Pre-Race: Everything that I have read about triathlon experiences have had the same theme – you do your best in your training, but on race day, you have to be able to roll with the punches – because so much of triathlon success requires perfect conditions, perfect planning, and perfect performance. In preparation for this race, I trained for over 73 hours, and completed 457.5 miles (17+ hours of swimming and 16 miles, 24+ hours of biking and 322 miles, and 30+ hours of running completing 118 miles).
I was physically prepared. I had not only put in the mileage, but I trained doing multiple events in a single day several times a week to teach my body how to complete all three events in a row.
I was mentally prepared. I had really improved my focus and my confidence by completing multiple events in a day, and I had worked on visualization throughout my training, and visualized my success for each part of the race.
The weather was certainly not perfect, but I had trained for that. I had hiked outside, and I had been ensuring that I would be well hydrated for days going into the race and prepared for the heat – as well as you can be prepared when your bike cyclocomputer tells you it’s 117 degrees out with 30% humidity – especially when that same computer tells you it’s exactly 73 degrees in your 73 degree house J Still I had set my race expectations with the heat in mind, and I had prepared.
Unfortunately, things were not perfect today, because as I was riding my bike from the parking lot to the transition area before the race, a car ran me off the road, and I fell hard off of my bike. (I did NOT hit my head, for those of you who are worried) No broken bones, just road rash on my shoulder, elbow, forearm, hip, and knee, and a bad contusion just under my knee cap (Lilac said it looked like I had two knee caps). When Lilac saw it, she gave me the “Are you sure you want to do this, because you could decide not to race, and I wouldn’t think any less of you” look. It was painful, but it seemed like I was able to move without a limp and with full motion – and I had trained too hard to give up before the race even started. The Landis people did a check on my bike, and confirmed that it was safe to ride. So without further ado.... the race that would determine my unbreakable will, as number #105.
The Swim: The swim occurred indoors in the Kiwanis beach pool. This is an interesting pool as it has a slope similar to a beach, so the first half of the pool is 3 ft deep and under. This was great, because you had to run into the water, then dive in, swim, swim around the buoy, swim back to the “beach”, stand up and run out of the pool, around a cone, and back into the pool. Basically, this means that I only had to swim about 200 of the 400 meters, and I got plenty of time to breathe as I sloshed through the water. I hope all events are held here in the future. :) The swimmers started every 30 seconds, based on previous swim times at this distance, and I was about halfway in the group. At this point, the cool water felt soothing on my cuts and bruises, and I swam quite well. I passed 4 people and was only passed by 1 person. Swim time: 8:01 mins
T1: The path to T1 was pretty long, but I jogged in. I felt ok, at least I wasn’t feeling much pain. I got dressed, took a swig of lemonade, grabbed my bike, and a little nervously took off. T1: less than 5 mins.
The Bike: As far as training goes, I’ve done all of my biking inside, although about 1/3rd of it was on my road bike on a trainer, so I felt better about my seat, and my hands, though they still swell and are somewhat uncomfortable. My pre-race goal was to get through the 12 miles in about an hour, but not to hammer through, and absolutely not to tire out my legs more than necessary. That’s still very slow for a biker, but I have none of the cool things to make you faster (clipless shoes, aero bars, quads from hell, etc) and it was significantly faster than I had raced for Tri for the Cure, so I thought it was a good goal. The bike was 4 laps of the course, which went from All American Way, to Guadalupe, to Kyrene, to Baseline, to Mill, to All American Way. Baseline was by far the most fun, as it has a slight downhill, and meant that I could coast at over 12 miles per hour – so I did J. I felt pretty good, and I worked hard to not think about all of the people zooming by me. I can name at least 4 people who passed me twice, and one person who passed me 3 times! My knee was my biggest concern, and it seemed to be holding up pretty well, so I concentrated on biking my own race. Bike time: 1:18:00
T2: Once again, T2 was a challenge. There were no hydration stations on the bike, and it was hot, so I sat in T2, and drank some water that my lovely assistant Lilac gave me, and ate some pretzels in an effort to take in some salt. As soon as I got up, I realized that it had been a bad idea to stop (not that I really had any other option) because my knee was now throbbing, and there was absolutely no way that I could run on it. This was decision time. After thinking about quitting for half a second, I decided to try to walk it through. I told Lilac that I was going to walk, and she immediately offered to walk it with me – even though she was in uncomfortable looking flip flops. And she did! T2: greater than 5 mins
The “Run”: I could not have done 3.1 miles limping along without her. She has such a calming presence, that I didn’t even think about being disappointed that the run that I had put so much time and effort into was non-existent. All of the speedwork and brick sessions, and hill work, and long runs… and I didn’t run one step for the entire race. Even walking was a challenge at that point. I can generally walk a mile easily in 15 minutes, but this was more like 30 minutes a mile. So what I was hoping would take 40-45 minutes wound up taking closer to 90 minutes.
About a mile into the “run”, I had bad stomach cramps, and really really needed to find a restroom. We finally saw one, up a hill that looked like the Himalayas to me and my sore body. As we were walking up the hill, I again thought about quitting, and when we rounded the corner into what I thought was the ladies room, and realized there was no door there, for a minute, I gave up. That missing door pushed me over the edge. However, my faithful companion just kept walking towards the bathroom, and ignored my “That’s it, I quit!” wail. She helped me get undressed, and let me sit in the cool bathroom for about 10 minutes by myself. That bathroom stop was probably the best thing that happened to me, because I felt less dizzy, no stomach issues, and was a little revived after sitting in the shade…. And so we continued with no mention of the fact that I had already quit.
The volunteers were great, and supportive, and they cheered me on at all of the many water stops on the run course. I eventually worked out a system of dumping the ice cold water on my head, and drinking the lukewarm Gatorade. Lilac was with me every painful step of the way. We reiterated my positive mantras “I do triathlons to push myself past where I think I can go, and what I think I can do.”, “This is a celebration of my hard work.”, and of course “I have an unbreakable will!”.
Post Race: I was the absolute last finisher. I was so much the last finisher that the Finisher arch had been taken down before I got there. Mine was the last bike left in transition – even all of the racks had been packed up. But Lilac cheered me, the Landis folks were there and cheered for me, and I’ve never felt so proud of myself for completing something that I set out to do, even when the odds weren’t in my favor.
Today I learned that being a champion isn’t about beating other athletes, and it isn’t about conquering a distance. Being a champion is training as hard as you can, rolling with the punches, and following your dreams – even if they lead you to a place you didn’t think you could go.
Overall: Dead last and couldn’t be prouder! Overall time: About 3 hours, but the timing board was picked up before I got there.