The super short version:
I swam without a wetsuit and did NOT drown!
I did NOT crash my bike!
I did NOT walk any of the “run”.
But I DID finish my 27th triathlon!
The much longer “I’ll take you on my adventure” version:
My husband Scott and I have been focusing on extending our distance runs in preparation of a September marathon, so swimming and biking had taken a little bit of a backseat. Yesterday, I went to Taughannock to see if the water temperature was going to make a wetsuit necessary. (We read online that the water temperatures had recently fallen quite a bit.) I swam a couple of laps, and it seemed very doable.
We got up this morning and headed to the park at 5:50 and got a great parking spot on the grass, not too far from the transition area. The usual Things To Do: body marking, set up transition spot, etc. Since we did the Olympic distance race (it’s fun to call it ‘Olympic distance’ as opposed to ‘Intermediate’, since the Olympics are currently in full swing!) we didn’t have as long to wait before the start of our race.
This time, I actually did a little bit of a swim warm-up. I extra-licked the inside of my goggles, and headed into the warm-up lap area. Just one lap, and I felt my body adjust to the water temperature just fine. In fact, when I got out from the water, I felt a little chilled, and like a little fishy, I just wanted to be thrown back into the water! My white-swim cap wave was corralled, and we were told how many minutes, and then seconds remained until the start. Just 30 seconds before the start, I thought my goggles were fogging, so I quickly removed them and gave them another “treatment”. As it turned out, the air horn didn’t work, so after our 10-second countdown, we had ANOTHER wait! A whistle signaled our start. There seemed to be a subtle pull out into the water; perhaps from the group of swimmers, because it died away soon thereafter. At first, I felt kind of “bad-ss” for having decided to go without a wetsuit, but then as the race progressed, I wondered if I had made a mistake. I calmed myself down, and tried to not be bothered by close contact with competitors. The green buoy (midpoint) came, and I thought, “Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be nice if I were turning around right now?” Nope. Keep going. Keep your eyes on the YELLOW buoy. As I approached the turn around, I spotted Louise Adie patrolling the waters in her mermaid kayak. She spotted me and took a picture. It’s pretty incredible we were able to spot each other, and that brief encounter gave me a little boost of happy energy. For a few moments, I felt a little bit of pull towards the shore, but again, that feeling died out very quickly. The came the onslaught of green-capped men swimmers. I got jostled numerous times by men passing me. I got a bit grumpy about that—“HELLO! I’m a WOMAN swimming here WITHOUT A WETSUIT! Would you PLEASE BACK OFF MY PERSONAL SPACE?” I know—I should just swim faster. Ha. Got up to the shore and heard a few people shout my name—I don’t know who most of them were, but we obviously know each other!
Ran to my bike, and found it easily! I noticed Scott’s bike was still there. I had rehearsed in my mind the order of operations: Sit down, dry off feet, put on socks/shoes, helmet, sunglasses, check tires, GO!
I knew what nastiness lay up ahead. Hills. Hills. Hills. By the way, did you know I hate uphill? (The only good thing about uphill is there is likely to be a downhill eventually.) However, it was a little windy out on the course, and I kept feeling like I was robbed from my downhills. I got passed by LOTS of people, and I think I only passed two people. I was not having much fun, and I was having to deal with my own negativity. As people passed me, I would note, “Oh. That’s an intermediate distance—and she’s 24. I’m old enough to be her MOTHER.” “Oh. That’s a sprint competitor—they’re supposed to be going fast, so there ya go.” “Oh. That person is on a RELAY team—they are likely ONLY biking today, so they are on fresh legs!” The excuses went on and on. I was struggling to get a good pace heading to the turn to head uphill out of Sheldrake, and a speedy young? man said, “Spin, spin, spin!”, trying to encourage me to find a good cadence. I was struggling; physically and in my spirits. I tried to shove these negative thoughts away, because I had an uphill to tackle, and the last time I did that hill, it didn’t go so well. Made it up out of Sheldrake, and a little while afterwards, my Ironman brother-in-law Peter passed by me with his well-trained zhoom-zhoom-zhoom of his pedaling and said, “Howdy neighbor!” I thought it was him, but the greeting confused me, because he lives in Dryden, and I in Trumansburg. Still, it was nice to have company from a family member, even if only for 2 seconds. A little later, Amy and Scott Dawson both passed me, with friendly greetings. Scott recognized my colorful hair ties in the Olympic colors. A few miles before finishing the bike course, I spotted a house key on the shoulder. I tried to make special note of where it was so I could report it later.
As I got closer to finishing, I knew there was another uphill that was going to sneak up, but I lost track of it! Before I knew it, I was heading into the “reward” part—downhill into the park!
Again, I practiced in my mind what needed to get done: bike, helmet, glasses, apply glide.
That all went smoothly, and I headed out for my little 6-mile run.
As predicted, I couldn’t really feel my legs much as I started. They felt kind of heavy, but….THEY ARE! I grabbed water as I headed onto the course, and settled into a slow steady pace. Again, I was being passed by lots of people—some of them sprint course and relay participants. One volunteer a couple tenths in noticed one of the speedy relay folks, and commented, “There aught to be a speed limit! Great job!” OF COURSE. The only thing this relay person probably had to DO was run! And only 3.1 miles! Again, the negative inner talk. I was comforted by seeing loved ones and friends- my son Austin was my first uplift. I told him I loved him and encouraged him to keep up the good work. (He looked like he was just bounding freely over the distance.) Saw Amy and Scott Dawson and gave their daughter Elizabeth our traditional “elbow high-5”, saw my daughter Victoria, husband Scott, Christina Luglan, and Jenny Henion, who encouraged me with saying “good job!” I responded “Turtle Power! I’m a MIDDLE-AGE Mutant Ninja Turtle!” I passed by my in-laws who were in charge of getting people to go up the little paved hill up to the entrance to the Gorge Trail. They cheered each time I passed, which was nice to have that little boost. Coming in for my second loop, Energizer Bunny Joel Cisne was ready to cheer me into the finish, but I indicated I had one more loop. That COULD have been a very defeating feeling moment, but somehow, Joel chose just the right words to aim me in the right direction, and lift my spirits. He has a way of doing that which makes him a GREAT volunteer on the course! I tried to save spitting and nose clearing until I had passed the water stops and spectators lined along the way. Saw former colleague Becky Gilfus at the “Duck” water stop. I broke the course down into chunks: park, Gorge in and out, park, Gorge, finish in the park. I knew that once I made the last turn around and came off the Gorge Trail, that I would feel the pull to the finish. On the last loop, I could feel myself getting into “the dark place” where making eye contact takes too much energy, and it’s all you can do just to keep focused on the couple yards in front of your nose. I let myself live there for a little while, but kept trying to keep my slow steady pace. Ice at the last water stop felt truly decadent. As I got closer, I spotted my family (who had finished racing)(Amy, Peter, Victoria, Austin) sitting in the shade of a vehicle encouraging me to finish strong. A relaxing breath, and I enjoyed a good strong sprinting finish. I think I took the announcer by surprise, because I didn’t hear my name as I crossed—that could be just me, though: I’ve had my name said before, and I was too busy finishing.
After the race:
A bottle filled with nice cold refreshing water at the finish was just what I needed. I checked back with my family, and after a trip to the car to get tickets to pick up our pint glass, I decided to position myself at the finish to cheer Scott in. I welcomed him to the other side, and we did usual chatting with friends who had finished, and collected our pint glasses (I had some ginger beer soda), our lunch wraps for later, ice cream for NOW (strawberry—how UNchocolate of me!) and we stayed for the awards ceremony so that Austin could collect his team’s “bling” for medaling in the co-ed relay at the Olympic distance. (I think THAT is when the Voorhees family got their sunburns!)
So…here I am, the evening of race day…proud that I finished…relieved I didn’t have flat tires, didn’t crash (like the poor cyclist from the Netherlands who crashed in her Olympic race in Rio), and I’m left reflecting on the experience. I seem to routinely end the school year overweight and out of shape, and I have to keep setting simple goals. Frankly—I didn’t feel like I had much fun today. Getting passed on every event is not fun. I was about 5 or 6 minutes slower than when I did this distance 2 years ago, and perhaps not using a wetsuit really affected that result? Getting older? Heavier body? Whatever. Time to seriously start thinking about if I continue with triathlons. Scott asked me, “But won’t you miss it?” Maybe. I don’t have time to wallow in this very long, because I have a run schedule to follow for running races this month and next month. And I have a run date with a colleague tomorrow morning. 8 mile recovery run!
Swim: 43:21 T1: 1:39 Bike: 1:36:42 T2 :56 Run: 1:14:31