I waded into the water to wait for the start of my swim wave. It was in an “in water” start, which meant we had to tread water for a minute or two before we began. This was far from being my first triathlon, but it had been a little bit over a year since my last race and I definitely felt the pre-race butterflies swarming in my stomach. The swim always makes me nervous, even though I have done dozens of triathlons and successfully completed them all. They counted down the last ten seconds to the start and then began the familiar feeling of splashing all around me and hands and feet, brushing and kicking me as dozens of women tried to get ahead in this first leg of the race. I made it to the first buoy, sticking with the majority of my wave and despite my minimal swim training I felt strong and comfortable. The last 50 meters or so of the swim always seem to be the longest. The finish was right there in front of me, but it seemed to take forever to get there. As I exited the water and moved toward my strongest leg of the race, the bike, I felt good and happy to be back out competing with my fellow triathletes.
I haven’t been doing much triathlon training in the past year or two, as my primary focus has been on cycling, but I decided to keep up my participation in the sport by competing in the NJ State Sprint Triathlon Championships this past weekend. I still love triathlon even though cycling is my strength. It is great to push myself outside my comfort zone, with sports like swimming and running.
As I ran from the water into the transition area, I saw my bike and sprinted to grab my helmet and shoes. I put the helmet on and went to tighten the boas on my cycling shoes, but one of them wouldn’t tighten as the boa had somehow come unlaced. Not wanting to waste time fiddling with it, I tightened it as best I could and decided to just ride with one, somewhat loose, shoe. I ran out of transition, hopped on my bike and then began to fly. I passed person after person and felt like I was superwoman. I got into a great rhythm, despite my shoe malfunction and seemed to be speeding along nicely. Half way through the bike leg, I reached down to grab a drink of water and before I could even drink, my bottle slipped from my hand and fell. Not wanting to get out of my rhythm, I decided to continue on without it. I made the last turn back into the park and pushed myself all the way to the dismount line. I felt good, but slightly parched due to my botched attempt at hydration and the abandon of my water bottle.
I dropped my bike back off in transition, switched shoes and ran out (almost the wrong way) hoping that there would be water somewhere early on course. Sure enough there was, and I was able to take a big gulp to irrigate my tongue which was beginning to feel as dry as the Sahara. I knew that no women had passed me on the bike, in fact only one or two men had, so I needed to push myself hard on the run to try and keep my high placing. I passed several people, some of whom had been beaten down by the heat and were walking. I was determined not to let anyone pass me if I could help it. One girl did blow by me and I glanced down at her calf and saw that her age was 21. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the pass, at least she wasn’t in my age group. I got to the mid-way point on the run and felt like I was losing steam, however I knew how angry I would be at myself if someone came past and beat me by just a few seconds and so I pushed on, knowing I had only ten to fifteen minutes left to run. I put my head down and just continued to put one foot in front of the other. Soon I could see the transition area again and I knew it was only another minute or two until I would be done. I found one more small burst of energy which I used to take myself all the way across the finish line. I was overheating and my heartrate was through the roof, but I was done and knew I had given it everything I could.
Due to my lack of participation in triathlon over the past year I wasn’t sure where I would place. I was hoping for a top ten in my age group, and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had just made it into the top three in third place. Although there are definitely areas I would like to improve upon I was thrilled with my result. Also knowing that I really pushed myself and left it all out there gave me a sense of satisfaction no matter where I had placed. I know I need to get back to devoting more time to my swim and run training, but it’s good to know that I can still throw down with the best of them and pull out a decent result.