I’ve always thought wearing the whole tri get-up was weird – tight top and shorts, but today it finally came together and now I understand. Now I was one of those people wearing that outfit, and you know what? I wear it proud! Last night I couldn’t really sleep because of my fears of my FIRST triathlon. What was going to happen? I never even did any cheer support for a triathlon. I think the only exposure to it in the past have been through pictures, or maybe the Kona Ironman Championships on TV. I had no idea how the swim start, transition, crowd support, finish line was going to be until today.
We woke up bright and early to get to the brightly lit transition areas. Everything we learned about transition from past practices were applied here, from splitting all my gear to specific sports, positioning of sunscreen, to the alternating positioning of bikes. You can feel the intensity in the transition area as you can see some pretty hard core triathletes with the expensive aero helmets, $8k bikes, nervous beginners (like me), family and friends outside of the transition area, and everyone testing and reviewing all their gear. You also hear everyone talking about past experiences and current feelings, it was fun! Outside of the area were volunteers marking up athletes with their race number on their arm and age on their calf. It’s mainly for the photographers, but I think the age thing is a mental thing to see who passes you up on the bike or run.
I had a pretty rushed swim start because I didn’t pay attention to how much time I actually had when I was warming up in the water in my tight super restricting wet suit. I saw my earlier wave already start, which meant mine was next! The horn was blown and we were off! Me and another teammate took our time and just walked to the deeper part of the water while everyone was running. Once I was finally in, I felt the cold cold water, and was able to do a few yards of good strokes until something came over me and panicked. I rested a little while I saw my age group go further and further away. Another challenge was trying to swim straight. I was pretty much swimming in zig zags, and barely halfway to the first buoy, I had to stop and rest hanging on to the life-boat. I wasn’t the only one. There were four of us, and we were chatting it up a bit to calm all of our nerves. You can tell we were all first timers. One person said, “Are you ready? We can do this guys!”, and that marked a pretty good motivation to finish the swim. It was tough for sure, as waves of other age groups just kept passing me by (you can tell by the different colored caps). Rounding the buoys were tough as I was getting hit by other athletes from their strokes. All of a sudden I was pretty much done as I saw the shore in sight. I was excited to finish, as if I already finished the whole triathlon!
Getting out of the water was so weird. It felt like I was about to pass out right there on the sore. I was dizzy, but super excited the hard part is over. Everything from out of the water to the transition area was a blur. Felt like I was drunk, time traveling a few minutes. I remember seeing one of my coaches, Andie, on the sides taking pictures, then I slowly reached for my wetsuit strap to remove the top part. I did a slow jog on barefoot on the transition carpet, then I quickly put on all my bike gear.
Ahh, the bike, the most comfortable part of the triathlon, in my opinion, especially this course because it’s all flat. I just saw the bike part as a way to dry off from the swim, and as transportation for the run part of it. Throughout the course, I found myself passing others, then them passing me up multiple times. The ride was pretty easy, probably going 16-20mph, but at one point of the course, I missed one important sign! The sign redirecting traffic for a 2nd loop! I just so happened to be in a pack of riders who were already on their second loop (didn’t know at the time), and everything just seemed like any other turn on the course, so I turned with everyone else. There were even a few people I’ve been following since the start of the bike, so I didn’t question it. I noticed I did something wrong when I started to see people from my own age group on the ride, when I knew they were way ahead of me. At that point, there was no turning back since the course was all one way at that point. By the time I got within the lake property, I saw surprised faces from my coaches how fast I came back, my mileage was behind by SIX miles, and the transition area was void of bikes within my age group. DAMN!
Already disappointed at my mistake on the bike, my motivation to go on was low. I wasn’t stopped, so I might as well go out there and finish what I started! Bike to run was pretty quick, it’s just a strip down of helmet, gloves, and shoes to running shoes and race number belt. We were always taught to continue a higher cadence on the run because our legs were used to that bike cadence then stabilize to the golden 90 rpm.
The run was a very familiar territory to me, so I wasn’t worried at all. The course was a double loop around the lake, and it was all flat. This was training anyway, so I needed to get a run workout out of this. Thoughts would sneak in about how my time doesn’t matter at this point, and thoughts of disappointment of missing that bike turn definitely haunted me throughout the 6 miles. Again, I just had to suck it up. Finished strong with my teammate Scott, got a medal, then met up with the rest of the team.
Feeling great that I survived the swim, this event still felt empty to me. I can’t officially call myself a “triathlete” just yet, and now I just have this weird feeling of unfinished business. When the official times were up, the DQ list was on the OTHER side, on a single piece of paper. I wasn’t the only one who made the same mistake. About 15 people had the same reason “Bike Loops”. I wonder what their reaction was? I bet it was the same. In the end though, this race wasn’t my race. It was practice. I survived the swim, and now I have a gauge of where I’m at and what I need to work on. I definitely need to improve my swim technique, improve my bike shifting and maneuvering, and most importantly, to review the course AHEAD of time, and pay attention.