Sunday, June 14, 2009

I didn't say it would be easy . . .

Just that it would be worth it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I finished. 9 1/2 months of training culminated into an experience I will never forget. I was certainly not the fastest, but I wasn't the last one either.

My main goal was to finish. My secondary goal was to do each leg within a certain amount of time:

Swim - 20 minutes
T1 - 5 minutes
Bike - 1 hour 15 minutes
T2 - 5 minutes
Run - 45 minutes
Total time - 2 hours 30 minutes

Let me start off by saying we had a bit of drama the morning of the race. I thought I might have a slow leak in my tires, so I pumped them up before dinner on Friday night. If they were lower in the morning I knew I would have to carry an extra CO2 cartridge. I didn't even bother to look at my bike until 5:50am Saturday morning when my father-in-law showed up to drive us to the course (30 minutes away).

My front tire was completely flat.

I tried pumping it up again, but as I began to hear that unmistakable hiss of a punctured tube I knew I was in trouble. No problem, I thought; M is faster at patching a tube than I am so I'll ask him.

M sat there and quickly patched the tube, got it to hold some air and we put the bike back together. He went to pump the tire up to pressure and we heard the hiss again. Had we missed a puncture? We took the wheel off again to find that there wasn't another hole in the tube, but the patch M just placed had busted off. He sat down and began to mend the tube once again. It was about 6:10 at this point; we should have left the house at 6am. My father-in-law took M's bike and gear outside to start loading the car. I asked him if we had another tube for my bike, the answer was sadly no. We had tubes that would work, but they also had punctures (we really need to sit down and have a patch party). He patched my tube again and this time gave it a couple of extra minutes for the glue to dry.

While we were waiting I told him that if this didn't work he needed to go. I would catch up later and cheer him on. Apparently, this was out of the question for him. If all else failed, he said he would adjust his race bike and I could ride that instead. My wonderful husband wasn't about to let his wife give up.

M pumped the tube up again and within seconds the patch busted off.

It was 6:18 and the race started at 7:30. M told both my father-in-law and I that we needed to get in the car. We loaded my bike and gear and headed down to the only place in this small town open at 6am to get anew tube - Wal-Mart.

For those of you that know us you'll understand how much it pained us to have to go there. We don't shop at Wal-Mart unless there is no alternative. We choose not to use our money to support business practices we don't agree with. Obviously, we were desperate. We make it to Wal-Mart, get the tube (we only bought one, I have no idea why we didn't get a spare just in case), and run back out to the car. It was now 6:36. The 30 minute drive to Highline State Park begins.

I'm in the back trying to collect my thoughts. I have completely accepted the fact that I may not race. Stuff happens, and this time it just wasn't meant to be. We get there at 7:10 and park at with the other athletes. M then decides to tell me that he may have bought the wrong size tube. Awesome. He changes everything out, pumps my tire up, and miraculously my bike ready to go! We grab all of our gear and make our way (hurriedly) to the transition area to set up. At this point, we can see everyone else making their way to the starting line at the swim beach.
We first have to stop by the desk and get numbered and chipped. We are the last two athletes to check in. I get my number written on my left arm and left calf and my timing chip that straps around my ankle.
We then run over to the transition area only to find that all the spots are taken. Both M and I park our bikes against the make shift fence surrounding the area and I hurriedly put out my stuff and jump into my wetsuit. I grab my cap, goggles, nose plug and ear plugs and start walking quickly towards the water. Within 60 seconds, the first heat of swimmers has started. Thank goodness we were in Heat #2.

The water was so much warmer than it had been the two times we had trained in the lake. Everyone was excited and friendly. I had no time to stretch or mentally prepare. M said it was better for him that way; he was focused on getting my bike up and running instead of becoming a ball of nerves. Five minutes after the first heat left, it was time to go.

We purposefully waited back about 15 seconds until the mayhem had subsided. Other athletes had the same idea we did, so when we all saw each other standing there we laughed. M and I made our way to the first buoy and to be honest, it wasn't that bad; I didn't freak out like I thought I would. The thought of not being able to touch my feet to the ground really didn't bother me until I saw the first guy swim back to shore about 30 seconds in. He said he just couldn't do it. Then I started hearing people cry for help and wave their arms to the lifeboats out on the lake. It was great to see other swimmers stop to help them, but I knew I had no business trying to help someone when I can barely swim myself. I had to keep going.

M told me later there were two men that would swim quickly for 60 seconds or so then cry out for help so they could hold onto a boat to rest. Are you kidding me? What good does that do? I found myself repeating one phrase in my head to keep myself calm, "slow and steady wins the race." Or, in my case, "slow and steady keeps you from drowning." Either way, it worked. I stayed to the outside of everyone towards the end; I kept running over another swimmer and I didn't want to get in anyone else's way. I probably ended up swimming more like 600 meters than 500.
I got out of the water and walked my way to T1. After the last two times in the water, I didn't want to stumble and fall with my head spinning. Luckily, I did go ahead and buy some wax earplugs and put them in for the swim. What a difference some wax makes! I wasn't dizzy at all, but still wanted to be careful as the beach was rocky and really comfortable to walk on (as my girlfriends would say, the jagged rocks made me stabby). I joked with another woman who also set up her bike and gear against the fence. She was talking to her children while getting ready for the bike portion (she had to have been at least 60, what an inspiration!). I jumped out of my wetsuit, put on my shoes, grabbed my glasses, helmet and gloves and made my way to the end of the transition area (I don't know if you can see it in the pictures, but it's a pink line). You have to mount and dismount outside of the pink line or you can be DQ'd. This is always a good thing to know.

The bike was uneventful overall. The course is pretty hilly, there is quite a large hill at the beginning (and subsequently end) of the course. Going out was great, out of the three bigger hills two of them were downhill. It was coming back that was a bit more challenging. I had to walk all three hills; I just couldn't do it on my single speed and I had to strategize what would be in my (legs) best interest. Walking up that first hill I could feel my calves tighten up, I should have tried to stretch! I know all of the walking did horrible things to my time, but I also know that had I stayed on my 16 tooth cog I would have had the same problem *and* more time on the clock because I spinout at a lower speed. The walking also gave me a good spot to take in a Gu for the run portion. I'm satisfied with my choice to change cogs a week before, but I'm going to say here and now I'm doing the Hustle next year. Those hills will not beat me again!

I was only 3-4 miles into the course when I saw the frontrunner (who I believe ended up winning). I saw M about mile 9, but not before I saw a guy flip over his handlebars right at the turnaround point. I stopped for a few seconds to make sure he was okay, which he was. He had no idea what happened. All I saw from behind was his front wheel turning90 degrees and off he went. I think the fall spooked him a bit because I beat him and his race partner back to the transition area.

I made it back in what seemed like a reasonable time to hear the cheers of my in-laws as I went into T2. I have to say I'm pretty lucky in the family department. Since I don't bike with clip less shoes/pedals yet, I didn't have to waste time changing shoes. I can only hope once I start riding clip less I can still keep my T2 time down. Speaking of which, how do people have a T1 time of under 60 seconds? I need to get in on that secret. My helmet and gloves were off, my running cap was on and I was on my way to the trail. I think I made it less than a quarter of a mile before I had to walk. I knew the run would be difficult after expelling energy for the last hour and forty minutes, but its something I don't think you can ever really prepare yourself for until you're in it.I mean, brick workouts are great and give you a good feeling for your "jelly legs," but most training plans have you run for 10 minutes or less after a 6-8 mile bike. I will need to beef up my brick workouts for next time. The trail was pretty hilly, but very well marked. Highline Lake has a lot of side trails going off of the main one we were on, the organizers did a great job of putting down arrows to keep you on track. I made myself a deal that I would walk the up hills and jog everything else. That worked for me. There was one last hill around a dam before the final straight away, then probably 1/3 of a mile to the finish line. My legs felt warm and loose by the time I made it to the end; why couldn't they have been that way at the beginning of the run? It would have made things so much easier. My final pace was 13:59/mile. I know I can shave off a lot of time by building a better running base. That will be my next area of focus. After I crossed the finish line I was immediately asked for my chip. While I was taking it off I muttered, "Thank the sweet baby Jesus" and got a good laugh out of the race organizers. I got to spend some time with my family while waiting for M. We saw him coming up the straight-away and I went out to meet him. We jogged in together and I fell back as he crossed the finish line too. It was so easy to jog with him after the race, I almost feel like I didn't give it my all. I wasn't very sore on Sunday either. I don't know if I should be happy that my training helped me not be sore or sad I didn't give it 110%. The woman who won overall finished in 1:23:29 and is 42 years old, so there is hope for me yet. My final times were:

Swim - 20:29 (goal was 20 minutes)
T1 - 2:46 (goal was 5 minutes)
Bike - 1:14:33 (goal was 1 hour 15 minutes)
T2 - 1:13 (goal was 5 minutes)
Run - 43:19 (goal was 45 minutes)
Total time - 2:22:18 (goal was 2 hours 30 minutes)

I'm taking things easy this week and working on active recovery. I rode my bike to work today and will go to my Master's swimming class tomorrow. I want to start running again this weekend and build strength training into my regimen. I think this would really help my endurance. Hope you all have a great week!


  1. I think it was the adrenaline that made you feel good after the end... that excitement of finishing the first one! You did so great. Now you know what to expect and can push it even harder next time. I love reading about it. You should be very proud of yourself!

  2. YAYAYAYAYYAYYYY I'M SO PROUD OF YOU! And that is SO awesome and inspiring that you set such accurate goals for yourself! I'm bummed that my knees stopped me from trying a tri this year :( But your post inspired me to try and go running this morning.
    CONGRATULATIONS! And cool pictures too!

  3. Super-late, but way to go! Great work!

  4. Clarification, I am super-late congratulating you :P