I was worried about my first triathlon…not because I feared the open-water swim or the legit road bike…and the 5k definitely wasn’t an issue.
I was afraid I’d love it. And want to do more.
And I did. And I do.
I have volunteered for the Lighthouse Triathlon (formerly known as the Pirate Triathlon) the past two years – at a very cold and rainy water stop in 2010 and last year as a flag-waving pirate wench on the bike course. For the 2012 edition of Lake Metroparks’s tri, I relinquished my volunteer status in favor of a very unflattering TYR swimsuit, a borrowed fancy FELT road bike, and – of course – my pink Adizero Bostons.
Directly after the Buckeye Trail 50K, I jumped into a very intense triathlon training schedule. I officially swam four times and biked twice before the race. I also got photo proof of both.
The day before the race I headed up to
my office the beach to help organize and run packet pick up. A LOT of familiar faces came through the tent, along with a few new ones that I would see again at Burning River the next weekend (BR100 post to follow). I was very impressed with the race shirt this year – although a t-shirt, not gender specific, and sadly pirate-free, the men’s were blue and the ladies were pink. You might not know this, but I like pink. The shirts also highlighted Fairport Harbor’s Marine Museum and Lighthouse, celebrating its bicentennial next year!
Race morning I returned to packet pick up to help out my favorite LMP staff dudes, then wandered around eating blueberries and talking to friends that were clearly better prepared than I…but probably not quite as excited.
My sister was timing the race, so we paused to take the exact photo we’ve been rocking since the fall of 1998.
500 meter swim
I almost missed my wave. Ladies under 34 were to start at 8:15, but I was so busy chatting up strangers on the beach that I didn’t notice them call my age group. I looked around, saw absolutely NO green wrist bands, and sprinted into the water with three minutes to spare. The water was cold. June 14 cold. I treaded water nervously with the other girls until my favorite LMP bossman gave us the start signal. I immediately got kicked in the calf and the shoulder, so I headed towards the lane line to get away from the splashy, freezing madness. I absolutely stink at bilateral breathing and tend to hyperventilate while doing the front crawl. I also veer at least 40 degrees off course, so I alternated between breaststroke, front crawl, and sidestroke. I like breaststroke the best, and as an added bonus I can see where I’m going and avoid others’ flailing limbs. At the turnaround I knew I was towards the back of my wave, so I made an effort to speed up my stroke and actually passed two people…both were men. I’m not sure quite how that worked.
I hit the sand bar running, high-kneeing it through the shallow water as my LMP bossman cheered me on over the megaphone and gave me a high five. I was a little lightheaded but managed to get to the transition area pretty quickly. I got a drink, Gu-ed, dried my feet, and laced up my Bostons. I slipped on my [nonbike] shorts and pulled my favorite Nike tank top over my head…which promptly got all twisted and tangled in the bib I had so carefully attached the night before. I slammed my helmet on my head, took 30 seconds to clip the darn thing, then grabbed my borrowed bike off the rack and trotted over towards the chute. I knew I took a long time in transition, but at that point I was having fun, not racing. I pretend-reluctantly hopped on the bike, then muscled up the hill to start my ride.
I am not big on cycling. I like to watch the Tour de France as much as the next person, and I drool over bikers’ calves more than the average person, but I’ve never really ridden a bike for fitness purposes. I borrowed Sweaty Brian’s road bike for the day (with lame-o regular pedals, which hurt him to put on), and my goals were don’t fall off, don’t die, and don’t be last. I’m not too steady on a road bike – I can’t even reach down and grab my water bottle while in motion – and cars freak me out because I can never hear them coming up behind me. So imagine my surprise when I started passing people…a lot of people. Brian’s Garmin was attached to the handlebars, so I turned it on to try and keep my cadence up to his badass standards on his badass bike. The ride went by quickly, but I was pretty uncomfortable for most of it. Even with boxing, my shoulders were not comfortable supporting my weight on the handlebars, so I kept switching my hand positions around and shaking out my arms on the long stretches. As I headed back into town to finish my ride, I passed BMO and my personal cameraman Doug heading out on their run. I was jealous and couldn’t wait to let my feet pound the pavement.
The second transition was crazy easy. Since I didn’t have clip-in shoes, I flung my helmet on the ground, grabbed a drink and another Gu (how does one fuel during a triathlon? Don’t ask this girl), and headed back towards the road with a big grin on my face. My legs felt very wobbly, and it seemed like I was running at a 12-minute pace. I saw a friend as I went up that damn hill a second time and yelled, “How long will my legs be confused like this?” He laughed and held up five fingers. I guess I should’ve done a brick workout after all. Before too long muscle memory kicked in and I found my stride quickly. After a slow crawl of a swim and a full 20K of discomfort on the bike, running felt like home. I started picking people off, set my legs on autopilot, and took a little time to reflect on the day. I was having a blast. It was ridiculously delightful to wake up on race day with no PR pressure and zero expectations. I came out of the water so late in my wave that the rest of the race was a Passapalooza, and I enjoyed every minute. I decided that – at least for me – triathlons are less about technical skill and more about general fitness level and endurance. After a little over an hour of swimming and biking, I still had a lot of zoom zoom in my legs because my body was used to running long and sustaining steady effort. I saw a lot of supportive, familiar faces as I headed up [another!] hill towards the finish line, LMP bossman again announcing my name with a smile. I grabbed a veggie sub (miam miam) and a banana and spent a LONG time smiling and laughing with my sweaty friends.
I really want to do more triathlons. Longer ones. I think I could be competitive. But a girl can only focus on one giant dream at a time, and this is the era of the Boston qualifying marathon. 3:35:00 or bust. Do the work!
STATS: 1:26, 8/30 in my age group, 175/343 overall
PROS: Lake Metroparks, Lake Erie love, 500 entrants, race swag, easy parking, close to home, quick results, familiar faces, LMP family to cheer me on, delicious post-race grub (including roasted red pepper, spinach, and mozz subs!), party atmosphere, super cheap
CONS: I am the slowest swimmer ever. And there were a lot of potholes.