I admit it, I think I’m more badass than I really am and this weekend I got my behind handed to me at my first Triathlon. Granted competing in an Olympic Tri (.9m swim, 24m bike, 6.2m run) as my first ever might not have been the best idea I’ve ever come up with, but excuses aside I finished it with the greatest respect and appreciation for triathletes.
As a Marathon Maniac I run a ton of marathons a year and my body whispered to me (through some painful Plantar Fasciitis) that it was tired of living a one sport life. So I decided this summer I would branch out and “tri” something new. Signing up for a 70.3 Triathlon (1.2m swim, 56m bike ride, 13.1m run) seemed like a good challenge. I thought to myself, “I’m a strong runner and cyclist and how hard can a swim really be”. With an adequate amount of cockiness set it, I started my training in February.
Fast forward to last weekend. With over a thousand miles logged on the bike, 4 marathons under my belt, and weekly visits to the pool I thought I was more than prepared for a “practice” Olympic Tri. The Thursday before the Tri I picked up my wetsuit and went for my first open water swim in a local lake. It went…well…it went not as planned. I freaked out in the water and ended up swimming only .25 miles of the mile swim and backstroked or breast stroked the rest. After this awesome session I had my doubts about the Olympic and went into it feeling less than confident.
Fast forward again to Saturday morning, “Tday”. I set up my transition, talked to some fellow competitors, geeked out over the pro bikes (they are beautiful I might ad), and used the bathroom before putting on my wetsuit. With wetsuit on, I watched the 1/2 Ironman folks set out on the swim. It looked easy enough so I waded in to get used to the temperature and to calm my nerves. After taking a few strokes I felt confident that I was not going to freak out….then the gun goes off. I stick to the back of the pack and set out to the 1st bouy, 10 strokes in panic sets in. I rolled to my back and stare at the sky to calm my nerves and spot an eagle souring above, “I can do this” I think to myself, “I’ve done things much harder than this”. Turning over I try it again, nope, still not calm. After several attempts to get it under control I realized it wasn’t going to happen so decided to just get through it how ever I could. I watched as almost everyone passed me, including the wave of sprint triathletes who started 20 minutes behind me. I tried to take comfort in telling myself that triathlons are not won in the swim.
Dragging myself out of the water I ran to my transition area, stripped my wetsuit and hopped on my bike. I can’t begin to say how excited I was to be on my bike and for the swim to be over. I busted butt and was doing 24mph before I knew it. Stuffing my face with food I passed a few women and men and my confidence was coming back. “Rock the bike Kate!” I chanted. Feeling great I barreled down the road and turned the corner into the worst headwind I’ve ever biked in. WTF, seriously, this was the last thing I needed. I hunkered down and tried to keep my average around 18mph.
My bike to run transition was great. I successfully took my cleats off while riding and was in and out in under 2 minutes. The run was where I felt my lack of brick work catch up with me. It took a good 3 miles for my legs to let go of the wobble feeling. The out and back course was run part way on an ocean beach and I was not happy about having to tromp through the fine sand to get to the hard packed runable sand. This is the point where I was yelling at myself “what have you signed yourself up for, this has got to be one of the stupidest things you’ve ever done.” I felt like crying and throwing in the towel because I was not having any fun. I realized after the fact, that I was probably bonking from not eating enough food on the bike. Sucking it up I focused my attention on two women in front of me and put one foot in front to run them down (which I did 1/2 mile from the finish).
2:52:40 later I crossed the coveted finish line feeling like a sissy and very humbled by the whole experience.
This weekend made me realize that I have a lot of work to do in the next 4 weeks. I have to get over my open water fears, get some good brick workouts in and stop comparing myself to everyone else on the course and run my own race!