My first official triathlon is in the books. There are a few best things about the first one: 1) I did it and proved to myself that I could, and 2) it’s my PR because it’s the first one. I can get better from here on. I’ve posted about the weekend a little bit but I am going to back track a bit and go through the weekend.
Arriving in Oxford
I left work early on Friday so I could drive to Oxford during the day. There were storms predicted and I don’t like driving in the rain, especially when I am going someplace I have not been before. I also wanted a chance to drive the bike route in the daylight and get oriented to Oxford. I had planned on doing some work in the evening but I was too tired by the time I finally settled in. As I wrote already, I didn’t have much luck with the bike route on Friday evening. I missed a sign on a gas station so I didn’t realize I had passed one of the landmarks on the powerpoint. I also didn’t realize that the photos they took of the route were oriented in a different direction than the actual route until I returned to the hotel and looked at it again. Despite being in a town of great restaurants, I ate at Newks. It was close, familiar and just right.
Over night the rain started in earnest. It hailed at about 3-4 a.m. I was just hoping that it would all move through before Sunday morning.
Saturday: Getting ready
I also already wrote about spending part of Saturday with Carol and finding the bike route. It turned out to be basically an out and back route. I was a bit concerned about the hills because I haven’t had much practice on hills. I had finally made the hill on the Sanders Ferry ride over spring break. It was good to have Carol drive me out College Hill Road though because she has ridden the route and told me a few things to watch for, especially with the hills.
We also went to the Square and I went to three independent bookstores. ahhh! It was lovely. I went back to Square Books two more times before I left Oxford.
Then I was back at the hotel and on my own again.
Packet Pick up and the Pool
Packet pick up began at 3:00 and I was there right at the beginning. We were told we would have access to the pool between 3-5 and I knew that I wanted to get in a few laps just to get used to a longer pool.
After I checked in, I went to the pool. There were a few other people in the pool and several on the deck looking at the pool. I found the locker room, changed and then went in after I figured out where the start would be located. The pool I practice in is 25 yards and about 5 feet deep in the deep end. This pool was 4 feet at the shallowest and 13 feet at the deepest. (I just found those specs. I wish I had found the page before I went!) As I swam the first lap it felt really long, which I expected. But then it was suddenly really deep too. I felt a little unsettled but I kept going, ducked under the lane marker and started making my way back. I did freestyle most of the way because that was what I had hoped to do on Sunday. I did some backstroke too. I stood in the shallow end for a while and thought about the swim. This is one of the things I do at home when I am trying to think through a swim. Then I got out and sat at the end and did the same thing for a bit. I thought I would be ok though the deep water still made me nervous.
There is a lot about competition that is mental. I know that and I thought I was fairly well prepared. I learn from every race though. My workouts teach me things too. I learn a great deal from what I do and don’t do. I really did feel an ease about the swim because I knew I had been working on it. It was the bike that was making me nervous before I arrived and after because I just haven’t had as much time to bike outside.
In the evening there was a social event. It was a bit odd because I really didn’t know anyone. I am usually fine because I am used to going places by myself. I was ok there too but it seemed like most people knew one another. I talked to a few people who were very nice. Dave told me he would look for me at the bike turn around where he would be stationed in the morning, and he did and cheered me on. I met a couple who were very nice. The husband was competing and told me he had been doing triathlons for about 20 years. Then there were a few people who just intimidated me. I started feeling anxious and wondering what I was doing. My fat brain took over for a while. Then I reminded myself how far I have come – how much I have lost and gained. Later I was online and my friend Julia reminded me that God made me bold and told me she would pray for me. That helped.
I went through a final check of my gear to make sure I had everything and then I tried to sleep. I slept pretty well except for one weird dream that probably came from turning on the TV. The weather forecast had changed from rain to cold for Sunday morning.
Sunday morning: Transition set up
I was up at 5:30 a.m. and ready to go by 6 a.m. I have been trying to get my pre-race breakfast right and I think I finally did – half a bagel and peanut butter before I left. No coffee. I arrived by 6:20. The transition area wasn’t supposed to be open until 6:45 but it was already open. I found a good parking spot right across from the transition lot, unloaded my bike, my bag, and found a spot. I put my bike on the end of a rack and set up my towel, shoes, clothes, and helmet. There were a few other people setting up and more started arriving. It was fairly relaxed and everyone was pretty friendly. I needed to check one of my bike tires and asked a guy for some help. I am not afraid to ask. I still have much to learn, especially about the bike. He helped me out so I had enough air in the front tire.
I went in and got marked – number 189 – got my chip. Everything was set up. Now what? Sam had been texting me. He was close but was trying to find the campus and the Turner Center. I decided to go inside and wait since it was about 35 degrees outside. I ate an energy bar and then went down to the pool. There were quite a few people there already. Some were on the deck, some were swimming laps, some were in the shallow end on the other side of the bulkhead. My phone rang and it was Carol, then I received a text from Sam and then I heard Sam’s voice from the bleachers.
There was still time to wait around before they lined us up on the deck. Sam and I talked. Carol took pictures. Other athletes and spectators were milling around. The staff was trying to get us organized. I was feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement. I still felt ok about the swim.
There were some final announcements and then we lined up, more or less. At 189 I had quite a while to wait, even with only 10 seconds between each person. 10 seconds can be a long time. I talked to a few of the other folks around me. Many of us were first time triathletes. A few had already done one. Anna, a student at Ole Miss, said she was alternating between nervous, excited, bored, and back to nervous. The guy standing beside me and I joked about triathlons being our mid life crises. I went over and talked to Sam again about the swim. I still felt ok.
I thought I was prepared for the swim. (How many times have I written that?) And, really, I was. I freaked out when I hit the deep water though. Every memory of being thrown in the deep end of the pool at Adam Kolb Junior High returned. (That is my memory of the way I was taught to swim in that pool.) I kept going but then I started doing backstoke sooner than I planned. I tried freestyle again but resorted to backstroke more. I was mad at myself, upset, felt like I was disappointing Sam. I fell behind where I should have been, or feel like I should have been. Once I reached the final lane there was no lane marker. I couldn’t figure out what happened but then I kept going. Apparently someone had been holding onto the rope and it snapped in the middle so they had to pull it out. My only thought was, “Well, isn’t that rude. I count too. Don’t take things apart yet!”
The swim was over. The world didn’t end. Sam wasn’t disappointed in me. I just had to keep going to the next leg.
I was still upset with myself as I was leaving but I realized it was ok. I was a bit disoriented though and should have started running a little before I did to get to the transition area. It was cold out. I got my bike shorts on, got my helmet and gloves on and my shirts and bike shoes and headed out. My transition was much slower than it had been in practice. I think part was because of the cold and part because I was irritated with myself.
The irony of the bike
I was worried about the bike. Ironically, or maybe not so much, the bike leg felt the best. I spent quite a bit of time on Friday and Saturday thinking through the bike route. I drove the route 3-4 times. I thought about the traffic patterns and where there were a lot of cars and congestion. I made it up every hill without stopping and without having to get off the bike (my biggest fear before hand). At one point I was up to 20, almost 21 mph. Most of the time I was averaging 13-14 mph. One of my gears wasn’t working right. I still am not quite sure what happened but it slowed me down some. My hands were frozen even though I had the right gloves on. (Thank you to Michael Hayes for glove advice.) There was a lot of traffic on the road because a baseball tournament and soccer tournament were both rained out on Saturday and rescheduled to Sunday. I had a car behind me for a mile who could have passed me but just tailed me and wasn’t one of the race related vehicles. The hardest hill was the final one on Sorority Row. It was also the smallest hill. Duh.
Many of the bikers coming back cheered me on. I saw my sleep doctor, Richard Snow, coming back as I was going out. He told me about this triathlon. Dave was there at the turn around as he said he would be and he even remembered my name.
I came in on my bike, over the mat, couldn’t get my right shoe unclipped, and fell over. It happens. I had not fallen with my bike shoes yet. Now I have.
I had planned on changing into running shorts but decided to just go. My feet were really cold and I think it was only today that I finally realized that the toe that hurt was the one with the bone spur.
Run: the final leg
Since my feet were cold, it was hard to start running. My legs didn’t feel odd like many people told me they would. I have had some issues with my right foot recently so I was surprised that my left foot was the one giving me trouble. I tried to run but I finally stopped, took off my shoe and put it on again. It felt like there was something in my shoe but my toe was just cold and stiff. After that I was ok and I started running. My time was slower than previous 5Ks because of the slow start. I finished though (and I was not quite last).
This is much longer than I anticipated. Here are a few final thoughts.
A lot goes through my mind when I am working out on my own. The same was true as I went through each leg of the triathlon. After being annoyed with myself during the swim I realized that it was ok. All I needed to do was finish this one. I thought about my friends and family who have been supporting me and cheering for me through this journey. There were people all over the country sending good thoughts and positive energy my way. I thank each one of you. I thought about things Sam and I have talked about and about things Cathy has said in spin class. (Don’t let the bike defeat you). At one point when my legs were hurting on the bike I thought, I don’t have cancer, or diabetes, or heart problems – keep going. I thought about Julia’s words from the night before and being the bold woman God made me.
It was nice to have a cheering section. Thanks to Carol for coming out, cheering me on and taking pictures. I was also happy to have Sam there since we have worked so hard to get to this point. I appreciated that he drove over Sunday morning and took the time to come and encourage me.
Here are my official splits. If I can do this, so can you.
Swim 20:22 (Sam had 17, I think)
Next up: She Does Tri Camp with Krista Schultz and David Glover. I can’t wait to see what I learn!