Last winter, a close family friend of mine suggested I sign up to do the YWCA of Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon. She did it last year and encouraged me to do it with her this year. It was the middle of winter in Minnesota, I love biking, and I was feeling ambition and thought that might be fun. So I registered for my first ever triathlon.
I feel I need to explain just how ambition I was feeling when I signed up to swim 500 yds, then bike 15.5 miles, and then run 5k. The 15.5 mile bike wouldn’t be a problem. In the peak of my biking days, I used to bike 30 miles a day commuting to and from the University of Minnesota. But swimming and running? Before I started training, I hadn’t done any running since I was in organized sports in high school over 10 years ago. But, like my family friend and many other participants did last year, I could always walk that portion of the triathlon.
I can swim. By “can swim,” I mean that if I am 20 ft from a boat or the shore, I will not drown. I understand the mechanics behind the four different swimming strokes from swim class as a small child, but implementation is a different story. Prior to training, I had never swam more than the length of a pool. Ever. 500 yards isn’t considerably longer than the length of a pool but it is long enough that I was worried.
I started training on my bike in late March. It was still very cold, but I was still happy to be out on my bike. I started swim training in mid-April. The first time in the pool and I thought there was no way I was going to make it. At that time, I observed I owned bathing suits because I was excellent at bathing, I did not own swimming suits because I did not swim. But I bought a real swimming suit and running shoes and after a few more times in the pool, I surprised myself by kind of liking swimming.
Fast forward to summer, when my schedule got rather hectic and my life rather over-extended. I at least had a new bike helmet that fit and had a plastic cover over the foam top unlike my old one. I swam once in a lake and thought it might be time to look into this running business. My first run was much like my first swim and left me feeling like there was no way this was going to work. I don’t have the strongest knees and have had trouble with them before and after my first run, I thought my left knee was going to explode. But after some knee strengthening exercises and good running technique, I made it a few laps around my local park, maybe 3 miles.
And then it was race day. I couldn’t believe how fast it came up and how unprepared I felt. I had been out running less than 8 times, swimming less than 10, only in a lake once, never with a swim cap on, and I never did any training bricks that put together multiple sports at the same time. I didn’t know how the transitions worked or what I was going to wear. I was really nervous that the whole things was going to be one long, unpleasant struggle. But I kept telling myself that my only real goal was to finish the race and that I am rather young and pretty fit and would do fine.
So I packed a bag full of various running, biking and swim gear, another bag full of food, and another full of miscellaneous supplies for whatever might arise. I got good advice to start waking up early the week before the race so I was up and bouncing off the wall at 4:45 am on Sunday, August 14th, 2011. My wonderful boyfriend, Pretty Boy volunteered to stay home from his cabin and act as my trainer/coach/mechanic for the weekend and loaded all of my gear into his truck. We were there really early giving me plenty of time to get marked, pick up my timing chip, set up my transition area, and anxiously await the start of the race. My number was 95, and my wave assignment was 2 (2nd, really!).
I decided to swim in my suit and then just put my shorts and the YWCA Women’s Triathlon bike jersey on over it for the bike and run portions. And before I knew it, it was the riders meeting and time for me to kiss Pretty Boy and run across the beach to find my wave. My adrenaline peaked at just the right time as my wave started. I swam the whole 500 yds straight, touched a few other swimmer and was touched but I kept going and had a smile on my face as I climbed out of the water and ran to my bike.
The transition was a little frazzled but before I knew it, I was on my bike and still smiling. The 15 miles went really fast and the competitor in me started to come out: every time I’d get close to passing a biker, I’d step it up and really push to make the pass. I kept thinking to myself that I needed to be steady and that I needed to save my legs for the run but when I get going on my bike, I just go. And then it was done and on to the run.
About 200 yds in, I saw Dr. Sam walking with a cup of tea on the running course. He smiled big when he saw me and asked as I ran by if I’d already swam and biked. I shouted yes over my shoulder and kept on running. It was a good way to start my run because it kept the smile on my face. I was jogging really slowly and feeling pretty good except for the growing tightness in my calves. I really wanted to run the whole way. So I protected my knees and chanted in my head to my knee “We are strong” for most of the run. The last mile felt long, and I just kept looking for the finish line. When I turned the final corner and saw the big orange arch marking the end, I broke out into a sprint and finished strong.
It was an amazing experience. Everything was just perfect from the weather to Pretty Boy, Dr. Sam, Mojo Monster, and Betty Deville waiting at the finish to how my bike and all my gear held up to the food in my bag at the finish. Mojo Monster made the comment at the end that it obviously wasn’t hard enough since I was smiling every time they saw me and was inspired to try the race next year. I still can’t believe how smoothly everything went and how well everything worked out. I am so grateful for the help and support I was given, the event coordinators and volunteers for putting on a smooth and welcoming event, the weather and my body for cooperating that day, everything!
The night before the race I ate my take on 5-grain rice, which is a mixture of brown rice, brown sticky rice, red rice, black sticky rice, millet, quinoa, and flaxseed. I eat it with golden raisins and mixed nuts on top. I also had some veggies and a hamburger paddy. The morning before the race, I had 5-grain rice with raisins and nuts and some fruit. After the race, I had fruit, a Clif Bar, some tortilla chips, and more 5-grain rice. During and after the race, I drank water with Cytomax and D-Ribose in it.
I felt pretty good the rest of the day. Tired, naturally, but not overly fatigued. The next day was the same. I know I must be crazy because I was back on my bike two days after my tri. I got my race results online the next day:
bib number: 95
location: Minneapolis, MN
overall place: 547 out of 973
division place: 79 out of 131
The first place finisher had a time of 1:07: 25 which is amazing. I wondered how seconds in transitions could really matter is so long a race but after seeing some of the serious racers, I can understand. I finished right in the middle and am quite happy!
I am left with a little bit of the post tri blues and a “what do I do now” feeling. Enough that I might be considering signing up for the Minneapolis Duathlon. Yep, definitely crazy.