me.

Maybe it's the way it feels to cross a finish line. Maybe it's the adrenaline rush. Maybe it's the food afterward.  I don't know what the deal is, really, but I know one thing for sure: I love trying out new physical activities. (I know, I know ... what the hell, right?)

So I was just as surprised as you that I wanted to complete a triathlon. And I might be even more surprised than you at how much fun I had, and how well I ended up doing. Again, let's be mindful that in my athletic pursuits, I compare myself only to myself. There is no point in trying to compete against a field of seasoned athletes; it's just me and the course. So when I tell how how long it took me, don't be disappointed, okay?


By way of background, it's only fair to let you know that the night before the tri, I attended the wedding of a dear friend (to be sure, he's family to me). The ceremony and reception were in Chicago, and it was a late night. (Totally worth it, if only for the joy of watching three precious nieces walk down the aisle hand in hand as flower girls.) Morning came at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m., and Linda and I were on our way to Naperville for the SheROX Sprint Triathlon.

Sadly, we didn't have cameras with us for the race, because we couldn't take them into the water for the swim (duh) and didn't have a secure place to keep them. Alas, a few before and afters will have to do (see below).

As for the race itself, I went into it with a range of feelings, mostly nervous and excited. What to expect? I had no idea. I just knew I was going to do my best, and I was determined not to freak out on the swim.

We arrived at Centennial Beach, where the race began, at about 5:30 a.m. We got our transition area set up (you have to be super organized to ensure easy transitions between swim and bike, and bike and run) and soon it was time to head to the beach to cheer on other competitors. Our wave, however, didn't begin until around 9 a.m. That meant about two hours of hanging out, waiting. (Yawn!)

Pre-race Maggie, in my Marines t-shirt, in honor of Ryan, the groom.

Soon it was time to put on our swim caps (PINK!) and head into the water. I put on my goggles (also PINK!) and said a little prayer. "Dear sweet little baby Jesus, please don't let me drown." And then ... AIRHORN!

We were off. I got in the water and, based on the advice of a fellow swimmer, took to the outside of the lane. BIG MISTAKE. From here, I had a long way to go to get back to the ropes that divided the lanes (and provided me a little security, in case I felt fatigue). And soon, I did begin to feel fatigue. Maybe it was the crowded pool, or the constant waves; I can't say for sure. I do know that a bit of panic set in when I realized I was pretty far out, the bottom was 20 feet down, and I had a long way to go before I could relax. At this point, I was greeted by a white-capped "Swim Buddy", otherwise known as a guardian angel of the pool. Either the race or the pool itself provided these great swimmers as support for the athletes. "Are you okay?" a Buddy asked; I told her I was okay, but struggling. (Mind you, this was the first half of the first length of the pool; there were six, like a big M with an extra turn, total.) She spent the entire rest of my swim time at my side, coaching me along. When she thought I needed a rest, she guided me to the ropes or had me flip onto my back to catch my breath and get my bearings. With her help, I was able to complete the swim; half mile in the water, done. I did not drown! (Thank you, Swim Buddy, whoever you are!)

I was quickly out of the water and headed back to our transition area to pick up my bike. I was able to quickly get on my way, thanks to my multi-sport shorts and tank from Skirt Sports; worked like a dream! (Plus, I may have looked a little cute.) The bike part was the toughest for me. My bike, while a lovely gift from a friend, is not what I need for racing. Or even general riding anymore. The gears slip, so riding can be precarious at best, dangerous at worst. I quickly gave up trying to shift and just stuck in a high gear for pretty much everything ... which worked great on hills and sucked ass on the flats. But that's okay, because I DID IT; 14.2 miles. Boom, done.

Alas, it was time to run. My legs felt like rubber, but we started off strong. Linda agreed to spend the last two legs of the tri with me, as we were in the Buddy wave. (I know she would have come in a lot sooner if she hadn't hung back by me!) It was really rough going at times, and I was having a little trouble catching my breath. Let's face it; until the race, I'd never asked my legs to run after a bike ride. If I had, they might well have told me to get bent! So I kept going, taking liberal walk breaks, and just letting it be okay that I was tired.

The race provided us with cold, wet towels, they added water stops, and there was even a teenage girl outside her house with a garden hose offering to spray people down. (Yes, please!) It was fantastic to feel supported toward the end of a long journey.

And when the finish line was in sight, I had saved enough in the tank to run across it; I haven't felt so happy since February, when I finished the half marathon.

It was incredible. The support and encouragement, and the accomplishment, have definitely given me some perspective as to what I'm capable of. Next year, I'll be stronger. But I promise you, there will be a next year!

My final results:

750 meter swim - 23: 27
Transition - 10:53
14.2 mile bike - 1:12:00
Transition - 5:26
5K run - 46.15
Overall time: 2:38:00

Linda and me.

Me, after; a proud moment!

Me, at home the night of the race. Exhausted, but so damn happy.
My morning after cup of coffee, fit for a triathlete.

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