On Saturday, June 13th, I completed my first triathlon!
Friday night Nick and I went to pick up our race packets from the Osthoff Lake Resort. After getting our packets and wandering around the expo, we walked around the property to scout out the swim and transition areas. We then went back to the hotel for a race briefing presented by the race director. We were now armed with knowledge of the race and headed home for a good night’s sleep.
The alarm sounded and I practically jumped out of bed. I was nervous. I checked and double-checked the contents of my race bag. I grabbed a bite to eat and drank a cup of coffee. I kept telling myself, this is just another race, there’s nothing to be worried about.
We packed the truck and were off to the race. Nick was chatty on the ride there. I just wanted to think, not participating much in the conversation. We arrived at the race venue, unloaded the truck and made our way to transition.
When we entered transition, my number was on the outer edge of the rack. Nick spotted his number and we parted for the time being. I happily racked my bike at the end of the row. I wouldn’t have to search for my bike on the rack, one less thing to worry about. I began emptying the contents of my race bag and setting up my transition area. I worked quietly and methodically.
Nick returned to my area, his transition setup complete. He began having conversations with people around us. It was then I realized we were dealing with the race anxiety in two completely different ways. Nick was energetic and chatting with everyone. I was nearly silent, only speaking when necessary, and focusing on calming my breaths.
I finally finished my transition setup. Double and triple-checking everything before walking out of the transition area. We walked down to the swim area and Nick got in the water and swam a little. I just stood in the water about knee-high, and watched people. I was nervous.
An announcement was made for the race participants to line up. We were sorted by age group, but would begin the swim individually, with 3 seconds between each swimmer. Luckily, our age groups lined up next to one another, so Nick and I were able to hang out for awhile. I kept waiting for Nick’s group to leave, knowing I had a few minutes to compose myself once he started. Then I heard, “It’s your turn. Your wave is starting.” I looked at Nick, unable to comprehend what he was saying. Why was I starting before him? My heart raced. I had Nick zip up my wetsuit and I was off.
My wave approached the swim start in a single-file line. I could see the start and thought I had plenty of time, knowing there was a 3 second delay between each person. But the line moved quickly, a little too quickly. Next thing I knew, it was my turn. I stepped up, the volunteer read off my race number, then said, “Go!”
I ran down the mat and into the water. Then I dove and began swimming. My strokes were fast, my breaths were fast, and there were waves. I was kicking fiercely. I kept telling myself to calm down, this was just another swim. I was gasping for air with each breath. This wasn’t like swimming in the pool. I couldn’t get a rhythm going. This wasn’t going to last.
Approximately 100 meters into the swim, I panicked. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t find my rhythm and I felt like I was never going to finish. I began treading water, hoping to calm myself down. A nearby life boat asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine, I just needed to take a break. I felt like such a failure. 400 meters was nothing. I had completed over 1200 in my practice swims. What was my problem?
I had a very serious conversation with myself. I contemplated turning back. The only problem was, I was 100 meters away from shore, and I’d have to get back there somehow. And what was the point in giving up on the first discipline? If I stopped now, I would get a DNF, and wouldn’t even get the opportunity to get on my bike or run. My race would be over. I couldn’t give up. I wouldn’t give up. So I swam to the first buoy.
As soon as I rounded the corner, I stopped at the helpful life boat. I hung on for a few seconds, trying to catch my breath. I unzipped my wetsuit and there was instant relief. I felt like the dang thing was choking me. Only problem was, once you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, you can’t just turn it off and make it go away. I took another deep breath, counted to three, and pushed off.
I swam the rest of the way with my head above water, some kind of combination of freestyle and dog paddling. I rounded the second buoy. I could see people ahead of me standing in the water. I tried to touch, no such luck. I swam further until I could see the bottom. I was done, just had to make it up the beach. As soon as I was out of the water, I began wrestling off my wetsuit. The look on my face says it all.
Swim Time – 12:26.3 (2:17/100m)
I walked to my bike. I was finished with my swim and now had to focus on my ride. I sat at my transition area and calmly put on my sunglasses, helmet. I poured water on my feet to wash off the sand and dirt. I was still a bit dazed. I looked around and spotted Nick at his area, I knew he wouldn’t be too far behind me. I put on my bike shoes, un-racked my bike, and made my way out of transition.
T1 Time – 4:30.5
I quickly mounted my bike and was off. My thoughts were now on the bike. I pedaled. A few turns and my legs were feeling great. I passed the forewarned s-curve with ease. I was feeling good. I was going to have a good ride!
3 miles in and I spotted a biker on the side of the road. He looked totally defeated as he watched other athletes ahead pass him by without even glancing his way. As I neared him, I asked, “Do you need any help?” Please say no. Please say no. He quickly replied, “Yes, I actually do.” So I stopped my bike and ran back toward him. He asked for a tire lever. I reached in my bag and handed it to him, that’s when Nick passed by. He asked if everything was okay, and I just nodded in response. I asked if the other rider if he needed anything else. He wanted to know if I had an extra CO2 cartridge. I did, so I handed it to him. I was trying to leave him to it, it felt like I had been standing there for an eternity, but he said he was almost finished. I know nothing about changing a tire, I just carry the tools to be able to do so if I ever need. He filled his front tire and handed me back my tire levers and CO2 valve.
I returned to my bike and continued the ride. I knew my bike time would suffer, but I had helped a fellow cyclist in need. I was proud that I was able to pay if forward and can only hope if I’m in a similar situation, someone would stop to help me.
The ride felt good for the most part. Some of the hills were a bit trying, leaving my legs burning. I decided I need to get better at climbing hills on the bike. (I’m not exactly sure how to do that other than to practice climbing hills. And who wants to submit themselves to that kind of torture?)
It felt like after every downhill was immediately greeted with a 90 degree turn. The volunteers were great, warning the cyclists of such upcoming turns. It was just impossible to use the hills in my favor by taking advantage of the speed I gained on the downhill to boost me on the next uphill. Regardless, I made it through the course.
Bike Time – 52:47.6 (14.1 mph)
I dismounted the bike and ran to my transition area. My head was in the zone. I racked my bike and took off my helmet. I sat down and changed into my running shoes, put on my running belt, grabbed my visor and ran out of transition.
T2 Time – 3:16.5
We had been warned by the race director about a pretty steep hill on the race route, so I was anticipating a pretty rough run. The course was such that you run straight out of transition then turn right. After the turn, I could see a hill ahead. My legs were still numb from the bike. As soon as I hit the hill, I found my legs. I powered through it and was quite impressed that I didn’t have any issues with it. Then I realized this wasn’t the dreaded hill. About mile 2, the course turns left just before a water station. I grabbed a sip of water and could see another hill ahead. This was obviously not the notorious hill either.
The course turns left again, and there she was, in all her glory, the dreaded hill. I tried to run the entire way, but had to take a short walk break. Once I reached the top, it was all downhill from there, quite literally.
I wasn’t paying close attention to my watch, but knew I was having a good run. My legs were feeling fantastic, my breathing was great and I felt like I could run forever. I made the last turn, about a tenth of a mile to the finish line, I could hear the crowd ahead. I was almost there. I crossed the finish line strong and happy to have completed my first triathlon!
Run Time – 34:35.8 (11:09 min/mile)
Finish Time – 01:47:36.7