Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Third Tri is a Charm

This past Sunday, I participated in my third and most challenging triathlon. It was the Triangle Triathlon, a race Bill participated in last year. The location of the race had moved this year from a murky brown lake filled with possible toxins to a lake that is used to cool the nuclear power plant. Most people said it was a wonderful change. I am just happy to be alive and not glowing.

Our day began at 4:15am (yes, we were wondering if there were ever any evening triathlons we could do), and we were on our way to the race site by 4:45 am. We arrived in plenty of time which was a definite advantage due to the lack of parking at the park. We were able to set up our gear (and fix it as we both had racked our bikes incorrectly) and get body marked with ease. There was also a little bit of time for meditation, which I really needed before the race.

I had signed up for this race on a spur of the moment whim. After the process was complete, I began to freak out about what I had done. This race was far longer than anything I had done, and the swim section was in a lake, not a pool. There was also a time limit of 2 hours and 30 minutes that really scared me. I have never been removed from a race because of a time limit, and I certainly did not want it to happen in this race.

As we got ready to head down to the beach, we found some friends of friends who had also signed up for the race. It was so nice to have someone to talk to as we waited for the wave start to begin. The husband of our friends, M, started first. Soon, Bill was off in the water. As the waves continued every four minutes, it was soon time for A and I to head to the lake. It was so nice to have her there and in the same wave. I didn't have time to think about how nervous I was or worry about anything. We were knee deep in water, watching the group before us head to the first buoy before I knew it. Then, the horn sounded and it was our turn.

Since the other tris I have done have been pool swims, it was a whole different thing to do an open water swim. First, your whole age group starts at once. Second, the water is dark and murky. Third, you have to watch where you are going so you don't miss a marker and get off course. There are arms and legs all over the place. It is hard to tell where you are until you are right at someone's legs. The swim was also 750 meters, 500 more meters than my longest race. I have to say, though, that I was proud of my swim. Sure, it was slow going, but I never stopped or had to grab a rescue boat. I felt comfortable in the water. I think if I practice the spotting, I could do quite well. I did get run over by some of the men who started behind me, but I still was not the last in my group to reach the shore. I finished the swim in 22:56.

I was on the shore and started the long run to the transition area. My transition time was very high, 4:33, but there was a long run from the lake up to the transition area, then to the end to enter. I hate being barefoot, but I managed to run up the grass without an incident. I was off on my bike.

Biking is not my strongest discipline. I ride a sport hybrid bike. It is a nice bike for cruising, but not really meant for racing. If I had a road bike, I am sure my time would improve just from the change of gear. After this race, I am very interested in getting a road bike and working on my cycling. I must have been passed by 100 cyclists on the course. The course itself was not too bad. There was one dramatic hill (I am not the best hill climber), but the rest was relatively flat. I gave up 7 spaces during the bike ride, and it was tough watching all those folks pass me by. Still, I kept moving, and finished the 17.5 mile course in 1:16:40.

My second transition was much better as I didn't have to change shoes. It would have been great if I could have gotten my bike racked properly, but it still only took 2:01. I was off on the run, seeing my friend A heading toward the finish on my way out.

The run was different. It was a 5K course (3.1 miles), but most of the running was on a trail. I had never done a trail run before, so it was a different feel being on a dirt path than asphalt. It was also starting to get hot. The beginning of the run was in a shaded area, but it soon gave way to high grass and no covering. I kept moving forward as best I could, stopping to dump water on my head and drink as I could. I did have to walk (really must start doing brick workouts!), but I kept moving. I really was beginning to think it was the longest 5K of my life when I finally got to the turn around point. I was tired and really staring to question why I do these races. I headed back to the fork, and a race volunteer told me I was near the asphalt. As soon as I hit road, I felt much better. I was in the parking lot, and could hear the finish. I ran as best I could up to the finish line, and knew I wasn't the last to cross. I finished the run in 40:46, not stellar, but not too far off my PR of 38:00.

My goal was to complete this race in the 2 hour, 30 minute limit. I finished in 2:26:54. Not bad for my longest triathlon. I know I can do better. Not that it is over, I am looking forward to my next event (a shorter tri in August), and even considering an Olympic distance event for next year.

Check out the local paper's story about the event. Take a look at the photo gallery as well. Photo #28 shows my husband running toward his bike during T1. He is the blond in the black suit on the left.

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