TriRidgefield: Swim, Bike, Wheeze

A triathlon reality: Sometimes you place, sometimes you’re just happy you didn’t sink. Or crash your bike. Or splat on the ground.

My favorite hometown triathlon, TriRidgefield, took place a couple of weeks ago, and generally speaking I was ready. This was my 4th triathlon. Being there are usually about 300 competitors, and that Fairfield County is filthy with triathletes, I knew I wasn’t going to place like I did two weeks prior in Ocean City. And when I say filthy, I mean it. Last year, there were 12 people just from my small town alone, who competed in Ironman Lake Placid. It’s Beast-Ville around here.

Our sitter showed up at 5:30 AM (bless her) and off Dan and I went for our annual triathlon-date. The day started clear, beautiful, and COLD. We shivered as we set up our paraphernalia and I wondered how frigid the water would be. The air temp was about 48 when we got up, and the water temp was mid-60’s, resulting in an eerie, horror-movie look to Great Pond:

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(Photo courtesy of TriRidgefield)

Heeding my own advice, I wet-suited up and headed to the water to paddle around and warm up. The bright sun was coming out, warming things up a smidge. I dunked myself in and… Holy mother of Frosty, this shiz is cold!…attempted to warm up. My friend Derry, a tri-newbie, warmed up with me. I know that she was nervous, and I tried to be all “You’ll be fine! You’ve done the work, it will be awesome!” and I knew in my heart it would be, but inside I was having a tiny, silent freak-out about the chilly water.

Like last year, being in wave number 5 out of 6, we watched the men go off (including my husband, whose specialty is swimming, shoot off the shore like a rocket with magical paddle arms) and the younger women. The “old lady” division was PACKED. Apparently, Ridgefield is also filthy with female triathletes over 40. My plan was to attack the water “moderately”. Last year, I held back and counted to ten while the others went in. Later in the summer, at TriFitness, I gallantly charged into the water like I was going to war with it. This time, when our siren went off, I went with a medium approach, and hurriedly scrambled with most of the pack, into the water.

I'm in there somewhere. Love the knee-deep dude with the ipad. Now that's Spectator Commitment!

I’m in there somewhere. Love the knee-deep dude with the ipad. Now that’s Spectator Commitment!

You know that thing, where you put your face in very cold water and it makes you want to inexplicably breathe in because your heart skips a beat? It sucks, and it has a name: The Mammalian Diving Reflex. Simply put, when a mammal submerges its head (the face specifically) in cold water, there is a reflex which slows the heart rate and narrows the blood vessels. This conserves oxygen for the brain and enables diving mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals to stay submerged for a long time. Being that I’m not a diving mammal, it’s a freaky reflex that makes my face want to implode. It’s not painful, but when you’re trying to do rhythmic breathing and your heart rate battles with your adrenaline and you become anaerobic (not getting enough oxygen for your activity) IN THE WATER, it’s as pleasant as a root canal.

So my Mammalian Diving Reflex was kicking in, and combined with a dusting of fresh pollen that coated the top of the water, made the swim suck. Literally. Sucking air. The first 100 yards of the swim found me taking 4 strokes, then popping up to try to catch my breath, 4 strokes, popping up, on repeat. I just couldn’t get an even, adequate breath. I even flipped over and did elementary backstroke (the one where you move on your back like a water bug), and it helped briefly. After wave #6 (the relay swimmers) passed through (I did not get felt up this year, darn?), I started to worry that I was in the back of the pack. I flipped over to do the elementary backstroke again, expecting to see virtually no one behind me, but instead I saw about 2 dozen swim caps doing the same thing. Pollenated anaerobic breathing loves company.

Finally, about 2/3 of the way through, I found some semblance of a groove. I passed a few people, that felt good, but I was still very uncomfortable, and getting tired. I finally came out of the water with a look of pure relief on my face.

WHEW

Lord have mercy wetsuits are awful.

Fearing a flare-up of the dreaded plantar fasciitis, I daintily ran as fast as I could to the transition area and did the DERP DANCE. That’s the dance where I lose all semblance of brain power caused by heavy exertion and stand there staring at my stuff going DERP DERP DERP until I figure out what I need for the bike and get my a$$ going.

Anticipating a cold, breezy bike ride, I threw on my mid-weight bike jacket. Actually it was more of a “desparate pulling over wet skin” than a “throw on” but I managed to pull it on, then put on my bike shoes, grabbed my helmet and sunglasses (which due to the cold immediately fogged up) and headed out of the transition.

My buddy Lori came to check out the hullabaloo and snapped this photo of my exiting the transition area.

My buddy Lori came to check out the hullabaloo and snapped this photo of my exiting the transition area. (My sunglasses are in my teeth – you use all body parts in a tri.)

triathlon cold wet

It’s not a strange sweat pattern, I’m just soaking wet underneath. It’s glamourous like Beyonce.

I was happy to discover that I put my bike in a good gear for the uphill start. I was unhappy to discover that my legs were toast. I really put too much energy into the swim. NUTS.

Even with the fatigue, I felt okay during the bike. Once again, this is where the strength training of Crossfit has paid off. I spent less hours on my bike leading up to this race, yet I was only about 2 minutes slower this year. I was able to power up the steeper hills and spend less time out of the saddle to power up those hills. It was a good call on the jacket, as I was comfy (I just cannot tolerate being cold on the bike, I say with a snooty aristocratic flair), and I saw visible goosebumps on the people I passed.

I also managed to avoid to mega-bike-swallowing potholes that winter of 2014 left us. (I saw 2 people changing flats on the course.) I did, however, feel a bit lung-constricted, like I couldn’t quite take a full breath. Damn pollen. By the way, if you were ever wondering if Connecticut-ers ‘whoop’ and ‘holler’ then wonder no more. When I came around the corner near my house, about 2 dozen people in various states of sleepwear, including my wonderful babysitter and my kids (in their bathrobes) started whoopin’ and hollerin’ something fierce (before they even knew it was me). HOLLA TO MY NEIGHBORS!!

After a successful bike-to-run transition (much less DERP-ing), I set off to run. I knew this would test my mettle, and my toe. It’s 1.5 miles uphill, then 1.5 miles downhill. I took a puff of my inhaler during transition, but I was still a tad wheezy. I powered up the hills, and flew down. I found out later than my 5k time was only 20 seconds slower than last year’s. THIS WAS HUGE. Even after taking almost 5 months off from running over the winter, I was so psyched to see the run come together, and my toe didn’t complain!

I was happy to finish, but I knew my time wasn’t as good as last year.

triathon Triridgefield

Two thumbs up!

My overall time was 1:41:22, about 3 minutes slower than last year, mostly thanks to the cold, pollenated swim.

But finishing a tri without sinking, crashing, or splatting is a GOOD TRI in my book. After speaking to some friends afterward (including some who finished very high up in the rankings) the pollen seemed to have gotten to everyone. Lots of tight breathing = slower overall times. But still, I love this race and I plan on doing it again next year. Even if I swim, bike, and wheeze.

triathlon

My tri-date.

 

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Small Races Are Great For the Ego

 

“…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

Check!

I didn’t write anything about it prior to this, but I did my first race of the year (the Run Like a Mother 5k didn’t count, as I wasn’t racing it, I was coming in last on purpose) in mid-May. I didn’t write anything about it because I barely had time to even THINK about it.

Originally planning on spectating my husband, son, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law at The Ocean City, New Jersey Triathlon, I had the opportunity to jump in when my S.I.L. came down with a case of cranky knees (no I didn’t bandit the race with her number, it was legit.)

I was already kind-of in training for TriRidgefield on June 1st, and the NYRR Mini 10k on June 14th. And by “kind-of” I mean looking at my week and thinking, “There is no way I can fit all of this training in,” because May/June leaves my calendar crying “uncle.”

We drove down the Friday night before, still barely thinking about it. This tri was a quirky little tri:

  • 1/4 mile pool swim, timed separately (as in, no rushing out of the pool to the bike)
  • 2 mile run
  • 16 mile bike
  • 2 mile run

While the run & bike portions were longer than I’ve done in a tri before, being at the beach, the course is completely flat. I felt like this was a good tune-up for TriRidgefield, and a way to gauge my fitness now that I’m running again and I’ve been doing Crossfit regularly since January and healing my Incurable $hitty Toe.

triathlon Ocean City swim

triathlon pool swim

Part of my cheering squad.

The swim went well. When it was my turn, I handed my card to a volunteer timer and jumped in and started my laps. I lost a little bit of my warm-up energy waiting in line (there was a separate warm-up lane), so by the time my 7th out of 8 laps came, I was finally getting into a groove and then I saw the timer-person put the kickboard in the water as a signal that it was my last lap. Oh well.

triathlon pool swim Ocean City, NJ

You can see my son getting ready for his swim on the lane to my right.

I got to watch my son’s swim (1/8 mile),

Love this kid.

Love this kid.

and part of my husband’s and my B.I.L.’s. Then I showered (I HAD to get the chlorine out of my hair – if I don’t, it fades the color – PRIORITIES) and changed into my tri-kit for the run/bike/run. It was weird, and I was all thrown off having to change clothing mid-race. I even had time to put my hair into lopsided braids (it’s at a weird length where I can’t quite put it into a middle ponytail as needed for the bike helmet). After I changed I met the rest or the family crew in the parking lot and refueled on a bagel, almond butter, and Mallon’s Sticky Buns, an Ocean City staple.

triathlon ocean city pool swim

Sharing a mid-race smirk with my husband.

I walked outside and the weather could not have been more perfect. Low-60’s, mostly sunny, and a mild breeze. I put my bike in the transtition area, warmed up by running about 1/2 mile, and got ready to run-bike-run.

The race itself was fairly uneventful, but still fun. I took a while to clip into my pedals, as feared. I had a solid bike journey, and because it was 2x out-and-back, got to wave and cheer my family members from the the other side of the road (or while passing me, as my brother-in-law did.)

Off to bike!

Off to bike!

I finished the bike and started the run jelly-legged, and huffed and puffed my way through the last 2 mile run. My chest felt a little tight, and it was starting to get hot, but other than that, I just put my head down and ran. I finished strong, my toe survived, and I found the rest of my family.

triathlon Ocean City

A family that tri’s together…poses for photos together.

We stuck around for the awards, as my husband thought he might have placed in his age-group (he’s a very strong swimmer). As it turns out, my husband placed 3rd in his age group, my son won 1st in his age group, and I PLACED IN MY AGE GROUP!

triathlon age group place Ocean City

My spoils.

Initially, I was awarded 3rd place, and walked away with a spiffy water bottle, visor, and certificate. When the results were posted online later, they must’ve re-jiggered the results and suddenly I’M SECOND in my age-group! Twelfth out of 42 women overall. Small races are GREAT for the ego!

triathlon Ocean City

I shall now lord this accomplishment over the minions in my castle until…up next…TriRidgefield, two weeks later. DUM-DUM-DUMMMMM! Stay tuned for that race report!

Enjoying the Boardwalk post-race.

Enjoying the Boardwalk post-race.

Have you ever placed in a race? Did you lord it over your household? Leave a comment!