Warming: be prepared for a ridiculously long recap and far too many photos of myself.
A 4:15 alarm is never a welcome thing, especially when you wake-up every hour wondering if it’s time for your fate to be determined. Soon it was time to roll out of bed and head to Morgan Hill for the Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon: 3/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike and 5 mile run.
(Triathlon tip from Coach Paul: apparently there is no “official” or “standard” distance for sprint triathlons. Technically anything less than an Olympic distance is considered a sprint. Who knew.)
As I rolled into the event I saw Chris McCrary, one of the leaders on the Forward Motion Race Club that I’m a part of, and he was quick to help me through the set-up process. Tape your number here, rack your bike there, etc. – he knew this was my first and it just the type of newbie support that I needed.
After a quick bathroom break and body marking, I wiggled into my wetsuit and made my way to the start of the swim with Chicken Face to watch the waves ahead of me take off. I nervously took a Gu and before you knew it, kissed Chicken Face goodbye and I was ready to go.
As I stepped into the edge of the water, my feet quickly sank in the mud. Oh no. Mud = murky water. I put my head down and my suspicions were verified, I couldn’t see anything but green and my hands. Strangely, at least being able to see my hand brought some comfort. I swam out to the far right side of the buoys as it was a deep water start. Looking back, I should have spent this time warming up, but I thought my elevated heart rate was enough.
As the yellow caps went off, the pink caps made their way to the start. I stayed to the right (just like track, the fast folks go on the left) and within a matter of moments, we were off. There wasn’t much kicking, punching, touching or anything to be drama or panic-worthy. So I just swam and like clockwork, my heart rate was overwhelming me. NO. NO. NO! NO PANIC ATTACKS.
I knew in my head that this panic was unwarranted so I stopped, did some breaststroke, then flipped on my back for a quick moment to get my composure. It only took about 30 seconds but it was worth it because it worked. I flipped back over and counted. 1-2-3-breathe-1-2-3-breathe-1-2-3-sight/breathe-1-2-3-breather. It seemed to do the trick because from that moment on I found my rhythm and just swam. The swimming felt like it came naturally, as did my sighting, and I wanted to smile in the water.
The swim was actually around an island in the reservoir and as I rounded the corner, I sighted and could see the end of the swim. I did it. I had overcome my panic attack and went on to actually enjoy the open water swimming.
As I neared the end, I remembered the tips that my coach and friends had told me: keep swimming until your hand scrapes the bottom three times. As soon as I felt the ground, I popped up and started my way up the ramp while ripping the top half of my wetsuit off.
I heard Chicken Face cheering for me and I screamed at him, “What was my swim time?!” Apparently my watch didn’t start and I had no idea what my pace actually was.
He shouted “24 minutes,” back at me.
“24?!” I questioned.
“Yes!” he replied.
With a minor panic attack and a newbie swimmer, this was exactly the confidence booster that I needed. I slipped on my cycling gear (no gloves, no socks – lesson learned), switched watches (annoying) and took my baby on to the next leg.
Swim Time: 23:46 / 1:49/100 yard pace
Transition Time: 2:00
Pumped with excitement from accomplishing my biggest fear, I made my way to the bike course and quickly popped into my aerobars. BOOM! Another fear accomplished and I stayed there for a majority of the ride (except photo ops and the hill climbs).
More than anything, this leg made me appreciate people who say, “On your left!” You can scream it at me, you can politely warn me, I don’t care, just say it. Because when I almost eat it from seeing a pothole to late so I swerve and you get pissed because I slightly swerved, well maybe you should have told me you were trying to pass!
I continued on my way and was fairly uneventful outside of the ridiculously good time I was having. I love cycling.
As I approached the transition, I could see girls getting out of their shoes while riding and while admirable, there was no way I was going to attempt that just yet.
Bike Time: 51:00 / 18.8 mph pace
Unsure of how my body would react by this point and given that it was an out and back course, I decided to try and maintain my pace at 7:00/miles and then decide as the turnaround how I wanted to pace the second half.
I started out with small steps until I quickly regained my balance and stride. When I saw other athlete’s ages on their legs, I kept an eye out for the 25-29 age groupers. As I reached the turnaround, my stomach was “sloshy” so I downed some ClifBloks and tried to increase the pace to sub 7 minutes.
As I rounded the corner, I ripped off my sunglasses and pushed it in. FINISHED!
Run Time: 34:38 / 6:55 pace
I crossed the finish line feeling fantastic. I wasn’t exhausted or tired, but instead, proud of this next step in my journey. To add to my excitement, I found out that I placed in my age group and couldn’t be happier.
Finish Time: 1:52:49
3rd in my age group, 23rd female overall
Overall, I felt fantastic and it reconfirmed why I’m on this journey. Taking risks, overcoming fears and pushing myself to new levels. I think I’m in love.
Next up…lessons learned from my first tri.