it’s september so that means another Florida Keys Community College Sprint Triathlon. It’s (allegedly) 600 yard swim in a calm (before the race) lagoon, a (not) 10 mile bike and a 5k run (which I usually walk).
Race day was last Saturday. The great thing about the race is it’s a pretty casual atmosphere overall. It’s a ton of locals and chances are you know about 75% of the participants. My friend Dave picked me up about 6:15, very nicely pumped up my tires for me and we were off. Great thing about racing locally? it’s 10 mins to the race. A lot of people actually ride their bikes or run to the race. We call those people “jerks”. Kidding. Not really. We parked and headed to set up our gear. Dave headed up front with the rest of the real racers and I headed to the back. Being in the back really doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on my time and I’d rather have the space as everyone usually crowds up front. Everyone has their preference as to where they like to rack their bike. At bigger races, people will even put ribbons or balloons by their spot or at the end of the rack so they can more easily find their bike when coming into transition. I have no such need for that as my bike is usually the only one in transition when I come out of the water. I do like to rack on the outside end. I get a little room for all my crap, I mean, important race gear and I’m often way off balance getting out of the water and off the bike and there’s less chance for damage to others’ gear if I happen to fall over say, putting my shoes on. Hasn’t happened yet. And I do mean “yet”.
I racked my bike, set up my gear and headed into check in and get marked. Number 114 for this race. I liked it. There is something extremely satisfying about getting marked up with a number in a sharpie. It’s like “ok, game ON”. I headed back out to transition chatting with the many people I knew participating. I ran into my friend Kathy who was returning to this race after a 14 year absence and I directed her to my rack and helped her set up and ran into another friend Leslie doing her first Tri. I helped her as well. Helping them out was a GREAT distraction for my nervous stomach. And from the doing good deeds file, I realized I forgot my transition towel and Kathy had an extra one to spare. I chatted with a few more people, though had to take my leave of a good friend that turns into a jabbering monkey pre race that never fails to make me more nervous. I actually end up getting super quiet and unable to form sentences pre race. And during race for that matter. I also had to avoid the “super racers” whose never ending chatter about this being “just a training race” never fails to elicit violent thoughts of me slashing their achilles while I scream “THIS IS AN IRONMAN TO ME, AHOLE”. And these people are some of my friends 🙂
As race time drew near, I headed to the bathroom. I figured now was the time for my traditional pre race vom. A funny thing happened though, I didn’t do it!! Yaay!!! First time ever for a tri. Half my battle at these things is making up the nutrition that I expel pre race. With nervous excitement (instead of the usual panicked nervousness, yaay improvement) I headed down to the dock. I said hello to a few more people and saw my friend and rock star coach Amy psyching up some of her charges and I asked to borrow a sharpie. I took the cap off and sniffed deeply. Just kidding. I wanted to write a mantra on my arm. I’ve read many articles how this practice helps during a race. As you want to quit or you’re struggling, you look down and read the inspirational words and that is supposed to spur you on. I had a few in mind to try out for this race: “I am Boston Strong”, “I can do this”, “quit now, you suck”. But I went with “This is FUN!”. Weird, right? Well, sometimes I’m a very angry racer. and by “sometimes” I mean “almost always”. Why am I angry? I never feel ready, I’m slow, I’m always last and Triathlon is stupid. I forget that none of those things matter. I feel such elation with a good training session, when I cross the finish, that one time I turned down pizza that I forget that it’s supposed to be fun! I didn’t know if it would work but most of the time I’m willing to try anything. Which is trouble after some beers but I digress. This race is a “mass start” which is sanskrit for “mosh pit”. We all get in the water and start at the same time. Well, I don’t start at the same time. I’m not a moron (except after some beers). I fully realize I’m slow. So instead of starting in the pack getting punched and kicked, I opt to hang out in the back. The horn goes and I let the pack go looking like the zombie crowds from World War Z. Sadly there’s no Brad Pitt nearby so off I go. It should be said that I’ve had lots of good swim practices both in the pool and in the open water (with the ever patient Bill). Bill has really adjusted my stroke so I swim less like a duck and more like, well, not so much a shark, but, maybe a more aero duck. As I started swimming in this tri I promptly forgot everything I’ve worked on the last 4 months and flailed about like I was auditioning for the role of Shark Victim 3 in a shark attack movie. I flailed along for a little while until I thought to myself “WHAT THE F#$% AM I DOING????” I got my act together and did pretty well. I almost caught up to a small pack of zombies, I mean swimmers when I got water in my right goggle. Oops. Not good when you wear contacts. I had to stop and adjust and then I continued on. First race where the volunteers didn’t continually ask me if I was ok so I assume my form vastly improved. I came out of the water last (though 3 mins faster than the last race) and headed to transition 1.
Oh where or where was my bike???? Oh yeah, there it is. THE ONLY ONE LEFT. See, sometimes it pays to be last. I awkwardly geared up and got on my bike. I had WAY too much trouble clipping in my right shoe and felt a little pop in my knee. D’oh. I ignored it and carried on. the bike section 3 laps around. Everyone freaks about doing laps in a race. I prefer it. If it’s straight out and back I feel like it takes FOREVER. At least with the laps I can count down. I’m big on counting down. Me and Casey Kasem (Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars probably won’t fit on my arm). The bike is water and nutrition time. I learned pretty quick in this game that I am utterly incapable of reaching down grabbing my water bottle, drinking and putting it back in the cage without stopping pedaling. Just can’t do it. And I also often miss the cage and have no more water. Now I use a camelbak. Yeah, doesn’t really effect my aerodynamics much, trust me. I drink my water, suck down some chews and keep on pedaling. The first lap goes well. There are actually bikers on the course (ON YOUR LEFT, yeah, I know) The second lap I actually pass someone (they probably had a flat) and onto the third lap. I just keep telling myself “push, pull” over and over. My bike computer helps me keep the mph I want. Well, the mph I can do. I pull into Transition 2 very clumsily and get ready for the dreaded run. My bike time improved by 4.5 mins over last race.
Yeahhh….I still hate running. I may be slow but at least I can’t run for very long. My friend Michael was in transition waiting for his wife to finish. yeah, she ROCKED it! and he started playing the Rocky theme on his iPad which made me laugh. inwardly. outwardly I’m sure my face looked like I was fighting off a heart attack while sucking on a lemon. I put my running shoes on, grabbed my visor and my water bottle and took off like…..a hippo. and an injured one at that. The earlier pop I felt in my knee while clipping in was not to be ignored one moment longer. I sucked it up, drank some water, ate a couple chews and hobbled off. I tried running a bit and my knee was like “really? that’s hilarious. yeah, not happening sister”. The bastard. I fought off tears and just looked at my arm. and the mantra kinda worked. It was fun. not at that moment, but other parts, and I knew it would be fun after the finish. Mostly cause there would be beer. It wasn’t until mile 2 that I was able to pick up the pace a bit. And like a hallucination, my friend Jenna suddenly appeared on the US 1 stretch to hang with me. It was a really good boost. She made me laugh and I was a bit less tense. Like from “being held hostage at a bank” tense downgraded to “being the robber at a bank” excited tense. At the water station my good friend Scooter Guy (you know, the one that always YELLS “Last one, this is the last biker/runner”) had saved me a cold bottle of water. Why did he have to save it? well, because the water station was dismantled by the time I hobbled in. I dumped the whole thing over my head and down my tank trying to bring my temp down as taught to me by Brad (no ice available for the cooler though). Jenna left me and I headed for mile 3. I was able to run a bit more and felt better than I had since I left T2. I actually felt like I was racing. at times. I forgot about my knee pain. Mostly because everything else hurt just as much. I just carried on. I looked at my arm which at this point read ” his is F N!”. As I rounded the corner to the finish line passing all of the people that had finished, showered and had gone to breakfast, I felt pretty good and for the first time, ran across the finish line. Or stumbled. I’m gonna go with ran though.
Overall, I finished 4 miles faster than the last one and that’s all I can ask for.
10 weeks until the next……dammit.