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Thursday, August 4, 2016

My First Triathlon

If you read Brian's blog, then you know we were planning to participate in a triathlon this past weekend.

And...if you read his know he broke his arm almost three weeks ago when he had a bike crash.

And...if you read his already know that we went to Chapel Hill anyway, and I participated in and completed my first triathlon this past weekend.  The UNC Wellness Super Sprint Triathlon, to be specific. 250 yard pool swim, 9.35 mile bike ride, and a 5k run.

And...if you read his blog...the pictures that follow might look familiar...

But here is how my first triathlon went...from my perspective.

The alarm went off at 4:30 A.M. Sunday morning.
Now that is early on any given day!
But add to that a super lousy night's sleep...tossing and turning...too hot...too cold...more tossing and turning...and that was just me!
A little coffee helped get us over that slump though.
A quick bite of "breakfast," (which was more like a snack) and off we went.

Upon arriving, we took my bike and my bag full of "stuff" to the transition area, where I attempted to set it up in a somewhat usable order. This being my first triathlon, I really wasn't sure where I wanted things or how I wanted them to be.  But it was all there...along with some things I didn't use too!

With that done, we picked up my timing chip.  On the advice of other triathletes, I had my own ankle strap for my timing chip rather than the plastic surgical-grade strap they provided.  I had worn the strap a few times while running or riding, just to get used to it being around my ankle.  I am happy to report that I honestly didn't even notice it throughout the morning.

Next was "body marking."
Your number goes down both arms and on the front of both legs, above the knees.
Your age or the group you are competing in goes on the back of your left calf.  I was in the "female novice masters" group...or as I call it...newbie girls over 40.

The event started at 7:00, but since it was a pool swim, I wasn't scheduled to start until 8:01:15.  They start swimmers every 15 seconds and you are scheduled based on self-reported 100 yard swim times. I'm a pretty slow swimmer, so I was near the back of the pack.  I think there were only less than 10 people starting after me.  The overall winner of the event finished long before I ever put my little baby pinkie toe in the water.  We were near the finish line when he came in.  He wished me luck and reminded me to hydrate while on the bike.

Observations about the swim, 250 yards in the pool or 10 lengths of the pool...
*I was NOT the only on swimming the breast stroke!  Whew!
*It is hard to swim the first and last length of the pool when you are trying to stay to the right-hand side of the lane because those lanes have the pool wall right next to you.
*It is hard to swim in a pool that is less than 4 feet deep when you are used to swimming in a pool that is no less than 6'9" deep!
*It is hard to swim when you are sharing the lane with 4-6 other swimmers, swimming behind some of them and therefore in their wake and also trying not to run into anyone who is coming back down the opposite side of the lane.  Especially when you usually have a lane to yourself when you are swimming at the aquatic center!  And then multiply that by 5 lanes!  Talk about some choppy pool water!

Overall, I swam a little bit slower than I usually do when I am swimming at the aquatic center.  I was also really struggling by the last 50 yards, which is unusual for me.  I'm chalking that up to this being a totally different environment and the pressure of an actual event instead of must me swimming by myself.

Out of the pool!
Headed from the pool to the transition area.
I managed to remember to drink some water, get my socks and shoes on, throw a headband in my hair to keep it out of my face, grab my sunglasses, buckle my helmet, and unrack my bike before heading out for that 9.35 mile ride.

I managed to forget my TomTom, my fitbit, and my inspirational bracelet that I ALWAYS wear when running or riding.

Oh well.  I had the important helmet and my bike!
Leaving transition
Out on the course
Observations from the bike portion of the event, 9.35 miles of rolling hills...
*They weren't kidding when they said rolling hills.
*I was really scared about this part after we drove the course on Saturday afternoon...because of the hills!  The area where I generally ride is flat.
*This was my first time to ride my bike on the road.  I usually ride on the greenway.  No cars out there!  Just runners and other bike riders.  Fortunately, there were very few cars on the road early on Sunday morning.
*I was passed by all those swimmers who started after me in the pool.
*I did manage to pass on girl.  I felt so bad for her because she was really struggling with the hills.  
*I might have cursed the hills under my breath while riding uphill.  I might have cursed them a LOT.
*But the downhills!  Oh my goodness!  I wanted to be like a little kid and squeal and let my legs spread out like wings as I flew down those hills!  
*But then there was always another uphill.  Curse you, hills!
*I am pretty sure I decided I hated every minute of the triathlon somewhere along the bike course.  And that I would NEVER do another one...ever again!
Arriving back in the transition area
How I had that smile on my face, I'm not really sure!
I found out later that I completed the bike course in almost the time I had kind of predicted...even with all those hills!  Thank you, downhills!

Back in transition, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and grabbed my visor and my belt with my race number attached...and a bottle of water.  Time to head out for the 5k run.

It took me a few minutes to get it in gear and start running.
Remember those hills I told you about from the bike ride?
Yeah.  There were hills on the run too.
I decided I would run the downhills and do the best I could, even if it meant walking, on the uphills.

Observations from the run, 3.1 miles...
*It took a few minutes, but my legs remembered how to run.
*I knew I was one of the last runners to head out of the course.  There were a LOT of people coming BACK as I was headed out.
*I usually run with a fuel belt so I don't have to hold a water bottle.  I didn't have that with me and wasn't sure about taking a water bottle with me when I was leaving transition.  But I was SO glad I did.  I'm used to drinking water when I want it instead of where a race director determines water stops should be.
*Funny thing about carrying a water bottle though:  When I was walking, I could carry the bottle in my left hand.  But when I started running...I HAD to put it back in my right hand.  I COULD NOT RUN while carrying that bottle in my left hand!  Weird!

About a mile from the finish, I saw the girl I had passed on the bike course.  She was the only person behind me.  I could tell she was struggling, but determined.  I offered a smile, and encouraging word, and a high five for perseverance.

I was also thanking every volunteer who was still out on the course, cheering the final few runners on towards the finish.

I began to hear the awards being announced and I knew I was nearing the finish.  That always puts a little extra pep in my step.  I was tired, but I was going to finish strong and with a smile on my face. They actually paused the awards to announce me as I crossed the finish line, which was kind of cool.

And so ended my first triathlon.
I was tired.
I was hot.
I was sweaty.
My feet felt like prunes...thank goodness for flipflops!
And I was...I am...a triathlete.

I ended up being glad I forgot to put on my TomTom.  I would have been to worried about time and distance and pace and all of that stuff.  Instead, I was able to concentrate on where I was at the moment.

And you know how I swore I would never do another triathlon ever again while I was out on my bike, fighting those hills?

That was crazy talk.
Heat of the moment.

I'm pretty sure I will do one again.

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