Sunday, April 20, 2008

Race Report: Tri for the Cure – 400m/8mi/2mi

Pre-Event: The event occurred at Arrowhead Park in Chandler. I must say that even for my first triathlon, things didn’t seem to be very well organized. Isn’t it silly to have your transition area set up, registered, checked in, and not be able to be marked unless you go all the way back to transition and get your bib?

I was participating as #911. As many jokes as I made about people knowing what number to dial when I fell off my bike, etc… it was an ice-breaker for some conversation with the ladies around me. Athletes of all ages and abilities – Girls Rock!

My race time was scheduled for 9:20am, and transition had to be set up by 5:30am. Since it was close by, I brought my stuff, set it up, and went home to eat, and panic. I will say that I’m not sure that I was feeling very confident in my preparation as my calves had been bothering me, so my training was not as intense or consistent as I would have liked. I got back to the event at 9:00am, so that I would have some time to panic while I was there as well – panic is good right? Thankfully Drums and Tova were in town and came to watch – and when it turned out that the race was almost 2 hours behind schedule (remember me saying it wasn’t well organized?) we all went to get a bagel together at Einstein’s and had such a great time that I forgot to be nervous. Before I knew it, it was time to move!

The Swim: The swim occurred in an Olympic size pool, as under no circumstance am I getting in Tempe Town Lake in the near future – and certainly not without some serious antibiotics!! The pool had a deep end that we were all organized into by race number, and were able to warm up just a little before starting. I felt strongest about my pool experience going into the event, as I had been training hard, and had recently been swimming 500 meters in preparation. I was ready! It was a gorgeous sunny day, warm, but not too hot, and the pool was nice and cool – clear water. I started out reminding myself to go slowly, and be patient (Drums had been given strict instructions not to cheer until the last lap).

Here’s a fair approximation of my mental conversation during the first lap – “Nice and slow… 1,2,3,4, breathe, 2,2,3,4, breathe…. 7,2,3,4, breathe… should be hitting the wall any time now… water’s kind of cloudy, I’ll just lift my head out of the water and see where it’s at… AHH!!! I’m only half way across the pool?? OMG OMG!… This means I’ve been training in a 25 meter pool and all this time I thought it was 50. AHH!! That means I’ve NEVER swum even close to 400 meters!! Oh no… I can’t do this. I’m just going to get out at the end of the lane… if I can even reach it. OMG!”

Luckily there was a guy cheering me on at the end of the lane… and blocking my way out of the pool. I felt like too much of an idiot to give up right there, so I decided on a new strategy… backstroke! I would say that I was embarrassed about this but the swimming class was really pretty bad overall – lots of ladies of all ages hanging onto the sides of the pool and taking minutes before getting back in. Overall I just wanted to get through it at that point, and backstroke was my best chance.

Dutifully Drums waited until the last lap, and then walked down the edge of the pool cheering me on and taking pictures the whole way J Overall I finished 335th out of 500 women in the swim – not bad considering it was a first time achievement – and backstroke is slower than freestroke! 11:22

T1: My mind was in full blown panic mode after that disastrous epiphany in the pool. I jogged into transition, and decided to take my time (good thing I found out later that the transitions weren’t timed. I could have used a hug, and some extra cheering though!) and dried off, got my knee-high socks on (must find a better way to get high socks on wet legs) threw a bra over my bathing suit, grabbed my Ryka Iron Girl t-shirt with bib attached, and my pink athletic skirt. Grabbed my bike, and made my way out to the absolute scariest part of my event – the Bike! No idea how long I spent in here, but it was minutes.

The Bike: I should point out here that prior to this event I had never ridden my bike outside for longer than then distance of my street (which is a cul-de-sac for crying out loud). This was no fault of my own. I promised J when he bought me the bike that I wouldn’t ride on the streets by myself, and Lilac’s bike got tossed in the garbage when she brought it in to get fixed, so I had no one to ride with! I was most concerned about losing control and falling into traffic, and all of the turns. I’ve never ridden a street bike before – and those tires are thin!

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. They gave us wide lanes for the turns, and it was two laps – from Chandler, to Dobson, to Ray, to Alma School and around again. I did not pass a single person, and I was passed by close to 20 girls – but I stayed on my bike, I turned as best I could, and I thought that I had kept my legs pretty fresh overall. I was proud of myself for getting through it. Somehow I ranked 506th out of 500 women… I guess that means I was really bad? The highest number I saw was ranking 524th… so I still wasn’t the worst. J Oh well… room to improve. 47:54

T2: So remember when I said I had kept my legs relatively fresh? Yeah that was before I tried to get off the bike… which I couldn’t do! I got yelled at quite a bit for not dismounting in the proper place, but I swear it was not for lack of trying. I eventually got off my bike, got it back on the rack, got my helmet off and took off at an intense trot. Again, not timed so I have no idea how long I spent in transition, but it wasn’t nearly as long as the first one.

The Run: The run was just about as abysmal as I expected. Being one of the youngest adult competitors (there were only 89 girls that started after me) most people had completed the race before I started my run. It was two laps around Arrowhead Park, and mentally/physically this is where it really got tough.

It was hot. It was certainly hotter than it would have been if I had been able to race 2 hours earlier as scheduled. I was really tired physically - the legs were just gassed – but I was much more tired emotionally. I couldn’t believe that I was so close to achieving a goal, and yet I wasn’t sure I could do it. My race intervals consisted of “I’ll try to trot to that trash can. Ok I’ll walk to the baseball field. OK, I’ll try to run along the edge of the fence. Now walk to that tree”. It was a struggle. The worst part was that the volunteers really tried to draw me to the finish line after one lap – and it took all of my guts to say “No, I still have one lap left.”

I have to say here that although the race was poorly organized, the volunteers on the run course were amazing. They were cheering me on, and supportive, and confident in me - and laughed when I asked each one “Am I last??!!” I’m not sure I could have gotten through it without them. Thank you Volunteers! I was 482nd of 500 in the run. 30:00 flat.

The Finish: Finally the finish came – and not a moment too soon. I was very near tears (ok, maybe some had leaked down before then) but I heard Drums cheering me on, and I trotted as fast as my wobbly legs would take me – to the finish line! Then I instantly started sobbing, and cried hysterically on Drum’s shoulder for 5 minutes or so. Once he established that I wasn’t physically hurt (he knows I have an unbreakable will!) he took it in stride, packed my stuff up for me, put my bike in the car, drove me home, and dealt with my post-race mindlessness well. I’m really glad that he came and cheered me on. It was a very powerful emotional experience, and even more so because he was there to share it with me.

I had thought that I might be able to complete the race around 1:30 – 1:45, but all of that was based on indoor work (and half a distance at the pool length – jeez) so I really had no expectations going in. My only goal was to finish the race – and I did! I was absolutely thrilled with a 1:29:16! 472nd out of 500 ladies. I’ll take it any day!