Two weeks ago, I faced my fear and completed my second-ever sprint triathlon: The Five Mile Lake Women’s Tri. Here’s how it all went down:
Pre-Race: I was really excited for this race! Last year I had tons of pre-race nightmares and a lot of fear. This year, after my confidence-boosting swim with Lindsay, I was just plain excited when I got to the race! It was also the first time ever that Husband Saign has come to a race to cheer for me, so I was extra excited! (Husband Saign was grumpy because it was early, but I didn’t let his negative attitude get me down! I was just happy!)
I racked my bike and as I began to set up my transition area, I worried that my running shoes might get wet in the rain. I hadn’t brought a plastic bag or anything to keep things dry! Thankfully, I heard a stranger offering a bag to her friend, and her friend turned her down, so I turned around and asked her if I could have it instead. She gave it to me. Thanks, nice stranger!
I started chatting with people, and found myself reassuring a lot of first-timers that they would be just fine. This really is the perfect race for a beginner! I love seeing people try new things!
Eventually the Olympic-distance ladies were off, and soon enough it was time for the Sprint-distance ladies to start!
The Swim: I opted against wearing my wetsuit after having a hard time getting out of it last year. After our pre-race meeting, we were told that we could get in the water if we wanted, though it was 10 minutes to start. Like a little lemming, I followed everyone in, even though it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to get in so soon before the race. It was kind of chilly, but for a Minnesota-girl like me, it was nothing too disturbing. I shivered a little, but mostly made jokes and chatted with those around me. I heard someone shouting “Becky! Becky!” and I thought there must be another competitor named Becky around. Then I realized that it was Nicole! She came by to cheer me on! How exciting!
Getting in the water 10 minutes prior to the race – I’m the cool one waving at the camera!
The crowd in the water for our wave was much larger than last year. The race directors had opted for a 2-wave start instead of a 3-wave start. I did not appreciate this decision. I had intended to hold back for just a minute after the gun went off, but because the crowd was so large, I couldn’t figure out how to do this without being in the way. I ended up just having to go when the ladies in front of me took off. And just like that, we were off!
Prior to the race, I practiced sighting in the pool, and it really paid off! I was able to swim and watch out for the buoy! I felt much better and more confident than last year (just as I had hoped), but still felt like I was a bit panicky, and was not keeping the calm, efficient, and steady strokes like I have when swimming in a pool. Instead I flailed along, allowing my outward movements to reflect my inner distress. I was much more in the middle of the pack as compared to last year, and kept running into people. Worst of all, there was some inconsiderate lady doing the breast-stroke in front of me! She plagued me for the entire swim! I couldn’t figure out how to get away from her, so I kept having to slow down in order to avoid being kicked. Tip: If you can’t do the front crawl, then either 1) don’t to a triathlon, or 2) stay to the back and side away from the other competitors! She was a very not-nice lady, I think.
While in general I was much less panicky than last year, the swim was still pretty uncomfortable. I saw some ladies flipping to their backs to give themselves a little breathing time. Um. Brilliant! I joined right in – and did that a few more times during the swim! When I finally made it around buoy number 2 so that I could go towards shore, I was so excited! And then I looked and…it was so far away! So.far.away. Why was it so far??? Oh well, I swam into shore, got out of the water, and saw Husband Saign, Ada the Dog, Nicole Ricole, and Baby J all there cheering me on! While I was breathing very, very hard and was very tired, I found that I had much more energy following the swim than last year, and I even jogged a little to my transition!
So happy to be out of the water!
Transition 1: This transition went pretty fast since I didn’t have to take off a wetsuit. I traded my surfing rash guard for a tech tee, slipped on my shoes, and drank some Nuun. I really wanted to take some gel, but I didn’t have any water or Nuun on my bike (I was 1 water bottle short on accident), so I was too afraid to try a gel. Soon enough, I was off. I couldn’t believe how my chest was burning, and how out of breath I felt, but I still had energy!
Bike: I don’t have much to say about the bike. I felt like I was still recovering from the swim for the first half of the bike ride – I think that I swallowed a lot of water while I swam. I tried to remember to keep my cadence up, as Lindsay had taught me at our practice. I had more trouble this year with getting stuck behind other bicyclists (because I’d want to pass, but simultaneously another biker would be passing me or a car would be coming). That was a little frustrating. I was having fun though, and feeling confident. I shouted out my thanks to each volunteer on both loops. I noticed during the last few miles that the toes on my right foot had gone numb. Very odd – perhaps getting them cold in the water and then stuffing them into tight bike shoes had caused the problem?
Biking along, content as can be!
Transition 2: This transition seemed pretty fast to me. I still felt strong and confident, and I was really, really happy to have access to Nuun and gel! I ate a shot blok while I switched shoes, and soon enough, I was off.
Run: I still felt strong for the run! My toes were still asleep, which was annoying at first, and painful as the feeling came back, but I still had energy! If I had to guess, I’d say that I passed at least 15 people on the run, and got passed by only one. (Actually I got passed by two, but I passed one of them in the last mile, so she doesn’t count). The run was hillier than I remember it being, and I felt bad because before the race I told some people that it wasn’t hilly. I really didn’t mean to lie! I didn’t remember the hills! And soon enough, I was back in the park, and running for the finish! The clock read 2:04 when I finished, and I’m not going to lie: I was disappointed to see that time. I knew it meant I had gotten a 1:32, because we started 32 minutes after the first Olympic ladies left. I really hate feeling disappointed with myself after a race, but I had felt so confident and strong through the whole thing that I had myself believing that I might get a 1:30.
Feeling happy and strong for the run!
Post-Race: Ada the Dog and Husband Saign sat with me while I ate a few snacks. I checked my time, and learned that I had finished less than a minute faster than last year! I was surprised and disappointed!
Swim: 11:17.5, T1: 1:54.7, Bike: 52:55.9, T2: 1:18.9, Run: 25:10.6, Overall: 1:32:37
I wish that I could do a direct comparison to last year, but because of a timing chip malfunction for the 2013 race, I have limited information to compare to. Here’s what I know: Last year, I finished in 1:33:16. So I was only 39 seconds faster this year! The reason this bothers me is that I felt so much stronger this year! I should have been able to do better! Further, my transitions were much faster, which means that I was SLOWER in the actual events! My swim time from last year was 11:20, so despite feeling WAY better this year, I apparently didn’t actually perform any better. Perhaps my bouyant wet suit was more helpful than I realized??? My first transition was 3:21 last year, which means that I cut almost a minute and a half off of my transition time by leaving the wetsuit out…but again, this also means that I was much slower at the actual events in order to finish in almost the same amount of time. Now, I can’t really compare the bike or T2 to last year, because I don’t have actual numbers for these from last year. I don’t have a specific time from the run last year, except that last year I wrote in my blog that I was running 9-minute miles. According to the race website, I ran 8:15 minute miles this year. Sooo…that means that I sucked it up on the bike this year! I was so busy trying to use new biking technique that I got really slowed down! I now know that if I want to triathlon again, I need to start working on my biking speed.
Husband Saign also pointed out to me that I didn’t train this year, which is totally legitimate. I guess that if I want to do better, I need not just feel more confident, but I need to actually practice. Whoops.
Overall: It was a really fun race again this year! Last year was a roller-coaster of emotions, and this year was just plain fun! I still haven’t totally decided what I think of triathlons. I think they’re really, really fun, but I just can’t imagine putting the time, money, and energy into becoming a serious triathlete. I think for now, I’m content just being a runner who dabbles occasionally into other sports!
If you had to choose one name for yourself, would you call yourself a runner or a triathlete?