Three events, three decades, one new obsession

A little more than a year ago, I wrote on this here blog that Brandon and I had decided to start training for a triathlon. I was a few weeks from my 29th birthday. And I had become fully aware of the fact that I could barely run around the block.

On Monday, two days after my 30th birthday, I completed my first sprint triathlon. It took me two hours, three minutes and 14.8 seconds. I walked a good portion of the run because it was so dang hot. But, I did it. I finished. Not quite as well as I expected to do, but I honestly can’t wait to do another one.

Here’s my race day wrap up:

6:15–Woke up, ate oatmeal with almond milk and peanut butter and made some coffee against Brandon’s better judgement. I figured I wouldn’t be getting into the pool until 10 a.m., so I had some time for the coffee to kick in and do its thing.

6:45–Packed up the car, reviewed pre-race checklist. Took Pepto for my nervous stomach. Took Advil to pre-empt upper back pain. (I later learned ibuprofen is a horrible idea before a race. Thankfully, I didn’t learn from experience and hope to never make that mistake again.)

7:15–Left the house. Got 10 minutes down the road and realized we left the bike pump at home. Mentally congratulated myself for wanting to pump up the bike before we left the house. Turned around to pick up bike pump. Resolved to take as little gear as possible to future races.

7:30–Picked up pump. Told Brandon to quit freaking out. (He has a tendency to get upset if things don’t go exactly according to plan. I guess we all do that at times.) Lectured him about the fact that I need him to relax so I can relax. He seemed to chill out.

7:45–Arrived at Plano Center. Searched for parking. Parked. Asked Brandon if we should pump tires before leaving the car. Brandon said we should wait until we get to the transition area.

8:00–Got to transition area. Commenced getting excited and wondering where to go first. Saw a line and got in it.

8:05–Line turned out to be for the chip. Got ankle strap chip. Found the guy doing body marking and submitted to having my arms and calf marked up with my race number and age. Decided I looked like a real triathlete now.

8:08–Headed to transition area to set up bike alone because only participants were allowed in the transition area. Searched for an open slot. Momentarily freaked out until I found a miraculously open slot at the end of the rack. End spots were rare, so I was thankful to not be in the very center. Quickly set up my transition area. Shoes, socks, water bottles, Honey Stingers. Affixed my race number to my bike. Got some help from another participant topping off my tires.

8:15–Realized the transition area was closing. Quickly sprayed some sunscreen on myself and another participant, a woman with an Eastern European accent who said she didn’t think to bring sunscreen. Realized I love all triathletes. Everyone was so nice!

8:20–Left transition area and headed inside to wait for the swim. Set up my mini swim transition (sports bra change and towel). Spent the next hour and a half alternately talking to people in the swim start area and going to the bathroom. Took more Pepto. Nerves=bitchin’.

10:00–My turn to hop in the pool. Even though I held them in place, my goggles promptly filled with water. Floundered in the water for a bit trying to keep moving but also dump my goggles. Pretty sure I was the only person out of 500 who had to adjust her goggles at the first wall. At least I didn’t walk and didn’t use a snorkle like some people I saw!

Here’s where I lost track of time. I alternated my swim stroke between a crawl and a breaststroke. I now realize this was more for the sake of keeping track of what was going on around me than because I was super exhausted. I can swim this distance pretty easily on a normal day, but because there was so much going on around me, my nerves were a little raw. I grew a little more fatigued than normal from the free style. At the same time, I was trying not to bump into people or get kicked in the face. I was also trying to gauge whether to let someone pass me or pick up my pace to stay ahead of them. I finished the swim in less than nine minutes. Really slow for freestyle, but since there was so much going on, I gave myself the liberty to move on and leave the swim behind me without letting it weigh me down too much.

I had set up a little mini swim transition so I could change sports bras. I didn’t have a proper tri top and didn’t want to spend money on one unless I knew for sure that I wanted to keep doing these races.  Now that I’ve done one and know that I love it, I’ll invest in better gear for future races. However, for this one, I did the swim in my tri shorts and a cheapy sports bra and changed into my more supportive sports bra between the swim and the cycle portion. My transition time was really long because of this change, and I won’t be doing that in the future. I wanted to be under three minutes. It took me five minutes to quit shaking like a leaf, change, run outside and get out of the bike transition area.

Once I got to my bike, I realized I had forgotten to affix the bib sticker to my helmet. I figured I would have to go without it and hope no officials stopped me for a rules violation (which would have resulted in a time penalty, I think). I threw on my tank and shoes, strapped on my helmet and hoped for the best. Luckily, I saw Brandon standing just inside the transition area. I ran up to him hollering that I needed my sticker which was still in our backpack. Like a champ, he dug it out and slapped it on my helmet. (This little detour cost me a bit of time.) I hopped on the bike and freaked out a little trying to get into my pedals, but thanks to Brandon’s coaching, I calmed down enough to get situated in the mount area. And I was off!

Once I was safely on the bike, I felt fine. The bike is really my forte, the part I love and feel like I’m somewhat talented at. The course was a 7.5 mile loop that had to be completed twice. The course was windy and hilly but so much fun. The loop went around Oak Point Nature Preserve in Plano, so there’s lots of pretty green areas along with some city street straightaways and nice descents. Thankfully, the killer hills on Los Rios Boulevard were in the first third of the loop, so the adrenaline helped me push up the hills with some stamina leftover. My goal was to finish the bike portion in less than an hour. I saw Brandon’s parents and sisters along the way, so that really helped keep me going. Looking back, I know I would have done better on the bike portion if I had started the swim earlier. Every time I saw another rider, I got more motivated, but the fact is there weren’t a ton of people still on that portion of the course. So, there were times I would realize I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could. I finished the bike portion in an hour and 57 seconds though. Good enough! The funniest thing happened on the bike course. I was cruising along Los Rios after conquering those hills and this old guy came riding up next to me and asked what the bike race was for. I glanced over and noticed he wasn’t wearing a bib, so I asked if he was a participant. He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, so I told him it was a triathlon. At the next intersection, I turned to stay on the course, and he wished me a nice race and went on with his morning ride. Too funny! He just utilized the course because it kept him out of traffic for a couple miles along his route.

I saw Brandon about two thirds of the way through the first loop. He started running along next to me and shouted out that one of my friends was on the phone, so I shouted a hello to her, told him I loved him and kept going. Finally got around to the top of the course and headed in for the second loop. At this point, I knew I needed to keep going but those hills were up ahead. I buckled down and got through it, but it was a little more difficult this time since there was no one out there to compete with. The last loop, I was pretty much alone. I caught up with another participant (or maybe she caught me…can’t remember) and we traded leads back and forth throughout the final loop. Finally, as we came around to where I knew Brandon was, I passed her again and gave her some encouragement to keep going through one last hill. She thanked me and we headed in to the final straightaway with her about three bike lengths back. She got close enough to say, “I just…can’t…pass…you…” I have no idea who she was or what her time was, but that little acknowledgement was encouraging. I felt like I was actually good at something athletic. For a moment anyway!

Once we were in the dismount area, she ditched me at the run transition. My legs felt like they were made of lead. I had practiced going from a bike to the run, but it was usually after spin class with a break before I started running. The fastest I’ve ever transitioned from the bike to run was in about five minutes because I stopped to load up my bike. This was so much faster. My transition was only a minute and 32 seconds which was not long enough to rest. I swigged some Gatorade and started jogging. Oy. Saw a few friends as I was leaving the transition area, so I tried to run through well with their encouragement. Once I was alone, though I started walking. I walked the first mile. Kind of embarrassed about that, and I can honestly say it was the longest mile of my life. So hot! Once I got to the second mile, I started running a bit more, but still alternated between walking and running.

I hit the run portion at 11:15-ish. It was so, so hot, and I was really struggling. It was more than a mile before I saw a hydration station, and by the time I got there, the water and Hammer Heed were warm. Blech. There is nothing refreshing about a lukewarm energy drink. Brandon showed up again in the second mile and tried to get me to run more, but I was so tired. Finally, in the last mile, I started to think I could do it.

There was a girl I had been on pace with who rounded the last cone at about the same time as me. I had seen her a mile or so back walking and running alternately, but she wasn’t doing much better than I was. As we rounded the final cone to head to the finish line, she came up and said, “Take it in together?” At first, I didn’t understand what she meant, but once I got it, I just said “OK, let’s go.” The fact was, we both needed a little push at the end, and she gave that to me. I know without her I would not have finished as well as I did. During the last mile, two of her friends came up, and my mother-in-law and Brandon arrived to cheer us both on. Brandon’s mom Kathy had brought little squirt bottles and squirted both of us with cold water. That gave me a little refreshing burst to keep going. Of course, that last mile was a steady incline. Gentle, but all uphill. Yikes. But we both made it. I dashed off a little ahead of my new friend since the finish was a narrow sidewalk and I wanted to finish with a slight push. However, she still beat me by a minute overall.

Once I got to the finish, all I wanted to do was collapse. There was only a tiny patch of shade, so I went and sat there in the grass with an ice pack on the back of my neck and drank a cold Gatorade and then some water. I was just so thankful to be finished!

Overall, my time wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. I thought I would finish in an hour and 45 minutes, but it took me just over two hours. I know if I had run the whole 5K, I would have done so much better overall. However, my good friend Jess ended up going to the hospital with heat exhaustion. She saw several other people there from the race who also had to get fluids, and as I was resting in the shade, I saw a guy being wheeled out on a stretcher. I feel pretty confident that had I run hard all the way to the end, I might have suffered the same exhaustion. It wasn’t worth the medical bill, especially for something preventative. I’ll do better next time in COOLER weather.

Everyone has been asking me how the race was for me, and I have been telling everyone it was just so much fun. And it really was. I had a blast, and I can’t wait to do another race. But, more than that, I feel healthier than I have since high school. Mentally, I’ve struggled over the past few years with mild depression, and I can honestly say that all this exercise has given me a better outlook on life. I can actually tell the difference if I’ve skipped a few days of working out. I get irritable and grumpy for no good reason, and it’s actually more difficult to deal with life if I haven’t done something physical in a few days.

At the moment, Brandon and I are trying to figure out to what extent we want to put time and money into this sport. We don’t have a ton of money laying around, and we want to be good stewards of what God has given us. I borrowed a road bike for this race (my personal bike is a mountain bike), so I’ll need to purchase one before I do another triathlon. I will probably be looking for a used bike, hopefully with a decent component set, and Brandon will do the same. We had a good chat this week about whether it’s wise to spend our money on this when there are so many other things that warrant our money and attention as Christians. The conclusion I keep coming around to is that God gave us these bodies to steward as well. The thought of not doing another race literally brings tears to my eyes. I guess it’s the endorphins or something, but I just feel like a different person. Given how good for me it has been to train for something like this and then actually complete the race, I know it would not be God-honoring to not continue. And if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. So, I guess from now on, look for a few more posts from me that have to do with exercise and training. And I’ll be sure to post about the new bike once I find one. =)

I know it’s a bit cliche, but this verse has been on my mind since I began this process. So, I suppose it’s appropriate to leave off here. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1