Monday, August 27, 2012

.....And then I raced


Sara and I headed to the Expo Friday to attend a course talk and get body marked with our bib numbers. The moments in which this lovely volunteer was writing with permanent marker on my skin is when I really felt I was going to DO this. A wave of nervous excitement and pride came over me much like (but not nearly as intense) as attending my very first marathon expo (Chicago 2006). I was one of those folks with body marking. I was going to be a triathlete!

Friday was spent eating delicious pizza at a South Loop spot called Flo & Santos. Saturday we procured a bike for Sara (yeah, we are both clearly rookies, me on a mountain bike, her on a rented bike!), went for a run, went for a swim (both short, don't worry), napped, then headed for a great night at City Winery (review to follow). Then early bed-time for bonzos.

Sara in the very dark transition area.
As many athletic pursuits worth doing, race morning started early. In this case it was because we needed to set up our transition area before 5:45. The sun does not rise by 5:45. So we got set up in the dark.

My stuff.

For me, this race was all about the swim. Getting my first open water swim in a race situation out of the way. As you can read about here, the swim ended up being more a comedy of errors than an athletic pursuit, but I did my best to make up some ground on the bike and the run.

Leaving the swim all I could think was thank god that's over. I did it, I did it, I did it. I wasn't super happy about the way I did it but I was proud knowing I went from being a non-swimmer to completing a swimming event in just a few short months. As I told my new friends in the corral before the swim start, for me the race ended at the swim finish, the rest was an emotional cool-down:) In reality, however, the end of the swim is when my competitive juices started flowing and I tried to make up ground.

Smiling to myself, DONE with the SWIM!

Transition 1

Transition at sunrise. This is just one small section of T-town.
The Chicago Triathlon is the largest triathlon in the world in terms of number of participants. So, to be super dramatic about the whole thing, it was both the best and the worst first tri for me to participate in. Best: closest to my house, lots of fan support especially along the entire length of the swim including my fabulous husband, and my friend Sara could do it with me. Worst: HUGE number of swimmers in constant waves, and HUGE transition area.

A little known fact about this race is that there is a quarter mile run from the swim finish to T1, which is incorporated into the swim time (so if you notice that even the fastest swimmers times are a bit slower than you'd expect, that's why). By the time I jogged to transition, I totally forgot how to find my bike. I tried to pay attention, I located landmarks etc but I still couldn't find my bike. So I spent something like 6 minutes in T1.


I ended the swim with only 10 women in my age group behind me. So not great. But I knew that despite riding a mountain bike in the regular bike division, I could gain ground on other 'Wave 11' ladies during the bike. By this point, my breathing had totally normalized, so I worked to get my heart rate up again and vowed to remain short of breath throughout the entire bike. I kept looking for women who I thought would be in my age group and then I'd pick them off with great satisfaction when I saw the '11' on their calves:) I didn't love riding the bike, but I did love that all of the people who passed me either had aero bars or those paratrooper looking aero helmets meaning they were much more serious triathletes than I!

Yes, I'm aware how goofy I look.

Goofy up close.

I will say that the allergies I've been suffering from for the past week or so were REALLY ANNOYING when I was trying to breathe through my mouth AND my nose during the bike. I was breathing heavily enough that I really needed those two extra respiratory orifices to help me out! So I decided to try another first for the day....the farmer's blow. (Yes, I've trained for and run 11 marathons without ever doing this; I find it gross.) I looked around, ensured no one was near me, and went for it. I think it went okay. But I kept wondering if someone was going to come up to me and say "Lady, the results of a poorly executed farmer's blow are on your face".  Sadly, the nasal passage air flow related relief only lasted a few minutes, so basically I spent the whole race breathing only through my mouth. Despite this, I averaged 15.3 mph which I'm happy with. Especially on a mountain bike!

Transition 2 

T2 was better than T1 but I still have a lot to learn about transitions.


Then, the run. Oh, the wonderful run! I decided to just relax and take my time. I knew this would result in a respectable run time. I also knew that if I relaxed, my pace would gradually increase because that is what I do in my short bricks after spinning class. I'd been starting at 10 min mile pace, then gradually increasing the pace over the course of a mile to 8 minute miles. I wasn't thinking 8 minute miles were in the cards for the tri but I thought the overall strategy would be a good one.

I've got to stop ruining good pictures
with my goofy wave!

Great shot by Adam!
And I was right. While my legs felt dull for the first mile, my breathing was comfortably hard (rather than uncomfortably hard) and I was picking people off left and right. Unlike the bike where I paid attention to each person and tried to pick them off (I also payed attention because I didn't want to be DQ'ed for 'drafting' which was a rule I learned about during the course talk in which you must pass people within 15 seconds of approaching them), in the run I just ran my race and found I was basically passing people the whole time. I felt strong and had a ton of gas in the tank that I didn't use. I'll never be a competitive racer, I just don't push myself hard enough! But it felt great to feel strong on a run that occurred after a bike and a swim, to be comfortable in this scenario. I ended up running 9:05 pace. I'd call that a rousing success! In the end I finished 152 out of 205 which isn't great but the positive spin is I passed about 40 people on the bike and run!

The guy in blue tired to pass me so I
sprinted to the finish.

Look, I'm flying!

Help, how do I stop?

Adam was spectator and photographer extraordinaire and in addition to the great shots from the swim, snapped some real winners during the run and post race. He is such a trooper, I feel so lucky to have a husband who is so supportive of my increasingly time consuming (and expensive!) athletic pursuits.

Sara had a super impressive finish, well under 2 hours, kicking my but by 10 minutes! I'm so thankful to have such a great (albeit long-distance) friend and racing partner. Her performance definitely motivated me to push myself even harder in training and future races. And we're so photogenic to boot:)

We are triathletes!
Celebratory city pose!
All in all, the race experience was a good one. I will always have a funny story about my first tri (read it again here) and really can only expect to improve in the water going forward.  As I rev up for marathon season (I have 3 fall marathons on the books as of now), I will enjoy continuing to work on biking and swimming to keep variety in my weekly work-outs and to improve my overall fitness.

This is just the beginning.

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