Last night was rough. I usually have a hard time sleeping before a race. I just get too excited and nervous. And paranoid that I've forgotten something. Like a towel. I might have just borrowed a pool towel from our hotel... Don't worry, we returned it.
Anyway, so I was relieved when it was finally time to get up and get ready. I forced my nervous tummy to accept a decent breakfast and then headed out with a friend, leaving HH to get everyone ready and come over hopefully in time for the race start.
I met up with the rest of my friends and we got set up and laughed about how nervous we were. And anxiously awaited start time. And finally it arrived.
It was an indoor pool swim, so the starts were one at a time. Fortunately for me, I wasn't too far from the beginning. I couldn't handle waiting much longer! As I stood in line, I listened to the guy right behind me talking about all of the other triathlons he's done this year and judging everyone's swim technique. And I got super nervous! I was sure he was bugged that I was ahead of him, thinking there was no way I'd be a faster swimmer than him.
Add to that, I kept scanning the on-lookers for HH, but never found him. He had been worried about the amount of time it would take him to get everyone ready.
Finally, it was my turn. I felt an added pressure to do well with my friends watching and this "pro" going right behind me. Thankfully, HH showed up just in the nick of time, for which I was very grateful. So, he and the kids watched my start.
Which was pretty awful. The pool I swim in is too shallow to allow diving, so it's been years and I totally flubbed it! I left the ground too early (not yet at the edge of the pool), landed lopsided, and kind of went down too deep. And all I could think was that the guy behind me was judging my every move. So, I sprinted through the first lap, completing the first 50 meters in about 30 seconds.
I know that because he dove in right as I was coming to the wall and we were spaced 30 seconds apart. Unfortunately, I can't sustain that pace for 300 meters, so I knew I had to slow down, but my adrenaline was pumping over time from all the nerves! It was a serpentine swim, meaning that we went down and back in one lane, then ducked under the lap line and did the same thing in the next. Six times. I tried to flip turn under the first lap line and came up right under it, so I switched to only doing flip turns at the far end and just coming up for air before ducking under each time. This slowed me down a bit, plus I was really tired from going out too hard, so I really struggled during the last 100 meters. I was sure the guy would catch me, so my pride and stubbornness were enough to push me. And he never caught me.
Well, not in the pool. He did catch me as we ran out to the bike transition. I came out of the pool more disoriented than I expected and he helped me avoid a pot hole in the grass as we headed outside. Which I'm grateful for. It would have been incredibly disappointing to twist my ankle at that point.
My swim to bike transition was painfully slow. I couldn't decide if I wanted to wear my bike gloves or not. Finally I decided I would and then they took an eternity to get on. And I kept thinking, what a bad idea this is! But, I finished putting them on and hopped on the bike.
It was a little bit of a slow start, thanks to a misunderstanding with one of the people directing me where to go. And then I turned up the main road. Straight into a headwind. I had learned on the Weather Channel this morning that 25-35 mph winds were expected today. Those are fantastic to ride straight into, let me tell you. At least, I had the consolation of knowing it would be at my back on the return because it was an "out and back" ride.
I knew one girl (the daughter of a friend) was ahead of me from the swim, so when I caught her at Mile 2, I was ecstatic. I was in first place for the women! I could hardly believe it. I kept going back in my memory to try and remember if there was another girl ahead of me in the swim, but I couldn't think of seeing one, so I was pretty sure I was in first. Thanks to the headwind, it felt like I was going painfully slow on the bike. I got passed by a few guys, but not as many as I expected. And I passed a few more people, too.
And then I dropped my water bottle just before Mile 5. And suddenly, my throat felt parched. But, I did the turn around (embarrassingly, I had to stop my bike and walk to turn it around--I'm that bad at turns!) and headed back. Once I got back onto the main road and had the wind at my back again, things were great. I felt like I had some really good speed and just had a good time. It was hard to know how hard to push it and how much to hold back for the run. I typically just go all out in workouts, but I haven't done any triathlon-specific training for this with the back-to-back bike to run. So, I just tried to go hard without going all out. And I was pretty confident that I was far enough ahead of the other females to maintain my lead on the run. It was fun heading back because I got to see my friends as we passed by each other and cheered each other on.
So, I finished my ride, threw on my running shoes and headed out. Just in time to remember that I'd forgotten to put on my hat, so my hair wouldn't be all in my face and I wouldn't look quite so gross.
Going from 3-4 minutes/mile on a bike to 7 minutes/mile on your own two feet is rough. It felt a lot more like I was doing 10 minute miles. My goal was to finish the 2 1/2 mile run in under 20 minutes. But, as I felt like I was running through sludge, I was pretty sure that wasn't going to happen. I knew that I needed to just keep going and eventually, things would get more comfortable as my legs made the transition from bike to road. And they did. I was definitely tired, but it was a short run, so I knew it would be quick.
And then another girl passed by me on her way back from the turn around point for the run. Too far ahead of me for me to even consider trying to catch her. So, there had been another female ahead of me in the swim. And she was still ahead. I was disappointed at first. But then, I kept reminding myself that I had signed up for this with no intention of placing whatsoever. This was for fun and it was okay.
And it really was okay.
I finished my run, passing a few men along the way and cheering with my friends as we passed by each other again. I had a strong finish. My goal had been to complete it in an hour or less. I finished in 59:41.
And I'm pretty darn proud.
HH was at the finish with Sweet P and Little M (the race was hosted by a YMCA and they were watching the younger two in their child watch facility). It was great to see them and have them along to support me. And then, it was fun to watch for my friends and cheer them on as they finished.
And to take plenty of group photos once we were all done.
The girl who took first was in my age division, so I ended up getting the first place medal for our age division, since she had the first place overall medal and I guess they wanted to share the medal-love.
It seems like ever since I started racing again after having babies, I'm always within just a couple spots of missing out on a medal. So, today's accomplishment should have been a really big deal.
And it was. It was exciting.
But, as I reflected on things after, I noticed that the fact that I'd done this race with my friends meant a lot more to me than placing and receiving an award.
I'll be honest--that surprised me because I am SO ridiculously competitive. But, it was a gratifying surprise. I'm proud of myself. I'm finally getting my priorities where I want them to be without forcing it.
And this makes me really happy.
Plus, after watching the whole race, HH decided he wants to do one. So next time, I get to race with my BEST friend.
And this makes me really really really happy.