Having made it through 3 Half-Marathons — and finally “smashed” my own 2.5 hour goal at this year’s 3M — I wanted to take on a new challenge: a triathlon. In 2007, I ran in the Danskin Triathlon as part of a relay team, leaving the swimming and cycling to others. The supportive atmosphere of that experience and the inspiration I felt watching women of all ages, shapes and fitness levels, planted a seed that someday I needed to do this myself … the whole thing. THIS would be the year. I joined Tri Zones Training, an Austin-based group that offers coaching and camaraderie, and embarked on a new journey. On May 8, 2011, I participated in the Skeese Greets Women’s Tri, a triathlon with shorter distances (especially in the swim). What follows is my race report …
My First Tri: Will Tri Again
I believe in starting with the positives so let’s just begin by saying that I looked cute in my Zoot shorts & matching trishirt!* And oh yeah, I’m also very creative & kinda smart with occasional moments of brilliance. It’s true, just ask me. Now about my athleticism …
O Say, Can You See …
The morning started with a short yoga practice for all the participants before the first air horn blew. Were that I truly am as smart as I THINK, I would have rolled up my beach towel and gone home knowing MY best event had just taken place with the yoga. I then would have paused for some fuel, before I transitioned straight to the mall. But no, my judgment was as murky as the open water I was about to wade into.
Diving In …
Swimming has proven challenging for me, way more so than I expected, producing off the charts anxiety. This tri only required a 300 meter swim with promises that I could swim to the side and stand up if all else failed so I felt encouraged. The photo at the right, taken by Tom Marek Photography captured this apprehensive, but optimistic first time “triathlete.”
I will spare you all the gory details of the water conditions, including what I sank into knee-deep when I actually attempted TO stand up “at the side”. Let’s just say my swim was somewhat reminiscent of a scene from Jaws but without the shark — panicked arms flailing about but thankfully no blood. Can we say, I SERIOUSLY SUCKED!? Despite the promise that I’d settle down after a few minutes by those who were more experienced, I never settled & spent almost the whole time on my back. Couldn’t even get my face in the water without FREAKING. (Aside: Can someone please explain why we needed goggles at the Texas Ski Ranch? Could anyone see anything BUT muddy water? I mean, not that I would have known if you COULD, but seriously?)
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Supposedly, I was in the water for “only” 15 minutes; it felt like FOREVER. See the TWO lifeguards swimming alongside that panicked woman holding her breath? That would be me. (For the record, they never had to actually help me, though they DID ask.) I didn’t struggle to breathe, and I wasn’t tired, I was just flippin’ freaked out. Had my heart rate monitor been strapped to my heaving chest, my beats per minute most certainly would have short-circuited the Garmin.
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I emerged from the water dirty & deflated. (Visualize: Loch Ness Monster finally nabbed after all these years! See above.) Didn’t feel the surge of adrenaline that I’d imagined, only intense frustration at my inability to simply stick my dang head IN the water mixed with a tinge of annoyance that my husband thought THIS would be an ideal opportunity for a race candid. No endorphin high for me … just a LOT of cortisol pumping through this stressed-out 49 year-old. Decided to take my time & regroup during T1 (Triathlon lingo for Transition #1 … CHECK … I got it down!)
Dancing on the Pedals a la Lance!
Out of the corral after a leisurely 3 1/2 minutes & I felt strong the whole ride, rode hard, passed more than a few people. By far my best (and most enjoyable) event. My cadence was high, my legs were strong, my form was impressive! Right up until … the dismount — one foot clipped out, one did not & I went down hard on my side. Right in front of God, the photographer, and everyone. Despite a post race bruise, the biggest casualty was my pride. Had been feeling pretty cocky about my cycling skills up to that point. What is it they say? “Pride Cometh Before the FALL” … Literally!
Shaking it off, I took my time (again) in T2, then had some trouble figuring out — and I’m not making this part up — where to exit the transition area to START the run — DUH — but I made my way out of the maze of bike racks & started slogging towards the finish line, motivated by the promise of free beer. (Gu’s for Girls!) Other than the first 5 minutes — known in the triathlon world as “the brick” — my legs felt pretty good. The finish line was in sight. (Are you impressed yet with my technical grasp of this sport?)
I Feel A Party Comin’ On!
At the finish line, we were met by enthusiastic race volunteers who handed us a refreshing cold wet towel and commemorative race necklace. The post race celebration was fun & gratifying — fish tacos & beer & lots of camaraderie with the TriZones group. The T-Zone tent offered red carnations for all the moms & we took group photo of our large contingency. It was nice to be embraced by this pack of strong, positive women after my very solitary and humbling first endeavor.
(I have to say, I LOVE the race necklace … much better than a medal & certainly a tad bit less flashy at work on Monday morning. And I’ll admit it … I didn’t scrub off the telltale race signs of permanent marker on my leg & okay, maybe I practiced the nonchalant, “over the shoulder” glance that I’d be sure to give when coworkers queried, “What’s that on your calf?”
The Depths of the Night
Later in the evening, I began to seriously doubt if I’ll be ready for the Danskin next month. As my husband & I talked, tears rolled down my face while recounting my panicked, open-water attempt. He tried to encourage me sharing his own struggles with the open water swim, but to no avail. Finally he sighed, “If you hate this so much, Pam, I have to ask … why are you doing it?” I could only mumble, “Because I have to, I have to do this. For me.” Later I thought that maybe my answer lies in the title of this blog. Maybe it’s all about discovering “the potential within”.
The 800 meter swim looms large. Everyone keeps saying, “You’ll be ready,” though I have come to accept I may not. I may need more time to get ready. If I do, I do, but until then, I’m gonna keep putting one arm in front of the other, trying to remember to breathe.
“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. ~Earl Nightingale
My congrats — and GRATITUDE — to those of you who shared the day with me! It mattered!
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* My husband has since informed me that I MUST get the TriZones team shirt … “If you’re on a team, Pam, you need to don the team gear! Get with it!” Next stop, the online order page.
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My Photo Montage Recap of the Day
With gratitude to Tom Marek Photography for several of the photos included in the slideshow, and especially my husband Brian who was there to capture “All Me, All the Time”!