The night before the race I was obsessively checking online “tri checklists” to make sure I didn't forget anything. I packed and repacked my bag at least three times. I almost threw up more than once, but don't worry, that's pretty much par for the course for me before big important events. I was actually able to sleep, but that didn't help prevent my feeling rushed and insane in the morning.
The morning of the race I was FREAKING OUT, and I tend to have a nervous stomach in general, so the nerves about the race resulted in some pretty major stomach cramping and more than one unpleasant trip to the bathroom. My mom insisted on coming with me, even though I explained that for the most part it would be her standing around waiting for me to come back from one leg or the other. She's pretty awesome.
I saw my friend Josh, who is the one who got me into all of this and I'm pretty sure I punched him. I told him I was positive I was going to throw up. He told me I'd be fine. I realized that I had taken my body glide out of my bag, assuming I would put it on before I left the house. This didn't help my nerves at all. I have to say this about tri people. More than one person at the transition stations and at the beginning of the race asked me if it was my first time and told me I'd be fine. It was comforting. After one final trip to the port-a-johns I went to the lake to listen to all the instructions.
I was in the 3rd wave, with all the other non relay women (the race was about 3/4 men) and as I stood there making nervous small talk with other woman and waiting for the gun, I realized I was by far the fattest girl on the course. I had probably about 50 pounds on the next biggest girl there. I'm kind of used to this by now, but it wasn't really making me feel super confident standing there in a pair of spandex shorts and sports bra. (The water was warm so no wetsuits were required, but I was still one of the few people around who didn't wear one. Whatever fat= buoyant, we don't need no stinkin wetsuits)
I didn't panic! I was sure I would, but really, I was ok. I hung back as to not get kicked in the face since I knew I wasn't exactly going to be leading the pack. I ended up using the backstroke through most of the race in order to catch my breath, but I made around the bouys, unlike some people I could name (yeah, I'm talking to you mister green cap 4th wave person in front of me, I totally saw you cut that corner). I got passed by the forth wave- men under 30 and the relay people, but I wasn't suprised by that. I even took a couple elbows, but I played rugby, so getting roughed up is nothing new.
My mom was on the beach, screaming her head off and snapping pics with her phone. I could hear her with my head under water. I finished the swim in a couple seconds under a half hour. Super slow, I'm aware, but for someone who has been in a pool once in the past three years, I was just psyched the kayakers didn't have to drag me out of the water.
I didn't even attempt a super fast transition. Josh was still changing when I got to the station and encouraged me to take a few deep breaths and relax, since I knew I would be fine on the bike. I'm glad I did, it gave me a minute to realize with the swim done, I knew, even if I was slow, I was totally capable of finishing the race.
I took off on my bike and since the course is an out and back, passed a ton of bikers on their way back in. A good third of them wished me luck or told me I was doing a good job. I reminded myself to drink, something I generally forget to do on a bike, and didn't drop my water bottle, something I'm known to do. (what? I'm a spaz, I feel we've established this already.) I even remembered to fill my water bottle with a mix of gatorade and water to actually get some calories. My main complaint was it was misty and a little chilly. I just felt wet the whole time. My glasses were misted within about 10 minutes and I was riding by looking over them like every librarian in any movie ever.
I'm a notoriously slow biker. Most training rides I average about 10 miles an hour. Considering how draining the swim was on my legs, I felt pretty good on my bike. I fought with a girl from a relay team, who's swimmer came in not long after me, for about 5 miles but on her fresh legs she eventually overtook me and left me in the dust. I was alone for most of the ride. It was kind of disheartening since I was worried this would happen, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
I ended up finishing the bike in about and hour and ten minutes. I was the slowest t
o finish the leg, but that about almost 14 miles an hour, fast for me, especially after how tired I felt from the swim.
I always knew the run was going to be the worst part of this race for me, even though for the vast majority of people, the run is what they are strongest in. I've never been much of a runner and have always dreaded/hated it. I pulled my bike into the tranisiton area as some of the fastest people were packing up thier things, having finished and getting ready to leave. They cheered me on my way out. As I was trying in vain to clean my glasses on my sopping wet shirt, I passed my mom who offered to take them. I ran back to give them to her. Who really needs to see to run anyway?
My calves burned as I started jogging. I stopped once or twice to try rubbing them, but it wasn't helping and I just kept going. Despite having gone away for most of the race, the stabbing stomach cramps decided to come back with a vengeance during my run. I would slow to a walk, clutching my stomach, but in the end, I was all alone, if I didn't finish, I couldn't imagine the horror of people having to drive along the route to come find me. Even though I passed someone coming out on the bike, I guess he didn't finish, since I would hear the check points walkie talkie-ing to each other as I went by that I had passed and they were packing up. Only one water station was still open by the time I came through, though the guys manning one of the intersections threw me a bottle of water.
We had been told at the beginning of the race that phones, ipods, and headphones were banned from the race. I'm sure that's fine for running in a pack, but honestly as the lone last runner on the course, it was torturous. The only thing that got me through this leg was the fact that I'm such a Lady Gaga fan that I know all of The Fame Monster by heart. I plodded on with “ra ra ra ah ah, ro ma ro ma ma” going through my head for most of it.
As I was coming up to the 1/2 mile mark I saw a bright pink blob appear in the distance ahead of me. It was my mom, who when the next to last person crossed the finish line, started walking into the course looking for me. She caught up to me and started walking beside me. Soon I was also joined by Josh's wife Becky (who runs marathons, cause she's badass) who ran out to me in flip flops. We took off (as much “taking off” as one can at the end of a triathlon) and left my mom walking behind us. When I turned the corner, I saw the finish line and the big flashing clock and used the last of my energy to actually run to the finish line (almost going the wrong way and knocking over cones in the process.) There are no pictures of me crossing the finish line, since my mom was behind me and my dad was busy with his cowbells (not a euphemism).
I gave in my chip and got my official time. 2 hours 55 minutes 12 seconds. Blowing away my goals and all my expectations. I also was in the top 5 Athena finishers. Yeah, sure, there were only 4, but whatevs I'll take what I can get. I was the last participant to cross the finish line, but I finished. And…. for the least flattering photo taken on race day, we have this beauty taken by my mom with my phone.
Since the time and place finish was disappointing, I'm focusing on the little victories they include:
1. I didn't die! This is a big one. I was pretty sure I wouldn't finish before I started the race
2. I didn't hork. There were also many times I was almost sure I would vomit. I think I even told my mom such as I jogged by, her response “so puke and keep going hunny, you'll be fine.” She was so the kind of mom that required you to be bleeding out your eyeballs to stay home from school too.
3. The french braid is the way to go for race day. It fit under my swim cap and bike helmet without digging into my head.
4. No major pain. I had some aching in my hips towards the end, but no knee pain, which I was expecting
5. I didn't brake on the hills. I'm a little terrified of downhills, I probably would have finished girls with gears in considerably less time if I hadn't braked during pretty much every downhill. I just rode them out and let gravity actually do some work.
6. I didn't panic in the water. This is huge. I was slow but I didn't once start to really freak
7. I didn't cry or get super upset about being last.
8. I finished in well under my expected time (3:30) and even under my not really expecting it goal time (3:00)
9. Body glide…. yes, the thing I forgot is essential. I had some major chub rub on my arms. Also I ripped off a mole at some point. I have no idea how.
So that's my story. Almost a week out my knees ache a little, but it's also been gross and rainy, which generally makes them ache already. I feel good, and shocked that it was as “easy” as it was.