My first triathlon was the TexasMan sprint in May 2014 at Johnson Branch State Park in Valley View, Texas. I had joined a local triathlon club after I learned they were forming a team to raise money for a breast cancer research organization. I had a running background and liked the idea of supporting a cause close to my heart, so I took the plunge and joined. I had never had a swim lesson and didn’t own a bike. I went through a few months of training with the club, bought a bike, and toed the line of TexasMan in 2014. I swam 500 yards, biked 16.1 miles, and ran 3.1 miles. I had practiced each leg of the race, but hadn’t practiced putting it all together. I was hot and tired at the finish line, but most importantly I was happy.
I returned to TexasMan this year as my fifth triathlon and also my first Olympic distance triathlon, meaning it consisted of a 1 mile swim, 24.1. mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run. I had a bit more experience and was looking forward to the new distance challenge. It was also a planned increase in race distance as I train for my first 70.3 distance later this year.
I started the swim on the far left so I could sight to my right. I was with a pack of ladies for the first few hundred yards, then I noticed so many kept stopping or falling back and I was beginning to lose my drafts. I was settling into my pace and kept going. Then WHACK I took a punch to the face by some lady’s arm. I was able to keep my composure and kept going. I realized I was going to have to sight on my own to get to the first buoy, but I figured once I made the turn I would find others to draft off and get back on course. I made a right and the first buoy and found someone to draft off. After a while, I looked more closely and realize it was a guy with a different colored cap on, so he was obviously not in my wave. I drafted off him for as long as I could, but he kept taking breaks and treading water, and I just couldn’t wait for him so I swam along. I neared the second buoy I needed to turn at and realized I had gotten really far away from it. I turned and tried to steer myself back closer to the buoys as best I could. I heard a lot of what sounded like shouting and talking, and there was a boat out there on the move. This boat was causing some major waves and I was focusing even more on my breathing out underwater to make sure I was getting enough air. I tried not to get distracted and to focus on my swim, but the thought of some underwater creature coming to devour us all crossed my mind and I took a quick break to poke my head up and see what all the commotion was about. And wouldn’t you know – I had come across a congregation of folks just hanging out in the water! There were men and women with caps of all different colors just bobbing in the water and talking. HUH?! This is not the time for hanging out in the water! I realized Jaws was not present, so I ducked back under and kept swimming. I had to return to sighting on my own and was all by myself at this point. I was swimming along and then I felt another WHACK and heard talking. I instinctively popped up and realized it was a kayaker who had purposely bumped me! She told me I was too far outside of the course and I needed to cut back in. Thank you kayak volunteer, and off I went. By the time I finally exited the water and all of the shenanigans that happened out there, I was disoriented and tired. Luckily a friend was volunteering as a wetsuit stripper and yelled my name, which pulled me back into reality and I could focus on what I needed to do next. I checked my watch and WHOAH I was disappointed with my time. Reflecting on it later, I can see how all of the variables and my extra distance on the course added up to a disappointing time.
I made it out of the water and up the hill to T1 and tried to calm my nerves and refocus for the bike leg. And may I sidebar here to inform you that it gives me a great amount of anger when I return to my transition area to discover that a fellow racer has discarded their crap into my little 2’x2’ area?! RAGE! Do not throw your wetsuit on top of my stuff and expect it to be there when you return. It’s incredibly rude and self-centered. I’m glad that you saved 0.25 seconds off your transition time by thinking the whole area is your personal changing and locker room, but it’s not. Be respectful and discard your stuff in your designated space. Time for the bike. The bike course had some rolling Texas hills, which I felt prepared for tackling. I took in 4 shot blocks while on the bike and tried to take in a squeeze of water every 15 minutes or so. I tried to keep my cadence high and keep up speed. Overall the bike leg was fairly unexciting (except for the 5 seconds when a truck almost hit me), but I was very glad when it was over.
Wetsuit slinger must have realized the error of her ways and T2 was uneventful. But the run was tough. I was so hungry by the time I made it to the run that I even asked some spectators if they had snacks for me. They laughed and thought I was joking, but I would have seriously eaten any snacks they tossed my way. I savored my last two shot blocks and took in water at the aid stations. I kept telling myself “you ONLY have X more miles to get through – you can do this!” But the generator in my head would beat out my heart, and about every 1/2 to 3/4 mile my body would come to a stop without thinking. Mentally I was struggling to overcome the tiredness I was physically feeling. This is a constant struggle I face. In order to turn my attention away from what my mind and body were fighting, I turn my focus outward and look at the other racers out on the course. The best part about doing a local race is that a lot of friends are also racing and I get to see them at varied parts on the course. I enjoy seeing my friends out there and cheering them along as we pass each other. I also enjoy cheering for and talking to people I don’t know, which some people are receptive to and some people look at me like I have two heads.
The countdown to the end of the run course was nearing, and I kicked it up a notch at mile 5 and wanted to finish strong. I was finally catching my stride and ready to run it 1.2 more miles into the finish. My mind and body were finally on the same page. Then my lungs decided to enter the scenario and WHACK I was hit with an asthma attack near mile 5.5. I was pretty taken aback – I had been breathing just fine and could not have anticipated this. I haven’t had an asthma attack in several months. I flashed to my inhaler…..which was laying on my mat back in transition and not with me. Woops. I could have stopped running and stood there gasping for air, but I wanted the race to be over and I wanted the asthma attack to be over, so I actually picked up my pace even more to finish the race. I was sucking wind and sounded like a donkey. I made the final turn and saw the finish line in sight. Then I saw – and heard – my good friend Novia who had finished her race and came back to cheer me into my finish. I was gasping for air and got even more chocked up by her presence and support. She was screaming so loudly, I don’t think she or the volunteers near me could hear my donkey gasps. I crossed the finish line, got my mdeal and felt awesome for completing, and immediately turned up the hill to head to transition to fetch my inhaler. But as I was walking up the hill, I saw the lovely medical tent and could tell those volunteers really wanted to help me stop making my donkey sounds, so I had a nice little visit with them and received some oxygen and an albuterol inhaler. Woo hoo! I finally had relief after a few minutes of treatment. So lesson learned the hard way that my inhaler does me no good sitting on the transition mat; I need to keep it with me.
Goal: Finish. This was my first Olympic distance triathlon.
Date: May 3, 2015
Location: Valley View, TX
Distance: Olympic triathlon; 1 mile open water swim, 24.1. mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run
Conditions: 68 °F, 7 mph wind and 70% humidity at race start. Partly sunny.
Total time: 3:50:01
1 mile swim: 42:55
24.1 mile bike: 1:42:35
6.2 mile run: 1:15:43
Class Position: 1 out of 1 -> yeah you read that right!
Gender Place: 36 out of 45
On the way home, a friend texted me a cropped photo of my results and it showed a “1” next to my name. I wrote “no, no – there is no way that is right.” I checked the race results website and sure enough I was the only female in my age group, so I automatically got first place. WOO HOO! My first podium! 😉 Even better is that race awards were being awarded while I was at the medical tent, so my name was probably called while I was on oxygen. HA! I emailed the race director later that day, and he’s so nice to mail me my participation trophy, which I’ll cherish dearly.
So looking back at my race and comparing it with my first one in 2014, I can see how far I’ve come. And looking forward, I’ve further committed myself to this sport and my goal race of Ironman Augusta 70.3 in September. There is a lot more to learn along the way and I’m sure many more fumbles will be had, but as long as I’m enjoying the ride I will continue.
I met with a bike fitter last week and he said the best thing to me:
The goal is to have fun, and to go fast. And in that order. So keep having fun, and keep getting faster.