I’ve been wanting to write this race report for a month now, especially because I don’t want to forget a single detail of the day. My first half-Iron distance triathlon (not to mention my first triathlon of any distance) was a magical, wonderful experience. I started to say that it was the best day of my life, but then a few other days popped into my head that are better than any ole race…like the day I married Kyle (or the day he proposed). Or holding my nephew Harrison at the hospital just moments after he entered this world (I love all my other nieces and nephews too, but none of them did I get to meet so quickly!). Or pretty much every Christmas day, celebrating with family near. So yeah, this day was amazing, but it’s got nothing on the rest of life.
What I can say about it is that it was the best race ever. Hands down, no contest. My goals going into the race were:
1. Finish each portion of the triathlon within the cutoff.
2. Have fun and never stop smiling.
Both of these goals were far surpassed. Alright, enough hoopla, let’s get down to business.
The race weekend starting by going to a high school cross country meet on Saturday morning. After watching the kids dominate, we headed towards Montgomery for the Expo. The line for packet pick-up wasn’t overly long, but it was extraordinarily slow. The expo itself was very small, probably just about 4 booths from different stores. We got a few last minute needs (Bonk Breaker bars, Gus, anti-fog) and headed to the hotel.
I’m always nervous the night before a race, but this was extreme. My stomach was in knots and my heart was racing. It was largely nerves, but also just excitement to be finally doing this! There were so many unknowns for the next day: I’d done only one real open water swim before, I had never swam in a wetsuit, I had never set up a transition area, and I have never done a triathlon. Eek!
The race was after daylight savings time, so we slept in til 5:00ish, but it felt like 6:00. I put on my number tattoos, packed up my stuff, and headed to the race. Parking took longer than expected, so there was just enough time to quickly set up my transition area. Kyle came in to help me and there were lots of other non-racers in the transition area, but a ref quickly kicked him out. Luckily we’d already talked it all through, so I knew what to do.
After one last potty break (in the hotel bathroom, which is infinitely better than a potta-potty!!), I slipped (and by slipped I really mean struggled for 10 minutes) into my wetsuit and watched the earlier swim waves begin. Mine was the second-to-last group to start, so I had about 20 minutes or so. Finally, it was time to line up on the beach and wait for the start. I made some small talk with a couple women who were around me, and then it was time. We ran into the water and took off.
When I first put my head in the water, I had a quick freak-out moment. I stood up, took a deep breath, and got to it. Once I got going, I really started to enjoy the swim. There were enough people around me that I didn’t have to sight too much to stay on course, but it wasn’t a big enough race to cause me to get hit or swam over. As I kept swimming, I was surprised to see that I was passing people, even people who had started in earlier swim waves from me (which I knew because people wore a different swim cap depending on when they started). This was encouraging, as I was originally concerned that I wouldn’t finish the swim in time. There were some moments where my mind started to get scared because I couldn’t just stand up if I needed to, but I just focused on counting my strokes and sighting every 10th stroke. Slowly I made my way through the course, and before I knew it I was running out of the water. There was no clock and I didn’t start my watch until later on in the swim, so until I saw Kyle I had no idea how fast I had gone. I was thrilled when I found out I did it in 47 minutes, much quicker than the 55-60 minutes I was expecting and well within the 1:15 cutoff! Yippee!
T1 was rough, which was expected since I had never done a tri before. My wetsuit got stuck on my watch and foot, so that took awhile. Once I was free of my wetsuit, I ran to my bike and started grabbing what I needed. Kyle was there to talk to, which was fun. Then I grabbed my bike and started running. After about 20 seconds of running, I realized I had forgotten to put all my food into my pockets, so I had to run back to my spot again and re-load. Finally I took off and started the bike leg.
The first part was shaded and pretty chilly. There were rolling hills through a park, and it was beautiful. I was keeping up about a 16 mph speed, which I was happy with. Around mile 20 though, things got a bit tougher. First, the wind picked up. Then, there was about a 15 – 20 mile stretch of pretty rough chip seal. My speed dropped, and I was struggling to focus. There was an aid station in the middle of all this, and the quick break to reload on fuel definitely helped. I also got to see Kyle a few times in here, which was fun.
Then suddenly something felt off on my bike. I never heard a pop or anything, but something was definitely not right. I pulled over, and low-and-behold my back tire was flat. I had everything I needed, so it only took about 5 minutes. It was tough watching all the people that I had been passing fly by me during the change though!
Finally, I was finishing up with the last few miles of the ride. As I came into the transition area, I had another first-time-triathlete moment. At the line, the workers were putting their hands up telling me to stop. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I had to stop AFTER the line, which is backwards. As soon as I got off my bike after the line, I realized what I had done wrong. I said “sorry” as I ran off, and luckily there was no penalty for my lapse in judgement. You can see the lady telling me stop in the picture below…and me just riding on by her.
All in all, the bike turned out to me much slower than I had planned with a time of 3:57. But my main goal was to finish and to be happy, and I definitely accomplished that.
Kyle was near my spot in T2, so again we got to chat while I got ready. He laughed at me that I was sitting while I put on my shoes and whatnot, but it seemed like a good enough way to do it to me. I originally put my number on backwards, so I had to change that. I also had some trouble getting my hair up, but other than that there were no major issues.
The run was the icing on the cake. I was still feeling strong and happy. I had been careful to eat and drink a ton throughout the ride, and I think it made a big difference. The run course was 3 loops that were shaped like a figure-8, which meant that you ran by the finish line 5 times before it was actually your time to finish. I actually liked it that way, because it meant you got to see lots of people, including my husband who I saw about 12 times on the run alone! And the 3-loop course helped me to split the run into 3 very manageable chunks of about 4 miles each.
As I ran, there were a few times that I felt nauseous and a little sick, but as I kept eating and drinking it went away. I talked to lots of people as I passed them, which (after 5 hours of not talking to anyone) was wonderful. The strength I felt on the run was a stark contrast to how most people around me appeared. I was laughing and joking with spectators and other racers, while most people around me looked like the walking dead. I kept expecting to crash like so many other people, but I just kept feeling good. The run flew by, and suddenly it was MY time to take the turn to the finishers chute. I was so proud to have not only completed the race, but to have kept my head up the whole time and to have never stopped smiling. After months of training and anticipation, I did it!
Kyle was right there at the finish. We walked around a bit, got some grub, and sat (sitting felt sooooo good). Unfortunately, it was mid-afternoon on Sunday, we were 4+ hours away from home, and we both had work the next day so there wasn’t much time to relax. We loaded up my stuff and headed home.
One surprising thing about it all was how un-sore I was the rest of the week. My marathon took much more out of me! I was tight the next day or two, especially if getting up after sitting for a long time. But by Wednesday I felt ready to swim/bike/run all over again!
So, long story short, I’m definitely not done with triathlons. I might have even caught the 140.6 bug…
Oilman Texas Triathlon: