Revisiting My First Tri: The Bike

Just FYI I’m re-living my triathlon experience from last year since I’m not able to participate in today’s. Here’s the swim in case you missed.


Swim complete, it was time to move on!

T1 pretty much went as planned: Dried off super quick, then threw on a shirt and shorts over my soaking wet bathing suit.  Next came shoes and socks (I wasn’t about to run sockless), helmet, and sunglasses.  Getting my bike off the rack took a little more effort than I had imagined, but no major problems.  I ran to the transition exit and hopped on- away I went.

The bike was a 2 loop route out of the park and through some local roads. I was immediately passed by another biker…and another…and another… One person even turned back and yelled to me: “Good for you for trying this on that bike–you’re working 10 times harder than the rest of us!”

Really? I was? I thought you could do a triathlon on any bike? That’s what everyone said…they just didn’t mention you would also be super slow! (By the way, I was on hybrid bike, which I like a lot–until I compared my pedal strokes to the people passing me- for every one of their pedals, I would push through at least four times)

triathlon bike start

Around mile 4 (I think?) is where disaster struck! There was a slight down hill and I was trying to take full advantage of it to make up speed.  As the hill evened out and began to go uphill again, I changed gears to start climbing. Or tried to change gears.

All of a sudden I couldn’t pedal anymore…my chain had entirely fallen off.

I veered over to the edge of the road and jumped off.  I tried to put the chain back on, but let’s be honest- I had no idea how I was supposed to do that.  The chain had managed to wedge itself between the gear shaft and the back wheel.  No matter how much I tugged and twisted I couldn’t get it free.

Meanwhile, biker after biker was flying past me.  A couple yelled out to see if I was ok.  I said yeah…I mean, I wasn’t hurt, and no need to slow down their race. But ok? Not really.

At this point my sunglasses were fogging up from sweat and I could barely see.  I was almost near tears- this isn’t how I wanted my first triathlon to end!  Then I realized I had passed some volunteers marking the way right before I started down the hill.  So I picked up my bike and started walking back the way I had come.  I finally got close enough to yell out to them that my bike was broken and I needed some help.  I saw them look in my direction, but I had no idea whether they had heard me or not…

A few minutes later (which felt like forever) a race support guy came by in a truck.  He flipped my bike upside down to get better access to the chain, took one look, and told me he wasn’t sure he could get the chain out without breaking it, and then my race would be over for sure.  He said he’d try anyway as he tossed me his ringing cell phone.  He told me to answer and tell them he was helping me.  (I’m sure I thoroughly confused whoever was on the other end).

Just as race-support guy was about to give up, he got the chain free and back in place!! He was a officially my new favorite person.  I was back on my bike!

bike finish

The whole ordeal felt like an eternity, but I’m sure it was only about 10 minutes or so.  I did see several bikers pass by twice, so that surely wasn’t a good sign.  But I was going to finish the race even if I was the last person on the course (I wasn’t).

The rest of the bike ride was pretty uneventful…the final hill back into the park was brutal.  I saw people jumping off their bikes and walking.  I put my bike in the lowest front gear (I didn’t change the bike gear again the whole ride, I didn’t want to risk catastrophe #2), stood up, and just kept climbing.

On to the run…



Revisiting my first tri:

The Run

Revisiting My First Tri: The Swim

Instead of a waking up to a 4:30 am wake up call as planned this morning, I’m sleeping in at the beach. While I’m happy to be at the beach, it’s not what I had in mind. I should be shivering poolside waiting for my swim wave at the 36 North Triathlon.

But I’m not because I went and hurt my knee. Last week I made the tough call not to race, even though it devastated me.

Instead of moping around, I’m just going to live vicariously through last year’s race report, and hope that I’m in good shape when the next tri rolls around.  😉

2009 36 North Tri

After waking at the crack of dawn, I drowsily climbed into the pre-loaded car with pre-race breakfast in hand: 2 whole grain waffles slathered with PB, bananas, and walnuts (and coffee to wash it down of course). The husband was such a sport- getting up early to take me to the race (he really had no idea what he was getting into, or why I considered this “fun”).  We had no problem finding the race site, and had plenty of time to check out what was going on.

I picked up my timing chip and got a quick lesson on how to strap it on my ankle, and then to body marking I went.  This is when I realized I was really about to do this.  My mom and I have volunteered in the past passing out water and Gatorade at a triathlon that goes through her neighborhood, and she’s always said she would love to have the job of body-marking ;).

age group marking

The swim was 300m up and back in a pool. (Figured a  pool was a good place to try this for the 1st time- one less thing to worry about!).  The start was staggered, with a person starting every 10 seconds.  Apparently this is quite different from regular start formats, but I have no idea how they normally do it. This seemed to work pretty well as far as I was concerned.  First went all the elite swimmers and club members, then the slowest seeded swimmers, then everyone in the middle.  I guess I was in the middle because I started near the end of the pack.

triathlon swim

I felt pretty good about the swim.  I probably wasn’t going as fast as I could have, but since I didn’t really know how I’d handle it, I didn’t want to end up drowning.  It was pretty similar to practicing in the pool, but with so many people swimming at the same time towards the same side of the pool, there was quite a current created.  I was working hard just to stay in the lane I was supposed to be in.  I keep misjudging how far I was from the wall when it came time to duck under the lane lines, but that was ok.  I think my goggles were messing with my depth perception a little bit.

Overall I was quite pleased with my swim performance; I even passed one or two people! 🙂

Then came the bike…


Revisiting my first tri:

The Bike

The Run

North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay

What happens when you put 11 bloggers & readers on 3 teams? A marathon relay!!

north face endurance challeng

This weekend was the Mid-Atlantic segment of the North Face Endurance Challenge series. It took place in beautiful Algonkian Regional Park in Northern VA.

I had the pleasure of running a leg in the marathon relay with a lovely group of ladies.

running bloggers

My team: Run Bloggers Run!

run bloggers run

Meghann, Ashley, Me, & Jess

blogger shirts

Team Run to Eat lookin’ hot in their snazzy tanks. Leslie, Amanda, Gretchen, & Cara.

run to eat

And Team Awesome. They were missing a teammate :(. Brittany, Julia, & Amy.

team awesome

Before the race started, we learned how to hand off the ankle chips for the relay. (Take it off, put it on the next person….thanks guys.)

The website implied it was a tough & hilly trail course—it didn’t help that part of the pre race instructions included checking in at the aid stations so they’d know if you got lost, and to find your way by looking for the right color tie. (Red!) And that whole thing about copperhead snakes. (Don’t worry, just keep running!)

relay handoff lessons

I was expecting a huge crowd, but there were only about 20 relay teams.

The first leg runners getting ready to start:

 relay team start

And they’re off!

run start

Since I was running the 3rd 6.5 mile leg, I had a little time to spare. The race started at 11, which was a little weird for fueling- I ate about half of this bagel-peanut butter-sunflower seed combo (yes, again) before I got distracted by the 1st 50 mile racer getting ready to finish.

pre race snacks

There he is looking strong! This guy was flying- it must’ve only taken him about 6 1/2 hours. Seriously?!!!!

1st 50 mile finisher

Not much later the first relay leg runners made it back for the 1st hand off.

relay handoff

They reported back on the course- “flat, fast, & short”! They flew through the course!


Before long it was my turn to run. (By the way, check out how gorgeous this place is)

great falls park

The course started on a loop around a field, then down an asphalt path by a park. Then it narrowed and turned into more of a trail. Some parts got pretty narrow back in the woods, but I wouldn’t really say it was a difficult trail to maneuver. Just a couple small ditches and muddy spots. 🙂

marathon course

(I guess you have to run a longer distance to actually get to experience more “trail”. Next year anyone?!)

I started off great- about an 8:30 pace according to the guy behind me. (He was ahead of me but I made sure to stay on his tail at the beginning in case I got lost! Then I ended up passing him. And then he passed me. ;))

I was running sans ipod to enjoy the scenery. It was fun seeing all the other runners come by the other direction- 50 milers, 50K-ers, marathoners, relayers. The first (only) aid station was about 2.5 miles in. (You got to pass it twice.) I was more than ready for some water by that point. It was HOT.

Then I had a nice post race beer.

race tag

Oh did I skip something? How about the part where I completely lost it and it all went downhill? Oh yeah, that.

My stomach had been just a bit off earlier, but I thought nothing of it. All of a sudden a little more than half way through I couldn’t think of anything but my stomach. I’ll try to refrain from getting too graphic, but it was bad. As in, even if I was in the comfort of my own home I would’ve been suffering. But instead I was in the middle of the woods and couldn’t find a path off the trail.

Luckily Leslie came running up behind me and renewed my faith in life when she said there was a porta potty just past the aid station.

I’ve never been so happy to a stinky plastic building in my life.

I started running again, but realized I still wasn’t in good shape. I U-turned and hit the porta potty again.

At this point I was so dehydrated that I was dizzy, nauseous, and miserable. I’ve never wanted to quit anything so badly in my life. But obviously that wasn’t happening 😉 (Although I did imagine them sending a searching party into the woods…)

In case that wasn’t enough to deal with, my knee was all sorts of hurting. Pain so bad that it was shooting from my knee to my hip, and it actually hurt more to walk. I just kept thinking this can’t be good…make it 2 more steps….2 more…

Then she lived happily ever after.

Ok fine, I skipped ahead again.

Eventually I saw the finish line. I felt so bad for slowing my team down so much, but all I could do was finish as best as I could. Good thing we were just there to have fun!

And than I yakked my guts out. (Which was thoroughly embarrassing as you can imagine. I apologize to any witnesses.) A few sips of water and I was back to life.


post race beer

So not my best race. Why can’t these things happen on training runs instead of races?! Oy vey.

Moving on. Post race snacks! (After I devoured most of them.) Bagel pieces, pretzel sticks, cookies, Skittles, and super delicious gummy bears.

post race snacks

We finished!! Go team RBR!

team rbr

No lie about the snakes either. Cara saw one “THIS BIG”!

snake story

Then we were off to chow down!!

We decided Mexican was the perfect post-race food, so we hit up Uncle Julio’s.

uncle julio's mexican

These were some of the best veggie fajitas- huge chunks of grilled zucchini, portabella mushroom, potatoes, peppers, & onions on freshly made tortillas. Yum!!

veggie fajitas tortilla chips

Plus chips & really good, smoky salsa!

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to new friends 🙁


This was such a fun, fabulous day, (despite the not-so-good run) and I’m so glad to have all of you wonderful girls!!

Cheering the Tri

For years when I was growing up, my mom and I would pass out water & Gatorade to athletes competing in the Columbia Triathlon, which went right through our neighborhood.

The water station we manned was always right at the top of a hill, almost to the home stretch of the 10k run.

I distinctly remember certain athletes fighting to get themselves up that hill- the paratriathlete with artificial legs, the men with bloody nipple trails running down their singlets, and older women so happy to have made it up the hill that they stop and chat.

I’d never been so inspired by any one single event before. Even then I knew I would do that triathlon one day. (Never mind I didn’t own a bike…)

Even though they didn’t officially need us as volunteers, my mom and I set out early in the morning to watch as much as we could of the race this morning.

I woke up early to the sound of pouring rain- I felt so bad for the athletes! Luckily it started to ease up as the morning went on, but it still wasn’t the best of conditions.

The first runner:

first runner

He was ahead by minutes. He won by a landslide.


The 2nd and 3rd male runners to come by:

2 and 3

The first female! (She ended up coming in 2nd.)

first female

Finally, a few hours in to the race, more and more runners started coming. We had fun cheering them on and helping them with course directions.

columbia triathlon

My mom even ended up directing traffic. (And they said they didn’t need more volunteers? Ahemmmm.)

directing traffic 

The lone police officer charged with directing traffic through a four way stop, and navigating runners coming from two directions. She was a hoot though. She was actually one of the officers directing traffic at the Blossoms of Hope Half I did last month.

police escort  

At this point the racers weren’t so serious, and started giving the police officer a hard time. The one guy is asking her why she’s not running and making her promise to race the event next year.

Who knows what that other lady was doing. She just stood there for a while, wearing half a skirt wrapped over her shorts and a jester hat with ribbons on her head….


It was really disappointing to see cars zooming through the runners- most didn’t even slow down or move over. A surprising number honked at the runners to move out of the way.

A neighbor working the first aid station said a biker was hit by a car and had to be flown to Shock Trauma (a serious emergency room.) I haven’t heard anymore details than that- but yikes, remember to be careful!!!

Blossoms of Hope Half Marathon Race Recap

Blossoms of Hope Half Marathon

Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of rain hitting the window, as unfortunately expected. The forecast was calling for rain until 7am, then turning into thunderstorms for the reminder of the morning and into the day. But I was ready to run rain or shine 🙂

My hips were super tight from sitting in the car for 6+ hours straight the previous day. I’d iced & stretched them the night before to try to nudge them back into shape, but they were still an issue when I woke up. For a brief second, it flashed through my mind that maybe I shouldn’t run, but I dismissed it thinking I was being overly paranoid. (I have a history of hip issues from too much ballet when I was younger.) The thought disappeared as fast as it came on, and I was ready to run.

I piled on some extra layers, wrapped my Ipod in a plastic bag, and threw on a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes. My mom and I arrived at the race site at 6:30 for a 7am start- I just wanted time to pick up my chip & stop by the porta potties. (My mom was volunteering at the finish line). I was shocked to see almost nobody there. I double checked my watch in confusion, but the race really was supposed to start in 1/2 an hour. I guess people are scared of the rain in MD?

I was expecting a ton of people- not only was there the half marathon, but a 5k, and 3 different length bike rides going on for the event. It was a little eerie how empty and subdued everything was. I think the highest bib number I saw was in the 300s, and apparently those were for the relays. Let’s just say I was #140 and I only signed up a few weeks ago.

The half marathoners headed to the starting line just after 7am. There was no fighting for a spot up front- it almost seemed like everyone wanting to be in the back. I’ve never been in a starting lineup that wasn’t packed shoulder to shoulder, but this sure wasn’t- it was like everyone had a case of horrible B.O. or something.

After an uneventful start, we all started running through the rain and puddles. The whole course was on the street- a lane blocked off from traffic by lovely orange cones. The rain picked up pretty hard once or twice in the beginning, but it actually never got as bad as was predicted. (Hooray!!) It was enough to be pretty drenched though 😉 The spray from cars going through puddles didn’t help either.

The course was extremely lonely- I saw more police officers directing traffic than I did other runners, cheer-ers, or aid-station volunteers. There was only gel at mile 1 and 12 (umm whose idea was that?!).

I’d say within the first three miles I wanted nothing more than to call it a day and tell my mom we should just go home instead. I was tired, in pain, cold, wet, lonely, and frustrated. I’d decided to wear my backup shoes since it was going to be so wet- I didn’t want to wear my favorites. (Ok, seriously, I have 2 pairs of the same exact shoes but in different colors- I’m sure it’s just in my head but I really like one pair better than the other.) I was already regretting wearing the “bad” shoes…

But for some reason, mostly because runners are crazy I think, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I told myself it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see any other runners- I run by myself all the time. At some point, something just clicked and I was fine. I was just enjoying being outside running. I didn’t care that I was wet or alone, or already tired and achy and barely half way through the first part of the course.

And OH the hills. My oh my. I grew up in Maryland— did I forget there were hills there or did they suddenly grow in the years I’ve been in NC?! They weren’t gigantic hills you could conquer and be done with- they were slow, gradual inclines, that you have to push up and convince yourself that you really want to make it to the top.

holy hills

The worst was the 1/2 mile leading up to the turn around point halfway. Oh. my. gosh. A day later and I’m still impressed I made it up. Let’s just say if I was on a bike, I would have been walking it up the hill.

I was SO looking forward to kicking that hill’s butt on the way back down. But guess what? The down hill might have been harder. Ok it wasn’t- but it wasn’t the joyride I was hoping for. It was steep, so I had to work hard to control myself to not tumble down it, or to let my legs go crazy and just slam into the ground. I think it took me just a minute too long to figure that out, because that’s when the knee pain started.

Suddenly pain was shooting from my right knee all the way up to my hip. It was excruciating. I kept running through it because I refused to stop, but my brain kept nagging me- telling me I really should stop before I give myself another injury. I slowed to a walk as I grabbed a cup of Gatorade from an aid station. As I started up again, I realized if I shortened my stride it didn’t hurt as much.

I kept making deals with myself- “see how it feels for a few more steps and if it still hurts you have to stop”. It got to the point where I was literally saying to my body “thank you for making it this far; come on hold it together”. Eventually, the pain eased up. As long as I kept my stride short, I felt ok. (You know how sometimes you can just tell the difference between “injury pain” and “sore pain”?…it went from injury to just sore.)

Honestly at this point I was just content. There’s nothing like being at the point of having to stop to make you appreciate what your body can handle. I settled into a nice cadence and just kept thinking to myself to take short quick steps. I was eternally grateful I’d decided to bring my music with me.

Finally—people!! For the last few miles I was with two guys- I’m really not sure who was pacing who- I think we were silently alternating roles.

Somewhere a little before mile 12 I looked at my watch. I’d hit the wrong button at the beginning, so I’d accidentally started it about 10 minutes in to the run. I did a little math and realized I wasn’t nearly as slow as I thought I was, and I was actually going to finish at a decent time. I picked it up a little, knowing I could do anything for the last mile.

When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, I picked up my pace even more. Normally I wait til the very end to start sprinting, but I started sprinting right where I was. I wanted to say I gave it my all, no matter the circumstances. It felt absolutely fantastic.

I eyed the girl in front of me and ran until I passed her right at the finish line. I kept going for a bit, then slowed down, absolutely exuberant with my finish.

Then I looked up. It wasn’t the finish line. It was the set of mats that tells the announcer who’s coming. As soon as I figured it out I started sprinting again. Then I crossed the real finish line. I passed the same girl again. 😉

This is NOT the finish line:

Fake finish line

I was pissed. I was SO mad I got the finish line wrong. WHO DOES THAT?! My mom was actually the one who got to put my medal around my neck when I finished- but of course I was too mad yelling about how stupid I was that I missed the finish line. Know why I was really mad? I saw the clock. I literally finished 30 seconds slower than my previous half. If I had sprinted the whole way through the real finish line I could have beaten my other time. (Ok, no, I couldn’t have made up 30 seconds in that distance, but still.)

Then I got over it. I just finished my second half marathon in 2 months. 4 weeks apart. I thought about quitting twice- once in defeat and once in pain. But I didn’t. I finished strong. And that’s why I run.

Post race eats: although there was no food at the finish line, just around the corner there was a post-race meal at a pub-

post race foodThe cookies were calling my name. I think I had four. 😉

I ended up coming in 8th of 19 in my age group. 2:04:54. Which confuses me- that’s what the clock said when I crossed the finish line, yet I didn’t cross the start line at 0:00. Hmmmm.

More pictures to come!!

Body Marking

Well good morning!!! Err….afternoon!

Note to self: even if you’re one of the 1st to arrive at a race, do not park in the 1st parking lot if you plan on leaving at 8am.


My morning started bright & early- so early it was still pitch dark outside- to head to the Belews Lake Triathlon to put my volunteering skills to use. (Winding country roads in the dark with night blindness- quite interesting)

belews lake triathlon

Coffee & breakfast were promised upon arrival, but just in case I grabbed a peanut butter bagel thin sandwich with sunflower seeds and my own coffee to go. Good decision- “breakfast” consisted of those oatmeal icing pie cookies that come in a box. I don’t know what they’re called but they were in every kid’s lunchbox in elementary school. And no coffee. Sigh.

bagel sandwich coffee to go

Anyways, I was assigned to body marking!! I loved this station because I got to check out all the athletes (and their bikes!) and give the first-timers a quick overview.


500+ athletes marked in 2 hours- I gots skills. 🙂

When I was done with my duties, I headed down to see the water start & say hi to Kelly who was racing!! (She knocked it out of the park by the way!!)

open water swim

It’s usually a pretty warm lake, but since it’s so early in the year, it was wetsuit legal today. I can’t say I was upset I didn’t have to get in the chilly water, but I was sad not to be racing.

By this point I was getting hungry for a more substantial breakfast, so I walked back to my car to head home. Umm not only was my car completely blocked in in the back row of the parking lot, the only path out of the parking lot led directly into race traffic for the biking and the running. Looks like I wasn’t going anywhere!

Except for being hungry it ended up being ok- I got to do some spectating instead! This was the 1st race I’ve been to that I wasn’t running in.

transition area for triathlon

I got kind of nervous watching the super fasties come out of the transition area on their bikes- almost all of them had clipless pedals, and so many of them were having a heck of a time getting their shoes clipped in. It probably didn’t help that they were trying to do it going uphill. (Isn’t that cruel- the bike and the run both started up a steep hill.)

Then I headed to the finish line. The first person in was only 22- and he made it look EASY. Ha!

first finisher

First girl:

first female finisher

Not gonna lie, this girl’s hot- and yes, I marked those muscles 😉 Haha.

awesome muscle girl

I was starving, so I finally grabbed a piece of pizza. Ahhh.

slice of cheese pizza

My morning ended with a good dose of bike envy

triathlon transition area

…and an urge to jump in the pool and get swimming 😉