A little over 16 weeks ago I closed my eyes and jumped. I registered for a sprint triathlon. With about four months to prepare, I figured it was on the edge of do-able. I immediately put together a training schedule and figured out a way to get swim workouts in. Afterall, I knew I could bike 12 miles. I knew I could run a 5K, the only unknown initially was how a 1/3mi swim would be. Oh, and then combining all of those events.
When I posted about registering for the sprint tri, I noted how typically registering for events like this has the opposite of the intended effect- instead of training dilligently and being at the top of my game, I tend to do nothing and then panic at the last moment. This experience was slightly different, but I was still very panicked the last 3 weeks leading up to the event, and considered bailing on it altogether many times.
I've lived in Seattle now for 13 years. In my time here, I've done many events. Too many 5K's to count, a half-marathon, a 69-flight stair climb, a mud/obstacle run, and now this sprint triathlon. Of all the 5K's, I think I was in shape/properly trained for maaaybe 2 of them. But, 5K's are short. You can walk one in under an hour. I've written before about my half-marathon disaster. The stair climb was pure hell, and the mud run I badly sprained my ankle on the first obstacle and had to be carried off the course on a race volunteer's back. Not my finest moment. Of all the events I've done that I've been ill-prepared for, this was by far the most painless.
The first 2 1/2 months of my training schedule went great. I did everything as written, I was feeling good about my pool swims, my runs, and my bike. I just needed to put road tires on my bike, and then I would be good. Around 4th of July or so, my scheule hit some bumps as I began traveling a lot for holidays and work. Some other life stuff hit mid-July and continues now, so to say I had a lot on my plate is an understatement. I still tried to find time to fit in workouts when I could, but I wasn't getting in all the elements evenly the last 3-4 weeks before the event. This did a number on my confidence. Also? I hadn't lost a single pound. Not one.
I began to doubt myself, my training, I was worried about the size of my body and how I would look going into the water, coming out of the water, and along the course. Just general stupid stuff. I wrote before about the challenges I was having with swimming in open water vs. a pool. I decided that a) I would just go through with it, b) just focus on one element at a time, c) realize that this is where I'm at right now and own it, and d) just get through the swim.
The day before the event, I met my friend down at registration where we picked up our race packets, bibs, timing chips and racked our bikes. As I was in line to get my stuff, I was blown away at all the shapes, sizes, and ages of the participants. My self-consciousness began to fade. I had to force myself to remember all the work I did leading up to this event, and not get caught up in the fact my body was still the same size it was prior to training. I had been in a pool or lake at least once a week for 15 weeks leading up to the event. I had run at least 2 twice a week for the 16 weeks leading up to the event. I had biked enough to know I could do 12 miles just fine. Could I have done more? Maybe. Was it possible for me to do more given all the circumstances? Not likely. I was as ready as I was going to be.
Race day I woke up at 4am, made coffee, got all my stuff ready and headed for the shuttle. I made it to the bike transition area a little before 6a, and set up my station. My friends that were doing the race found me, and we chatted for a bit. They began kicking us out of the transition area at 6:15, and herded us to the boat ramp for the swim entry. The first wave (oldest) participants began at 6:45, and my start wasn't until 7:15. So we had an hour to just hang out and wait to get in the water. The sunrise was beautiful, and many friends/supporters were there to talk to. Finally it was time to line up and start easing towards the water. No turning back now. As my group was called into the water, we waded in and listened to the countdown. We were off. I hit start on my watch. It was a sea of bubbles and legs and arms. I just gently breast-stroked my way along and got used to being in the water. The remainder of the swim, I did a combination of breast stroke and free-style. There were people doing all sorts of strokes, all different speeds. I felt pretty good about the swim. When I emerged from the water I checked my watch -16:24. Not bad. I jogged sopping wet to my bike, wrapped a towel around me, sat down on my other towel and dried my feet- putting my shoes and socks on. I ripped off my swim cap, took off my wet tank top and put on my tech shirt with bib attached, stood up, put my helmet on, and walked my bike out of the transition area. I looked at my watch, 22:00 so T1 took me 5 minutes. Not bad.
There was a sign marking where we were allowed to mount our bikes and start the ride. Some competitors behind me were riding out of the transition area and were told to dismount until the proper riding area. Ha. I began the 12 mile ride and immediately started passing people, and people were passing me. I felt good. Just out for a bike ride. The bike portion had a few good up hills and corresponding downhills, which were reversed on the way back. I hit the turn around point at 46ish minutes according to my watch, so it took me 24 minutes to get there. I figured I was on track for 48 minute total ride. The ride back seemed a lot longer. I remember the last mile or so thinking "it didn't seem this long on the way out." I passed a girl really close to the end of the bike ride, and when I was in front of her I heard the distinct sound of a tire popping. I felt bad for her, but at least she only had 1/4 mile to walk her bike. I dismounted my bike where I was told, and walked into the transition area. Holy cow, walking after all that biking? My legs were like lead. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and headed out. I didn't need to change shoes or anything in T2.
My jog was slow and pained. My lungs felt fine, it was my legs...they were so heavy. I had done one training workout where I did a 30 minute bike ride, then a 15 minute run, so I sort of knew that after a bit my legs would feel better, but WOW, this was so much more intense. By the time my legs felt better, my lungs were now struggling. I just wanted to keep moving. I was going slow, but jogging. I was passing people/people were passing me. The sun was hot on my face. I had to keep reminding myself that I had swam for 15 minutes, then biked for 50 before doing this...of course it was going to be hard. About 1/4 mile after passing the 2 mile mark, there was a short steep hill. I jogged up as much of it as I could. Husbands and boyfriends of other competitors I knew were BBQ'ing at the top of the hill. I waved, they cheered me on. It was nice. Once I reached the top of the hill, I knew the rest of the race was all down hill- figuratively and literally. I promised myself to jog the whole way, and that is what I did. I looked at my watch when I crossed the line, 1:54and change. I was very happy with that.
Given the circumstances, I was calculating a 2:30ish worst case finish time, and was happy to come in under 2 hours. I could possibly see myself doing another sprint triathlon. The distances for each event were just right, and it is nice not just doing one thing for a long time- i.e. running for two hours. If I do another one, I will for SURE get a road bike, and work on my bike-run workouts more. I was happy I went through with the event, and didn't succumb to my insecurities.