My First Triathlon

I won! No, not really. . . .

I won! No, not really. . . .


I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon. It’s just been on the list forever. So, I finally signed up for this one. Seemed like a good choice, in that it was short (sprint) with distances as follows:

    .25 mile swim
    12 mile bike
    3 mile run

I also convinced my Shannon to do it also, and then another friend, Tonya, decided to do it about a month beforehand. She is nuts and impressive. No training and she kicked mine AND Shannon’s asses quite handily.

So, we met up at the Lodge and Conference Center to check in on Friday night. I ran into childhood friend, Lucy Myrick! She has a cute husband, three adorable boys, and she looks awesome. She is also exactly the same as ever – one of the nicest people I have ever known. Shannon and Tonya had no problems whatsoever checking in. Lucy, either. I, of course, was not listed as being registered. Even though I had registered months in advance, and had a confirmation email, and all that jazz. Not to mention that they man who helped me didn’t see me listed, but knew my occupation. Creepy. So, finally, they just gave up and gave me a new number. 734. It had a good feel to it. Before it got dark, Shannon, Tonya and I went to check out the course. (Nerd Worrywart Extraordinaires, Shannon and I.)
Checking out the course, we drove over to the transition area, which was basically a big parking lot. They had all the bike racks set up. The racks were just long bars (no vertical bars separating tires, just one long horizontal bar – you lifted your bike to rest the seat on the bar and it just hangs there.) So, then we decided we should probably check out the area for the swim start. A few other competitors were there, too. We were all quite dismayed that the race route map did not bother to denote the FUCKING HUGE HILL you had to run up after the swim, run down after the bike, and then run back up to the finish. So, we walked down to the water, which was inside Lake Lanier Islands waterpark. Except the big chain-link entrance gate was locked to prevent us from walking down to the beach.

Yeah, right. Like that was keeping us out. With the help of a few enterprising young men, we found a hole through the fence and snuck right in. You can’t keep bad girls out. . . . Okay, so this part was a little creepy. You know that scene from Big, when the kid Tom Hanks is walking around the boardwalk or where ever that fortune teller is? Well, it was kind of like that. No one there. Water slides and pavilions on the beach, all empty. We were all fearful a clown would jump out and start chasing us any minute. No, the sun was setting, i was creeped out, and I forgot my camera. Bummer.

So, we walked down to the beach – I found zero scary about the swim course. Lakes don’t scare me, I’m a strong swimmer. I was bummed out that you had to run from the swim course up a long sidewalk, across a bridge, up cement stairs, through a cement pavilion area, and up a v. steep paved hill to get to the transition area. Barefoot. IN A DAMN BATHING SUIT.

So, after walking back, we got in Shannon’s car and drove the bike course. According to the race website, there is “one steep hill.” Those fuckers are lying fucks. Many hills. At least five, in my opinion. This was when my nerves went apeshit. I was pretty freaked out. Shannon was too, and we were probably feeding on each other’s anxiety. So, we did that and then drove home. It was getting dark, and neither of us was particularly worried about the run.

I got home at about 9:30 (it is about a 45 minute drive from my house, maybe less.) And I hadn’t eaten dinner. So, i got home, took a Xanax, and ordered Italian from Bambinelli’s, and was in bed by about 11 am. Set alarm for 5:15 am wakeup call. Todd stayed up with our neighbor Scott, drinking and hanging out until God knows what hour, but they didn’t keep me up, and Todd had express orders to not wake me when he came in, and not to bother coming in at all if he had been drinking liquor and was going to snore. I think he knew I meant business. Woke up by myself. Went down to find him sleeping on couch. Also, miraculously, alarm did not wake kids. And i really wasn’t nervous at all. Xanax good.

Had preset coffee to make when I woke up, so had a cup, and unbelievably, was able to poop before i left. Could not believe it went so well. Had a banana with peanut butter toast for the car, along with another half cup of coffee, and a full water. It was still dark when I left, but the sun was coming up by the time I got to the parking area for the race. Unloaded my bike (same old mountain bike I rode in college, just tuned up with road tires) and walked towards the transition area. Found my friend Shannon, and her sister Erin and newly-fianced Matt.
I have no idea if that is a word. Matt, by the way, is the only person I saw injured the whole day. No, he was not competing; just spectating. Ran into Tonya. We all got into transition and set up next to each other, which was nice and comforting. Since it was all first-timers, there was lots of joking about our confusion. No one had any clue what they were doing in setup. All that worrying about transition setup was for naught, though. It was a breeze. We picked a place kind of back in the far corner, which i probably wouldn’t do again. But no biggie.

Got everything set up: Number for my helmet, and my bike, and one attached to the shirt i was going to bike and run in. They also gave us colored armbands to designate what age group we were in. I was in the pink age group 37-40 or something like that. Tonya was also in my group. Turned out that my friend Lucy, who grew up with me in Roswell, was also there, and she was in my wave also. You had to have your race number to check in. Took my packet with me to the check-in, where they check your number and then write your number on you with a sharpie. That part feels pretty cool – Very real, with the number on your arm and on the back of your calf.

Went back, and got my goggles and swim cap. We all debated the shoes for the run from the swim course to transition. (They told us, as we were setting up, that we were allowed to leave shoes at the end of the swim. I hadn’t brought any for that purpose. We were all annoyed.) Decided that it was more trouble than it was worth and just went barefoot.

So, we went down to the beach and i got in to feel the bottom. Very clear of debris. Put on my cap and goggles and did a few strokes. Froze when I got out. They had quite a crowd on the beach, and the announcer explained the swim route and then talked about this badass woman who had a bike accident last year and couldn’t finish and made the ambulance taking her to the hospital stop by the registration to let them know she’d be back this year. She was 72. Everyone applauded her.

They started doing the waves by age, younger folks going first. Shannon is in the 30 group, so she went in the wave before us. I stood around on the beach with Lucy, us laughing at how it seemed no time had passed since standing behind the blocks as Creekers on the swim team. Very surreal. She and I were thinking we would swim on the outside (deeper and farther away from the shore). Thought this would give me more room to make full strokes and get in a groove, rather than being right in the fray of panicked people who wanted to hug the shore. This totally backfired, as I think it would have been equally bumpy either way, and many folks who were in shallower water got towards the end of the swim and stood up and ran the last portion of the swim. I swam it out, because that’s how I roll. Breaststrokers are the pits.

So, the swim was not challenging at all, but it was different than I thought it would be. I think i was more tentative than I thought i would be, and next time, i will just say fuck it and chance getting a good kick in the face. I will also run some folks over next time if they pull up right in front of me and tread water. I was really frustrated after the swim, but not tired.

There is no way to feel attractive getting out of the water at 8 in the morning, running with 600 other people across a beach and into a narrow sidewalk that ends up squeezing over a bridge. Running up the stairs, and on pavement, and then up a steep paved hill into a parking lot, barefoot, is also not fun. I was scared to run too fast because I felt like i was going to step on something.

Got to the top and into the transition area, which was really well-marked. Lots of folks were already out of the area and on the bike, but I told myself that many of them were in earlier waves. There were still a ton of people there, as I toweled off, pulled on my shirt, and shorts, and then put on socks and shoes. I was worried about picking up dirt or pebbles on wet feet and getting them in my socks, but it wasn’t a problem. Neither was biking or running in a wet bathing suit with a wet sports bra underneath. I thought there would be chafing, but it was no problem at all. Remembered to put on my helmet before unracking my bike, too. V. proud.

Walked my bike out of transition and to the mount line. Right at the exit, i saw my friend Steph and her daughters Annika and Dagny cheering me on. That was a HUGE boost, seeing her there. I mounted my bike and started out on my biggest fear: The twelve mile bike ride. Twelve miles is not much, but it is an out and back, that goes out of the park and onto main roads, where you share the road with cars.

The route was pretty nice, although the traffic was pretty heavy. After leaving the park and then turning off the main road onto a more rural road, the scenery became nicer. Falling-down barns. Queen Anne’s Lace on the roadside. Old men wearing overalls, sitting on porch rockers and waving at the cyclists.

I definitely need to work on my biking skills. Physically, I was fine, but I need to work on keeping up a cadence on hills, and on shifting. I shifted up (down?) a little too late a few times and found my chain completely locked up. Not sure if this is operator error (likely) or just crappy old bike. The first time I managed to walk it up the rest of the hill and then get it unjammed after about two minutes. It made it fine all the way to the end of the out route, which turned around in a church parking lot. On the way there, the road widened, we had a designated bike lane, and the bikers were more spread out. We had some breathing room. I passed some folks. Some folks passed me. Including that 72-yr old bitch! Me and another girl looked at each other and both cussed Grandma out under our breaths. (Don’t worry, i caught that old wrinkle-assed bluehair on the back route.)

There was a definite feeling of “I can do this!” after making the turnaround. I started picking some folks off, and rarely got passed. This was nice, because my fear was that I would do well in the swim, and then spend the entire time getting passed on the bike and run.

All along the bike, there were police cars and officers directing traffic at intersections. I have to say that all of that was v. well-planned and felt very safe. All of the officers were v. supportive too, yelling, “you are almost there” and “Pick it up!” and stuff like that. My only problem was with one intersection. It was at the corner of the more “rural” road and the main road. The rural road goes down a steep hill (I flew down it – easy way to pass scaredy cats) and then shoots back uphill to the intersection. I had picked up a ton of speed to make it up the hill and was about halfway up. The cop was holding off traffic (had it stopped at the intersection). I was the only biker on the hill, and the cop let a couple cars go. I ended up slowing out of fear that he wouldn’t stop the traffic, and then because I am a novice biker, was not able to pick back up my pace being in the high (low) gear i was in. TOTALLY locked up my chain. So badly that I had to walk through the intersection and pull off on the grassy side of the road, trying to fix my chain while cars blew past me (there were no bikes coming right when I came through) and then they stopped the traffic again and SO.MANY.BIKERS.I.HAD.ALREADY.PASSED came up and passed me. This, for me, was the low-point of the race. Demoralizing to see my hard work passing me by. Frustrating to have mechanical issues. Totally scared that I was going to have to walk the fucking bike back another few miles to transition. Frustration won out. I got on the bike and walked it to a downhill, got on, and coasted. I thought i would have to coast the downhills and walk the uphills all the way back. As I was coasting downhills, i would kick and kick on my jammed pedals, and then, miraculously, it came loose, and was back on and working fine. I ended up losing about 5 to ten minutes (hard to tell, as I didn’t pay attention to the time when it happened), but was so overjoyed to not have to walk back, that I was out of the dark place, and just cussing a bit on the way back. Picked off a few more people on the way back into the park. No more hills to speak of, either.

Moral of the story: I need a LOT more time in the saddle. I need to ride a lot more hills. (I didn’t really worry too much about hills in my training, as the race site said that there was only ONE hill. I found that to be false advertising. Either that, or I am a complete wuss. Probably the latter.)

Bringing my bike back into transition was a good feeling, as I had finished the portion of the race that I was most fearful about. I knew I would be able to finish the run. As I came up on the dismount line, a girl in front of me wiped out trying to dismount. I dodged her, and thanked God it wasn’t me. I think I saw Steph and the girls here again. I have to say one more time: Steph rocks. She is the most supportive person i have ever met. She got up early to drive over to Lake Lanier, with kids in tow (no small feat, people!) and then stood there and cheered me on til the end. And i am not fast. Steph, you went above and beyond in your support of me finishing this race and it will not be forgotten. You are a wonderful friend.

So, enough mushy shit. Brought bike back into transition. Tonya and Shannon were both back with their bikes racked and had already left for the run. (I knew Tonya was ahead, as I passed her on the ride – I was still on the out and she was on the back, all smiles.

I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and put on my hat. Took off for the hill.

To be continued, because I am a slacker and my life has been nuts this month. But thought I would post this so that my friend Miriam could read it – She’s doing her first tri tomorrow at Lake Lanier. Go Miriam!

Pics from the triathlon are in my flickr feed to the right. Click to see more of them. Also, note that I don’t usually post photos that make me look like a complete and total fat ass, but thought I would post at least one to show heavier folks that if I can do it, anyone can do it!

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