The anticipation of race day is the worst. Every second leading up to the first step into the water makes my stomach churn, makes me jumpy, fidgety and nervous.
Which translates into 500 trips to the bathroom in a triathlon unitard and nakedness in a dark bathroom stall.
Friday, I picked up my race packet. #292. I also got my timing chip ankle bracelet which was all worn and gross but it was kind of neat because it looked like a zillion athletes have worn it and I made a joke about it to the packet guy about wishing my bracelet could talk. I mean, really! I wish it could tell me how fast it's gone, who wore it, what trials and tribulations its gone through, has it been in a crash? Has it won a race? Has it been on someone who gave up? Or who thought they would but then they didn't? Was it forgotten on race day by accident? Oh, the stories I bet it could tell...
The night before, I gathered all my items on my list including my wetsuit and some Body Glide, turned the coffee pot onto auto, and sat down and watched my Ironman 1999 video which is so inspiring and it fills me up. It helps me start getting into the zone, and that zone for me isn't the one that's looking to finish first, it's the one that's just looking to finish.
I fell asleep to Ironman, dragged myself to bed and I woke up at 3:30. I slept better than I had on most race nights, but when that alarm went off, I was wide awake like I'd already had a vat of coffee poured directly into my eyeballs.
I drove to the race myself, which honestly? Was pretty damn cool. Because I made myself a CD and I pumped myself up and sang OUT LOUD, LOUD AND HARD and at the top of my lungs the entire 40 minute drive, in the dark, at 4:30 in the morning. It was awesome.
I was pumped!
As soon as I got there, I saw Leona from my tri-group. Such a smiley face with a wonderful Irish accent, she's fantastic. She was a couple racks away from me, and another girl in my tri group was right next to me. We all found each other and took pictures. We were all pretty nervous.
We each took about 101 trips to the potty, got our gear in order and our bikes racked, put on our wetsuits and made the walk down to the beach. I didn't make the same mistake I did last time by not getting into the water beforehand. This time, I went in, frolicked around for a bit, swam, got my face wet (which was key!), got back onto the beach and got ready for the bullhorn.
That 30 second countdown is the most nervewracking countdown ever.
The bullhorn sounded and we were off. There was the running into the water, the swimming out the buoy and then of course, that initial panic setting in as I round the buoy, the thought that, "I can't do this."
That damn thought. I hate that thought. It pops into my head and I try like hell to push it out, empty my mind and keep moving. The last tri I did, I panicked and sat there bobbing for a while, not moving, just sitting there. Getting ready to throw in the towel. I didn't put my face in the water, I exhausted myself by swimming with my face out of the water and it took me forever.
This time I told myself, no matter what, just don't stop. Turn over and swim on your back if you must, but just don't stop.
And that's what I did. I had no issues with putting my face in the water. In fact, my swimming was mostly like my training swims. Except that it's in deep water and for most of the swim, I couldn't catch my breath and stop the panicky type breathing. But when I truly got out of breath, I turned over and did the backstroke. Whatever I did, I just kept moving. I felt like it still didn't go like I wanted, but when it was over, I got out of the water with a lot of other red swimcaps, including my friend Leona up there, which meant that I did pretty well after all. Because she's a great swimmer. Just over 16 minutes for the swim. I beat my last time by about 3 minutes.
By the way, the wetsuit isn't the most flattering piece of clothing in the world. I'm just saying. I feel sort of like a slab of meat in it.
The picture I almost published up there was one where I was thinking real hard. I decided against it.
I was pretty sure that was the time where I was christening my wetsuit. Hey, everyone does it! Don't judge.
Anyway, it was off to transition. And then to the bike. I'm the one in the middle, in the black suit and the blue helmet.
Besides that one windiest section of the ride EVER where I was literally holding onto my bike for dear life and could hear the wind whistling through my tri-bars, the bike was great. I forgot to drink any water on the bike for fear I would topple over in the wind, but it ended up being ok. I do have to work on not backing off while my thighs are burning though. Because I'll pass more people if I just go with it.
And you really gotta love the dudes who refuse to let you pass them. This happens on the run too. They'd rather be almost ready to fall down and collapsing of a heart attack than be passed by a chick. Most times if I notice this happening, I'll just speed up and pass them once and for all and when that happens I wish I was wearing a t-shirt that read on the back, "YOU'VE BEEN CHICKED!" So there.
Anyway, the bike over, just over 30 minutes for 10 miles (which I know could have been better but whatever.)
My husband missed me coming off the bike so he got the back of me running away.
And then after the 4 miles, he got me coming in for the finish.
I finished off the 4 mile run in just over 34 minutes, but I think there's something a little hokey about the mileage (my husband's friend got a different read off his GPS watch) but either way, I know I was doing just over 9 min miles which is huge for me coming off the bike. HUGE victory over bike legs. And so many people in my tri group commented how my running has improved since last year. Thanks to my Team In Training runs, I AM SURE!!!
I guess my favorite part of this whole event was somehow being able to keep my mind almost empty and wholly focused. I didn't think about pain (mostly), and except for the swim, I didn't think about my breathing. It all just very much happened on its own. There was no feeling of wanting to die like in the first tri I did last summer. There were just arms and feet, moving forward, for a while, until I was done. Just like my husband, Mr. O, told me to do.
I finished 34th out of 51 (and everyone keeps telling me that's ok because all the hardcore people always come out for the first race) and even though I know I'm racing against myself, I know I could have done better. It's hard to watch people in your age group pass you. It just is. You hope you can pick it up and move your ass to pass them back again, but for me, it never really happened. And that's ok. Just the fact that I had victories along the way kept me pumped. Like: finishing the swim without stopping and without being tired. Doing really well on the run. Seeing my body do these things and without any major trouble and actually enjoying it!
The next triathlon is next week, on Sunday April 25. It's St. Anthony's, a very popular one and it's Olympic distance, which is .9 mile swim, 24 mile bike, and a 10k run - my furthest yet. I am sure I can do it. I'm just worried about the swim and my mental state and how my mind can turn on me in an instant. Because when I was finishing that swim last week, I was thinking "Holy crap, there are TWO of these!" And I was scerred.
But I'm preparing. Now that most of the "fear" is gone, I need to focus on breathing better on the swim, like I do in training. I am thinking I have to go slower at the beginning, not running into the water and flailing about really, like everyone else, and I have to stop focusing on the bouys. When I look at the bouys, it just reminds me how much further I have to swim and it gets me panicked. I cannot do that this time. I just have to swim. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less. Just swim.
After all, I gave up fear for Lent, remember? This Sunday, I am swimming in a practic clinic where the St. Anthony's swim will be to get ready.
I've heard there is murk. You know how I love murk. But what's a little murk. Right?
So, in sum:
I am happy.
I can't believe this is me and that I'm doing this.
And that's my race report. Until next week.
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