Sprint Tri Recap

Some people run a race to see who is fastest.  I run to see who has the most guts.
— Steve Prefontaine

You know I wouldn’t leave you hanging, right?  I did it. The Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon.  I did it.  I can still hardly believe it, but it’s true:

Crossing the finish line

I finished in well under my 2:30 goal, despite all my angst beforehand when I discovered there was a 2:30 cutoff time on the course.  And, I didn’t even come in last!  I came in 19th of 22 in my category (Novice Women).  My official time was 2:02:19, with this breakdown:

Swim (300 yards): 8:10

T1 (transition from swim to bike): 4:54

Bike (20k/12.4 miles): 58:06

T2 (transition from bike to run): 2:04

Run (5k/3.1 miles): 49:07

The swim situation cracks me up.  Remember this post?  Where I was worried because my “fastest 300-yard” time was just under 15 minutes?  And 15 minutes was the cutoff when I signed up?  Two nights before the race, I was lying in bed trying to visualize my race to calm myself.  And I was imagining the pool, up and back, up and back, up and back, up and back, up and back, up and back, up and back . . . and I thought to myself, “Wait a second.  They sent me a diagram of the pool swim, and there aren’t 12 lanes in it.  But 300 yards is 12 laps in a 25-yard pool . . . Isn’t it?”  Yeah.  Math isn’t my strong suit.  Somehow, very early in my training, I got it in my head that 300 yards was 12 laps and so I just trained that every week, and 20 laps on Tuesdays.  Really, of course, 300 yards is 12 lengths, and so I was actually doing 600 and sometimes 1000 yards in my training!  I have never been so glad to be bad at math in all my life.

This, however, led to another problem:  When I signed up, I gave my 100-yard swim time as 4:30.  Really, it’s more like 2:30.  This meant I’d been seeded with much slower swimmers; in fact, I was slated to start fifth from last.  This could cause lots of problems, so I managed to finagle myself a start time 20 minutes earlier, and I still passed two people.  Unfortunately, my earlier start coupled with my low expectations for myself caused my cheering section to actually miss me at the finish line – I told them to come around 10, but because I started early (and wasn’t able to tell them because who wants a text at 6:15 in the morning) and did better than I thought on the bike, that was too late.  That’s ok, though.  They were all super happy for me when they finally got there a few minutes after I finished:

My biggest fans

David must have told me a thousand times how proud he was of me, and my sister-in-law called me her hero.  Ha.

I’m not going to lie: This was hard.  Physically, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  That I did it at my heaviest weight ever boggles my mind.  When I got off the bike and had to run to my station to get ready for the run, I nearly fell over.  My legs were like jelly.  At one point during T2, out loud to no one, I said, “Sweet holy Jesus, this is hard.”  I could barely run – my feet were numb from the bike ride.  I couldn’t figure out why, but then I realized that the water from my tri suit dripped down into my socks and then the wind from the bike ride made my wet feet super cold (it was not a hot day).  My ass was also numb, but that’s to be expected.

Everyone — other racers, volunteers, spectators — was so nice and super encouraging to everyone else.  Everyone who passed me on the bike (and there were a lot of them) all said “Great job,” or “Keep it up,” or “You can do it.”  And the run was out and back, so everybody I passed on their way in said “Almost done, don’t quit.”  There were lots of high fives.  As I came down the chute at the end, I was alone, so the whole crowd was cheering for me.  I cried, as you can see in the first picture above.  They were tears of joy, though, that’s for sure.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t punk out.  I would do another one, and I’d like to improve a lot.  I might also like to take on a sprint tri with an open water swim.  That’s going to have to wait, though.  We’ve got plans.

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Triathlon Update

Devote today to something so daring even you can’t believe you’re doing it.
— Oprah Winfrey

It’s official: I’m doing a sprint triathlon in September.  I know I talked about it months ago, but the truth is, I only signed up two weeks ago.

I’ve been training, though, eight weeks now.  So far, I’ve stuck to my schedule pretty well (that’s a link to a Google doc – feel free to check up on me!), though until this week I skipped my mid-week run every time.  That shouldn’t happen going forward, since I’m joining Lydia’s accountability team for Wednesday morning runs.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty scared.  When I signed up, I had to state my 100-yard swim time.  Turns out my best training time so far barely qualifies me.  I thought I was doing great – the first time I swam 300 yards (my sprint tri distance) back in May, it took me 20 minutes because I had to stop and catch my breath at the end of each length of the pool.  A month ago, I did it in 15 minutes flat.  Two weeks ago, I hit 14:48.  I was pretty psyched.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t fast, as far as swimming goes, but it was such an improvement for me.  The 100-yard cutoff, though, is 4:59.  I lied and gave my time as 4:30.  I have 10 weeks to get faster.

Here’s how I’m training:

In the pool, Saturdays are for speed.  I do 300 yards as fast as I can, then tread water for the remaining minutes.  On Tuesdays, after my WW meeting, I walk to the high school to spend 30 minutes in the pool working on endurance.  I do 500 yards usually – 300 freestyle at a comfortable pace, then 200 more, alternating just legs or just arms for 50 yards each.

I bet I could gain speed, or at least shave seconds off my time, if I could learn how to do a flip turn.  I’ve been practicing, but it’s not easy, for a couple of reasons.  Timing is the biggest one – I’m no good at counting my strokes and figuring out when to take the last big breath before starting the flip.  The second one is balance – my hearing loss caused problems in my inner ear, so that spinning or flipping of any kind can leave me dizzy and disoriented.  I figure if I keep practicing (YouTube has a bunch of intructional videos, which were a big help in figuring out the mechanics), I’m bound to get it sooner or later.  (Confidential to kylydia: the noseplug is crucial)  If not, I’ll adopt the touch the wall, turn, and push off super-fast the Olympic breast strokers and butterflyers use.

I’ve started biking to work on Thursdays (occasionally Wednesdays, depending on weather or schedule) and I love it.  I can’t believe I never did it before this summer, and we’re going to be moving soon.  It’s only a little more than 5 miles one-way and takes 30-35 minutes, depending on how much stopping for traffic lights I have to do once I get into D.C.  Before that, it’s all bike trails – I love where I live.  So 60-70 minutes on Thursdays, total, about 10 miles.

On Sundays, I try to do a longer ride, distance-wise, all at once.  Two weeks ago, David challenged me to ride to Mount Vernon; he said it was 24 miles round-trip and not too hilly.  We did 24 miles in May at Bike DC and it wasn’t too bad, so I happily accepted.  Well.  It was 30 miles and ridiculously hilly, particularly on the way there (you may know that Mount Vernon sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac.  I myself forgot this fact.).  By the time we were less than a mile from home, I was just done. I  pulled over and told David to go ahead, that I was not going any further (I was irrational with fatigue and hunger, obviously).  He said he couldn’t leave me behind.  I told him this wasn’t the Marines.  He stayed.  Obviously I made it home – the whole thing took about 3 hours – but what I learned is this: The triathlon will likely take me 2.5 hours (I hope, including transitions); I need to be sure I am adequately fueled the whole time.  I need to look into things I can carry with me and on my bike to keep my energy up.  I also need to pick up the pace – 10mph average isn’t going to cut it.  Luckily, the tri course is reportedly flat, so that will make it a little easier to reach a faster average pace.

On the running front, the bad new is, I’ve skipped every mid-week run but the most recent one.  The good news is, every Saturday run and this past Thursday’s run, I’ve run the entire time, no walking except warm up and cool down.  Thursday, by the end, I realized it wasn’t even that hard – the only reason I wanted to quit is because I find it so freaking boring.  I really think all the cross-training is paying off in endurance.

None of this, however, has translated into any weight loss, mostly because I still am not eating as well as I should be.  Before last week, though, I was on my 6th straight week of tracking everything, which hadn’t happened literally in years, so that’s good.  I’m back on track with tracking again, too, now that our family emergency is behind us.

Another thing I want to do is get stronger.  I really need to add weight training to my schedule.  I always mean to, and then don’t.  So here’s what I think I can do:  Wednesday mornings after my runs, I can just hit the gym in my apartment complex before going back upstairs to get ready for work.  If I leave just a little earlier on Thursday mornings, I can do a session in the gym in my office building, since I have to go down there to shower anyway.  If I split upper body/back and lower body/core, it shouldn’t be a problem doing it two days in a row.

Next, I need to figure out what to wear for the race.  Lydia sent me a link to a site that sells everything I could ever need for a tri, and some of it is probably even in my size.  Choices, choices – tri suit? Shorts and tank? Tri suit and a shirt to go over it for the bike and run?  I don’t know.  Obviously, these suits leave nothing to the imagination – will I be comfortable running in one? (I don’t worry at all about wearing it for the swim – covers more than a swimsuit – or the bike ride – too fast for anyone to notice).  By the end of the race, will I care what I look like?  Maybe, if I want a picture of myself crossing the finish line.  Must think about this.

I’m also considering volunteering at a local triathlon, if I can find one, to see how people handle the swim/bike and bike/run transitions.  I got this idea from Emily at Big Life, Little Blog, and it’s a good one.

My goal in every 5k I’ve ever done has been: “Just don’t come in last.”  I’m 6 for 6.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to accomplish that in September, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  In any event, my goal for this tri is: “Don’t die.  Finish. Try not to come in last.”  That’ll do, pig.