My BFF Julie completed her first open water triathlon this weekend. Sooooooooo excited for her!
White Lake Fall Sprint Triathlon
Like I’d heard, White Lake really is a great place for a triathlon! I can’t say the water is really as clear as people say it is, but it was calm and beautiful. Thank you to my mom for checking it out with me the day before the race! This was my first open water sprint triathlon. Distances: swim 750 meters, bike 14 miles, and run 5k.
I’ve come to realize that completing a triathlon is more than 3 parts… it is really sleep-(or try!)-swim-bike-run. As usual, the sleep the night before was one of the hardest parts. The pre-race excitement mixed with sleeping in a different bed resulted in somewhere between 3-4.5 hours of sleep. But it really was more excitement this time than anxiety. I had been working on my swimming in particular, and I was ready to test out my skills in the famously flat White Lake. Somehow, in the morning I felt pretty good and got to the race site at a decent time.
Swim- Be brave!
After a last minute wardrobe change (yes, I’m crazy, I know), I headed back to the lake and saw my family. They wished me good luck and I headed down the dock.
I saw the buoys that marked where I’d be swimming…Whoa…that looks far!… Be brave, I told myself. You have swum this distance before. You can do it. I got into the water and was happy to have the chance to test out my goggles and ear plugs before the event started. I looked up at the dock and saw Dave. As I waved, he motioned over to the shore, and there I saw Andrea sitting in her cute little trike in between the beautiful trees draped in Spanish moss. I gave her a big wave and felt ready to start my race!
As they called each wave of swimmers (I was in the novice group which was last), we inched up closer to the starting line. My googles were starting to look a little foggy already which made me anxious. But I told myself, It’ll be fine, just keep swimming and you’ll deal with it. I heard the count down from ten… “Three… two…one!” And we were off.
The beginning of a swim is always challenging for me. My heart rate goes up, it’s easy to start too fast, I’m feeling anxious, etc. But I had dealt with this before, so I told myself going into this race to start slowly and just relax. Well… that didn’t happen. I took off swimming and realized there were people in my way. There was splashing. I tried to look around. I couldn’t breathe. Omg, this is the craziness of open water swimming that I’ve heard about! I switched to breaststroke to catch my breath. I looked around to see if other people were struggling, and it looked as if a few might be too. I suddenly felt better…a little :). Oh man, is this rescue boat going to think I need help? Does my family see me flailing about in the water? Have I gotten myself in too far over my head? I took a few slow freestyle strokes and told myself, Okay, you can do this. You will calm down and get in a groove. And then finally I did.
I made it to the first buoy quicker than I had expected to and was pleased that it wasn’t too crowded at this point. I was feeling like I could actually swim now, and I even passed some people which gave me an extra boost of confidence. I truly enjoyed the swim.
With the exit ladders in sight, I swam a little harder and proudly pulled myself out of the water once I reached the dock. I ran down the dock and saw my family and Andrea and Dave cheering. As I passed Andrea I said, “Okay, can I stop now? I’ll give you my race bib and you can finish for me!” Of course I was joking, but really I had put most of my training efforts into the swim and I wasn’t looking forward to the bike and the run portion as much as I had the swim.
Bike- Have fun!
Before the race, I wasn’t too worried about the bike because it had “no hills whatsoever.” Well, after swimming for 20-ish minutes, trying to go fast on my bike was a little tiring even on flat land. It wasn’t long before whoosh whoosh whoosh, speedy cyclists were passing me on their second bike lap while riding on their nice fast road bikes (I have a hybrid). During the race info meeting the evening before, they were going over the official rules and I had made a note to be sure to stay back three bike lengths if passed. Well…that was no problem! Whoosh, they went by and were gone just like that. Maybe my tire is going flat, I thought. I tried looking at my back tire, but before I knew it I was riding on the grass! Oops. Maybe my seat should be higher or further back??
I realized that while I had been telling myself positive things throughout the swim, here I was feeling worried about my bike and wasting energy on the wrong thing. Julie, HAVE FUN!! I told myself. This piece was Dave’s advice and was written on my arm under “Be brave.”
So, for the second lap I told myself that even if I don’t have the best bike or even if I’m just slow, it didn’t matter at this point…I’m just going to enjoy my bike ride. I kept cranking the best I could while I took in the scenery…a few humongous homes, a bunch of little of motels with small town character, and even a water park.
Run- Be thankful!
As I got off my bike, oh yes, my legs did feel stiff. I hobbled over to my spot and struggled to remember which way to put my bike on the rack. This happened at Ramblin’ Rose too, but I forgot to practice thinking this part through. I grabbed a couple shot bloks, partly for energy and partly in honor of Andrea because I know how she loves them. I had hoped to run the first mile before taking a walk break, but at this point the sun was shining and I was feeling worn out. I ran most of the first mile, but then had to do a mix of run/walk throughout the rest.
I have to admit, it was hard at this point to tell myself to have fun. So instead, I reminded myself to be thankful. On the last stretch, a guy who was heading out on his run was approaching me from the opposite direction. I can’t remember if he cheered for me and I returned the greeting, or if it was a high five, but he yelled, “The people at the end are always the nicest!” Hmm…At the end? Was this a compliment? Oh well, I’ll take nice over first 🙂
As I turned the corner, I saw my family, Andrea, Dave, Sandy and Andy cheering for me. I ran up to the finish line, and even though Andrea tells me, “Nothing new on race day,” I decided to do a Blazeman roll. I hoped I wasn’t breaking any USAT regulations, but I figured even if was, it was worth it.
So, even though I was slower on the bike and the run, I am happy to know that my focus on swimming in my training made a difference. Now I just need to figure out how to focus on training for all three at one time! 🙂
I was proud of myself for reaching a new goal and was so happy to have Andrea there. But it was also bittersweet…doing the race was half the goal, but raising money for ALS research was the other half, and although I had completed the race and raised money, there was still no cure for ALS. While I wanted her racing with me, I realize we can’t change what life gives us, we can only change how we react to it. There was nothing I could do on that bike during the race to make me as fast as the other bikers, but I had fun anyway, and once I was swimming in that water I just had to deal with it and figure out a way to get in my groove.
Andrea does this better than anyone I know. She told me the other day, the most important part of the journey is the training. So I feel some peace knowing that it’s not necessarily the results or participating in a certain race that matters. It’s the experiences we create that matter. Andrea embraces life and the opportunities it brings and ALS has not changed that. I can’t take ALS away, but I can tell you this…some people go through life hoping to make a difference, but Andrea has already done that. Like me, so many people have surprised themselves and accomplished things they never would’ve known they could do if it weren’t for her.
Now if only I could work toward achieving Andrea’s approach to life in the way that I have been following her lead with triathlons. Is there a training guide for that? 😉
Funds raised: $1,052
Next up for me… work on running for City of Oaks and buy a road bike!