Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Gave It My Best Tri

There is a lot of fear in the unknown.  I felt that fear before my first half marathon several years ago.  I felt that fear again (magnified) before the NYC Marathon last November.  On Sunday, I felt that fear yet again before my first Triathlon.  I wasn’t afraid of the distances (300 yard swim, 13 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run), but I was afraid of the unknown.  What was the swim going to be like?  Was I going to slow down faster swimmers behind me?  What were the transitions going to be like?  Would my bicycle handle the fact that I exceed the manufacture’s max weight?  Were my legs going to be able to handle it?  Was I going to be able to run after biking?  These fears were intensified as I was on line to start the swim.  A man walked up to me and introduced himself as “Iron Dave”, the area president of the United States Triathlon Association (USTA).  We talked about how I got involved in the sport and my fundraising with Team World Vision.  We talked about the swim.  I asked him about the pool length, as the pool seemed to be a little smaller than the pool at the gym where I train.  I’ve been told that the pool at the gym is 50 meters long.  However, this school pool (which looked only a little shorter) was 25 yards.  I came to learn that the pool at the gym is 25 meters long, not 50.  So, I’ve basically been doubling the distances during my training from the actual…now I was really scared that I was going to have a tough swim.

Ultimately, all of these questions were answered during the 2 hours I raced, and the truth is, I had an amazing time.

I actually slept well the night before (which doesn’t usually occur before a race).  I woke up at 3:30am and had my breakfast, got ready and stretched.  I arrived at the race about 6:30 and set up my transition area, laying out my bike gear for the first transition (T1) and my running gear for the second (T2).  I also got marked (bib number 117 was magic markered onto my left arm and calf, as was my age on my right calf.)  I went into the pool area not really knowing what to do and sat with other racers and spectators until about 7:15.  Angie arrived at the pool a little bit afterwards and we chatted until the race started.  Since I was talking with her and I didn’t want to slow down any other swimmers, I decided to get at the end of the line to start in the pool.  They were staggering the start about 10 seconds and when it was my turn I put on my goggles and jumped in.  

I immediately lost my breath, probably due to the adrenalin rush and began to swim.   I swam slowly, but steadily and completed the first length of twelve.  Angie was waiting for me and she gave me shouts of encouragement.  Within the first couple of lengths, I passed my first swimmer.  Each lap I completed was met with another cheer from Angie.  At the end of the eleventh length I said to her I was going to pass the swimmer that was about a third of the way ahead of me.  I beat him to the ladder and pulled myself out of the pool and ran to the transition area.  My swim time was 9:30.

It was COLD that morning, and here I am outside, with nothing but a wet bathing suit on and began to dress for the bike.  Thankfully, I brought extra clothes in case it was cold, so I had a long sleeve shirt and my jersey.  I took of my bathing suit and put on my bike shorts.  Finally, I tried to put on my socks and bike shoes, but my hands were so cold that they were already numb and it took a lot longer than I would have hoped. My T1 time was 6:15.

I ran with my bike to the mount area and got on the bike.  The first thing I noticed was that I was already breathing very hard.  The second was that I was very cold.  I just started pedaling without really thinking about what I was doing.  The beginning of the course was uphill and it was very windy, so my legs started burning right away.  Other bikers were coming in the opposite direction (finishing their bike portion) and this got me motivated so I just started “riding the circle”, pushing and pulling my legs to get moving.  I had so much fun on the bike, even though on several windy uphills I thought I might quit.  My legs were spent, but each uphill was followed by a downhill on which I could accelerate and rest.  I thought about all the people that donated and all of the people whom the donations would help and set my mind that no matter what, I would finish.  I passed seven other riders during that run, so I knew that my bike portion wasn’t the slowest.  In fact, relative to the rest of the race, it was my best performance, completing the 13 miles in 55:41 which is a 14.0 MPH average.

As I dismounted and entered the transition area, I saw Angie and waved to her.  It really helped having her there to cheer me on.  I racked my bike, changed my shoes and replaced by bike shorts for running shorts.  I first started leaving the transition area in the wrong direction until another competitor told me to turn around - that I was going the wrong way.  My T2 time was 4:53.

At first, I couldn’t feel my legs or do anything more than just a slow jog.  Even doing that, I caught up to someone on the course, ultimately passing them.  Another runner passed me (I had passed her about 2/3’s into the bike course) so I knew I was going to slow.  By about the first half mile, I started getting some feeling back into my legs and started picking up the pace.  The course was somewhat hilly, and I ended up walking the uphills and running the downhills and flats.  I walked more than a typical 5K for me, and ended up taking about ten minutes longer than I would have normally.  As I entered the parking lot to the finish, I saw Angie.  She was taking pictures and started running towards the finish line to get me finishing.  That motivated me to pick up the pace and beat her to the end.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 44:55 on the run and a total time of 2:01:16.

It was so much fun, but I learned that these short distances are much more demanding than I expected.  Given that I have another Triathlon in two months that is 4 times each of the distances, I have a long way to go.

But, with hard training and your support and prayers, I will do my best.