Swam It, Biked It, Killed It

Last week’s TriFitness Women’s Triathlon was such a good race for me, that for two days I had an itchy trigger finger to sign up for more tri’s. Thankfully, I came down from the racing high and didn’t press the button, but I already know of TWO that I will sign up for in 2014. I am completely and utterly hooked. Here’s the recap, it’s a little long, but I write for me, so that I’ll remember it in twenty years when I’ve ruined my feet and I’m yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

Triathlon prep is logistically complicated. The stuff, oh THE STUFF! List-lovers, take heed: I found a great online race checklist that allows you to customize and print a list.

triathlon checklist

STUFF.

I started collecting items and throwing them into my professional triathlon bag IKEA shopping bag days before the race.

triathlon checklist

MORE STUFF.

I tried on my new wetsuit one more time. I decided to get a sleeveless version. My broad East German swimmer shoulders were much happier.

triathlon wetsuit

Closing my eyes, as I can’t un-see it once it’s been seen.

I also tried on my tri-kit from Run Like a Mother, just to make sure it still fit. With all the biking and swimming I did this summer things were starting to shift a bit in a positive direction. But even with that, it’s reassuring to know that my muffin top is still there, content to just stay put, despite sometimes burning 1000+ calories in one training session.

triathlon

I’m telling ya, hands on the hips hide muffin tops. Try it.

Hubby took the kids camping for the weekend, so I was on my own. That meant sleep, sleep, and more sleep – I was quite excited about that. It also meant putting Marty McFly on the car all by myself the night before.

triathlon bike

This just shows how light my bike is. If it were one more pound heavier, I’d topple backwards.

After putting the bike on, I finished packing, laid out my morning gear, and headed to bed early-ish. I had a 4:15 (!) alarm, as the race started at 6:30AM, and I needed to get there and have everything set up no later than 6AM! Insanity!

Which means that all that setup at the race happened in the pitch dark.

triathlon race setup

The setup.

Luckily, I remembered my headlamp. (Everyone in my family has one after Hurricane Irene, Snow-Tober, and Hurricane Sandy left us without power for a total of 25 days in the past 2 years. I can’t recommend headlamps enough, even for just pre-dawn tri setups, or not wanting to become roadkill on a dusk run.)

triathlon setup

Best invention ever.

triathlon training

Ready.

This was an all-women race. The vibe is so much more relaxed for the all-women races! Not that we aren’t competitive, it’s just that we also feel like it’s a bit of a social event. Which this was for me, as I knew some friends that were running it: My teacher friend Rina, my other teacher friend Virginia, and my not-a-teacher friend Derry, who ended up placing in her age group for the duathlon (run-bike-run). Go Derry!

Just as the sun was rising, I made my way down to the water, the Long Island Sound. It was low tide, and the water was a tad chilly for me, but then again I’m a Cold Water Wimp. It was super calm, almost lake-like. I slowly swam out to the first buoy and back as a warm up, to acclimate and avoid the dreaded Open Water Swim Panic Attack. My wetsuit (and I think wetsuits in general) still puts some uncomfortable pressure on my chest, but maybe that’s just my, ahem, rack. (The muffin top karmic-ally balances everything out.) Regardless, after I warmed up, I knew I would be okay and I was bound and determined to OWN this swim.

There were three start waves; 1st wave was young-‘uns (under 40 women), 2nd wave was older babes (40+) and 3rd wave was beginners. When I signed up, I had just done the Ridgefield Tri, and I had considered myself a newbie. So, I watched Rina, then Virginia, line up and take off into the water – now it was my turn.

For this race start, we had a wide stretch of beach were we could be only 1-2 people deep waiting at the water line. I decided to just go for it and be one of the first in the water.

It was a good decision because by the time I rounded the first buoy (about 100 yards out) there were only about 5 swim caps of my color ahead of me. I was minorly jostled, and no one swam over me or felt me up, like last time. I did get sandwiched between two swimmers, in which case I reacted with a swift “outta my way” stroke and broke through. The rest of the swim was uneventful, other than me being completely unable to swim in a straight line. Despite the zig-zagging, I didn’t even need to use my “calm and smooth” mantra. Instead, I tried to tell myself to be present in the moment, and all of the sensations that came with it, instead of thinking ahead to the bike and run. “You are here, now. You are swimming (!) in the Long Island Sound. You are doing this, right now.”

I think that’s why I remember so much of it. I remember looking up on my breath strokes to see a cloudy sunrise. I remember passing a few people. I remember a life guard kneeling on his board nearby (but not rescuing me!). I remember the brown, salty water, and the occasional flotsam. As I rounded the last buoy, I was feeling good – and ready to move on.

There was a short run up the beach to the transition area. Unlike the Ridgefield Tri in which I was so darn happy to be done with the swim that I had a total brain freeze in transition to the bike leg, this time my brain clicked in and I was ran out of transition ready to roll, so to speak.

The bike was two 6-mile loops around Norwalk, with one long-ish steady climb, several turns, and a few fast downhills (all x2). I had just started up the hill and was changing gears like I had a clue what I was doing when…clunk/grind! I knew immediately that my chain had fallen off. I pulled over and felt the breeze of about 12 people ride by me while I tried to get my chain back on. It was my first time getting it back on by myself and it took me a couple of tries, but I finally got it (loop part of the chain around the ring, lift the back of the bike, and move the pedal forward, and say a prayer – it should catch). I wasn’t wearing gloves, so with my fingers covered in bike grease, I set off again, and passed a few of the people that had passed me.

Not 2 miles later, on flat ground, changing front rings, I hear and feel that sickening chain grind/drop sound again. UGH. I got it back on a little faster this time, and once again a few of the same people I had just re-passed whizzed by. With even more bike grease on my hands, I took off AGAIN. This time I just decided to stay in the large gear ring, even if it meant coming up out of the saddle on relatively benign climbs. I was so over that damn chain.

The second loop passed thankfully with no drama. At this point I want to give a shout-out to Rina’s husband, who gave cheers ever time I passed. Even if my family couldn’t be there, it was nice to hear someone shout my name. And I mean that sincerely, not in a subtle passive-aggressive-message-to-my-husband sort of way.

After the 2nd loop, I dismounted the bike and ran back into transition. I started to head out for the run, thinking run and done, baby! , leaving black greasy marks on everything I touched. Except I promptly forgot my race belt with my number on it, so I lost a few seconds there. Reverse, run and done. I did that also in Ridgefield, so apparently that’s my thing now.

The run was a flat, 2-loop, out-and-back course (I know that sounds weird, but that’s what it was) that went around the perimeter of the park. Because of the weird layout, I was able to slap hands with Virgina and Rina a few times, which was cool, except for them probably not liking bike grease transferred to their hands. After getting off the bike, my legs of course were like cement, if that cement were made of jelly. But, in an even weirder way, I seemed to only have one speed: fast. It physically hurt my legs change my gait to slow down –  they seemed to be stuck in bike-pedaling mode, and speeding up actually felt better than slowing down. I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, so I had no clue of my pace. My lungs were cooperating, so I went with it.

I just dug and dug and dug and desperately tried not to trip (and gave the mental finger to that rock). I approached the finish and I heard Mrs. Run Like a Mother herself, Megan Searfoss, MC-ing and calling out my name as I finished. Love it.

I briefly noted the overall time, and then got my medal and some food, and cheered Virginia and Rina as they came in. When they started posting the preliminary finishing times, I couldn’t find myself on the list. I was getting all peeved so I asked the timing lady to look me up, and she’s like, yep, you’re there. Turns out I was looking at the completely wrong part of the list, thinking I was slower than I was. The splits aren’t posted until a few days later, so I grabbed some photos…

triathlon training teachers

Happy teachers kicking butt: Virgina and I.

…and took an eyes-closed photo, as I am wont to do, with Marty McFly and all The Stuff.

triathlon

Eyes closed: It’s an art form.

I packed The Stuff up, headed home. I had to degrease myself (including globs on my neck), the bike, my clothes, and everything else I touched post-race (rubbing alcohol for bike and Goo-Gone for clothes), then took a sweet, sweet nap.

A couple of days later, I looked up the race results, hoping that I had beat my prior 5k record of 27:35. I experienced cartoon boing-out eyes and slide-whistle sound effects as I looked at the 5k run portion of the race and my chip time was TWENTY FOUR MINUTES AND TWENTY TWO SECONDS. 24:22. What the what??!!

Prior to the results coming out, I had joked on Facebook that I had “run like hell.” I had no idea I was running as if the flames from Satan’s scepter itself were chasing me. All that time I was worried about the swim, and then I end up killing the run. I was pleased as punch.

How do I explain the huge PR? It was a flat course, yes, that helped tremendously. Later, I realized a bigger factor: Swim and bike training. It only took me three years to figure out that cross-training actually serves a purpose – they’re like bonus workouts without pounding. And with that realization, I have officially fallen head over heels in love with triathlon. There will be more.

BRING IT.

triathlon cross training run bike greaseP.S. Official race photos coming soon. I splurged. The race was that good. Wait until you see my Hanz/Franz-esque finish line photo.

P.P.S. As for Marty? He immediately got a tune up and I got a friendly lecture from the bike mechanic on how not to shift on a hill. 😉

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