The second tri around
• With the first one, you plan and prepare and make lists and pack and repack all your carefully selected gear about 100 times waiting for the big day. With the second, you throw your stuff in a bag the night before and hope you didn’t forget anything.
• With the first one, you are a nervous wreck. You question every decision. You fret about every little detail. You worry obsessively about what to wear. With the second? You just show up and with a “whatever will be, will be attitude.”
• With the first one, you take a lot of pictures. With the second, you forget your camera so you snap a couple of gratuitous pictures at home when it’s over (see below).
But another thing, second tris are a LOT MORE FUN!
This one was nice because it was literally five minutes from our house. It was also all women, which was a very different experience.
We left here at about 6:36 a.m., and arrived at the park a few minutes later, parked, unloaded and walked about ½ mile down the hill (one I’d bike back up soon enough) to the transition area.
There were about 450 women in today’s race and it seemed like 447 of them were already there. It was PACKED.
Somehow, there was still space on the bar for my bike, so I racked it, did a bit of set up (literally less than five minutes – I think I set and reset my area 10 times for the first one) and then went down to the beach to get body marked, which I still think is the coolest thing ever.
Then I found the bathroom and went back up to transition to grab my stuff for the swim and I JUST made it. They were closing transition in two minutes. Can you imagine? No goggles, wetsuit or swim cap? I would have been screwed. Next time I won’t cut it so close.
I went down to the beach for the pre-race meeting where they reviewed the course and all the safety regulations. I also took the opportunity to slip into the water for a practice swim, which was a really good idea since it helped work out some of the jitters. Half the lake was still in the shade and the water was – I do not exaggerate – pitch black. It was a little freaky, so I’m glad I took that practice swim.
It was also VERY mucky. The bottom had about 5 inches of sludge on it and when I climbed out, I had tons of seaweed wrapped around me and sticking to my arms. Say it with me people: EWWW!
This was a very small lake – little more than a pond, really. The course was shaped like an “M” just to eek out a measly quarter mile.
A photo I took of the lake a couple of weeks ago on one of my training runs. It was especially muddy this day due to a huge thunderstorm the day before, but it was still pretty icky.
A few minutes later, the first wave took off. Wow, were they fast. The first woman was out of the water in just over 5 minutes. Impressive.
I was in wave 3 so 10 minutes later, I was off. I waded in toward the back of the pack and breaststroked for the first few strokes for better visibility of the women around me, but I switched to the crawl fairly quickly and – LO AND BEHOLD - I started passing people. I probably passed about 10 women on the first long side of the “M”. Around the first buoy, I passed a few more.
(I also have to say that at this point I swam through a GIGNORMOUS octopus of floating seaweed that tangled around my face and arms and legs as I passed through it. So. Gross.)
On the other side of the M, I started passing women from the previous wave! I was shocked.
Visibility when swimming toward the beach was really tough –the sun was shining directly at us and I couldn’t see that well, but could see the swim caps of other racers in front of me. Swimming back toward shore on the final leg, I thought I passed the last buoy and thought, “No, way, too soon,” but within two strokes my hand hit sand at the bottom. I WAS DONE!
I looked back and there were still an awful lot of light blue swim caps (my wave) in the water. I was so surprised!
SWIM TIME: 10:36
I ran up the beach and then up a steep cement path to transition, pulled off the wetsuit, chugged some Gatorade, pulled on shoes and my helmet and left.
T1 TIME: 4:32
This was the part I was dreading. It was only 10 miles, half the distance of my first race, but I cannot emphasize enough how hilly this course was. I heard three tri veterans saying it was the most difficult sprint course they’d ever ridden.
Start of the hill coming out of transition. It keeps going, and gets steeper.
The same hill farther up. Still not the worst of it. And there are four other challenging hills after this one.
The course was two loops through a park, so you got to do some of the tougher hills not just once, but twice. YAY. (Not.) I was very glad to have had the advantage of practicing it a few times. It didn’t necessarily make it easier, but I knew what to expect. I knew where the hills were – and most importantly – how long they were. I also knew I COULD do them.
There were a lot of women walking their bikes up the hills, but I never got off the bike. I pedaled slow but steady. Even if I was only going three mph, I was determined to ride every hill. And I did!
I also rocked the downhills – leaving my fear behind and just letting loose. I passed so many people on the downs. The two loops went by quickly and before I knew it, I was making the turn back to transition.
BIKE TIME: 1:02:50
Mark and the girls came running up and he asked me how I was feeling and I said, “I feel great!” And I did. My legs were a bit wobbly from the hills, but overall, I genuinely felt great. Another surprise.
I pulled off my bike gear and chugged some more Gatorade. Because it was going to be so hot, I had packed a Ziploc bag full of ice in a small cool pack and dumped a handful down the front and back of my shirt. AH! It definitely helped.
I turned and ran off.
T2 TIME: 2:02
OK, so I’ve decided the run is my new nemesis. I’ve gotten passably OK at the swim; running is where I’m still challenged.
And the run course was also not easy. It was a wooded trail run. It was in the shade, which was a blessing since the temps were near 90, but the trail was loaded – and I mean LOADED – with roots and rocks. There were large swaths of the run where I never felt my foot land squarely on solid ground.
I rolled my right ankle about 5 minutes into it and had to walk for a bit to shake it off. My arches, calves and ankles were killing me (as I sit here writing this several hours later – they still hurt. Aleve is my friend today.)
But I kept going, running as much and as fast I could on the terrain. The first half had a slight uphill grade. Nothing too bad, but it made navigation of the rocks and roots all the more challenging.
On the flip side, the second half had a nice downhill grade. Again, nothing too steep, but I had a really good groove going. I passed a ton of women –many walking, but some running too.
As I passed two women, one yelled out, “YOU GO GIRL, YOU ARE FLYING.”
I turned back – just slightly to yell back, “THANK YOU!” and taking my eye off the trail for just that fraction of a second was a big mistake because the next thing I knew, I was flying through the air. I landed on my stomach and skid across rough rocks and gravel for a few inches tearing a hole in the palm of my hand and scraping a goodly amount of skin off my elbow and knee.
This is what I get for being polite. Thank you, my ass. Next time: NO THANK YOUS!
The women behind me gasped and came running over, but I was already up. “I’m alright, I’m alright,” I assured and took off running again. The lens to my sunglasses popped out and I didn’t dare look at them to fix it, so I just carried them – frames in one hand, broken lens in the other.
I came out of the woods and there was a nice crowd of cheering people, but most of them just looked horrified by the blood dripping down my arm. I still had a lap around the lake. My arm and leg were aching, but I did my best and tried to give it a little more gusto.
I rounded the last turn – saw the finish and booked it – passing someone one final time in the ropes.
RUN TIME: 34:59
One of my boo-boos, as the girls call it
I feel pretty darn good about it. The bike could have been faster (I was passed so many, many times on the bike), but given the difficulty of the course, I am pleased overall.
I loved the all-women race too. The other competitors were friendly, helpful and encouraging. Not that these women weren’t competitive. There were some amazingly buff, lean-and-mean, giving it everything they had types. The winner finished in 1:11:02. It just had a different feel from the co-ed race I did in May.
So next up? The weekend of September 26, either here in NJ or up in Maine with a college friend. Looking forward to it already!