(For the short version, scroll down )
Yesterday (holy crap, it seems like a week ago) I raced the Monte Rio Sprint Triathlon. It was my first triathlon in three years. I had a lot of anxiety going in to this race. I hadn’t practiced open water during my hiatus. I hadn’t specifically practiced transitions that much – changing from swim to run and run to bike can be really hard to do quickly. I had done a couple of races in the last year but they were runs, so they had significantly easier logistics.
My anxiety was not helped by the total upheaval of my travel plans on Wednesday night. Instead of focusing on my race and visualizing my transitions, I was completely upset and distracted. Every time I tried to lie quietly and think though the race my mind wandered and catastrophized – I even imagined a fist fight in transition. I was in rough shape. I told Mr. Fyre several times on Saturday that it was the worst race anxiety I’ve ever had. Only knowing that it was nerves (yay, years of racing experience!) kept me at all in the game. I was shaky, tired, nauseous and generally freaked out. I had planned to do a short swim in the river on Saturday to get at least some open water in before my race – no go. I had planned to do a short bike and run to shake out my legs – no go. I had planned to drive the bike and run courses and scout the swim entrance and exit – actually did it! One out of three – I’m a winner! At that point my race goal had come down to – just get to the start.
Team Fyre adapted and overcame and found a last minute hotel room that was pricey but ended up being really nice (The Woods Resort in Guerneville – really nice people, good rooms, good coffee). The only downside to the hotel were the people in the next room. I don’t begrudge a person a shower at midnight after a long drive. I do begrudge them shouting over the sound of the water to their friends so loudly that it wakes me up in the middle of the night before my race, when I was actually sleeping the night before the race (this never happens and I still got the best rest I’ve ever had on the night before). Mr. Fyre, my absolute hero of the whole week, nearly took the wall out banging on it. Desired effect achieved, sleep resumed. Little Miss Fyre even obliged us with an early bedtime and nine hours of solid sleep in a strange bed.
Sunday morning came and I rolled over to check the clock at 4:29 AM. I caught the alarm before it went off and popped into the bathroom to eat my breakfast and get dressed without waking anyone up. Lots of self talk and posturing into the mirror followed. I got my food down and got ready. The theme of race day was that the technical skills of triathlon – timing your eating, transition set up and execution, swim sighting – stay with you regardless of fitness. Race morning felt like race morning – not some new and strange experience. I knew that eating the banana was a good idea, even though I felt nauseous looking at it.
Hitting my schedule on race morning is key to my confidence, so I felt great when we walked out of the hotel room at 6 AM. I felt even better when we got to the parking lot. There was a line for timing chips and then a shuttle ride. There were a lot of people nervously glancing at watches and putting on their wetsuits as they watched wave start times tick by. I was in the last wave and I was going to have time, not a luxurious amount of time, but enough to get set up with any craziness.
On Saturday I had run into a couple of Swim Bike Moms and I saw one of them again on the beach, walking to the start. The day before the two women had encouraged me and on this day Suzanne ( I think, I’m so terrible with names) gave me a huge hug and then zipped up my wetsuit. That’s triathlon. I zipped up two other people, I chatted with a first timer on the shuttle and all the people around me in the line. We were all there together, really together. I can’t even say how much it meant to me to see those women I had never met and how much they helped me when I was cracking open. SBM Army – for real.
Down the beach – the very rocky beach – to the water. There was a walk (it is shallow as anything and I highly recommend this race to anyone with water anxiety – you can stand up just about any time) to the swim start line. Everyone around me was slogging through waist deep water – Smarty McFyrepants here got a swim warm up! At least ten minutes of swimming, getting loose and relaxed, getting my heart rate up and back down. I even threw down some butterfly to show the competition I meant business. We were the last wave, all the Olympic waves and the Sprint men were already off. Waiting at the line, when the announcer said “Thirty seconds” I yelled “Chase ’em all down!” Then it was go time and things got new.
In every previous triathlon I have lined up at the absolute back of the swim. I’ve walked down to the water and started slowly. That was when I trained three times a week. One swim, one track session and a weekend ride or run. That will get you to the finish of a triathlon. But I have been training five to six days a week, up to eight hours a week. I started base training in November, I did weights, I’ve been doing yoga for strength and to gain hip flexibility. I have used The Sufferfest Novice Triathlon plan and I am a new damn woman. My last hard swim workout was doing 100 yards hard, not quite as fast as possible, but hard and steady. And doing it fourteen times in a row. I had not worked that hard and sweat that much to sit back and take it easy.
My number one race goal was not a time. It was to race hard the whole way. To RACE.
I passed half the women’s field in the first 200 yards. I swam over bodies, arms and legs clashing. I went, I deferred to no one. That pace, drilled into me over twelve weeks, those hard hundreds were in my arms and my mind. No pausing, no worrying, just going hard until two orange buoys, then turning and heading straight for the swim exit. It was amazing. I felt strong and fast and confident. I didn’t even kick. We ran out of depth fifty yards before the exit and walked over the rocky bottom to the exit. I ran as soon as I could and there was Team Fyre. A kiss to the Little Miss and then I ran up the (very thoughtfully laid out) carpet to transition.
As I ran I was wheezing, my heart rate was way high and all I could think was theme two of the weekend “I didn’t come here to take it easy.” I had a bit of trouble getting the suit off but then it was glasses, helmet, race belt, shoes, and off to the bike.
Once again, my heart was pounding, my breath was wheezing and I did not slow down. I knew my body would settle in without coddling. I went for it, again, still. Training had told me I could hold 18 mph, so I pegged it there and stayed low. The hardest moment of the race was a curvy downhill on patched road. I lost my bottle. I know that I need to build bike handling skills and confidence in taking turns at speed. I did the best that I had on the day. Twice I straight out attacked. There were riders on the course who did not have great handling skills and did not know the rules on drafting (like, don’t do it!) or road position. Two of them I purposefully put in a big effort to pass and leave behind. As I passed one I thought “This is Fight Club!” The bike training I had done had prepared me for exactly the effort I needed.
Then the bike was finished (Hi Monica!). My legs had started to hurt but I knew I had a good run that was waiting to be called for. Then the ratchet strip on my bike shoe got stuck and I couldn’t take my bloody shoe off. I yanked and yanked and it gave (first post race gear purchase will be new shoes). I raced out of T2. Wave and a smile to Team Fyre and into the pain cave.
Nothing grows in the comfort zone. I did not come here to take it easy. I didn’t feel fast. My legs never “woke up.” I got a rhythm. It wasn’t my usual rhythm when I feel happy and light and strong. It was there though and I grabbed it. I tried to keep a smile on my face and started crying. There had been no panic attack on my swim, there had been no ease on my bike, this was new ground. I counted the women who passed me and tried to see if they had sprint bibs. Two. Two women passed me on the whole run. I got to the turn around and saw the strangest thing; they were all behind me. I have never seen that many people behind me at a race, ever.
I kept going, one steady pace the whole way. I had planned a kick and had memorized landmarks for 800, 600, 400, and 200 meters. I was able to give it a bit more at 600 but I was already running so hard there was nothing else to do but keep going. A wave to Coach Raeleigh (props for recognizing me without OTC kit!) and Prez. Chris and I threw myself down the home stretch. Then, the insult to injury. The last thirty yards are straight up hill. No valiant finishing sprint but an uphill shuffle. Team Fyre was on the left, shouting for me and then I managed to kick in the last ten yards.
Arms up over the line! Then nearly falling over, heaving, as I got a medal put on and chip taken off. Done. I had gone as hard as I could, as long as I could. Mission Accomplished.
5th!!! I have never finished out of the bottom 25% of a race before (not an exaggeration) and I came 5 out of 24 for my age group.
Event review: These people know how to put on a race. The event was extremely well run, absolutely would race again. Great value, great venue.
I had planned a good, better, best set of goal times for this race. I also had a super secret awesome stretch goal. I beat that goal. The one that was outlandish, the fantasy. My training numbers told me I could do it. The body would be willing, I had to have the fortitude to go there.
Swim – 14:21 1:55/100M
My fantasy swim time was 15:00. I beat a number I didn’t think I could make by 39 seconds. I am still absolutely ecstatic over this. Imagine how fast I would be if I kicked! (Out of 199 racers – men included, only 60 were faster than I was. I learned to swim six years ago this month.)
T1 – 4:31
Seems long until I tell you it was the second fastest in my age group and out of 199 total racers, it was faster than all but 34 of them.
Bike – 44:15 16.8 mph average
Not quite as fast as my fantasy number of 18 mph, but better than 114 others on the day.
T2 – 1:35
Once again, faster than all but 37 other racers, including the jammed bike shoe.
Run – 30:22 9:48/mile
This is the fastest I have ever run a race – even one that wasn’t a triathlon. I held off the next women in my age group by 20 seconds.
Total – 1:35:03
-5/24 in my age group
My best race ever. It hurt and it was amazing. I could not do it without Mr. Fyre, he is my hero. I could not do it without me, I am my hero.