I’m brand new to triathlons (and super new to MMTC), and knew that this would be a great first race. I wasn’t wrong, but I have a lot to learn. The race offered a first-timers meeting and an opportunity to swim the day before the race, and I’m so glad I took advantage of that. They were also super newbie friendly, encouraging us to be smart, but telling us that we could do it.
I hemmed and hawed about getting a wetsuit. The water was going to be wetsuit legal, but it was only a 0.25 mile swim. By the time I had to make a decision, I didn’t have a wetsuit and there wasn’t time to practice in a rental. Decision made for me. The water was about 72 degrees, so not too bad, right?
I started out in the back of the pack, and when we got the signal to swim, I waded in and started moving. The water was cold, but not bad. But the nerves got to me. I started to feel panicky. I kept telling myself I could do it and that I would be fine. But I just couldn’t catch my breath. I know now that a big part of that was likely my lungs seizing up due to the cold water (lesson learned), but I was just freaking out. I had moments where I thought I was going to have to pull out and DNF. Then I got kicked in the face and my nose started to bleed slightly. That sent me into a total tailspin. I kept reassuring myself and planned to swim to a guy on a kayak to just rest for a minute. Then he got called to help a swimmer in need of assistance (I hope she was okay). So I made a point to swim to the paddle boarder at the turn. I grabbed on to just sort of catch my breath and regroup. I kept telling him I was okay, just needed a minute, but I was really just reassuring myself that I could do this. The guy was so incredibly nice and probably helped save my tri. He said “My girlfriend is on the next paddle board if you need to stop there too. You can do this!” I cleared my throat, took a few deep breaths, and kept swimming.
After that, I couldn’t find my groove. I tried to get back into my swim, but was feeling off course, couldn’t spot well, and ended up side stroking just to get done. Reaching the beach was the best feeling.
Ran up through the mud into the transition point. I was still shaky from my freak out, but relieved that I had made it through. Managed to get into my socks and shoes without falling down, and ran my bike out. Probably should have practiced running with the bike.
The men’s 39 and under wave had started 5 minutes after my swim wave, so there were already plenty of men well in front of me. I did my best to stay out of their way.
This course was billed as fast and flat. I was trained on hills. I’m a fan of “what goes up must come down” so I worried that the lack of downhills might slow me down. I got to the mount line, stopped to the side and climbed on my bike. Had some trouble clipping in, but once I was in, I was golden. My legs felt pretty awesome and though there were some men with some fabulous bikes whizzing by me, I started to slowly pass some of the other women. I realized how much I like the triathlon passing rules.
I didn’t have a watch on and there were no mile markers, so I really didn’t know how I was doing. The 10 mile course was a big circle, so I had a general idea of where I was, but I just focused on my riding and didn’t worry about the time. I had no idea what I would do, having never ridden a flat course. But I just felt good. Had a weird moment where one of the men decided that he was just going to ride on the left and block everyone, which got a little annoying. But overall, I felt strong. I need to work on turns. I slow down way too much. But that’s better than falling.
I made the final turn towards the transition area and decided to unclip a little early. I’m still a little wobbly when clipping out, so I figured better safe than sorry. I saw my cheer squad, but they were apparently yelling at race officials because of cars that were somehow driving up the same road we were riding back into the park (I hadn’t noticed), and they missed me. But that’s also because I was flying.
Again, running with the bike. Not so easy. But I got back, had no trouble racking my bike, and put my running shoes on. I grabbed a water bottle and my spi-belt (haven’t figured out a better way to carry my inhaler, just in case).
The run should be my easiest sport, seeing as I’ve been a runner for years. I’m not fast, because I have a heart rate issue that isn’t all that interesting, but I can run. I just couldn’t find my legs. I had my heart rate monitor on, per my cardiologist’s instructions, but it wasn’t picking up my HR. Not sure what happened there – the chest strap seemed properly positioned, but I had worn it during the swim and the bike, so maybe something went wrong. Haven’t checked to see if it malfunctioned or was just improperly positioned. So I decided to listen to my body.
I run a 1:1 run/walk, even on short distances, again due to my heart rate issues, but I found myself having to slow before the end of a 1 minute run. I chalked this up to my legs being wobbly from the bike. The course was hilly and very muddy at points, but I just kept moving. At one point, someone said to me “Hey, you’re an Athena! You might podium.” I laughed, because I knew that wasn’t possible, but it definitely motivated me to start picking people off.
I came into the finisher’s chute and realized that I was going to finish. I had made it! What an amazing feeling.
(That run time explains why I was struggling. With my HR issues, I usually run around a 13:00 mile pace, which is slow, but hey, I’m out there. I was running way too fast and my HR was probably skyrocketing.)
What a rush. A total myriad of emotions. I’m just glad that I made it through the freak out. And I learned a lot. Most notably:
1) I need to practice open water swims as much as possible before my next tri
2) A wetsuit would have probably been a good idea in this case