I finished my first triathlon! I now can say that I am a triathlete. How did it go, you ask? Well, let me tell you!
First of all, the details. I participated in the Trinona triathlon, held in lovely Winona, MN. I did the sprint course which was a quarter-mile swim, 11.5 mile bike, and a 5K (3.1 miles). I signed up for this because I thought it would be nice to do a shorter swim before I do the St. Paul Triathlon in August which has a half-mile swim. Boy, am I glad I did. More on that later.
We left Saturday morning and made our way to Winona, stopping in Rochester to have lunch with Kyle and Kym at John Hardy's BBQ. Yummy! Most tender ham I've ever had, pulled pork with BBQ sauce that had the right amount of heat, and a huge mound of Jo-jo fries that I barely made a dent in.
When we got to Winona, we checked into the hotel, headed over to HyVee for bagels and peanut butter, and then picked up our race packets at the bank. I got a lovely hot pink swimming cap, signifying that I was in the "novice" group.
After that the four of us went to check out the course. Kym and Kyle got in the water and reported back on the weed factor. Weeds - lots you had to swim through before you got to open water. David and I thought maybe we should get in the water too so we went back and got our suits. Kym and Kyle rode some of the bike course.
The water was chilly at first, and murky always, but didn't seem so bad. I was feeling pretty good about things. We talked with some people about the 3 W's: wetsuits, weeds, and water temp. They were all so friendly. Are all triathletes this nice?
Michael arrived and off to dinner at the Jefferson Pub and Grill. I kept with my southern theme and had the Cajun chicken creme pasta. Yummy! After dinner we drove the bike course and I thought, "oh no...this is hillier than I expected". I started to feel a little nervous.
And then it was bedtime.
David and I were up bright and early at 5 a.m. We met the rest of the gang at 5:45 and we biked the two or so miles over to the race. The transition area was just starting to fill up and I got a nice spot between two other women also doing their first tri. One asked me if I was wearing a wetsuit? No. The other asked if I was wearing goggles? Yes. I got my stuff set up and then got marked with my number on both arms and my left calf, strapped my timing chip around my ankle, and then we just milled around.
My wave was at 7:45. Kym, Kyle, Michael, and David were all in earlier heats. Once they were gone, I stayed close to the other pink caps. We talked about how slow we were, one lady said she'd probably do the dog paddle, the woman who had her bike near me was complaining about the tightness of her wetsuit. I was feeling nervous, but ready. I knew I could swim the distance, I'd been in the lake the night before, I felt like I was ready to go!
Now, before I go any further, I should tell you that I felt pretty confident in my swimming abilities. I was planning to do the breaststroke, which I knew I could comfortably do much farther than I needed to. One of the things I had told myself was that if I enjoyed the two tri's I did this summer, that next summer I would get a road bike. Nothing fancy, but something that would be a bit speedier than my hybrid.
They sounded the horn and the pink caps started for the water. I stayed to the back. The water was cold, but not alarmingly so. I jumped in and started swimming. The water was murky...there were the weeds...I couldn't really spread out too much...I was kicking someone behind me. And then I panicked. Absolutely panicked. I couldn't breathe. When I put my face in the water, I freaked out. I started swimming leaving my my face above the water. My breath was heavy and ragged. I tried again, breathing with my face in the water, and COULD NOT DO IT. I was already exhausted. Other pink caps were swimming like me, so I didn't feel too bad. But I was scared. This was not fun. This was horrible. Would I make it? I couldn't go back! The first buoy approached and I made my turn. I tried to breathe in the water again, no luck. I started doing the side stroke. That calmed me down quite a bit. I rolled back to my front and panicked again. My chest and throat tightened up. I panicked even more. I started sidestroke again.
At this point, I thought, "No way. Never doing this again. No road bike for me".
I considered swimming over to the kayaks to rest. But, I thought, I have to swim out of my way to get there! And then I still have to finish. I decided that wasn't an option and kept going with the sidestroke. I was about 2/3 of the way done, and then I could hear the people from the wave after me approaching. Splash! Splash! Splash! I could see a sea of red caps, coming right at me, ready to run me down. Crap.
Fortunately, they didn't, and I could see the end getting closer and closer. I tried to see if I could stand yet. Not quite. Now? Nope. Here are the weeds again. Now can I stand? YES! Thank goodness! Never have I been so happy to be upright. People were cheering and I smiled as I made my way over to the transition area. I was alive! I did it!
Over to the bike! I grabbed my shoes and socks, brushed the grass off my feet, slipped on my shoes, strapped on my helmet, had a quick drink, and I was off. I was breathing pretty heavy, but I wasn't as cold as I expected to be. I was thirsty though. I should have had more water. I have never once, while biking, actually reached down and grabbed my water bottle, and I didn't think during a race was a good time to try for the first time. So, thirsty I would be. After a few minutes, I settled down, my breathing was normal, and I enjoyed the ride. I even passed a couple people on some of the uphills, including someone on a nicer bike. I told myself that the bike was just like riding to work from my old place, only doing there and back all at once. The woman who had her bike next to mine in transition and I chatted a bit when we passed each other. She said she'd never wear a wetsuit again. I guess it didn't suit her (hahahahah!). Overall, the bike ride was very good and I started thinking, "Hey...this is kind of fun!"
I got back to the transition area and hopped off my bike. As expected, my legs felt like jelly. I left my bike, grabbed my hat, more water, and strapped my Garmin on so I would know my pace and how far I had gone (it has GPS...I'll post about it another day). Then I was off again! Slowly but surely! I got some more water and started the run course. It was an out and back and I passed both Kym and David as they were on their way back. I also passed my friend from transition and said hello. Everyone was so friendly and I was feeling pretty good. After a minute or two the jelly leg feeling went away, and after about 5 minutes I felt like I was in a pretty good groove. Other racers said "good job!" when I passed them and I did the same. Halfway through was another water station and I walked for a bit while I drank and then ran the rest of the way back. The Garmin helpfully beeped after each lap (which I have set to 1 mile), so I had a good idea of how much more time I had left.
As I approached the finish, I looked for Kym, Kyle, David, and Michael. I knew they were all done (I had actually seen Kyle, already with his finisher medal, as I was leaving the second transition). And there they were, doing the wave for me! I smiled all the way to the finish and heard Miss Minnesota International read my name! Yay!
A volunteer put my medal around my neck, another took my timing chip off my ankle, and then I gulped down some Gu Brew and a cookie. I had done it!
My overall time was 1 hour, 39 minutes even. Even with my crappy, crappy swim my time was 13:37 which I was happy with. On the bike, I average 13.8 mph, which gave me a time of 47:49. On the run my pace was 10:57 (I told you it was slow and steady) which is about what I run when I haven't just swam and biked. Total time for the run was 32:50. T1 was 2:42 and T2 was 2:05...so I can work on that too.
My goal had been to finish in less than 2 hours, so I definitely met my goal! And, Kym and Kyle both took third in their age groups! Yay!
After a yummy lunch and the awards ceremony, we headed back to the hotel and then back home. David and I went to Gigi's for dinner, where the Little Guy was decidedly unimpressed with my medal. I asked if he wanted to try it on and he said, "Um, no". Oh well.
So, will I do another tri? Well, I HAVE to. I'm already registered for the St. Paul tri. I'll admit...I'm a little scared about the swim, but I'm going to try and spend a lot more time in the lake between now and then. Hopefully I'll be ready.
And maybe, just maybe, a road bike is in my future.
That's it. The story of my first tri. Maybe more bits and pieces to come.