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Friday, August 29, 2014

August: Triathlon (!)

SO INTENSE.  Y'all, a triathlon is no joke.  Last weekend, Sean and I completed a sprint distance triathlon in Clear Lake.

If you've been following along on my New Year's resolution, you'll know that I've completed my share of 5k fun runs and bike rides.  So when my friend, Gabby, asked if me if I wanted to do a triathlon with her, I was pumped!  Nervous for sure, but excited about the challenge.  Besides, she asked me in April, so I would have four months to train and would totally be prepared!

The Clear Lake sprint triathlon consisted of the following:

500yds swimming
23k biking (just over 14 miles)
2.1 mile run

Not too bad right?  I was completely confident about the running, since the distance was shorter than a 5k and I've been running those for years.  Also, running is my favorite sport (no hand-eye coordination or flying objects), so I could get excited about that leg..

I also wasn't worried about the cycling portion.  I'm not as experienced as the Mister in this portion, but we've completed several rides at longer distances, so I knew I could finish that leg strong, even if I had to take it slowly.

But swimming.  Oh my swimming.  This leg would be the challenge, so I knew I would have to focus most of my training here.  Get a Y membership, buy some goggles, learn to swim.  But with four summer months to train, I could definitely prepare for 500yds!

Which is true.  You can definitely learn to swim as sport in four months.  If you train.  Unfortunately, my work schedule stayed busy through the summer and I started working fall-busy-season overtime in July, only a couple of weeks after getting home from Israel.  I did get that Y membership, but it went unused too many days while I worked late.  Too often the story, isn't it?

So let's talk about race day.

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We left super early so we could get there about 45 minutes before the transition area closed.  (Triathlon learning point: you set up your biking/running gear in the transition area before the race begins.  Googled this a lot pre-race.  Google answers all questions.)  I was feeling pretty good so far - race day morning was going much smoother than is typical for me: good breakfast, leaving early, feeling calm.  About 10 minutes from the race location (read: 30 minutes from home) the worst of the worst happened.  I had forgotten my swim gear.  I had gone over and over my transition pack to make sure I was ready to start those other legs when I got out of the water, so i didn't think about getting in the water...

Did y'all know a 2003 Camry can sustain 90+ mph for 30 miles?

Thankfully, we made it back in plenty of time to set up.  That everything-is-ruined feeling lifted, and normal race day butterflies took it's place.

The gun went off and the olympic distance folks took off.
Then the first men's wave.
Then Sean's wave.
Then the first ladies' wave.

My wave was the last wave, and finally it was my turn.  And swimming is HARD.  I was under-prepared physically and mentally.  We were in salt water, which drained my energy even faster.  I would swim a little bit, tire out, and flip over and float on my back.  I completed the swim portion in 17:51.4 - 18 agonizing minutes.  I was third-to-last out of the water, and last into the transition area, putting me in last place of my wave.

I want to be honest here.  There were some moments in the water that I was ready to quit.  I was on the verge of panicking.  I was angry at myself for not training enough.  I hadn't considered the fact that the swim was in salt water, and I was dehydrating quickly.  I hate losing, so I was feeling pretty down on myself for being one of the last people in the water.  I was angry and sad and overwhelmed and embarrassed.

About two-thirds through the swim, I realized that I was only thinking negative thoughts.  And that is not how you finish a race.  So I stopped those thoughts.  I swallowed my pride.  I was slow, but I was persevering.  I wouldn't win, but I would finish.  If it took me all day, I was going to complete this triathlon.  And I would finish with my head held high.  I would be proud of myself for my effort and my attitude, not my time at the finish line or my number in the ranking.

That's a lot of feelings for 17 minutes and 51.4 seconds.

I took my time at transition to rehydrate and prepare for the cycling portion.  I was last out of transition, but I was feeling so much better.  The cycling portion went smoothly and I was grateful to be out of the water and on the bike.  I passed the girl in front of me, but she passed me back when I pulled over for some water. (Note to self: get a squeeze bottle.  My bottle fits too tightly in the holder, so I had to pull over to get it out - otherwise I probably would have thrown myself into traffic.)  I did have to walk a portion of the Kemah Bridge, but I'm not ashamed, just disappointed.  Just before transition, I passed two ladies on their bikes, and it turns out they were in my wave!  My average pace on the bike was 12.6 mph, and my total bike time was 1:08:20.8.

My second transition was much quicker, and I started the run portion.  I drank an entire bottle of water before the first water station; my body was still so dehydrated from the salt and the heat.  I then drank another cup of water at the first water station, and dumped the second cup of ice water on my head.  BEST DECISION EVER.  I alternated running and walking, and really enjoyed the last leg of the race.  There were lots of race participants still on this portion, for both the olympic and sprint distances, and I was happy to have other people around.  And the volunteers at the water stations were so encouraging. I ran the last portion and finished with a smile for the camera!

Let's take another look at these happy finisher faces, shall we?

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Total time: 2:05:06.8
Final place: 16/16 in my wave, 242/248 overall

Nothing to brag about, but I'm so proud to have finished!  I'll just plan on being the most improved participant next time. :)

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