Well, spoiler alert is too late since I already posted it, but I will start off with the good news: I finished my triathlon :). My sweet mom posted my picture saying I haven’t looked so happy since my wedding day:
So let’s chat a little bit about what it took to get there and show some pictures of the day!
I registered for the Wildflower Mountain Bike Triathlon a couple of months ago very apprehensively. It’s a challenging triathlon as far as Sprint Triathlons go, with the swim being an open water swim off a fairly slim landing creating traffic jams, the cycling being a Mountain Bike through some semi-challenging hills and the run being a trail run. The distances are a bit shorter than normal to compensate for the additional challenge, but that didn’t make me any less nervous.
I didn’t even purchase a bike until 2 weeks before the race because I’d been riding the whole time in the gym anyway and it is pretty much the same, right? Boy was I wrong. When I got on a bicycle for the first time since I was 16, I was surprised to find that people are wrong: you can forget how to ride a bike. I spent the next two weeks biking every chance I get so I could learn how to balance myself for more than 5 minutes at a time so I didn’t break my neck or worse yet a nail.
A week left, I learned how bad the hills were and started hill training on the bike. I felt completely unprepared for the bike going in and feared that I would spend 90% of the time walking my bike, but getting through the swim and the run would be easy, because I could swim .25 miles and run 2 miles in my sleep, even if I was completely exhausted.
The kids stayed with the in-laws so it was nice to get away to beautiful Central California for the weekend without having to worry about kids, although they were missed. We went with three other couples (all the husbands as well as two of their sons participated in one of the two triathlons Saturday).
Although many of the participants up there choose to camp, the couples we went with who do this race almost every year rent a condo up there for the weekend. It was a fun little place with tons of wildlife like deer, wild turkey, wild boar and cows. Seriously, Central California is picturesque. I live in Orange County, which is pretty much heaven on earth and I found myself envying my surroundings up there.
We registered the night before and while the racers helped themselves to their carb load dinner of pasta and salad with some dried fruit included. I know what you’re thinking. Is Spaghetti paleo??? No, it’s not, and so we brought me some delicious Spaghetti Squash which I am pretty sure we got at least a couple people to convert to the great pasta replacement that it is.
I got to bed about 10:30 and set the alarm for 5:30 am. Breakfast consisted of my typical egg whites with a lot of vegetables and some fruit. I consumed plenty of water to be sure I would be hydrated for the big race. Before departing, I put in my headphones and listened to the new Pennywise Album (much thanks to my friend Scott at Type In Stereo for the recommendation and CD) to get me going as I psyched myself up for what I was calling “just another workout”. My start time was 9:48am, but they close down the roads fairly early, so we had to get down there. The Long Triathlon (half Ironman) racers go out first, so after all of the professionals and regular folks got out, it was time to get changed for the big race.
The race starts with the swim, so racers are to arrive in their Wetsuits/Swimsuits at the swim starting line. Your bike and shoes wait for you in a transition area that you run to between each of the three legs of the race to either change or get/return your bike. Tiffany snuck down to the swim area to snap this awful picture (as in the subject, not the photographer):
At precisely 9:48, the whistle goes off and the swim begins. I jump in the water, and I don’t know if it was nerves, stupidity, the crowd surrounding me in the water, but I forgot to take my first breath and ended up swallowing about a gallon of lake water within seconds of hitting the nice warm lake water. Disgusting. I start to cough while swimming forward, dip under water in time to take a foot right to the side of my forehead and immediately come up feeling winded within a minute of the race starting. No bueno.
The swim is an out and back to a buoy in the middle of the lake and about halfway on my way out, I’m wondering if I’m going to DQ on a ridiculous .25 mile swim. I knew myself well enough to know that I’d sooner drown than quit, so truth be told, I was more scared of dying than quitting. I remembered the motivational quote I’d listened to about 50 times while training about wanting success more than wanting to breathe and wondered if I’d absorbed that message so much that I was going to literally put it to the test. In a moment of desperation, I looked to my left and saw a fellow swimmer who had struggled at the outset and realized that I had a partner to keep me motivated. He and I were in this together and despite starting as strangers, we would finish this together as comrades in arms completing our first Triathlon for fame and glory despite our slow times and not winning any trophies. I had a partner. Years from now, we would be eating dinner with our wives, talking about the time we became friends at this triathlon and got through a tough start together.
Ok, I have a clearly deranged and delusional overactive imagination. Oh, and I am far too optimistic.
Three seconds later, my new best friend waved his arms at the nearest lifeguard and said he needed help and was quitting. I was alone again in my travail. My poetic mind realized this was a microcosm for my weight loss journey. How often I have had people seek me out as a mentor and teacher and unfortunately see them call for the lifeguard seconds later in defeat. If I was going to get through this swim, this tiny simple swim, I was going to have to just keep paddling until I hit dry land. There was no other choice but to swim. Channeling my inner Dory, I kept going.
Around the buoy and back, one of the guys who came out with me, but started after me caught up with me (he was a swimmer in college, yup, that’s my excuse). He’s also an EMT, so I knew that I was safe to drown as long as he was pretty close. I’d come too far to quit, but by the time I emerged from the lake, I was definitely looking worse for wear.
Off I went on the bike portion. Unfortunately they missed taking photos of me, so there’s no photos of me leaving. It took me 13 minutes in transition to get out of my wetsuit and get my running shoes/socks on (I took time to dry my feet) and I popped an energy drink, got my helmet on and I was off. Here is an idea of the bedlam that is the transition area:
Going in, I knew the bike was my weakest. I’d spent plenty of time swimming and running but probably a total of 15 hours on a bicycle in the last 15 years. Off I went “zooming” down the chute towards the trail… A few things that happened on the bike:
- Somewhere along the line, I got used to really fit triathletes tearing down the trail past me and saying “On your left” as they passed me. I’m considering changing my name to “Onyourleft” so that these people will be cheering me on as they go in future triathlons.
- Whoever decided it was a good idea to place a completely loose packed pile of sand right before a small hill so that there could be traffic jams with half a dozen spun out bikes deserves a demotion. Seriously, fire that guy.
- The student volunteers all along the bike trail offering drinks and encouragement were awesome. I left wanting to donate money to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (the urge didn’t last long enough to act on it).
- The rumors about naked volunteers along the trail are thankfully not true on the Mountain Bike path (although someone with us doing the Long Course did come across a stark naked man offering high fives. Our friend artfully dodged the question if he looked or not.
I was worried I would be walking my bike up the big hill that you face twice. My friend had told me that everyone walks it the first time they go up it because you’re still tired from the swim. The first time I faced a moderate hill that seemed to last quite a while, I pushed myself hard knowing it would be great preparation for getting to the big hill I knew was coming. When we got to the top of the hill, another rider announced that we were more than halfway home, and that was in fact the big hill. I’d totally cleared it without even noticing.
Before I knew it, I was racing down the hill to transition and being told to prepare to dismount to enter and begin my run. I literally thought I still had 3 miles to go when the bike was finished. It was one of the most fun rides I’d ever had. All I had to do now was do a little jog and I’d be crossing the finish line.
Then I got off my bike and realized that the ten mile mountain bike through hill and trail had actually been pretty rough on the trunks connected to my feet. “Should I be able to feel my quads?,” I jokingly asked the rider next to me as we dismounted. In this 7 minute transition, I put away the bike, finished my Amino Acid workout cocktail and grabbed one of the free Powerbar Energy Gels.
The run was a beautiful trail jog along the lovely lake. I wish I’d brought my phone, but I know I would have been shooting photos the whole time. That reminds me of one of the hardest parts about running a triathlon: not having music while you exercise. I realized that I really get going off the energy of the music.