MY FIRS TRI!!!
(Photo by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville)
Pre-race: On the drive to Decatur my stomach was entirely in knots. I had been nothing but excited for the race, but for some reason I was suddenly EXTREMELY nervous. I could barely even stomach eating my breakfast, and only managed to get about half of it down. I continued to drink plenty of water because it was definitely going to get very, VERY hot outside.
We arrived and immediately found the transition area. I wanted to be about an hour early to give me plenty of time to set up, get my packet, and do a warm up swim. I hadn’t originally planned on any warm up swimming, but many of my tri 101 coaches advised me to do so and I definitely trust their advice. I set my bike up, laid out all my gear for easy access, and then headed over to get body marked and get my ankle chip. It was surprisingly already extremely warm, and I made sure to stick to the shaded areas while standing around waiting. The race was taking place at a Decatur water park called Point Mallard. The swim was going to start on a small, sandy beach; straight out in the river and back along a rope with red buoys strung along. After dropping all my things at transition I decided to hit the water for my warm up swim– it was SO WARM. I expected it to be refreshing but it was like getting into a bathtub. There were so many other people warming up and no one seemed to be swimming with any rhyme or reason, people were standing here and there, swimming in every direction. I swam probably about 100m but couldn’t get my breathing down and I was too nervous about colliding with someone unexpectedly. I was discouraged by that and expected that I would probably need to spend a lot of the swim turned over on my back trying to catch my breath.
(Photos by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville)
Swim: Finally it was time for the racing to begin. I was still incredibly nauseous, but at this point I think the anticipation was what was making me so anxious and nervous. I kissed Scotty for luck and he smiled and waved as I walking into the starting area. The race director came over the microphone and told us to order ourselves by race number for the start. I was 324, and tried to find people close to that. I ended up in a clump of other 200-300s and asked about what I should do– another more experienced racer said they weren’t super strict about going in order, and that it was really up to the racers to put themselves in the right order. GREAT. I decided to just stick where I was and hope for the best. One by one, in ~3 second increments, I watched as racers were signaled to cross over the timing mats and dive into the water, and I was making nervous small talk with my friends that were nearby, Jay and Danyelle. The closer I got to the water the calmer I got. What was I so nervous about? I LOVE racing. I love swimming. This is a little bit different than any swim I have ever done, but there were plenty of safety people around, I was going to be just fine.
(Photo by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville)
FINALLY it was my turn! As I stood behind the mat ready to go, I felt all of my anxiety melt away and I was filled with bubbling up joy. I couldn’t hold back my a giant “WOO!” as I splashed into the warm water. I immediately set into a rhythm with my freestyle/front crawl and right off the bat ended up passing several people around me. It took me a minute, but I soon got the hang of tilting my head up to sight, and navigating around people was much easier than I had anticipated it to be. It seemed like most people were taking the course wide, swimming several feet away from the guideline. I moved to the inside lane right alongside it so I wouldn’t have to swim around so many bodies, and I was surprised at how well I seemed to be doing. Before I knew it, it was time to turn around and head back. What was I so worried about again?? Not a single moment of panic, and I never needed to flip over on my back for a break either! On the way back I felt someone swimming at my heels, every once in a while I would feel their hand reach out and grab my foot. I pulled a little harder and attempted to drop the drafter, and I was surprised at just how smooth I felt. I think I might be naturally good at swimming y’all? Too soon the swim was over, and it was time to exit the water. I saw Scotty cheering on the side and knew I had a big, silly smile on my face! I scrambled up the beach and did the long run to T1– we had to run up the beach, over the sidewalk, and through the water park entrance to get to the second timing mat! Crazy! Swim time: 10:44
Transition 1: I slid down onto the grass with my sandy, wet feet and washed them off quickly with a water bottle I brought just for that purpose, another great tip from my tri coaches! I slipped on my bike shoes, sun glasses, shirt, and helmet and was on my way. T1: 2:26
Bike: I crossed the mount line and hopped on, trying to get my shoes attached to my pedals. I sometimes struggle with that, especially when I’m trying to hurry. Thankfully I found the connection immediately this time and rode off hard. I was just behind my friend Danyelle and tried to stick with her as long as possible– I’m a little faster swimmer than her, but she’s better at biking and running. I knew if I could keep her in my sights during the bike I would be doing well. The course was ALL SUN but thankfully the breeze was nice and I never felt too hot. I continued to drink plenty of water and tried to keep a decent cadence going. In training my coaches have pointed out that my cadence on the bike is too low, so I really focused on keeping a higher turnover and good form. I passed several more people, and was passed a few times as well. It was a simple out and back and the only bad part was riding by the stinky factory road that literally smelled like someone had taken a dump behind one of the buildings. Gross. I guess it was good incentive for me to ride faster though?? Ha. Before it knew it, I was pulling into the park and towards the dismount line. Time for my most familiar sport, RUNNING! Bike time: 34:42, 16.1 mph
Transition 2: It was RIDICULOUSLY hot by now. As I removed all of my bike stuff, I ripped off my shirt, doused myself in water from my bottle, and tried to put my running shoes on my some how still wet feet. I jammed my hat down on my head and slowly trotted back out of transition, where I saw Scotty waiting on me. T2: 2:22
Run: I was so happy to see Scott’s face and was more thrilled to hear him say the words, “do you want company?” I really gave the bike a hard effort, and now my legs were JELLO! Having him by my side for the run is exactly how I wanted to end the race. 🙂 The run course was on an awesome crushed gravel path that wound through the woods. The best part? It was almost completely shaded! I was so tired though, I didn’t know how my legs were going to carry me for that measly three miles. I had Scotty tell my stories about Princess Sparkle the bunny rabbit, and made him run just slightly in front of me so I could pretend he was pulling me along. We ran by lots of other racers and he proudly old them all that this was my first tri– he’s so cute. Every time we passed a water station, I took a big gulp from the cup I was handed and then dumped the rest on my head. The water was ICE COLD, which I very much appreciated. The worst part of the run was the fact that my clothes had never dried off. That’s how hot and humid it was! My shorts were still soaked, so much so that water was dripping down my legs and making my shoes and socks wet too. We took a couple walk breaks, but during the last mile I was determined to finish strong. I told Scotty I wasn’t allowed to walk any more, and he pushed me on until the finish. We turned a corner and could see the finish line, Scott peeled off and sprinted there so he could stand at the end and cheer me in. I picked up the pace (as much as I could) and heard my friend Lori in the distance cheering my name. I was about it do it! I was about to become a TRIATHLETE!! Run: 41:09
WOOOOOOOO!!! I DID IT Y’ALL!! I finished my first triathlon with a total time of
Final thoughts: wow, that was fun. A year ago, I eyed the tri people like they were slightly crazy. “Good for them, not for me,” I would think to myself. Who wants to do a sport that requires THAT much gear and training? What kind of wacko submits themselves to that kind of foolishness? I guess I’m one of those wackos now, because I LOVE TRIATHLONS! I am extremely pleased with how this race went, especially because I went in not for performance but just to get some experience under my belt. I am insanely proud of my swim and bike times, but also know I could have done better on the run portion. Overall, I’m happy with how I did and I can’t wait to do the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon next month and maybe even do a little better!
One thing’s for sure, I have drank the kool-aid. When’s the next tri? Sign me up 🙂