melissa i strong
rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily
My first triathlon went well. Not as good as I had hoped and not as bad as it could have gone. I finished in 1 hour and 47 minutes, 5th for my age group. I was hoping for anywhere from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 50 so I cannot complain but here is the story of what did go wrong.
I guess I will start at the beginning—how I felt going into the race. Unfortunately I had a stomach bug this weekend that did not clear up for the race—not optimal but I just chose to not focus on feeling sick. Besides the stomach bug I felt like I was prepared. I could do the ½ mile swim in 18 minutes (in the pool), the bike ride of 12-13 miles in 45 minutes and before I hurt my Achilles the run was 7-8 minute mile. However, I had not been able to run outside for two months before the event due to the fact that I hurt my Achilles practicing the bike to run transition. I still had been able to run on the elliptical saving my Achilles doing a 9-10 minute mile. All of these times were pretty casual—trying but not killing myself. I put the three events together several times.
How did my times compare to the day of the race? Similar on the bike and run--I did the bike in 46:36 (which is a little disappointing but after the swimming trauma I took it easy feeling like I was already out of the race) and an 8.7-minute mile—it was the swim where everything went drastically wrong—27:33 minutes.
I felt very confident swimming in open water. I was raised on the ocean and feel like I am a strong swimmer. But I was not prepared to get pummeled around with so many people entering the water at once. At first I did o.k. I was focusing on my breathing passing a few people but getting bumped around. Then in the thick of the other swimmers my goggles got hit and took on water. I stopped and quickly cleared the muddy water out of my goggles but my contact lenses had already been affected and were dislodged. I am -8.00 in one eye and -8.50 in the other—so basically I can only see shapes and colors. Treading water in the middle of frenzied swimmers I tried to blink by contacts back into place I swallowed a lot of disgusting muddy water and air. I was not psyched at this point still not being able to see and inhaling water I motioned to the rescue kayakers who are suppose to provide assistance to those in need. Not being able to see I don't really know what happened but seeing colors it looked like they were helping out another swimmer and not coming to my aid (which was alarming). My contacts eventually settled back into place and I tried to continue on with the freestyle stroke but the lake water and air was high in my chest/throat and was restricting my breathing. So I did what I tell everyone to do in the water if they are in trouble—roll over and get on your back. I continued the race doing the backstroke—I sighted the moon on my left and kept the sun on my right which gave me some direction. Still I had fillip around to check if I was staying on course but at least I was moving.
After that everything else was a breeze and felt good, however, I already felt a bit disappointed feeling that the swimming debacle already took me out of the race I was hoping for. My transitions were quick and easy. I was able to pass people on the bike and run. It was just the disastrous swim that slowed me down big time and left me slightly less committed on the bike.
In the end I am happy the kayaker did not come to my rescue—I was able to get through a tough situation, continue on and not panic. The stomach bug and the amount of disgusting lake water I swallowed did not help my situation creating a very upset stomach as I continued the race. But once again this was something I was able to overcome by pushing through. Will I do it again? I would like to get a better time since I know I can and was not even tired at the end. It would be nice to try the race without a stomach virus, without a disastrous swim and with an Achilles that is not hurting. But I am not sure if this is possible. There is always something out of our control—our bodies—feeling perfect on race day is not always possible. Can I have a more enjoyable swim with the nature of the race? I am not sure and that will be a concern.
Odds are this will probably not be my last triathlon. It is nice switching things up and not just focusing on climbing and challenging myself outside of my comfort zone but for now thankfully it is back to the boulders and Sendtember!!