Yesterday was my "tri-iversary"...that is, one year ago yesterday I competed in my first-ever triathlon, the Mission Bay Triathlon. This triathlon (which happens to be the birthplace of the triathlon; the first one was this one, in 1974) was special to me for two reason: my dear friend, Wendy, was doing it as her first triathlon, and it would be the first triathlon that I would do again, thereby being able to measure my progress on the same course. The fact that I got to do the same race on my tri-iversary was a bonus. I originally had not planning on doing this race this year, but I wanted to support Wendy in her first effort, and plus, it's fun! It's a 500 meter swim, 15k bike, and 5k run.
Saturday was the expo. First, my family and I walked in a 1-mile walk called "Shamu and You", which was a fundraiser for Rady Children's Hospital, a place that has saved my daughter's life on a few occasions and is very special to us. The 1-mile walk took us through Sea World, which was fun for the whole family. Afterwards, my whole family went to the expo, where I picked up my packet, timing chip, cap and shirt. I also got to rack my bike. This is the 6th triathlon I have done this year, and this is the only tri that I have seen which gives you this option. I was happy, once again, to have my bike racked the day before; it's nice having one less thing to worry about in the morning. As I would see the next morning, I would be very grateful that I was able to do this.
Yesterday I got up early, ate a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, got dressed, and hit the road. I left in plenty of time; I left the house at 5:15, and transition opened at 5:45. It takes about 25 minutes or so to get to Mission Bay, where the triathlon was, so I figured this was plenty of time. Last year, I arrived there AFTER transition had already opened, easily slipped into the front, closest parking lot and had plenty of time to set up my stuff. Well, yesterday was a different story. I arrived at Mission Bay around 5:30ish, but there was TONS of traffic; it was backed up for miles! The close parking lot was already full. A second lot was full. I was in traffic until after 6:00, and I was getting more and more anxious. Finally, I found a spot (far away) and walked with a bunch of other anxious triathletes to transition. My only sense of relief was that I didn't have to worry about either walking my bike so far, or finding a place on the bike rack, since it was already there!
I finally arrived in transition, got bodymarked immediately, and then went to my bike. My friend and bike partner, Angi, was there again cheering (she was at my Olympic-distance 2 weeks ago as well) as her husband was a swim buddy (a swimmer who volunteers to swim with struggling or nervous swimmers). She was hanging out next to the fence where my spot was, and it was nice to chat with her while I set up. Soon, Wendy and another friend of ours came (they, too, got stuck in the horrible traffic). At that point, transition was about to close, so we really had to rush and hurry, which I hated.
I was in wave 13---out of 14 waves. Ugh! That meant that I didn't get to start until long after the official start of the race. Wave 1 started at 6:45 or so, and my wave didn't start until 7:55. That's a long time to have to wait, outside the transition area and nervously watching the swim! Finally at about 7:30 Wendy and I got in the water to warm up. I've long since learned that a warm-up is essential to me not panicking in the water. We warmed-up, swam a bit, and then waited for our wave.
At 7:55 it was our turn! We lined up for the water start with all the other women aged 40-49, and suddenly we were off! I had a realization in my Olympic-distance swim 2 weeks ago that the Oly swim is actually easier for me. Why? Well, even in a pool, it takes me about 500 yards or so for me to warm up...my shoulders, my arms, even my back can be cranky in the water until I get 500 yards done. Then, usually, the rest of my swim is easy. In the Oly a few weeks ago, I struggled a bit for the first 500 meters, but then I was warmed up and actually enjoyed the last 1000 meters. Yesterday, as in every sprint I've done, I struggled a bit. Not with my breathing, or even with shoulder pain, as I have in the past...it just seemed to take forever. I was happy to finally turn the last buoy and exit the water. Measured on the same course from last year, I shaved off about a minute in the swim. Yay!
I ran into transition, and was determined to have a shorter T1 (transition 1) than in my Oly, which was several minutes too long. However, I had a hard time there. For some reason, I was woozy; perhaps it was the combination of the swim and running back to transition. I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off; I was trying to step on the legs to quickly pull it off, as I usually do, but kept losing my balance and almost falling. I quickly put on my shoes but struggled putting on my Garmin. Looking back, I should have just stuck it in my bento box on my bike, and waited to strap it onto my wrist on the run. I wasted about a minute of so just fooling with it, trying to get the strap in the hole. I wasn't thinking clearly!
The bike was easy. Last year, I really struggled with the bike...I was on my old hybrid bike, and as a new biker my legs were killing me. Yesterday, however, it was much easier. I shaved off 13 minutes on this easy, mostly flat cruise around Fiesta Island. I'm still not fast, not by a long-shot, but my legs weren't burning like they were last year, and although I got passed by tons of people, I actually passed a few people myself. It was an enjoyable 10+ mile ride (although, just like last year it should have been only 9 miles, as the race is advertised as a 15k bike).
I had a quick T2 (transition 2), just threw off my helmet, racked my bike, and was off on the run!
Actually, I was very worried about the run. I wrote recently how I've been plagued by plantar fasciitis, and how in recent weeks it's been worse than ever. I had been going to acupuncture, which seemed to help but then stopped helping. I hadn't actually run since last week. I was resigned that if my foot hurt, I would walk the 3.1 miles. However, my plantar fasciitis didn't bother me at all during the run! I did have a shin splint in my left foot, which really hurt, though. Regardless, it was a pleasant run, and while I took more walk breaks than I would have liked (besides the shin splint, I also had a hard time catching my breath for the first 2 miles!) I still shaved a minute or so off my time from last year. I was happy to finally spot the finish line up ahead, and sprinted to the finish, thrilled to be done but with gas still left in my tank.
Overall, I was 16 minutes faster yesterday than I was on the same race one year ago. I'm very proud of myself for this. There is still room for improvement, in all 4 areas (swim, bike, run and T1) but this a measurable indication of how much stronger I've become in the past year. Now I need to think about my race schedule, in terms of triathlons, for next year, as this was my last tri of 2011.