Through a series of injuries and intense workload at the office the last year, I've had little time to train or race for a longer distance triathlon.
In fact, I should not have even raced Saturday.
But that sense of invincibility that plagues (er, benefits) us in our youth, reappeared and kept whispering to me, "Eh, it's just a two-mile run. How bad could it be?"
As it turns out, about as bad as I thought, but I'm getting ahead of the story.
At the last minute, I registered for the inaugural (there is no such thing as "first annual," folks) Giant Eagle Multisport Festival's Tri for the Cure at Alum Creek State Park in Columbus, Ohio. This park is the scene of my first triathlon just three short years ago, and holds a very dear place in my heart.
The distances would be very short, and I was ready to give it my all.
With a 250-yard open water swim, 77-degree water temperatures and the best time trial start to which I've been witness, I was down-right eager to get started and to push myself harder than before.
Harder than before ended up meaning just under eight minutes to finish the swim, but as I was recalling those waters three years ago, when I was backstroking and wearing noseplugs, wondering how on earth I'd ever make it to the end, eight minutes for me is standing ovation-worthy.
The seven-mile bike was a lovely course winding us through a perky, well-to-do residential neighborhood and I felt pretty strong most of the ride. I even passed a couple people going up the one and only hill at the end. I told my husband and photographer, Gary, before the race, "I should be done in about 30 minutes." With 29:48 on my HRM coming up on T2, I was spot-on with my prediction.
My legs were heavy, of course, having just come from the bike, so I took it a little easy starting out on the run. Luckily, that feeling was sustained only briefly and I was able to increase my pace.
I was, however, dismayed to see that midway through, part of the run would take place in the grass.
You see, my latest injury has involved my feet and I knew that the rocking on the uneven ground would likely produce pain greater than I had gambled on.
The truth is, after an x-ray revealed no bones were broken, I had been taking it easy - even wearing running shoes to a business casual work environment - as I had been saving up my physical health capital for this race in case I decided to participate at the last minute ... which I clearly did.
So, I was prepared to expend a little of that capital, but that grass run emptied out the bank account slightly more than I'd anticipated.
My main goal for participating in this race trumped my concerns about my feet in the hopes that it would yield a capital gain of another sort: my mental health capital.
Because it's been a year since I've competed in a triathlon - I did manage to squeeze out my first half marathon in October 2010 and run the Flying Pig Half Mary this May - with each passing day I was watching the 2011 tri season pass me by.
Friends were posting race reports online, showing race-day pictures and sharing personal bests. All while I sat on my rear and ate hamburgers and cookies. This is not usually an issue when I'm training, but those calories certainly add up when I'm not.
Frankly, it was depressing.
I needed to get in to the game - albeit briefly - to feel like my old, slow triathlon self again.
However much I may have hurt physically, I more than doubled in feeling good again. It was well worth the trade-off.
Just look at this last photo! This girl couldn't have had a better day ... and my feet are feeling better now, too. All truly is well.
I came in 86/168 overall with a time of 58:08, ranked 142/168 on the 250-yard swim with a time of 7:54, ranked 77/168 on the seven-mile bike with a time of 29:48 and ranked 74/168 on the two-mile run with a time of 17:01.