Well, my New Year’s resolution to “do a triathlon” has been accomplished from the list.
I completed the Try-A-Tri at the Duncan Hadley Triathlon in Fredericton on Sunday by doing a 375 metre swim, 10 kilometre bike ride and 2.5 kilometre run. I am going to try to write this entire recap without “putting down” the distance. I know it seems short to other people but I am proud of my accomplishment.
Here’s how it all went down.
I started getting really nervous two nights before on Friday – so I packed. Two days early. Saturday I realized it was a mix of both nerves and excitement. I was confident in my training so I knew I could do the distances, but I was nervous about remembering the rules, and being surrounded by so many people and incredible athletes.
Sunday I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and ate a piece of toast with jam. I had my nutrition all planned out beforehand and knew that toast was a tested and true option. I also guzzled some water because it was supposed to be extremely hot.
I also threw a banana in my bag because I wasn’t starting until 9:35 a.m. and Daniel and I drove over to the race site. We had to take a bit of a detour because the city crew was already placing pylons on the bike route – the super hilly bike route that I was dreading.
I went straight to registration and got my very first triathlon body markings as well as some swag.
Then it was over to transition where I hooked my (stupid) bike up on the rack. You should know before we continue that I felt a little silly with my hand-me-down bike that I drive to and from work. It didn’t really matter though because I was just “trying” the sport out and obviously wasn’t going to show up with a super fancy bike. Still, I was surprised by how many people in my event had road bikes.
Moving forward I will be saving my pennies for a road bike that will hopefully be a little easier to pedal on the course.
I got my transition stuff set up and laid out all my equipment meticulously on a tourquoise towel with dangly sequins. I am sure all the most elite athletes have sequins on their towels.
Then it was time for the pre-race briefing about the rules of triathlon.
My mom and I were in the front row – to the left of the guy in the orange shirt with his back to us. Did I mention my mom competed too? She did the sprint event: 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike, 5 kilometre run.
My event was the last to start, so I got to watch everyone. The Olympic distance started at 8 a.m. with an impressive swim around the lake twice. I saw some really incredible athletes power through the water and exit on their way to the bike transition.
As I walked over to the beach to watch my mom’s start, I saw two familiar people standing on the grass. My grandparents drove up to see my mom and I compete, which was a complete surprise to both of us. It has been a long time since they saw me in a sporting event.
My mom entered the water at 9 a.m. and then I only had 35 minutes to wait. I had the timing all figured out. As soon as she started her swim, I went for a last outhouse trip. Then I walked along the beach while listening to a very specific song.
The song is Yer Fall by Hey Rosetta!, an Eastern Canadian band. Last week Simon Whitfield, a Canadian Olympian who won gold and silver medals in men’s triathlon, was announced as Canada’s flag bearer for the London Olympics. I’ve been a fan of Simon’s since I was 12. In his speech he mentioned listening to Hey Rosetta! while running. I wasn’t doing an Olympic triathlon – but so what? I listened to it to get pumped up. My friend Sarah also listened to that song while climbing Machu Picchu so I knew it was a winner.
At 9:23 I went in the water and did a few short laps back and forth. The water was extremely warm but the air was cool – in short, it was perfect. I can’t believe that the heat held off.
My nervous energy was making me really pumped up.
It looks like I’m crying in that photo but I promise I wasn’t. That came later.
Before I knew it the air horn went off and we were in the water. I wanted my swim to be fast because I knew my bike time would be mostly beyond my control, and didn’t know if I’d have any legs left for the run. I stayed aggressive and eventually found the position I wanted and held the line until I reached the shore.
I was fourth out of 20 in my event out of the water.
I ran barefoot out of the water up through a gravel trail and to the transition area.
I felt a little out of sorts when I got into the crowded transition area. I thought I’d be able to slip my bike under the rack but the seat was too high. Then I had to run back around the rack to the other side and try it from that angle. I have a huge mirror sticking up from my handlebars and it just wouldn’t move. Meanwhile I am knocking over all my stuff on the ground and stepping on someone else’s towel. I was getting increasingly frustrated until an official told me I could move the bike that was mere centimetres beside mine and get it out of the way. So I moved it, hauled mine out, and was on my way. My transition time was an extremely slow and frustrating 4 plus minutes.
My plan for the bike ride was to stay positive. I knew it would be challenging and people would be blowing by me, which is discouraging. I didn’t realize that being part of a race would be much more interesting than a training ride. As the cyclists went by, I checked out their bikes instead of worrying about mine. Many people wished me good luck as they went by up the hills and said “good job,” to which I replied “you too!” I kept positive and tried to remind myself that it would be over soon.
I decided on the last leg of the route that when I reached the end of the bike course, I would say something positive. Instead of yelling at Dan on the sidelines and saying “I hate this stupid bike!” I smiled and said “I did it!” I was just so happy to be done the bike portion, which I had been dreading. Positive thinking got me through the bike, hands down. The bike ride took me 30 minutes and most people I had beaten on the swim passed me with times closer to 23 minutes.
My second transition was much faster. My bike was being finicky but I picked it up and shoved it under the rack (the goal was to get the front of the seat hooked on a horizontal bar). My dad said I did it the wrong way but I don’t think he knows how weird that bike is shaped and how out of breath I was. I’m glad I’ve been hauling my bike up and down steps at home and at work for the past few months so I had the right amount of strength to lift it.
I threw on my hat and headed out onto the running route. I heard my dad say “stay focused” and that was just what I needed to hear since my breathing was starting to be really erratic.
There was a very steep hill at the very beginning of the running route. I prepared for it in training but I was a little worried about how tired I was. My legs were looser than expected but my lungs just weren’t there. I decided to just not give myself the option of walking and instead focused on keeping my legs moving under me.
My plan for the run (since it was so short) was to just think positive and ignore the hills. I knew that before I knew it, it would be over. I really enjoyed watching all the runners, especially the Olympic distance competitors, and I had more people tell me “good job” as they ran by. That kind of encouragement is right up my alley. I was so thankful for people who took the time to offer some support even if it was only two words.
Things I thought about while running:
- Who I want to win Big Brother
- Simon Whitfield’s final stretch of the run at the 2000 Olympics
- How fun the event was
- How I couldn’t wait to train for a longer distance next year
- This blog post
I was so tired that I wasn’t sure if I could go faster, so I focused on slowly passing a woman in front of me. I finally passed her as we came out onto the beach, and then it was almost time for the final sprint off the trail. I love doing a final sprint (keep in mind a “sprint” to me is leisurely to others) and as I came off the trail I could hear the crowd cheering.
I booked it to the finish line.
I get a kick out of all the race pictures. I am just so gangly and have a really elongated neck. Oh well!
When they stopped me to take my ankle chip off, some of the officials asked if I was going to be OK. That also happened at the three 5K races I did. For the first couple it may have been because I was overweight and out of shape, but I like to think now it’s just because I give everything I have and have nothing left over once I cross the finish line. When I was a swimmer my parents told me I shouldn’t be able to pull myself out of the pool at the end of the race, and I’ve kept that advice.
When I saw Daniel I of course starting crying when he hugged me, but that was mostly because I am incredibly emotional, and when I get extremely exerted I always cry. I guess it was nice to see him, too. Didn’t he do a great job taking photos?
One detail I would like to remember is what my grandfather told me after the race. When things had calmed down he came up and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You couldn’t have done that a year ago, eh? Great job, I’m proud of you.” And he was right – I absolutely couldn’t have done it a year ago. I appreciated his words more than he’ll know.
My mom finished after me and she came away with a personal best. She was my inspiration to do this race after I watched her compete last year and it was great to actually be there with her as a participant.
Isn’t that a pretty picture of me? Apparently races don’t exactly catch me at my best angle. Mom of course looks fresh and ready to do the course one more time.
So what did I take away from my first triathlon?
- I live in a great community. During my training I received guidance and advice from members of U-Fred Tri Club, including Ironman triathletes, who didn’t mind that I was only doing a Try-a-Tri and shared their love for the sport with me. They even let me run and swim with them!
- It is always worth it to give encouragement to your fellow participants. I really believe I was carried through a lot of the race by people offering a few supportive words to me as they went by.
- As I discovered last week, positive thinking – not discouraging thinking – was my ticket to making it through the tough parts.
- Now that I have an idea of the ins and outs of the sport, next year I will most definitely be registering for the sprint distance. From there, I will work toward the Olympic distance. I know I can do it someday.
- I will never stop goal setting. It’s my ticket to getting things done and achieving what was once just a rogue thought in the back of my head.
Oh, and my time? My goal was to do the triathlon in an hour. I had no concept of time while I was out there and figured it must have been at least five minutes over an hour with my bad first transition.
Daniel came over to tell me my time was 1:00.29. Just 29 seconds past an hour which was pretty darn fine with me. I was really happy with my swim and run times, my transition was bad (as expected), and I did the absolute best I could on my bike.
Can’t wait ’til next season.