Today I completed my first triathlon (the Mission Bay Triathlon). I am officially a triathlete! It was a sprint distance: 500 meter swim, 15k bike ride, and a 5k run. I never thought I would do a triathlon, although truth be told I've wanted to do one for quite a while now, and even toyed with the idea of training for one many years ago.
It all came about a few months ago....a friend of mine had been training me for the half marathons I did this summer. I kept getting injured, and he kept telling me to cross train (ie bike and swim). I wasn't interested.....I'd never swam for exercise, and I hadn't ridden a bike in 10 years! However, in June, I gave in and tried a swim. I ended up liking it, and before I knew it, my friend suggested I register for this triathlon. So I did, and the rest is history! I've been training for the triathlon almost every day (most weeks 7 days a week; I only take a day off if I'm sick) and really felt ready for today's challenge.
Yesterday was the expo, where I got my bib, t-shirt, swim cap and timing chip. After the expo my friend and I took advantage of the early bike drop-off at the transition area. I was glad to be able to rack my bike a day early; it would be one less thing to worry about on race day. Because there were so many participants, everyone was grouped into "waves" by age group and gender. I was assigned to wave number 10 (women 40-49). We had to rack our bikes according to our wave and because I got there so early yesterday I got a prime spot on the end.
This morning I woke up at 4:20, as I wanted to get to the transition area as close to 5:00 as possible. I got there, found my bike, and started to set up my stuff. Basically, I just took a towel and put all my gear on it. It's best to lay all the equipment out in a neat, organized manner, because when I come in to change for the next event (from the swim to the bike, or from the bike to the run) I would want to just quickly grab what I need and go (the clock doesn't stop while in transition!). So on the left side of the towel I put my swim stuff (goggles and cap); in the middle I put my bike stuff (helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes) and on the right side I put my running stuff (my visor). I also had an extra container of Gatorade "just in case" and some various nutrition (Gu, Clif Bars, etc). I brought a lot, as I didn't know what I would want or need.
The transition area was buzzing with triathletes. This was the first triathlon for lots of people, so there was a lot of nervousness mixed in with the excitement. I got marked with permanent marker with my race number on my arm and leg. Soon the sun rose, and it was time to head out of the transition area. I put on my wetsuit (I wore my running capris and running bra underneath), and my friend and I made our way down to the water. They were starting the participants off in their waves every 5 minutes. Soon the wave in front me left, and it was time for me to get in the water. It was cold, but not terribly cold (about 65 degree I'd heard). I swam to the start line, and waited until our horn blew and BAM it was time to swim.
The swim actually was really hard for me, much tougher than I'd anticipated. In the pool, I've worked up to doing about 3/4 mile nonstop (30 laps), and this race was only about 1/4-1/3 mile. I thought it wouldn't be that tough. Well, doing an OWS (open water swim) is much harder than swimming in a pool. Before today, I'd only done one OWS, and can obviously use some more practice. I tired really easily, and it seemed I would never get to the last buoy. My goggles kept fogging up (despite putting anti-fog on them) and my right shoulder mysteriously started to hurt. The good news is that I never got kicked in the face, which was one of my fears. Finally, I rounded the last buoy, got out of the water, smiled for the photographer, and made my way back to the transition area. I unzipped as much as I could on the way.
Back in the first transition (T1) I quickly got my wetsuit off, dried my feet as best I could, put on my socks and running shoes (I don't have bike shoes), put on my helmet and sunglasses, drank a swig of Gatorade, and walked my bike out to the mount line (this is a line where you can't be ON your bike before you cross it).
Finally I was riding. I am not the best biker (I'm slow, as I am in all the events) and I was already tired from the swim and wet! It was a 15k (9-10 mile) ride. It went through the Sea World parking lot and then onto and around Fiesta Island. I was passed by almost everyone it seemed; not only am I slow but I don't have a road bike, only a hybrid. There were no mile markers, and it seemed to go on forever. Luckily it was mostly flat, and it was a very overcast day (in fact, I didn't see the sun all morning) so it was nice and cool. My legs were burning with lactic acid, and I was not very happy. After what seemed like forever it was back to the dismount line and to the transition. In transition 2 (T2) I re-racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my visor, drank some more Gatorade and ate a few Clif Shots, and was off on my run.
The run was 5k (3.1 miles). I loved the run! I was pretty tired from the swim and bike, but not overly exhausted. It was still nice and cool, and there were not too many runners out (most people had already finished the race, and the rest were behind me). I chatted with a few people here and there (iPods are banned in triathlons) which helped to pass the time. I was glad to see mile markers on the running course. All too soon I had one final push, and the finish line was in sight. The announcer was asking first-timers to raise their hands, which I did. I got a big cheer and a call-out from the announcer. I crossed the finish line, and immediately burst into happy tears.
I am very proud of myself. It was not a fast race--I am slow as molasses--but I did it! I completed the entire course! I am a TRIATHLETE! In a few weeks I have that double triathlon, which is a swim/bike/run/swim/bike/run course. After today, I might be crazy, but I love to challenge myself. And on the docket in January is the Carlsbad Half Marathon, so I need to start training for that (today was the first day that I ran in a month; right after the Disneyland Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend I had sprained my foot). And I look forward to more triathlons next year...now that I know what they are like, I can fine-tune my training and transitions. I have a lot going on to keep me challenged and healthy!
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