Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Before I get into the big event of mine, I wanted to share an amazing article I found today with the hottest men of the 2014 World Cup. Ben Foster of England and Juan Mata of Spain get my vote. Sorry, American boys.
OK, enough of that. I did not play any soccer this weekend (or ever), but I did partake in an athletic endeavor of my own: my third triathlon! On Sunday morning, I swam 0.45 miles, biked 13, and ran 3.1 (actually more like 3.5 – the course was long) in the Ohio State Ross Tri Fit Challenge! I competed with a team from work as part of the YMCA Corporate Challenge, and my company sponsored my race – big thanks!
The prep for this triathlon actually started the day before, when I drove to the starting location to drop of my bike. This triathlon, like the other two I’ve completed, was a point-to-point course – meaning the swim-to-bike transition is in a different location than the bike-to-run transition. Point-to-point courses are really fun, because you actually go somewhere instead of stick around the same area. But they are also more complicated, in that you finish the race in a different place from where you started. The swim for this race was in Antrim Park Lake, the bike course took us through Worthington and down High St. to Ohio Stadium (home of the Buckeyes!), and the run around Ohio State’s campus, right past my dorm and through The Oval, finishing on the 50-yard line of the ‘Shoe. One hell of a course!
My alarm went off just as the Gay Pride supporters outside my window were calling it a night, at 4:15 AM! I packed my standard pre-race breakfast of a PB&J sammy and banana and poured myself a mug full of coffee before heading out the door. I was at the Stadium by 5, where I was treated to the coolest part of the entire day: an empty Ohio Stadium in the wee hours of the morning. #worthit.
I dropped of my run gear (running shoes, hat, race belt), met my co-workers, and hopped on a shuttle bus that took us to the start (that way, our cars were at the finish). We then went to check out our bikes, which had been sitting overnight (with overnight security) and had collected plenty of dew. I laid out my swim-to-bike transition stuff: towel, water bottle to rinse off feet, socks, bike shoes, tank top, long-sleeve top (it was a cool morning and I get cold biking), helmet, sunglasses, race fuel, and my Garmin. That’s when I discovered that my beloved Garmin watch decided to stop working. Despite having charged it fully, it would not turn on – and still won’t now. I mildly freaked out, then decided that I would just bike my hardest and run my fastest, and I didn’t need to see my pace to do that.
We made our way down to the swim start, and finally, at 6:30 AM, the first swimmers hit the water. They released swimmers in small groups – maybe 3-5 at a time – every 5 seconds, which was a nice way to control overcrowding. After another 30 minutes or so, it was finally my turn to enter the water. Here goes nothing!
The water was just 74 degrees, as opposed to the high 70s/low 80s water of my previous races. It was also wetsuit legal (below 78), but I had no desire to wear a wetsuit (and don’t own one), so I was really nervous about being freezing during the swim. Turns out, the water felt great. The swim was in a triangle shape, and was surprisingly crowded at times despite the wave start. I got in my groove pretty quickly and stayed there for the most part, switching to breast stroke a few times to control my breathing and get my whereabouts. I also REALLY had to pee before the swim, so I figured I would just pee while swimming. Easier said than done! Peeing takes concentration, and it’s very difficult to do while also swimming a race! But I was determined not to get on the bike with a full bladder, so I multi-tasked and made it work. Whew. And not a minute too soon, the swim was over. I knew I had done well – I swam as hard as I could.
After a barefoot run under a bridge and up a slippery hill, I transitioned from swim to bike, hopped on the bike, and started pedaling. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore – this course was MUCH hillier than my previous two triathlons. It was also narrow and crowded at times, especially towards the end. I can’t say I enjoyed it – despite being a spin instructor, biking is by far my hardest event, and every pedal stroke takes effort. But I made it through, and even had a spectator cheering me on! The course went right past the home of my second mother, Karen, and she was out there cheering me on as I “whizzed” past. Seeing her was wonderful. I also ate a date stuffed with peanut butter and sprinkled with sea salt – a race fuel idea I stole from one my favorite blogs, fANNEtastic food. I hate gels, and although I wasn’t really hungry I knew I needed a little extra boost to get me through the run.
The bike-to-run transition was tricky. We were required to remove our bike shoes before entering the Stadium, and had to run our bikes down a steep slope (the same one TBDBITL uses to enter the field!). The momentum built running down the entrance caused me to drop my bike at the bottom, knocking my shin and making me flustured for a minute. But I got a hold of myself, racked my bike, switched shoes, and off I went.
The very first part of the run? STAIRS! Not a lot, but enough to get that heart rate up right off the bat. I struggled initially on the run. My right shin and calf were really bothering me, as they had been the days leading up to the race. But I eventually got into a rhythm, and even ran into my friend EB on the course! It was so great to see her in those last few miles of the race. This was her first triathlon, and despite having the flu, she rocked it!
I really picked up my pace towards the end. The course was annoyingly mis-marked, and there was at least an additional quarter mile – not 0.1 – after the three-mile mark. But I pushed through, and finished with a smile on my face! The first thing I noticed afterwards was how NOT tapped-out I felt. I honestly felt fine, and like I could do more. That’s the great part about triathlons – as soon as you are feeling tapped out of one event, it’s on to the next, using different muscles and mentally changing the game.
I finished the race in 1:42:37 – a time I am very happy with! I was in the top 20% of all swimmers (men included!) and the top 40% of all runners (men included!). The bike…well, that’s another story. Although my average MPH were quite slow at just 13.6, I felt good on the bike, like I was working hard – and I even passed some people! Everyone has their weak event, and for this spin instructor, the bike is most definitely mine. Weak legs, heavier bike, inexperience – whatever the reason, I know it’s something to work on. But I’m a big believer in focusing on strengths, not weaknesses (in the workplace, too!), so I’m not going to get down on myself for a slower-than-average bike. I’m a great swimmer and a good runner! And most importantly – and I mean this – I had FUN! Unlike after my last half-marathon in 2009, when I finish triathlons, the first thing I think is, “when can I do another one?!”. They are just FUN!
And do another I will – in exactly five weeks from yesterday, in fact. On July 27, I’ll be competing in my first Olympic distance triathlon – exactly TWICE the distance of yesterday’s. That’s a 0.9 mile swim, 40K bike (~25 miles), and 10K (6.2 mile) run. Eeeek. It won’t be easy, and I have my work cut out for me these next five weeks. My goal is not simply to finish – I know I can finish – but to finish not feeling like I have been run over by a truck. I don’t have to feel as great as I felt yesterday, but I don’t want to be miserable either. Because remember, triathlons are supposed to be fun!
Let the countdown begin!