Saturday was the first sprint tri in a local summer series. (1/2 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 3 mile run.) Friday afternoon I started thinking about doing the race and by Friday night I was packing my gear bags, although I wasn't totally sure of the idea I wanted to have them ready just in case. I emailed Lauren I was considering it and she said "that is a nice short little tri..." which inspired me some more. It took me awhile to find my goggles since my last swim was Ironman Florida - almost exactly six months earlier - so at some point I decided I was going to give up on the tri if I couldn't find my goggles by 10pm. At 9:55 they magically appeared, so I finished packing the gear bags and went to bed. I was still on the fence, setting my alarm for 5am but thinking if I was too tired when the alarm went off I would just go back to bed and do a ride later in the morning on my own. I kept thinking about how fun it would be, even though I fully expected to be hating myself a minute into the swim. No swim training, and very few miles on the running shoes (i.e. less than three miles over the last five weeks), but at least I had bike month in my pocket. I knew I could do the swim and the bike, and I figured I could always walk the run. I was kind of proud of myself just for being able to pack up my gear bags so quickly and without my checklist. I've got this routine down!
Fast forward a few hours and somehow I'd managed to show up at the race site. After I got everything out of the car and started walking to the registration tent, I was filled with apprehension. What was I doing? Every step I took made me less certain about the race. I toyed with going back to the car and just driving home, but my ego was too big for that. I wasn't sure how I could explain myself to anyone I might see. Then I saw a guy from my tri club. My tri club rocks. People are so friendly and supportive. I told him I was still on the fence about registering for the race but he convinced me to just keep moving towards the registration tent.
This race series is really great for first time triathletes. It's short and the swim is in a lake that is fairly warm (umm it is right near the former nuclear power plant, so we don't try to think about why it is so warm) so wetsuits are optional. The bike course is open to traffic but it's an out and back on a fairly country road with gentle rolling hills (or if you're my friend Nikka, it's totally flat. It's okay Nikka I've forgiven you for last weekend's hilly ride. It helped me get in shape for this tri!). The run course is my least favorite because it is a dirt road with some gravel that you have to watch for, and again with the rolling hills. I did a tri on roughly the same course two years ago with a slightly longer bike and run, and the race started an hour later, the run was totally brutal because there is no shade!
When I was standing in line for the portapotty, there were a lot of people who seemed really nervous. Eventually a woman behind me says "I just have to ask - you look like you've done this type of thing before - how does the swim to bike transition work?" It was really funny to see someone so nervous about the race. While I'm sure she decided I'd done this before based on my tri club jersey, I decided I must look fairly confident too which was good because I was still not totally convinced of the idea of the race. The questions just kept coming from other people in line too. It was nice to be able to help some newbies figure out what to expect in their first tri.
The tri club gets a reserved rack for our bikes, which also means all the STC members are grouped together, so pre-race and transitions it can be pretty social. The other club members are part of why I showed up at the race - I figured I could use the social outing. I saw a guy who'd done Ironman Florida and he also hadn't swam since then, so I was in good company. I ended up wearing my wetsuit, although I was a little unsure if it would fit, being about 12 pounds up from my ironman weight. But since I wiggled into it, I decided to wear it. The water was warm enough that I really didn't need it though and wished I hadn't bothered with it.
The swim was great as always. The water is a little green but I could see my fingers so it was clear enough for me. I love being confident enough with my swimming that I can just go out and do it! I held my own on the swim and managed to pass people who started two waves (10 minutes) ahead of me so that was pretty sweet. I got elbowed in the face and I tried to elbow the person back to get her off me but I didn't quite have the strength. It didn't really matter that my goggles started leaking then because by then I could stand up and run up the ramp. My swim time was around 16:30-17:00 (race results don't have splits and I know I hit my watch's lap button when I was already in T1) which was fine with me.
T1 took over four minutes, squeezing out of the wetsuit. Also I almost went to someone else's bike (a rack before the tri club rack) because I saw a pink helmet and pink bike details, but someone in the tri club got me in the right direction. It's so awesome having cool teammates!
Once I got on the bike I had a hard time pacing myself. Last time I'd done part of this course I blew up on the run, so I didn't want to do that this time. Also I kept trying to tell myself this was a workout, not a race, because I was in no shape to race. But I couldn't help pushing it on the bike a bit. It's just too fun to pass people. At one point I started passing guys who started at least 15 minutes ahead of me. Sweet. One woman ahead of me did a visible but silent cheer as she started to pass a guy on a hill. Yeah we were kicking some butts. Who cares if he was on a mountain bike. I realized I wasn't hating myself for signing up for the race. I was most definitely enjoying myself. I saw a few people with mechanical problems and decided I'm not going to stop for people in a sprint tri. I've never stopped for to help anyone with bike problems during a race, but when I did Vineman last year I saw some people stop for others and I can see the merit in helping someone in an iron-distance race. But really for a sprint tri there is no time to help someone unless they are injured. Also I figure maybe since nobody stops they will learn that they need to be self-sufficient on the bike, which is always a good lesson to learn. Am I too harsh? My first 8 miles were 28:14 and the second 8 were 30:34 but that was close enough to being even for me. I even remembered to stretch my legs a bit coming back on the bike.
T2 was fine. I don't know how people are so fast in T2. I am pretty much always 2 minutes (unless we are talking 70.3 or 140.6 then add about an hour).
The run.. I was a little nervous about the run. When was the last time I ran 3 miles? I had run exactly 6.5 miles in the last two months. Yikes. So I aimed to job at a nice even pace. I walked pretty early on just to get my heart rate down a bit and then I got into the groove. I'd forgotten the run course had hills. Pretty short hills. Probably if you've been running at all they are no big deal. They weren't that big of a deal except that I was afraid that running up them would make me blow up faster, so I walked up the steepest parts and then just got back into my run pace. My first mile was 10:30 which seemed pretty good to me! I only slowed down a little on the last two miles, finishing the run in 32:14. It was great seeing tri club members as I got near the finish. Having someone cheer you in by name is always a great feeling.
My goal time was to beat 2:00 and I came in under 1:55 so I felt good about that. I also had a miniscule amount of hope that I could place since they do awards five deep since I'd signed up for the Athena division. (My 30-34 age group just has no mercy.) But I came in sixth by almost three minutes. The hardest part about the Athena division is that you have no idea who you are racing against. Our ages are on the back of our legs but it's impossible to judge who weighs over 150 and who would sign up for Athena instead of age group! When the race results were posted online I was happy to see that there were more than six people in my division (when I left the race they didn't have complete race results posted yet). Actually I came in 6/30! My plan is to actually train for next month's race and see how much time I can peel off. It'll be the first time I've ever done the exact same race course twice!