I did it, I’m a triathlete! Ok well, maybe not yet, but I did FINISH my first triathlon! And I can’t wait to do another.
The Inaugural 36 North Triathlon
Age group: 13/14
Total time: 1:42:20
Swim (300m): 6:46/Pace 2:15 (7/14 age)
Bike (20k): 59:26/Rate 12.5 (14/14 age)
Run (5k): 32:414/Pace 10:33 (12/14 age)
There was a minor disaster involved, but it all worked out ok in the end…more on that later.
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 ;).
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.
(I promise that’s me in the front lane!)
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, it created quite a current. I was working hard just to stay in the lane I was supposed to be in. I kept 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 too.
Overall I was quite pleased with my swim performance; I even passed one or two people.
Then came the bike…
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)
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. The chain hadn’t just fallen off- it was wedged behind the part that holds the gears on. 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!
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 back bike gear again the whole ride, I didn’t want to risk catastrophe #2), stood up, and just kept climbing.
On to the run…
T2 was no problem…just had to remember to take off my helmet and grab my watch. My legs definitely felt like jello as I set off on the run. Ok, more like the jog. I told myself just to keep my legs moving, I’d feel them eventually. Most of the run was on a gravel trail through the park, parts of it running along a golf course. It was a pretty nice area for a run so I tried to focus on the nice scenery instead of how tired I felt. I had to stop for a minute near the beginning to tighten one of my shoelaces, it was driving me crazy. That’s when I realized I was covered in grease from the bike chain. My lovely white laces were no longer white. The run, thankfully, had no dramatic moments like the bike. I glanced at my watch as I passed the 1st mile marker and realized I had just run about a 10 minute mile. I would consider this slow compared to my old 5k times, but I had just swam 300m, biked 20k, escaped a potential DNF, and hadn’t been able to run well in months–10 minutes was good!! I told myself to try to get to the next mile marker in another 10 minutes, and then do it again, and I pretty much did.
The end of the run was across an open field. I always try to finish strong, and I can definitely say I did. I don’t know where it came from, but I sprinted across that finish line! It was hard to tell what my actual finish time was due to the staggered start (people had finished before I even got in the pool!), but I was pretty sure I’d beaten my goal of finishing in under two hours.
The husband greeted me at the finish line with a look of awe on his face. He told me I crushed my goal. Bike mishap an all!
We looked around the post-race festivities as I cooled-down and re-hydrated. I’d taken Gatorade on the bike, but only drank about half my bottle. The husband was quite excited about the post-race beers 🙂 I felt I had to have one just because I could, but honestly I preferred the water and bagel 🙂
I bought myself a reward:
Not that the husband isn’t supportive or didn’t think I could do it, but he was seriously impressed and kept saying so the whole way home. He caught my post-race fever 😉 He even said in the car ride home he’d do it with me next year…that wore off by the time we got home- he said he’d rather play in a golf tournament. But I still appreciated the support 🙂 I was ravenous at this point so we stopped for some Subway, which I devoured.
Time to pick a race for next year!