Monday, June 14, 2010

The Blow By Blows of My First Triathlon

The day before was the "Multi Sport Experience" in downtown Naperville. It was pouring when we arrived, so we waited out the storm in a little cafe and then walked back when the rain let up. Because it was still soggy and slightly drizzly, it sort of took the air out of the balloon of the event. There wasnt really much to experience, as most of the vendors were hunkered down in their tents and everyone was trying to avoid getting wet. So I grabbed my anemic swag bag (last year, they got these neat backpacks to carry all their swag in.. this year it was a plastic bag with 2 snack size luna bars, a little container with aspirin and the likes and a bottle of sunscreen... clearly evidence of the recession. :)

I got numbered, picked up my Tshirt and since it was raining again, and the next course talk wasn't due for some fifteen or so minutes, we decided to leave.

My husband and I drove the bike course all the way through so I could gauge what to expect and have a map of it in my head, which did help to alleviate some of the immediate panic (which decided to rear its ugly head around my 3am potty break, preventing me from returning to sleep. From roughly 3 am (my clock is about fifteen minutes fast so it was probably about 2:30 when I woke) until I prematurely turned my alarm off at five to 5 I played over and over in my head all the possible things that could go wrong. From passing out from heat stroke, getting hit by lightning, wiping out on a wet road, being unable to traverse the hills because my legs would be too tired, having my knee give out on me on the run leg, getting kicked unconscious in the pool- forgetting my timing chip, forgetting my bib number, you name it and I worried about it. I must have gotten out of bed and checked my Race Day bag about ten different times to make sure I had this or that.

As it turned out, I forgot both my watch and my knee brace on race day. The watch wasn't that big of a deal because I think it might have been better that I didn't know how much time was going by... but had I had my knee brace, I probably would have fared much better in the run leg. Without it, I was afraid that every step would cause my knee to give out on me- disabling me from the competition. (So, my "run" time was just a nose hair faster than a snail's pace).

The morning of, we packed up the car, I attempted to get some fuel into my system and we were off. The set up and wait were uneventful... but Triathlon's are definitely a whole lot of Hurry UP and Wait.... You rush to get to the transition area by the requested 5:45am time.. get your self situated and your transition area all set up (which for me lasted all of twenty minutes)... and then you just stand around and wait until its time for you to start. I didn't know, however, that the pool had been open and available for warm ups. We spent a lot of time just standing around and shooting the breeze with the other triathletes and it had never occurred to me to go and check if the pool was available to people wanting to warm up.

THe Elites start the Triathlon off at 7am. And, if you have never attended a Triathlon before, it is worth showing up at the beginning of the race to watch them compete. You can't take your eyes off them... they are so, well, athletic and it is so impressive to watch them just slice through the water as if it were air. The quickest Elite finished the swim leg in just under eight minutes. (To give you an idea of how fast that it... at the Rome Olympics, the Gold Medalist finished a 1500 meter (double the length) in fourteen minutes ... so she was practically at a MENS (who traditionally finish 2 or so minutes faster because of how much more upper body strength they have) Olympic level pacing there!!!

The Swim:

My wave is finally called and it is time for me to proceed to the starting gate. I wasn't really nervous.. more apprehensive I guess would be the word. Sitting there waiting the world sort of stopped for a minute and in my head I'm thinking "Can you really do this? Are you SURE that you trained enough for this thing?" then the buzzer went off and we were in the water .... Too Late to turn back now. THe water was murky and you could not see a THING ... you could barely see your hand in front of you. Which is how I took a foot to my jaw. She didn't kick me hard.. because for the most part, people were still floundering about trying to jockey for space in the lane. But it still shocked me a bit, forced about a gallon of water down my throat and gummed me up enough so that I was bottlenecked! The last thing I had wanted to be. I had had a game plan- I was going to stick to the outside! I was going to swim around everyone to avoid the bottle neck. Yeah... all the plans go out the window when you actually GET into the water and GO. I actually when I first got in suddenly lost the ability to breathe. And I remember thinking to myself.. my goodness... I swim every day... I'm not afraid of water.. Why on earth can't I breathe??? This is ridiculous. It took me about 100 meters before I found my breath and my rhythm but once I did, it was smooth going from there. I had to breast stroke most of the way, because I had to spot where I was going and breast stroke was the quickest way for me to be able to keep my eye on the buoy so I could stay straight and still move with quite a bit of speed and power.

Out of the pool in just under fifteen says my husband who was clocking me with the stopwatch feature on his watch. However, my little chip thingie says 17 I believe... I attribute those 2 minutes to my attempts at getting up the sand hill to the timing pad. Stupid sand hill. That is also the reason, I'm sure of it, why my legs felt so dang tired by the time I got out of transition.

The Bike

I want to back up for a second to going to the Multi Sport Experience. While we were waiting for the rain to pass, before we decided to wait it out in the cafe... we were under the viaduct of a parking garage across the street from where the event was (with a large contingent of other Tri's that also did not want to get soaked by the downpour) And this parking garage was near the mouth of the bike leg. As I was standing there (and mind you, I drive this road home every day) I notice the water is streaming quickly and steadily past me almost river like. I think to myself.. thats funny that water is moving almost as fast as if there were a hill........... and I look up ---- lo and behold its a dag gone hill! One that had not even entered into my fretting previous to this because I was more concerned with the BIG hill at the back half of the course.

(This rainy event would play in my head ALL night long praying over and over again that I didn't have to jump off my bike and walk the hill right at the start of the bike) I didn't have to thank goodness.

I didn't have to bail at all. Though, I must say though... that there are most definitely HILLS by my definition (which is any change in cadence in which your legs have to work harder than they previously were is a HILL..... and there were plenty ... most moderate enough that you didn't really notice them ... but there were a few on the back half of the course that definitely gave me a workout.

The first loop I did fine. The second loop, that unfamiliar bike seat starting talking back... and by time I hit the midpoint of the 2nd loop I was in PAIN. Which is why my second leg was so much slower than my first. I had to slow down every so often and literally just stand on my bike while it coasted just to give that general area some relief.

When I arrived back in transition, everyone in my wave was already out on the run course... and apparently when they came bakc to transition they just threw everything wherever and racked their bikes with no consideration of other people around them. Someone had actually racked their bike so it was on top of my transition bag. My water bottle was six bikes away from my towl, my gym shoes were smushed under someones bike tire (a different someone from where my transition bag was) and there was no room for me to rack my bike anywhere!!! A lady who had already finsihed with the race helped me move some bikes around so that I was able to rack it and head out for the run. That transition was at least a 10 minute transition, maybe even longer

The run was, well... laughable. It started with a HUGE hill that one needed to clyesdale up (not an easy task when your legs are jelly from a bike ride) once I made it out to flat land, and the stitch in my side abated, (somewhere between mile marker one and the turn around point) I thought I would attempt a jog to speed things up a bit. L. O. L is all I have to say to that. Without a knee brace my knee came dangerously close to betraying me... so I had to pull off it and just walk the rest of it. There was a point just before mile marker three (right before the turn into the park and the finish line) where there was no one around me and it was almost eeerily quiet... I saw my Mother In Law walking up the street to meet me and I shouted to her "oh my God, am I the last one on the course!?!?" She laughed and was like no way... there are people just turning in their bikes and heading out on the run. (thank goodness, I didn't finish DFL)

The last quarter of a mile though slightly slow going was the best feeling I have felt in forever,.. and seeing that finish line... hearing the announcer announce my name as I approached and people cheered... it was amazing. I loved it. I want to do it again and again and again. :)

A few weeks ago.. my husband and I were somewhere that had a television I don't remmeber where and they were showing the broadcast of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I said to him "if I end up liking Triathlons.... One Day a looooong long time down the road... when I'm able to.. I want to do THAT triathlon."

I did some research and its a qualify only triathlon. Apparently it's one of the hardest in the country to complete. Open water swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco Bay.. followed by a grueling bike ride (all hills- its san francisco afterall) and a run (in the sand... my favorite as we already know)

So- the chances are slim to none that I would ever even QUALIFY for a race like that... but it does look cool (way to set the sights high Millie....)

However.... they do have a modified event "Sharkfest- Escape from Alcatraz Island" which is a swim only event- and you do not need to qualify to participate..... just a one and a half mile swim in open water... wetsuit required.

I want to do it.

I will do it!

It is going to be my next goal! (After the Tri at the end of the summer of course)

Next Summer (hopefully) ...... Sharkfest 2011- Escape from Alcatraz Island!!!!

I'm in recovery for the next few days... I'll be trying to fidget with my blog a bit add the segments I had promised to add.... but I wont be working out again until Thursday....

~Until then.... Millie The TRIATHLETE!!!!! :)