I did my third triathlon this weekend. Now that it’s behind me, I can say it was a blast. But up until that moment where my toes hit the water, I felt totally unprepared. The first time I did this triathlon, two years ago, I followed the training schedule faithfully. I packed my bag carefully, made notes and asked advice. And I was nervous as hell. Last year I was much more relaxed, but again trained aggressively and I beat my time by about two minutes. This year I started the summer with a strong training program, but by Mid-July my training fell apart. We listed our house, Daughter’s day care fell apart and my Dad passed away. I continued to train just to maintain my sanity. I went into the race very relaxed, probably too much. And maybe even too confident. I had no jitters and no concerns. I really just wanted to have fun. I didn’t expect to get a PR. Here’s what happened.
I didn’t realize that the first wave had even started until I saw people running out of the water. What? Yeah, Jenn, they’re on the third wave already, my training partner told me. What? We were in the ninth wave, so we had a few minutes, but still, pay attention, Jenn! It’s a good thing she was there or I’d probably still be standing on the beach waiting to start. Anyway, I started the swim fast, too fast. I ran out ahead, dove in and swam with everything I had. And then I couldn’t breathe. I got kicked and then I kicked someone. Then I had to flip over and just breathe kick breathe. By the first turn I was starting to calm down but was still offered a noodle. All the crazy thoughts I expected came racing through my mind. “What are you thinking doing a triathlon? Just grab that kayak over there and you can be done. You still need to bike and run after this, are you crazy?” But just like in writing, I told my mind to shut up. I closed my eyes and started to swim. Every few strokes I looked up to make sure I was going in the right direction. I was. By the second turn I was encouraging another swimmer who seemed to be struggling. By the time I reached the shore I was grateful for strong legs and sand to run on.
I dried my feet, struggled with socks, velcroed my bike shoes, clipped on my race belt and helmet and ran outta there in just over two minutes.
I have a love/hate relationship with the bike. I love the bike because I have water and food with me and I can get my head settled after the swim, but I hate it because it’s long and I have a slow bike and I inevitably get bored by mile 12 of so. This year I really worked on concentrating, mostly because I figured out my bike computer and now know how fast I’m going. Even then, by mile 14 I was slowing down and a friendly biker passed me and encouraged me to finish strong. It was exactly what I needed, so I kicked my speed back up and sped in.
I really only had to rack my bike and switch shoes, but as I leaned down to tie them (darn laces) I got a bad cramp in my upper abs (old yoga injury) and had to sit down. Sit Down? Just to put on shoes? Even sitting I could barely reach my feet without the cramp flaring up but I told myself as soon as I had them tied I could run away and stretch it as much as I wanted.
So, off I went to the trail and nobody else was there. Seriously. There were dozens of fans and I new I went the right way, but there were no other runners! I actually had to ask some spectators if I was going the right away. I was, and moments later I caught some slower runners. (I might have a slow bike, but I pass all those racing-bike-types on the run). The first mile was hard. Really hard. My legs were tired and I felt like I was barely moving. But it’s so mental at that point and I really really didn’t want to walk. so I just kept moving my legs over and over and over. A half-mile into the run I caught my breathe and started to have fun. I encouraged walkers to run with me. I complimented a woman on her cute top (Athleta, of course!). I shouted out my calories burned when it hit 950. And I yelled just one mile to go when we had just one mile to go. Then with 800 yards left, I thought I was going to puke. That darn Gatorade I tried at the last water stop. I new it was a bad choice, but I just put the thought out of my head and new that at that finish line were my Husband, My In-laws and the sweetest little girl i knew. And I knew she wanted to finish with me. When I could finally see the finish line (I love that you can’t see the finish line until there’s only about 150 feet to go) I knew I was nearly there. I looked in the crowd for Husband and saw his head peeking over the crowd. I waved and out popped Daughter. Dressed in her favorite party dress and her new running shoes. She grabbed my hand and ran with me all the way to the end. We crossed and stopped and as I leaned down to hug her she looked up and asked, “Did we win?” “Yeah, Baby, we won all right.”
I didn’t look at the clock when I finished, but I knew from my watch that I had probably gotten a PR. I think the big difference is that I pushed it on the bike. I totally messed up the swim, but with the stronger bike and a consistent run (my best and favorite portion) I reached the PR. And after everything that happened this summer, everything that tried to derail my training and didn’t, I couldn’t be happier. Now, I just can’t wait until next year. Seriously. It can’t come soon enough!!