Friday, August 9, 2013

I Survived: A Recap of My First Triathlon

Well, I did it. I survived my first triathlon.

And yes, survived is the right word to describe what I endured last night.

It’s funny, I have talked about this tri and all the training for it openly on my blog and shared details on FB and twitter but outside of social media I really tried to keep it to myself. However, once people found out about the swim lessons the conversation inevitably moved to why and I then started talking about the training and working up to my first triathlon.

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of people that think Ironman when you say triathlon. Which is ridiculous (and strongly ill-advised as your first triathlon on the IM website) because of the sheer intensity and endurance required to think that would be my first. Then there are others that once you say that your first is a super sprint that think it as probably the easiest thing ever since the distances are short. Which is also ridiculous. Because of these reasons I really limited my tri talk to people of similar fitnessy understanding because no one wants to feel like what they are doing is of little or no importance.

Especially when it requires so much hard work and dedication.

And I am pretty sure I have mentioned it before but I will say it again just so you can fully understand how much training went into this….when I started 9 weeks ago I couldn’t swim with my face in the water. I did not know how to hold my breath/breathe underwater – I never learned. So to progress from that point up to swim lessons to swimming in open water as the first leg of a triathlon is a pretty huge evolution for me. This progression alone makes me feel supremely excited to have made so much progress so quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no world class swimmer but I am definitely leaps and bounds better than I was in June.

Yay for progress!

Which is the whole point of this journey, right? Forward progress. Setting new goals and working to achieve them. Celebrating every victory along the way and trying not to beat yourself up over the ‘road bumps’.

Can you believe I only ran my first mile ever January 2012?

Then I started bought my bike the following March- another activity I really never did growing up.

And then this summer I took swimming lessons.

And now I am recapping my first triathlon.

Mind blown.

So, how did it go you ask?

Well, it was a whirlwind. I could probably write a post just on each leg but I won’t and I will try to keep this pretty brief and not inundate you with every single detail.
I was behind this car almost my entire drive there. She not only was going to the tri, I ended up racking my bike next to hers and talking to her for most of the event. How funny?

My bike

My gear

I was number 18- I did a pretty crappy job getting my number on. Looks like 10, doesn't it?
Our required swim cap

SWIM: This was the hardest part for me. I felt really comfortable swimming at first but a few minutes in I got a really awesome cramp in my calf that stayed with me all the way to the end of the run. I swam freestyle at first, switched to sidestroke, and then kind of swam willy-nilly as I was starting to lose my breath, then back to freestyle at the end. I was one of the last out of the water but I was neither surprised or defeated by this. I did not expect to kick ass in the swim. I was hoping just to make it out of the water on my own.
Thanks Jodi for taking some awesome pics of the race! This is the Santa Rosa Sound where we swam.

 I'm in the back on the left, walking up to the beach...
I heard Jodi cheering and saw her taking pics so I had to give her the thumbs up!

I saw the clock as I ran into transition at 8 something minutes. My friend AC who was there spectating texted Paul and said I was out of the water in 7.5 minutes. I totally believe that it took me a minute to run from the beach to the transition area.

Also, this is a pretty informal race. No timing chips, no split times, none of that. Just my finish time. And since I could only see the clock in one direction I am not sure of the times leaving the swim-bike transition or the bike-run transition.

Transition 1: this one took some time. Not sure how long but I am guessing probably 3-4 minutes, maybe longer. It was just trying to make sure I had everything I needed while trying to catch my breath still from the swim. It was a blur.

BIKE: The bike was awesome….for the first 2 miles. Coming out I had an awesome wind at my back. I was cruising around 22-23mph. I was able to relax. I felt super excited I would gain some ground on this leg. Then we turned and had a nasty head wind for 4 miles which made me curse life as I struggled to hit speeds above 15 mph. Most of the time I was around 12-14mph. Even though it felt like riding through molasses, I was able to pass a few people on this stretch. Hit the second turnaround and cruised back the last couple miles back in the 20+mph range again. Saw the clock as I pulled into transition at 40 minutes and change. Best guess, that leg took about 28-30 minutes- lot quite what I hoped for but it was hella windy. A complaint I heard amongst many of the finishers after the race.

Based off the direction I am heading, this is me coming up to the bike dismount point...

Transition 2: this one was pretty easy comparatively- helmet, sunglasses, gloves off, bike racked, visor and spibelt on. Not sure how long this took but AC said I came out of transition around 42 minutes and change.

RUN: The run was pretty challenging at this point. We started off running against the wind so that felt pretty much like torture. I felt like my mouth was super dry (I think from all the saltwater I accidentally ingested) and I was just longing for the water at the turnaround. I knew I didn’t have too far to go but I was struggling. My calf was bothering me, I had a side stitch, my shoulder was sore, and I was ready to be done. I was alternating walking and running just to get through the first half. I was having issues getting my heart rate down and mentally I needed a few breaks just to reset my focus. After I hit the water point I knew I was in the homestretch. I drank a cup of water, poured one on my head and slowly jogged back with a nice breeze at my back.

Jodi said the pictures are blurry because I was just so fast... ;)

 AC snagged this shot as I exited transition. I like that it's next to the 'Athletes Only' sign...
Waving, super happy to be in the home stretch!
And just like was over!

The heat and humidity were brutal yesterday but it is the Florida panhandle in August so I wasn’t too surprised. It certainly did not make running easy. This was really the only leg where I felt the effects of my effort during such high temps. I was physically exhausted.

Once I hit that turn coming in the last few tenths of a mile to the finish I just felt happy. And relieved it was over. And proud. And a bit nauseated. It was unbelievably hot. I was 100% ready to stop moving.

I crossed the finish line at 01:01:30. I am happy with that time. I really didn’t have a set time goal in mind. Paul told my Pilates instructor I was thinking 45 minutes but I knew that was unrealistic. I did think the run and bike would both go a bit better, and the swim would have taken longer, but given the circumstances I am so happy to have just been able to muscle through it. It was tough. I am not 100% sure I would want to do another one. My swimming sucks and it showed. But maybe in time, as I get more comfortable in the water, I may change my mind.

I am so happy I did it.

It is a wonderful memory I will be able to keep with me for the rest of my life.

It’s also fun to be able to add another item to my list of accomplishments. Since I couldn’t really swim I never, ever, never thought I would do a triathlon so that makes this a really sweet victory for me.

 Me and Jodi- after, in case you couldn't tell.

 Me and AC
After I packed up all my gear and decompressed a bit. I love this pic!
Thank you Jodi and AC for coming out to support me- you are awesome. And a big thanks to everyone else who sent me texts and messages before, during, and after. You guys all rock! It was great to receive so many well wishes. You really make a girl feel loved.

So, what’s up next? Well I am just a little over 7 weeks out from my next half marathon. And it’s going to be another big personal challenge for me. The North Face Endurance Challenge in Georgia- a trail half marathon on some pretty intense technical trails and almost 1900 feet of elevation change. Nothing I have seen before. So now my focus is going back to trail running and more strength training- which I will talk about another day.

Have a great weekend!


Run.  Ride. Swim. Repeat J