Saturday, June 28, 2008

My First Triathlon

Caution: This video has audio, so adjust your volume.

Gary and I left the house at exactly 3:00 AM. I was one of the first 5 competitors there at 5:00. I'm really glad I got there early because people were still picking up registration packets close to 6:30, when the Transition area closes. This gave me time to get settled in and prepared. I was able to get my race number (number 1, by the way) on my helmet, bike and bike/run shirt. I was one of the first to get body-marked. (They mark your race number on both arms and write your age on the back of your right calf.) I got my timing chip secured and was ready to go. (They velcro a timing chip to your right ankle. As you enter and leave each event, you cross a big mat which records your times from your chip. It's really cool.)

About 6:45 AM, they played the National Anthem. Next, they said a prayer. I couldn't believe it. Good for them.

The wind was blowing quite a bit and I thought for sure the water would be freezing. It actually was not bad at all. This would be the least of my worries...

THE SWIM (.25 mile) (27 minutes)
Numbers 1-30 were the first to go in, so that was me. I got about a minute into it and, despite telling myself not to for months, I panicked. I could not get my breath. I said, "I can't do this, I can't do this." A sweet and confident voice close by replied, "Sure you can, honey. You can swim with me. I'm a slow swimmer. C'mon. You can do this." This older-than-me lady, #22, was a God-send. She was with me and a few others the entire way, letting us know if we were going out too far or in too close.

About halfway through, others were shouting, "We're almost done!" My heart sank because I was thinking, "Shouldn't we BE there NOW?" This was taking forever! I prayed for the Lord to get me through.

Look, I knew I wasn't going to drown. My legs were surprisingly only a little tired and I knew if I just relaxed and took my time I'd get through this. I should have bought some anti-fog stuff for my goggles because they were fogging toward the end, which just added to the helplessness I felt.

As we got close to shore, about 25 minutes later, #22 grabbed my hand and we came out of the water together. Thank God for her! I don't know if I were in her position if I would have been so willing to go so beyond a few words of encouragement and really look after and guide my competitors. I will never, ever, ever forget her kindness. Her selflessness has humbled me beyond words.

Gary was right there on the beach taking my picture as I finished. What a sight for sore eyes. He had been really worried about me because I wasn't with my wave. He would tell me on the drive back that some people had to quit the swim early.

TRANSITION 1 (3 minutes/30 seconds)
This went pretty smoothly, though I'm surprised it took so long.

THE BIKE (12 miles) (1 hour/4 seconds)
Coming from that swim, I had never been more relieved to get on a bike. Very soon into it, I started getting passed. I knew this would happen, especially given that I'm a beginner, but what surprised me the most was that there were still that many people behind me from the swim. I know some started in later waves, but I went really slowly on that swim!

What's great about this sport is that there were women who were bigger than me, and there were women who were older than me passing me. Good for them. Halfway through I was in a position to pass this one lady. I told her, "Good job," etc. She said she was slowing down to wait on a friend. I thought, "Well, of course she is. The one person I'll end up passing is someone who was intentionally going slow!"

The bike training really paid off. I finished this up in just almost exactly an hour. There was a pretty strong head wind the last few miles. The last 3-5 miles, I started passing people who had passed me which was kind of nice. Good for me.

TRANSITION 2 (1 minutes/45 seconds)
This went faster than T1. It felt great to put on my running shoes and ballcap because this meant I'd soon be done.

THE RUN (2 miles) (24 minutes/56 seconds)
My legs were so heavy the first .5 mile, having come off the bike, but they did start to feel lighter eventually. The first and last parts of the run were on a sidewalk. The middle section was through a trail in the woods. There were some seriously big mud puddles I had no choice but to stop running and walk to get around.

Another competitor caught up to me and we walked the last quarter of the first mile. I remembered her from the bike. She was one who had passed me but who I ended up passing at the end. I do regret not running more because it really added a lot of time to my event, but it was nice to relax a few minutes.

When I reached the end of mile 1, I ran the whole second mile back. When I hit the sidewalk part of the run back, a volunteer was there saying, "Just four-tenths of a mile to go." Four-tenths of a mile? That's a snap!

As I was coming around the last bend, the announcer said, "And here comes Lora Abernathy" and some other words I couldn't make out. I was busy looking for Gary and I spotted him. He was standing a few feet in front of the finish line ready to take my pic.

I crossed the finish line and mat and a volunteer took off my timing chip and placed it in a box with the others. The box was pretty full already. :-)

Gary and I met on the other side of the finish line and hugged. He said, "I have never been more proud of you." I'm really glad he said that.

I went to the Transition area and just threw all of my stuff in my bag. Gary took my bike and put it in the SUV and I took my bag to check out the preliminary results. At that point, I had come in 39th out of my age group (30-34). Clearly, I hadn't placed in the top 3, so I wasn't going to stick around for the awards.

The final results on the website show that there were 217 competitors and I came in 207. There were 42 in my age group and I came in 40. I did the entire event, including Transition times, in one hour, 57 minutes and 15 seconds. I figured it would take me about 2 hours so I actually came in under my goal. Of course, my true goal was just to finish the thing.

They assigned numbers alphabetically, so that's how I got the number 1. So when people spotted my number they would say, "Hey, number 1" or "Hey, there's number 1. Yay." It was kind of like being an event celebrity. That was the only way that was going to happen unless I'd have been the girl who drowned that day. :-)

This event was extremely well-organized. They had plenty of volunteers stationed at different points on the routes cheering you on. Though the swim was first, this is what made the swim feel so lonely. Other than #22 and some others (I don't know if they were the same ones throughout) in my general area, no one from the event was close by. I couldn't even spot the lifeguards (though I wasn't really looking for them). Very lonely swim indeed.

The big question: Will I do this again? The answer is...uuummm...definitely! When I got home - after a long nap - I checked out some on my potential list spreadsheet I created back in January. There's one in Akron with a 250 yard swim (the one I just did was 440), a 7 mile bike and a 2 mile run. The second one I had planned on doing until today is in Mt. Sterling but it's a half-mile swim. As I sit here today, there is no way I would double the swim I just barely did today. Gary said I just need to train for the swim even harder over the next two months and do that one. He's probably right.

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