Okay, so it was a sprint triathlon, but I am still claiming my new status!
Several months back, I heard of a little event called Women of Steele from a fellow blogging buddy Pedaling. Go check her out if you haven't already, she's amazing! The Shark and I had decided to do it, I quickly jumped on-line, registered, printed off the information and went back to whatever it was I was doing. A short time later, I get the message from Tib that the event is full. She couldn't get in. What the? I did this 'cause I thought we were doing it together? CRAP! Oh well, Pedaling was in, and while I hadn't met her IRL yet, at least I knew of her and therefore knew someone.
Few months later, meet Pedaling at a blogger lunch. She is beautiful, friendly and talks to me a little bit about the event. Cool, I'm thinking. Can do.
I swam all the time growing up as a girl. The pool was second nature. No biggie. I have now taken up the bike and find myself pretty comfortable. No biggie. And, no words necessary on the running portion. We all know my love for that. Double no biggie.
Put them all together? Perhaps, I should be concerned. Here's the thing, I tend to pack my life so full of races that I am always looking forward to something in the near future and don't give a lot of thought to events scheduled further out that perhaps should required more of my attention. Lesson learned.
This particular event is a women only sprint triathlon. Meaning: 300 meters in the pool, 13 miles on the bike and ending with a 5k run. As it drew closer, I began to get more worried. Forced myself into the pool a couple of times just to make sure I remembered how. Faced the reality, that I HATE the pool now. I grew up and discovered germs. In my mind, I figured as long as I gasped through that part, I could make up time on the bike and the run. Training done. That was it. Seriously. I was just cocky enough to think that was all I needed. I even set a goal of an hour and 30 minutes. I really had no idea if it was realistic or not, I had no baseline to compare it to. I just added up how fast I could swim 300 meters, guessed at how fast 13 miles on a bike would be for me and then my average 5k time. I really didn't put a lot of thought into it, I guess I really just wanted to finish.
Now to concentrate on the transitioning. Getting from swim to bike to run. I dunno, do you just, like, change clothes and shoes or what? Luckily for me, I've got a good buddy Chad who does these all the time and is an expert. He made me a checklist, came and spent an evening going through how to transition the fastest and still do everything necessary. He even showed me how to change a tire and load my bike. He spent time giving me tips on how to be quick, courteous and most importantly, he gave me the much needed "enjoy it" talk. Everything I every learned about Chaditude, came from him!
All week prior to the race, my gut was just angry. A.N.G.R.Y! Anything I put it in, came right back out within an hour's worth time. So frustrating, in that NOW is not the time to have caught a virus of some sort. I felt so "crappy" that I really scaled back at the gym all week. I kept my fingers crossed that by Friday as things were improving, I would be okay for the next day's big deal.
Woke up at my regular time 4:45am. Drank my Monster, ate my oatmeal and reviewed my checklist one more time. Made sure I had everything packed, and made my recovery drink. Checked my bag, one.more.time. And then gave Splenda a kiss and headed out the door. Thankfully, being the best husband ever, he had already loaded my bike on the Pathfinder the night before so all I had to do was back out.
Made the drive to American Fork fairly quickly, Splenda had googled me some driving directions and after making only one wrong turn, found the parking lot that we had been instructed to park in. Pulled in next to another gal who was just unloading her bike. Some good mornings were exchanged, and quite frankly, my adrenaline was running high and my nerves were literally skipping rope with each other.
Grabbed my bag and walked my bike to the arena. Checked in, got my timing chip and then found my posted spot in the transition area to hang my bike and put my gear. I quickly laid everything out like Chad had showed me and I had rehearsed in my mind. Double checked my tires and then looked around. It was quickly beginning to fill up with more and more women and their cheering squads. I knew Splenda was coming later, so I wasn't worried.
Realized that I was supposed to have my body marked so I made my back to the official's tables to get that done. In big black marker, they wrote my bib number on my shoulders and my age on my calf. After that, I walked over to the pool checked it out, walked back to the transition area, then to the bike out gate and then finally the finish gate. Okay, oriented to the area. Now what?
My freakin toes are ice cold. I head back to the pool and the locker room not only to empty my bladder one last time, but to warm up. I found myself sitting on a bench when another gal approached me and asked if I was trying to keep warm too. We started talking and wouldn't you know it? My nerves calmed down, we chatted and chatted and within 40 minutes had just about shared life stories. We discovered we had much in common and were there for very much the same reasons. I felt an immediate bond with her and I didn't even know her name.
She suddenly looked at her watch and we realized it was time to get going. We headed out of the locker room together, put our towels side by side by the exit gate and headed to the far side of the pool. Lot's of women were starting to line up and there were signs as to where you should line up according to how fast you anticipated swimming the 300. I was so busy talking with her that I didn't realize I was in a time zone WAY TOO FAST for me! I should have been on the OTHER side of the pool with the 15 min girls! I mentioned it to her, and she just laughed and said, "Stay right here with me, you'll be fine." I love her and I still don't know her name yet.
While waiting, I run into a gal whose son played ball with Tuffy. We greet each other, wish each other well. I run into Pedaling. I'm SO glad to see her! She looks great! We wish each other well. More waiting.
I look over to where I had previously seen my Mom setting up post and notice a tall head with a Mustang hat on. There's my Splenda! I immediately relax, and look who is right with him? My Tuffy! SWEET! I wave and ask for a picture with my new friend. I whisper in her ear, "Now you going on the blog!" She laughs and we finally get around to exchanging names. She is Nancy.
Final instructions are given, the national anthem sung and the first swimmers jump in the pool! My nerves are back. Knowing exactly what I needed, Nancy gives me a quick back pat and tells me I'm gonna do fine, relax. I love you Nancy! I hope she remembers my name and finds my blog. We had to wait about 30 minutes before it was our turn to hit the water.
I go first. Jump in and now I have to see what my swimming is made of. UGH! UGH! UGH! Okay, I am trying to get into a rhythm here, stroke,stroke, breathe. stroke, stroke, breathe. But you know what? There are so many women in the pool all stroking that every time I tried to breathe, I seemed to take in a ton of water. Okay, I am telling myself, just bear down and get through this. I have to stop a couple of times to catch my breath and get back into some sort of pattern. I get passed. And passed. And passed. My final 50 meters, I just pushed, if for no other reason than to get out of the damn pool! I do my final touch and try to hop, but find I am a little rubbery, okay, crawl, out of the pool.
As I am dashing to my towel, I see Nancy's is gone. She kicked my trash! Splenda is cheering me, asking if I am okay. "NO!" wait, "YES!" I have no idea how long it actually took me, and I don't care, I'm DONE with the pool. Running to my bike and transition area while toweling off. Splenda, Tuffy, Mom and my MIL are on the other side of the fence encouraging me! I strip off my swim bottoms and throw on my bike shorts. Yell at Splenda to toss me a protein bar (I had forgotten to pack one) and begin chewing into that thing while getting my socks, shoes, gloves, helmet and sunglasses on. One more bite of the protein bar, throw it on top of my pile of crap, a quick swig of my bottle and now race walking my bike to the bike out gate.
I get out of the gate and mount. My biggest trouble with the bike is getting secure in and out of my toe cages. I am not ready to be a clipper yet, or maybe I should just do it, but at any rate, it took me a few seconds to actually get secured in and then I tore off! I knew I needed to make up time, and being comfortable on the bike meant I could probably pick up my pace.
I started cranking it and what do you know? A hill! Push, push, push. It levels for a bit, and then what do you know? ANOTHER HILL. Okay, push harder this time. All of a sudden, it hits me. I have to RUN this when I am done with the bike! Okay, better really pace myself. At this point now, I am in a great groove. Feeling one with Patrick the Purple Road Eater and passing biker after biker. There are also runners now on the course, so I am reminded I am WAY FAR BEHIND!
This is a real mental thing for me. I know the timing doesn't start until my chip hits the pad right before I jump in the pool, but to know that so many gals were ahead of me, just played a little mind game. I had to really talk to myself.
I complete the loop and I knew that we had to do two, but I had been chasing a gal in red for the entire time and saw her turn in. I thought 'Well, I must have missed something, we must be done', I continued but something didn't feel right. I pull my left foot out and slow down and ask, "We do two loops right?" The answer is "Yes, have you gone around twice?" AARRGGHHHH. I have to get my left foot back in the toe cage and backtrack. I hear someone yell, "No worries! It's not much time you lost" as I am swearing and muttering all the way back.
That means I have to make up even more time on the second loop. Now I am really cranking it. I also know what the loop entails so I am even more comfortable and begin passing, passing, passing. Finally finish the bike loop and there at the re-entry gate is Splenda. I yell at him that I screwed up!! I dismount, race walk my bike back to my area and rack it. Strip off my helmet and bike shorts, throw on my running shorts and hat. Another quick swing from my bottle and I am off for the last portion.
Have you ever gotten off a bike and tried to run? Um yeah. The legs no likey. I felt like cement for a good first several minutes. About a half mile in, I found my groove and set my pace. And of course, there is that dreaded first hill. 'Sokay girl, just.keep.running. Stopping is NOT an option. Walking is NOT an option. I keep pushing, grab a little water at the mile marker, and keep the same quick pace I had set for myself.
I'm now in my head. I am thinking of Nancy. Where is she? How is it that you can meet someone and in a matter of minutes feel such a tight bond? Why are we women like that? I am remembering her story, thinking of her challenges and her situation. Wondering about her. Hoping she was okay. She had shared her fears of this event and I am praying that she made it through her tough part. All of a sudden, I hear "Melissa!" I turn, and ask, "Who is that?" The gal right behind me smiles and says, "It's me, Nancy!". We laugh, holler a couple of things to each other, she tells me to hurry on, and so I do. What are the odds? I am thinking of her just as we cross paths again.
I am now thinking about how remarkable women are. I am surrounded by them. At the pool all in matching pink swim caps, every different body shape you can imagine. I was biking with them on all kinds of different bikes, paces, and helmets, yet all still trying to conquer the same two hills. I am now running with them, (some still biking), and we are all at different paces, but all breathing hard, facing that same demon of a hill, so we can turn and hit the downhill stretch.
I am thinking how much like life this is. We aren't all judged by when the gun goes off, just by when our particular chip hits the pad each time. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and yet we still have battles that we all have to face. Some are further along in the race and some of us are pulling up the rear, but ultimately, our goal, our finish line, is all the same.
One thing I found most impressive, is that with this particular race, every time I called "on your left", which meant I was passing someone, 9 times out of 10, that gal would tell me "good job", "looking good", or "go get 'em". I found myself so cheered on, that I couldn't help but encourage anyone I came across that was struggling. I came up on a gal that had 65 on her calf. She was 65 years old and fighting that damn hill. As I passed, I slowed slightly to tell her "You can do this, you know you can". I heard a giggle and a "thanks" as I moved away. As I came up on the second turn, I was watching a young gal with a 13 on her calf struggle, struggle, and then take it to a walk. As I came up on her I said, "Come on girl, you can do this. 'You can do hard things'". I turned to see her pick it back up to a trot and a smile.
As I passed mile two and was pounding it downhill, it suddenly occurred to me. I.am.going.to.finish. I'M GOING TO FINISH!!! A little more adrenaline and it was the final stretch as I picked it up and sprinted in. I cannot describe the feeling I had right then. I did it! I actually did it! I did a triathlon! Me! A gray haired 42 year old grandmother just freaking did it! Exhilarating is putting it mildly.
They keep the spectators separated from the athletes so I was wandering around when I heard my name and saw my family just ahead. I ran towards them and just couldn't contain myself! I was so thrilled. Pictures and then Splenda and Tuffy raced back to SLC for the father/son service project. MIL rode with them, so my Mom stayed to help me with my gear.
I wasn't ready to leave yet. I wanted to soak it in. Oh and see results of course. Now that I proved I could finish and not be dead last, my competitive side needed to see how I compared. I found the results posting and I wasn't up there yet. I knew at this point that I wasn't in the top 19 for my age group, but I need to know my time. Remember my goal?
Wait around a little longer. Get a text from Pedaling. Where are you? I tell her and wait for her. Check the results board again, and there I am! Wha?? Are you serious?? 1:28.06. Oooooohhhhhhh Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhh!!!! I.am.thrilled. I call Shark. I call Purdy. I am sharing the news like I had just birthed my first born! Phone goes off, it's Pedaling. Where are you? How did you do? She hadn't checked her time, so I did for her. For not giving it any training, she ROCKED!
I go find her, we hug, get a picture and then she is out of there.Isn't she beautiful?
I check the results one more time to see how many were in my age group and as of the time I had left. I was ranked 39th out of 57. I'm okay with it. I not only finished, I beat my goal time. Head to the porta potties and as I come out, here comes Nancy. Big hugs! Congrats! Well done! And then I grabbed my gear and walked with my Mom back to the truck, loaded my bike and headed for home.
Of course, no post race is complete without stopping at the Mav to fill my mug with diet coke and shots of vanilla. I call C and tell him "Dude, you should totally stop doing drugs and do this, the high is 10 TIMES BETTER!!!" He laughs, congratulates me and then I head to the fairgrounds to meet a certain Shark and friend Chad at their finish line.
What a great day! What a great experience! What great life lessons I learned! I was NOT as prepared as I should have been, and I paid the price. I need to train better in the areas that I am weaker in and continue working at my strong areas. The pool and I should be become re-aquainted more often. I should never just assume the person in front of me is right. If I know the rules, I need to follow THEM and not someone else. And finally, as women, Heavenly Father has blessed us with amazing and remarkable attributes. We can be competetive but we can be graceful and kind. We can work hard for ourselves, but we can also be the cheering squad for others. We can meet each other as complete strangers and leave feeling like sisters.
At the beginning of the morning, I joked at all the estrogen housed on that field at one time. By the time I left, I was awed, humbled and grateful to be a part of it.
Official overall time: 1:28.06
Swim time: 9:11
Bike time: 46:36
Run time: 24:24
I was 32 of 64 in my age group
I was 193 out of 527 overall.
My trainer asked me if I would do it again. My answer? Abso-freakin-lutley!check out this necklace that all the participants received. Love to Tri!
PS - I realize that there are no pics at the finish line. Video wouldn't load and MIL got pics on her camera, I got none on mine : (