The epic less-than-24-hour whirlwind time-span leading up to, actual, and post event was, well, epic. It started Friday night with my bike racked for it's first trip out of Nashville (and first time using the bike rack for a long car ride) and a pre-getting on the road stop at Mirko for some carb loading.
|Amazing pre-race support from office mate.|
|Whole wheat penne with meat sauce and meat balls...so yummy.|
We arrived in Decatur around 8:30 pm and we checked into the Best Western of Decatur. High class accomodations in Decatur going on! After messing with what we thought was a broken AC, I finally settled into bed and fell asleep around 10:30 or 11.
Alarm was set for 4:45 am for a 5:15 depart time. I got up and did my normal pre-race routine - coffee made, getting dressed, teeth brushed, peanut butter and bagel prepared, and gear gathered. It felt weird leaving for a race not with my running shoes on, but with flip flops. Loved that feeling actually.
Got to the race site right around 5:35 or 5:40 and I went directly to pick up my race packet. There were no lines and it was in and out. They handed me 2 bibs and my timing chip. It felt so official. I had no idea what the 2nd bib was for. So I asked. I thought the volunteer said "one goes on your front, and one goes on your back" but clearly the 2nd race number went on my BIKE, which thankfully I figured out in the transition area before embarrassing myself. :)
Pit Crew Member KG and I got my transition area set up. At this race the transition area was first come, first served so I choose the 2nd rack on the side closest to the bike exit. After racking my bike and laying everything out we found our way over the the body marking area.
|Arriving to the race site.|
|Before shot with the bike.|
|Body marking fun|
|Transition all set up (that's my green and pink flamingo towel, naturally).|
The thing I found about this race was even though it was tagged as a "beginner" race there was limited signage/direction so figuring things out was generally just taking your best guess or following the groups of people. Luckily, I had been researching triathlons for months leading up to my race and had volunteered at a race back in May so I was familiar with the general layout of a triathlon and tasks to take care of before the race start.
Around 6:15 I headed down to the beach area to check out the water. They hadn't gotten the buoys out yet so they weren't quite ready to let people in the water to warm up yet, but I hung around the water and chatted with some other racers. The water seemed calm to me and eventually they got the buoys out to let us in to warm up.
I wasn't really nervous before the start of the race until I visually saw how far out the buoys went. The swim course was an out and back 400 meter swim. I quickly squashed the fears down and tried to focus on just getting out there to warm up. I swam half way out and waded around a little, but that's pretty much it.
The finally called for racers to line up according to their race number (lower numbers were the first starters and fastest swimmers). At this point they were running late, but I'm not sure how late it was since I didn't have a watch on. I lined up in my general number range and started chatting with a fellow first-time racer, Sheila (hey there!). She was doing this race in preparation for a triathlon she's doing with her cousin next month in Erie, PA. Go Sheila!
|Proud of my body markings.|
|Meet Conehead Emily|
|In the swim line waiting to start.|
After a short wait, which I have no idea how long it was, into the water I went. The. swim. was. awesome. I felt really strong and since I overestimated my swim time by 7 minutes or so, I passed a lot of people that seemed to just be out there doggy paddling it (not hating - way to get it done!) I had to do my normal self talk of not rushing out of the gate too fast, but by time I got to the turn-around I was actually surprised in how short it felt.
Coming out of the water you had to run from the beach through the park entrance to the transition area. This probably added about a minute to my swim time, which was 11:19.
|Off to the swim|
|That's me in the swim (middle, closest yellow cap in picture)|
|Coming out of the swim.|
In transition number 1, I attempted to dry off a little, rinsed the sand off my feet and dry them to put on my socks and shoes, pulled on some athletic shorts and threw my helmet on. I assure you although it is quick to read about all the steps I took, I was sloooooooooooow in T1. It took me 4:03.
The first mile and a half on the bike was a little rough. In hindsight, I should have warmed up my legs up. It was a hard start, and I felt like I was really working to not go at a very fast pace. Early on I decided to save my legs for the run and just do the bike at a leisurely pace. So all those people I passed on the swim? They got right back on me during the bike. Another issue I had during the bike was the fact I didn't think through my hydration system. I had frozen some water and Gatorade bottles, but I didn't think how I would unscrew them while on the bike. Also, since I don't have a double bottle rack I borrowed KG's bottle holder that straps onto the handle bars. But it took two hands basically to get the bottle in and out. After the turn around I dropped my still half full bottle of water. Ooops #1.
The bike did go quicker than I though, but it was a very flat course. KG later informed me on my way back into transition, I didn't dismount at the right point, essentially entering transition ON my bike. Oops #2. Because this wasn't a USAT sanctioned race, they didn't do anything about it, but it's definitely something to keep in mind for future races. My bike time was 42:52. Actually a little faster than I estimated for myself.
Transition number 2 was kind of weird. Since I bike and run in my running shoes I didn't have any clothing changes so I just racked my bike, took off my helmet and downed some water and stood there for a second. I definitely could have done it faster, but it ended up taking me 1:24.
Despite drinking in transition and the water stop outside of transition at the beginning of the run, I felt THIRSTY starting the run. I had set my Garmin to 3/1 minute run/walk intervals and I knew I was going out fast, but I was able to keep to my 3/1s. The run was along the river and on a gravel trail with well marked roots. It was also primarily flat. The nice part was that there were about 4 water stations during the 3.1 mile course. This was really nice for me, who felt really underhydrated. I plowed along, but it really didn't feel that bad. Mostly, it was mentally difficult because the course twisted and turned so just when you thought it was time to turn around, you were really just going around a corner. There was a lot of fellow racer support during the run, which I appreciated. Since I had no idea what time I started, I had no idea how long the race had taken me at that point.
|Starting the run.|
Although I certainly wasn't last, I was in the back of the pack, but there were still a few people cheering runners in at the finish. Including Pit Crew Member KG. I was all smiles as I crossed that finishline. I was a triathlete.
|Still smiling as I round the finish.|
|Crossing the finish line.|
|So excited to be a triathlete!|
During races where I am particularly pushing myself to earn a new accolade (a PR, first time finish, etc.) I always think int he middle of the race I may cry at the finish line because I am so grateful to be at this point in my life that I can do exercise for 1, 2, or even 3 hours at a time and ENJOY it. However, the finishes always seem anticlimactic for some reason. Either way, I was glad to be done and to still have a smile on my face!
Of course, every race finish deserves an epic post race meal. And this one deserved a happy shopping trip to H&M in Huntsville.
|Po Boy Factory - Crawfish Po Boy, Jambalaya, Fries (two kinds), and Fried Pickles.|
So, I'm officially a triathlete. Yes! Where to from here? Of course in the days immediately following completing the race I begin to have thoughts of...well maybe I could do that race in September? What about doing an International (Olympic) distance next year? Could I do a half-Ironman in 2014? Will I ever be crazy enough to do an Ironman?
Slow. Your. Roll. Emily.
Honestly, in the first 7 months of this year I've completed 3 half-marathons and a triathlon. I could do that sprint tri in September, but I think I honestly need a break from endurance racing. I'm not signed up for any long distance events until December, and I think I am content in keeping it that way. My bank account and body need a break from the cardio fest it's been having. I want to learn how to focus on strength training. Also, I think if I back off of a strenuous training schedule maybe I can focus on losing these last 45 pounds I want to get rid of from my body. These two things can only make me stronger when I DO return to racing this winter and triathlons next season.
But honestly, I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of friends and family. This wasn't a solo journey in the least. Friend Jenne went on my first swim with me and taught me how to breathe in the pool (yes, really I had to learn to breathe), plus accompanied me on a-many-more swims. Of course KG took time out of her weekend last week to go to Decatur with me, help carry equipment and took all the pictures in the post (she took a total of 92 pictures!) not to mention spotting me on my first OWS before race day. And my long-distance coach, Heather, who I got to ask crazy triathlon related questions to and she always happily answered and gave me advice. I can't even begin to list everyone that gave me encouragement, good luck wishes, congratulations wishes, etc. You all SERIOUSLY rock.
In the end, it was an amazing experience and I am hooked. If you have ever thought about doing a triathlon I highly recommend you to find a beginner race you are comfortable with and start training today. (I'm no doctor though, so make sure everything is A-OK before beginning any exercise program.)
Triathlon, I'll see you next year!
|After shot with the bike.|