My heat time was at 2:15 pm. Despite dreary, cold weather in the morning, by the time my heat drew near, it had warmed up considerably. Earlier, I had been sure I'd need to wear a jacket for the bike and run, and was worried about the fact that I hadn't brought any type of tights or leg warmers. By the time it was getting into the afternoon, I was seeing that I could get away with my tri shorts, tank, and at most, arm warmers.
Shortly before my heat, I checked my transition spot one more time. I wanted to make sure that everything was as I had left it, and reassure myself that I had everything I needed there. I took off my running hat and sunglasses and left them with the rest of my stuff. Somebody had gotten a bunch of dirt or debris on my belongings, which was slightly annoying, so I brushed it all off.
I went back to the husband and kids one last time. I left my other shoes and jacket with him, and got him to take a picture before I headed off. I wanted to make sure he got my number in the picture, although he kept referring to me as "inmate 248". Funny guy.
Sadly, we've had problems with our camera, and this is one of few pictures that didn't get eaten by our corrupt memory card.
The Swim (time: 12:50, including time to get to my lane and the short run to transition).
It was about 2:00, and we were encouraged to check in at the pool 15 minutes early. I headed over there and got in line. The heat times were obviously more of a suggestion then anything, as you just went to the back of the line regardless of what time your heat was. I didn't see it creating issues. Just an observation.
I chatted with the ladies in front of me as we watched some of the other swimmers. One of them was saying that she had given a faster heat time in hopes that she would be at that speed time by the time the triathlon came along, but she couldn't seem to get any faster. I mentioned that speed in swimming is almost entirely technique. If you don't have the technique, you just work harder, and don't always go faster.
We watched some people jump in and start really fast. One was a woman in a pink tri-it outfit. (Tri-it is the local triathlon store.) She looked like she ought to have been in another heat given how fast she was going. Then she slowed down. I made a decision to do my first lap easy. I didn't need to let adrenaline make me sprint the first 50 metres only to exhaust myself.
Then I was second in line, then I skipped over being first when both myself and the person in front of me got sent to our lanes. I headed straight there and jumped in. Took a deep breath and started swimming. I was vaguely expecting some kind of panic but it didn't happen. I followed through on my plan of starting off easy and quickly found a rhythm in the water.
I caught up to the first person in my lane at the end of the first 50 metres. She stopped at the wall and let me pass. I caught up to the next person right after the next wall. I tapped her foot to let her know I was going to pass and started overtaking her. She sped up. I passed her, but then she passed me back. Then she stopped at the wall, so I passed her again.
She passed me again. She was obviously sprinting to pass me, while I was just going slightly faster when I passed her. I decided I didn't want to keep wasting energy playing this game, so I just drafted her. I touched her toes pretty regularly while drafting and every time I did, she would speed up a bit. I'm not sure why it was so important to her to stay in front, but if she wanted to use that much energy, she could go ahead. I was saving energy by drafting her and since she sped up whenever I touched her, I was okay with the speed she was going.
She got out when I had about 150 metres left, and I felt great for that time. Really got into a rhythm and was nice and smooth in the water.
Then it was time for me to get out. I hopped out and headed for the transition zone. It was 100-200 metres to get there. I ran part of it, but some spots kind of hard on my feet, so it was run/walk mixture.
If there was a part of my triathlon where a bit of practice could have got me free time, it's the transitions. When I got to the transition, I went to the back row where my spot was and ran along it - right past my bike. I then turned around and ran past again. Then I stopped and walked slowly while looking at the bikes to find my spot.
I think next time, I need a florescent towel or something. Either that, or I could be smart and find a way to remember my spot better.
Then I put my socks on. They didn't roll on that well, despite doing the sock condom thing with them. I think I'll use a different pair next time. Then my bike shoes, which I had failed to open ahead of time. Not a big deal, but again, a few seconds of time I could save myself overall.
Then, I grabbed my bike and went off. (Well, I did put my helmet and garmin on as well, but details, details...)
The Bike (time: 35:32, including both transitions)
I'd been warned that you can feel a bit disoriented getting on the bike. I went past the mount/dismount line and clipped in carefully. No need to fall over in my first tri. I was doing fine, and found my rhythm almost right away. It was a short ride out of town and then we rode on the highway for the rest.
Going out, I thought I was heading into a bit of a headwind. I figured it wasn't too bad though and it would be easier on the way back. When I turned around, I realized that I obviously wasn't going into a headwind before. On the way back it was definitely a combination of headwind and crosswinds.
I just kept pedalling along. I felt good, and was going faster then I do in training, but I really didn't push that hard because the course was way flatter then what I normally do. I didn't want to burn out before the run and *ahem* I haven't actually done any bricks yet, so I wasn't sure how hard I could go.
I've often thought my bike is my weaker point, but I think I've underestimated how challenging my regular training routes are. I don't get great speeds in my normal training, but I do serious hills and frequently have a lot of wind. Having done that in my normal training made this seem easier, even though I heard from others that it was tougher then they expected.
I found bike to be a pretty zen experience. I was in my zone and went at a very sustainable (perhaps too sustainable?) pace.
When I got back into town, I saw my supporters. Jen was there (she had done the swim portion for Garry, her husband, and was now in spectator mode). My husband and kids. Just seeing them there gave me a boost.
I entered transition, and once again went right past my spot.
I had regular laces on my running shoes, which seemed to take forever to tie. I had picked up some yankz this week, but didn't get around to changing them until Friday, at which point I decided it was a bad idea to change my lacing system. Another spot where I can get a bit of free time.
Then, after changing my shoes, I got confused about which way to leave transition and headed back towards the bike exit when the run exited on the other side.
I took a moment to look around me and remembered that the run exit was at the other end. I went back that way and saw somebody I knew from town who cheered me on as I went by.
The Run (time 27:36)
The run was great! I was concerned about how it would go because I hadn't done a single brick (bike followed immediately by a run) in my training. I know it's normal to feel jelly legged, but I felt fabulous. I did feel slightly sluggish coming out of transition, but when I checked my garmin, I was going around 5:30/km. That's super fast for me!
Having said that, I felt like I could sustain it. I've also learned that I can get away with pushing myself more on shorter runs, so I let myself carry on at that pace.
One of the great things about the run was that you constantly passed people going the other way. Most runners would say something like "good job" or "nice pace". We constantly encouraged each other. I saw Garry at one point and we cheered each other on. There were a couple other women with the same shirt as me. I yelled "nice shirt" while one biked away (there was a section where the bike and run were next to each other. Another one with the same shirt told me "damn you look good."
The run was an out and back. The turn around point was close to start line, so I got to see my family again. The kids had tambourines and Sweetpea was sitting on Daddy's shoulders. I also saw Jen and Garry (he had gotten back by then) and they cheered for me too.
I grabbed some water at the water station and started back. The garbage can was right by the table, and the table was the turn around point, so it pretty much put you in a position of having to stop while drinking your water rather then keeping moving. Nobody else had tossed cups on the ground, like at some races, so I figured it wouldn't have been polite to do so. Having said that, I still wish they'd put a garbage can a bit further away so I could have moved while I swallowed my dixie cup of water.
Once I turned around, I knew I was in the home stretch. I was hurting a bit, and it was hard, but I only had 2.5 km left, and I knew I could keep going for that time. I also knew I was on the road for a FABULOUS personal record. My last 5km race was a fight to break the 30 minute mark, and ended up giving me a dubious record of 29:58, only because the course was short. This time, I was running every km well under 6:00/km, so if I could keep it up, I would break that time easily. (Well, "easy" is relative.)
I carried on. I still felt positive, but I was at the point in the race where I had to keep reminding myself how close I was. It wasn't easy, but easy doesn't mean anything in the long term. Pain is temporary. Pride is forever. All that stuff.
In those last 10 minutes, I remembered all of the people that have supported me along the way. The words of encouragement that always seem to come when I am starting to feel low and I really need them. My husband. My children. My Parents, and siblings. Before heading to Vulcan, my sister's facebook status read: "Virginia hopes her sister will be able to hear her cheering from across the Pacific". (She's currently teaching in China.) That thought helped propel me through my final km when I felt like my body was done.
Most of the time, I can increase my pace in the last stretch, but I was already pushing my limits for the entire run. Before long, I came in reach of the finish line. I mustered up a bit of strength for a finishing sprint and jumped across the finish line.
Total time: 1:15:58
I achieved the goals I set out for myself: finishing with a smile on my face and I had so much fun. I also far exceeded any time goals I might have considered setting and felt strong every moment.
In that moment, I completed a goal I had set for myself a year earlier. A goal that I didn't know if I could achieve. A goal that has changed my life in more ways then I can count. I completed a triathlon.
This is only the beginning.
I am a Triathlete.