(500m Swim / 20K Bike / 5K Run)
August 4, 2013
Age Group: F30-34, 20/24
Swim: 18:29 Pace: 4:36 AG: 23/24 Gender: 165/187 Overall: 488/540
T1: 3:34 AG: 19/24 Gender: 157/187 Overall: 458/540
Bike: 50:41 Pace: 14.7 AG: 22/24 Gender: 161/187 Overall: 367/540
T2: 2:08 AG: 17/24 Gender: 141/187 Overall: 315/540
Run: 27:17 Pace: 8:47 AG: 7/24 Gender: 52/187 Overall: 237/540
I was really excited and nervous for my first triathlon. I had not swam since my handful of swim sessions at LA Fitness in May nor had I rode my bike or been to spin class since May. So my expectations for the swim and bike were not very high. Bryan kept telling me to just relax and have fun with it. I’m not doing it to compete but to have fun, try something new, and get acquainted with triathlons. So I needed to put the fear behind and just do it.
The morning of, Bryan and I rode our bikes to the triathlon at the Indy Canal downtown. He helped me set up my bike and transition area. Bike, check. Helmet, check. Towel, check. Running shoes and socks, check. Race belt with bib, check. Hammer gel, check. Water bottle with Nuun hydration, check. The one thing I did forget were flip flops to walk around in before the start of the sprint race. Typical newbie mistake. So I walked around the next hour barefoot. Good thing I didn’t have to go to the restroom because there was no way I would be getting into a porta potty barefoot. Nope, not going to happen.
I was relieved to see our friends in the transition zone setting up near me. It was their first triathlon too! So I felt a little better. As Bryan left to watch the Olympic start, my friends and I stretched and got in line for the Sprint start.
However, waiting in line watching the olympic swimmers go by made me nervous again. I started getting jittery. They looked as if they were gliding across the water with ease. It’s ok Melissa, I got this….just pretend like you’re in the pool at LA Fitness….kind of. And just like that, it was my turn to jump in and go for the time trial start.
The water wasn’t what I would call cold but it wasn’t extremely warm either. I could touch the bottom and it was mucky and slimey. Gross! Get those legs up and start swimming. I started to freestyle but my heart was racing. The water was brown, poop brown. I could barely see my hand in front of me let alone another swimmer next to me. I’m a right sided breather and every time I took a breath I felt like I could not take in enough air. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Seriously, why can’t I breathe? It felt like I was going to hyperventilate. OMG, am I going to be one of those people that drowns in a triathlon. Oh no! I stopped for a moment to catch my breath. Bryan was walking on the canal next to where I was swimming to coach me. He said, “Breathe. Relax. Just like in the pool. Slow it down and take your time.” So I started again. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, I need air and I just swam into another swimmer. I stopped again sucking in as much air as possible. I was officially that person in Triathlete magazine they talk about that panics in the water. I was panic-ing in water that I could touch the bottom. I looked at Bryan and said “I can’t do this!” I was defeated. Again Bryan told me to slow it down and relax. I was getting to anxious. I took a moment and looked around to get my composure. I saw other swimmers side stroking, swimming on their backs, and stopping as well. Granted these were older participants, but hey whatever gets you to the finish line. Then I remembered reading in Triathlete magazine that everyone should have a safety stroke for when they panic or need a rest. Mine is the breast stroke. So I started breast stroking. I was moving forward, breast stroking but at least moving. And I could breathe. I was swimming faster and breathing regularly. I could see my friend in front of me. I was closing the gap. I looked over at Bryan and he cheered me on. He said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” It was the best words of encouragement ever. There ain’t no shame in my game….I breast stroked the entire 500 meter swim of the triathlon.
Although, I was getting passed by essentially every other swimmer in the water, I didn’t give up. I kept breast stroking along until I reached the end of the swim. I’ve never been more excited to get out of the water. It was nothing like swimming in the LA Fitness pool, or snorkeling in Thailand, or scuba diving in Mexico. It was scarier. But I finished.
Getting out of the canal, I ripped off my swim cap and goggles and ran to the transition zone. My bike was easy to find considering most the of the bikes were already gone and I was one of the last people out of the water. I dried off my feet, put on my socks, running shoes, and sunglasses. I took half a Hammer gel and some water and then it was bike time. I ran my bike to the ‘Bike Out’ and jumped on. Surprisingly I wasn’t cold by the wind on the bike and being soaking wet. It actually felt good. Well, anything felt better than swimming in the canal. Again my husband/coach/cheerleader Bryan was on his bike riding by the course taking pictures and cheering me on. Considering that I was on my Trek hybrid, my goal pace for the bike split was 15mph. I felt good starting out until I started to get passed by all the Olympic distance triathletes. I could hear their Zipp wheels behind me before I could even see them. It’s a sweet sound because when you hear it you can expect to see an amazing machine of a bike with it. They passed me with ease. I just admired their tri and road bikes and watched how they rode. They did give me words of encouragement as they passed by. Don’t get me wrong, I love my hybrid and wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it’s not for competing in a triathlon. So I just pedaled and enjoyed the ride.
After entering the ‘Bike In’, it was difficult to find my assigned bike rack because all the bikes were back. I was running up and down rows with my bike looking for my rack. Finally, I spotted it and my transition bag on the ground. I quickly hung my bike up, finished the rest of my Hammer gel, drank water, and put on my race belt with bib. I was off. My goal was to pass everyone on the run that passed me on the swim and bike. Bryan found me at the beginning of the run course and cheered, “It’s time to do work Melissa. Make this a tempo run.” And so I did. I went to work picking off people.
Finally something, I’m comfortable with…running. Even the run course was comfortable. It was what I like to call the Zoo Route which I’ve done many times during training runs last year while training for the Mini. I was passing people like whoa! Everyone else looked like they were running in place or slow motion. It felt great to finally get some redemption and fly by people. Surprisingly my legs felt great despite having swam and biked beforehand.
During the last mile, only two people passed me, two men that really picked up their speed. Oh well, I had passed them in the beginning. But they were the only two. I passed a girl around my age and told her good job and to keep pushing. She said it was her first triathlon. I told her it was mine too and I picked up my speed a little to see if she would hang with me but I ended up dropping her. A half a mile left and I had caught up to two of my friends, “Get your asses moving!” I yelled as I ran past them. And then I could see it…the finish! I ran all my miles just under 9:00 minute pace, not bad. But the best part, I finished my first triathlon!!!
I was ecstatic. I had finished! It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I felt alive. I loved every single moment of it. Even though I hated the swim while in the canal and was frustrated on the bike for going slow, I still loved it. Doesn’t make sense does it? When I run, it’s just running over and over and over again. This was exciting. I went from trying not to drown in the swim, to trying not to wreck on the bike, to running down every single person that passed me on the run. I was constantly stimulated and excited. I found a new love for triathlons and overcame my fear at the same time. I felt on top of the world, like I could take on anything, well maybe not an Ironman. It was a great sense of accomplishment and I already can’t wait to do my next triathlon. And I want to thank my husband Bryan for being THE BEST husband, coach, spectator, cheerleader, and supporter because I could not have finished this race without him!