Yesterday marked my first half Iron-distance triathlon, but it was bittersweet because it’s really hard for me to swallow my pride and accept reality. Point in case- I brought my running shoes with me, and it wasn’t until the morning of the race that I actually asked to switch over to Aquavelo. But that was only after receiving confirmation that I wouldn’t be stuck in that category for the rest of the year. So then I got bumped from my original wave to the final wave. I kept thinking that maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut, gone off with my original wave, and then called it quits after the bike portion. As it was, I felt like the slow, fat kid whom everyone is encouraging on, but at least I it. Last year at this time, I would have even considered signing up for a half-Ironman.
So, starting at the beginning. My friend Maureen and I were supposed to be traveling down there on Friday evening, but a few problems caused a 7:30pm departure to turn into a 10pm departure. Oops. But we finally got to the hotel, and I was in bed sometime after 11:30pm. Got up at 4am (so early!), ate breakfast slowly(I definitely wasn’t hungry, but I figured I needed some calories), got dressed, and then lounged until 5am, when we left for Lake Anna State Park. About a half-hour drive there from the hotel.
Oh, and it was COLD in the morning! I shuddered at the thought of biking in shorts and a tri top, with wet hair. Even though the forecast was for 80 degrees that day, it wasn’t more than about 50 in the early morning. When we get to the race site, I’m standing in line, shivering, waiting to pick up my race packet. As I said above, I swallowed my pride and switched to Aquavelo (swim & bike only, no run). By publicly announcing that I wouldn’t be running, I felt like a loser and just wanted to cry. (For those who don’t already know, I love running, and I always look forward to that in a triathlon.) Enough of the sob story, though.
I get my gear into transition and even before I take my shoes off, I realize my toes are frozen. Yes, it was pretty cold outside, and having Raynaud’s doesn’t help any. The big toe on my left foot, in particular, was white with numbness, and there’s not much I could do about it. I just hoped it would somehow though before I had to make any quick movements, so that I wouldn’t break it by bending at some unnatural angle. I gladly get into my wetsuit because it warmed up the rest of my body, and then walked towards the water. Walking in the grass wasn’t particularly pleasant, because there were sharp rocks everywhere. walking on the sidewalk wasn’t pleasant either, because the concrete was so rough. I finally got to the beach and waded into the water. It felt nicely comfortable and warm, and my feet were able to thaw. And then, while I’m still standing in the water, the horn goes off and the first wave is in the water. Every three minutes would be the following wave, so I had 21 minutes. Plus, the race had been delayed 15 minutes because of the fog on the lake, which cleared up significantly in those 15 minutes!
As I lined up with my wave and waited for the horn to sound, I thought, “Ok, I can do this. I just did this last week, so a little extra distance isn’t a big deal. And I’ll remember not get all panicky in the beginning.” But of course I did still panic in the beginning, with that frantic sloshing around, trying to get my breath, thinking, “Oh my God, why am I doing this? I’m already way in the back.” I eventually got into my slug-like rhythm, but the sun was quite the nemesis! The course was a single-loop triangle; on the first leg, I could only breathe on my right side because of the sun’s glare; on the second leg, I could only breathe on my left. The final leg was the worst because I couldn’t see right in front of me. Imagine trying to sight the finish line and only being able to guess where you should go. Halfway through the third leg of the swim, my left calf started cramping. I was afraid it’d turn into a full-fledged Charlie Horse, so I treaded water for a bit, and a guy paddled over on his surfboard. I hung on for a bit and explained what was wrong. He said, “I can’t let you stop now because you’re so close to the finish.” And I responded, “Oh, I intended to finish!” And I did finish the swim, longest open-water swim ever! Unlike last weekend, my foot wasn’t in so much pain, so I was able to sort-of jog from the beach to the sidewalk, where I was on my way to transition when I got intercepted by a group of girls who asked, “Can we take your wetsuit off?” Whaaa??? I totally hadn’t been expecting that, but I completely welcomed it. In about five seconds, these three (or maybe four) girls did what what have taken me much, MUCH longer, and jogged up to my transition area with wetsuit in hand.
It was pretty desolate by the time I got there, but I wasn’t expecting anything different. At least the air temperature had warmed up to a comfortable level. At first I was pretty slow-going on the bike because my legs were getting over the swim, but then it was ok and I was going along at my normal, non-rocketship speed. I’d read that there would be water-bottle exchanges, and I was curious to see that, and how it worked. I had already decided that I would briefly stop halfway to stretch my legs a little, and I could time that with the second bottle exchange area to just fill up my bottles instead of throwing them out. Actually, I can’t even imagine being in a group of fast-moving cyclists, and then reaching out to grab a bottle (with my right hand!) and maintaining balance.
I don’t think that would be possible, but I was surprised at what I was able to do while on the bike. Keep in mind that I’m pretty clumsy. Fortunately, I had remembered to tear open my pack of Clif Shot Blocks, and I could maneuver the Blocks from the pack to my mouth (yay, success!), and then Clif Gels were even easier. And here’s something I had never tried before, even on a training ride: I switched the two bottles in my cages (twice), probably looking silly, but without falling down. Even though I looked goofy, I’m sure it’s still better than slowing down, stopping at the side of the road, using both hands to switch my bottles, and then starting again. This way, I stopped only once during the 56-mile ride, versus three times.
The bike course consisted of two loops, so I’m only first loop and several of the fast guys pass me by (on their second loop, geez). Some of them say encouraging things like, “Good job!”, and I just smiled and thanked them, feeling like the slow, fat kid who’s huffing and puffing to run 100 meters. Except that I’m NOT fat and I was NOT huffing and puffing. I’m just slow, but I’ll work to fix that soon enough. I hope. Even though it doesn’t do much for the ego to be constantly reminded that triathlon is a very humbling endeavor for me, at least I got to admire some great eye candy. So it wasn’t all bad! 🙂
I felt like the bike ride took forever, and there were a few unpleasant hills, and the last six miles seemed to stretch out to triple that length, but I finally got the end and got off my bike, and sauntered into transition because, like last week, my race was over. I saw other people running, and it was sad to see, because I wasn’t to be there, but I think my body would have wanted to run by this point anyway, plus it was really, really hot by this point. Oh well, next time.
I cleaned up my area a little, and walked over to see my friend, who was also done with her Aquavelo race (but probably waaaay before me), and then went to the finish area. Even though I was hungry, my stomach felt gross and sloshy, like it does after a marathon. I didn’t have any Clif Bars with me (I had eaten both on Friday, grr), but I was amused that I picked some food up off the ground (that someone had dropped), and ate it. Ok, ok, it was a Clif Mojo bar (which I verified was honey-free, and thus vegan), and it was in an unopened wrapper. I ate that voraciously, after I’d eaten the Mocha Vega bar that Maureen had. Now, I don’t like coffee, so I wouldn’t have eaten that Mocha bar on a normal day, but I was hungry! Also on ground were two Honey Stinger packets (also in closed wrappers) that I picked up and contemplated eating. They’re not vegan (honey, hello!), but I was still a little hungry and figured I don’t need to justify it, for today. I kept them in my bag and we went to the finish area, where I did get some (definitely vegan) food, and then was really full. Grossly full.
And the Honey Stinger packs? I was able to give them away, so I never have to feel guilty that I intentionally consumed something non-vegan. I’ve realized once and for all that I don’t want to continue feeling like the slow, fat kid, so I think it’s about time that I look into getting some tri coaching. And now that I finally have a full-time job again, I can justify some sort of (reasonable) expense. I just don’t know where to begin, but maybe that’ll be a learning process, too.