It is 5 AM. I am lying in bed, perfectly still. Aaron is asleep, and I can see that the sun is about to come up. I am not ready to get up, but I am not able to go back to sleep either. My mind is racing, even if I am not. How will it go? Do I have everything I need? Will I have fun? The weather is predicted to be sunny and dry, but it will be a cool fall morning. After a while of just staying still, at least resting my muscles, it is time for the alarm.
I get up, get dressed (showered the night before), have a sip of water and have an adverse reaction to it. My early morning eating/drinking woes continue. Oh well, I won’t try that again today. I feel pretty ready otherwise. I put on BodyGlide over all the areas I think will be sticky in the wetsuit. Aaron is ready to go, and we drive over to the site. It is only 5 minutes away from the hotel.
While Aaron is performing a tire check, I head off to find twist ties for the bike race number. Then I get body marked, meet Aaron with the bike, and head over to transition. I set my bike in the rack, and set out my towel like I’d practiced just a few days ago. Basically from toe to head, as I get to the area, with some extra Gus and waterbottles. I put on the wetsuit, as I notice a few others doing the same. I wander down to the water, looking out at the mist coming off as it is warmer than the air, in fact it is quite chilly out. I hope the swim goes well.
The race organizers make some announcements, and it is time for my wave, the first one, to go. The horn sounds and what seems like a phalanx of swimmers rushes toward the water. I follow, but not particularly enthusiastically. At first I am breathing very fast, just feeling panicky. Some water gets in my mouth. The buoy looks very far away. Putting my face down in the water and realizing it is dark, and I am not headed toward anything but deeper water causes me to wonder why I am doing this, and if I should just turn back now, before I get into into a bad situation. I haven’t done this enough, I can’t get my hr down, aaagh! Why would anyone swim out into the middle of a lake?
I tell myself to just keep breaststroking, and following the others. Safety in numbers, I guess. I try about 3 freestyle strokes, and more panicky feelings. Fine, fine, just keep breaststroking. I am looking up every breath at this point and then I notice the buoy is a little closer. It is not that far. You can get that far, I tell myself, and I begin to calm down, doing more freestyle and noting the sun is reflecting low in the sky on my left. Soon, there is room to feel comfortable swimming, and the buoy is a very near, visible target. Around the backside, and now my target is the beach. Good! The beach, I can go back now. I start freestyling in earnest, and actually pass other swimmers. The beach gets closer, I get more comfortable, and before I know it I can see the lake bottom. Just a few more strokes, and I can put my feet down. Standing, I make my way to the shore, and even get halfway out of the wetsuit. I think the swim has gone pretty well, for a first attempt, and now my favorite part, the bike, awaits.
Getting to the transition, I wipe my face and arms with the towel, just like I had done in my mind, then my feet. The wet suit pops off easily, much easier than it has when I tried it in Cape Cod or on dry land. Good! Despite baby powder in my socks, they still prove annoying to put on, and I probably lose some valuable ticks there. Helmet, decide against armwarmers, even if it means I am cold, gloves, swig of gatorade and I need to go. Aaron is yelling loud from the sidelines, “Go! You can do it! Great job!.” I shoot him a look of “man, this is crazy” and grab the bike to walk it to the mounting zone, and then I am off. With being wet, it is a cool first two miles as the air rushes past my arms. I can actually feel the goosebumps. But I am not shivering, and before I know it I am dry enough to feel comfortable, and clinking through my familiar gears. I am not tearing up the bike course, by any means. For one, I still feel a little weird from the swim and it takes a few miles to get my breath into cycling rhythm, and it is a very short bike course. The second reason is, I still have a 5k to run, and I don’t want to waste the whole tank. However, I am riding strong, and passing many. I am passed by some others as well, but it is about even. Before I know it we are heading along the wide flat field which leads back to the park road, and I am into transition. A decent bike. Off with the shoes, on with the running shoes, remove helmet, put on hat, “RACE BELT” Aaron shouts from the sidelines, he has seen me come and go for each leg… – I know, I should do this all as I leave the Trans, but I am not thinking like that at the time… I even reracked my bike with back wheel in, which takes more time. WHY??? I am not going out on it again? Silly me. Annoyed by water bottle which has wandered away to my rack mate’s area… drink, and time to go.
I settle into my trot, and am running along a pretty trail, but there are rocks, roots, pine cones, and … HILLS. Yes, not a flat course. I cannot run up hills right now with the tendinitis, so I just walk them. My pace is not blistering but it feels very comfortable. However, I am getting passed like crazy. I guess I should not be surprised. I spent the least time on running, have some injury issues, and most other people who are runners can run quite well. It also does not help that I have no idea where I am on the course, or what my pace actually is. I wasn’t able to see this part yesterday. But I keep trotting along, knowing I will finish, and will not be last. This makes me happy. I am even able to chat with others going by (yes, not exerting myself to the max).
Finally, I can hear the announcer, but still maybe a tenth of a mile to go, kick it into a faster pace, and hear Aaron, once again “GO BUG!!!” This is great, and I can see the finish gates, sprinting toward them. Is that time right?? 1:37? Holy cow, that is awesome for my first one, I think! I was thinking somewhere around 2hrs would be my time, but this is with over 20 minutes ahead of that! YES! And more importantly, I had fun, feel great, and want to do it again!! AH, why is it September?!!
I finally locate Aaron, give him a big hug, and we walk over to find the food. I have earned myself a USAT car magnet, and a twinkie (this is a work joke) for my efforts!
About the event:
I think it was the first women’s tri done in the Hartford area, but it was put on by the Hartford marathon people, so it was fully well done. I never got confused about where to go, the course was safe with police or volunteers at every intersection, laid out well, and the venue scenic. The race director/refs were very clear in their presentations Saturday. I have no quibbles and would recommend this as a first race for any woman wanting to Tri.
Here are my split times:
191 85 TASHA VAN ES PEPPERELL MA 1:37:21 42/54 F3539 134 17:11 127 39:53 226 40:19
That is, 1:37 overall; 17:11 swim, 39:53 bike, 40:19 5k – 191 of 253 overall, 42 of 54 in my age group. My swim and bike times were solid middle of the pack times (134, 127 overall), while the run, EHHH, not so much. So, I know what I need to do to improve.