This year, I crossed something off my bucket list: Competing in my first triathlon. I decided last year that it was something I wanted to do at some point in my life. I honestly didn’t expect to complete it so soon, but when Rich signed up in late spring for the Commonwealth Triathlon put on by our company, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and followed suit.
The event was held down in beautiful Cataumet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The forecast called for a perfect day, mostly sunny with a high of 76. It would be perfect as we started the day with temperatures in the low to mid 60s with a little bit of cloud cover.
The Olympic distance athletes were first to start in the water that morning, about an hour before the sprint athletes were scheduled to start their swims. As I watched the Olympic swimmers in the water, I started to get nervous. What had I gotten myself into?
Around 10:35 a.m., it was my time to give the 750 meter (0.46 mile) swim a shot. I felt confident in this event, mostly because swimming is my strongest sport. At that moment, I was thankful for all those early morning and after-school swim practices in high school that I was dragged to and all those swim meets I participated in even though I really thought they sucked. It had prepared me well; I felt confident!
It was a strange feeling to be so buoyant wearing a wet suit in the water, but it was a must when swimming in the cold Northeast waters. The murkiness of the water threw me for a bit of a tizzy because I honestly hadn’t thought about it at all. I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me because of all the sand that was being kicked up along the causeway we swam, so I had to lift my head up about every 10 meters to make sure I was headed in the right direction. More often than not, I was slightly off course, which meant I probably swam a little further than I really needed to.
I probably could have gone a little faster if I had bigger goggles and could see a little better. Also, had I pulled my wet suit up a little higher around my arms, I could have stretched my arms out a little longer in my stroke. Minor details, though. I was still pretty close to my time during training. I eventually made it! And in 17 minutes and 47 seconds. Next time I’ll go with a sleeveless wetsuit to save some time and energy.
My first transition time ended up being longer than I expected at 7 minutes and 31 seconds. I hadn’t practiced my transitions at all and I wasn’t really concerned, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to take off a wet, full-sleeved wetsuit and dry my feet. I guess there’s a reason T1 ends up being everyone’s longest transition. I didn’t want sand granules stuck between my toes because I knew that my feet wouldn’t fare well during my run if that happened.
Next up was the 25K (12.6 mile) bike ride; I hopped on my hybrid bike and ate a few Honey Stingers energy chews along the way. The course called for rolling hills and I can vouch that there were definitely rolling hills! We had driven the bike course the day before to mark the route, so I was not looking forward to this leg of the race. Not long before the 5.5 mile marker, I saw Rich on the turnaround trip and got the thumbs up that I was almost halfway there. The great thing about this triathlon was that everyone was so supportive of each other, cheering one another on and giving words of encouragement. This was our first triathlon for many of us, so it was nice to get so much support from fellow competitors.
The last few miles of the race were the hardest because I was one of the last competitors and there was no one else in sight. It’s funny how much you really need to feed off other people’s energy sometimes. I hightailed it for the last couple miles when I knew I was close and ended up finishing in one hour and 59 seconds, about five minutes slower than I had planned.
My second transition was a doozy because I was faced with a tough choice. What was it? I really, really had to pee! I kind of had to go a little before my swim but chalked it up to nerves. About a quarter of the way into my ride, I knew it wasn’t just nerves anymore; my bladder was pretty damn full. So should I hold it and be uncomfortable for a 3 mile run, or should I stop by the bathroom and add more time to my transition? I knew I wouldn’t make it through the run if I didn’t do it, so I ran down to the port-o-potty for a quick pit stop. It was nice to have them close by and not have to wait in line. I felt so much better afterwards and was ready for my run. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My T2 time ended up being three minutes and 51 seconds. Not bad including a potty break.
Right before I started the 5k (3.1 miles), I briefly contemplated not doing the run at all. I was tired and wasn’t sure how I was going to push through another 30+ minutes of working out, but since I’m not a quitter, I turned my music on and started trudging along. As soon as I started running, my legs felt like they were made of lead covered with cement. I was surprised when I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was running at a 10:45 min/mile pace. I felt like I was running through molasses and moving at a (slower than normal) snail’s pace.
It took me a little while to get adjusted, but my legs were finally feeling like their normal selves around 0.75 miles. Honestly, I felt really great considering I had just swam half a mile and biked 25K. My lungs were burning a little, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for me. I did have to stop for about 30 seconds around 2 miles because I had severe dry mouth and needed a sip of water.
Around the 2.5 mile mark, I saw Rich running toward me, away from the end of the course. He had finished about 20 minutes before (ha!) and had the best intentions of running the remaining 0.6 miles with me to the finish line, but his legs got the better of him and started cramping, so I was on my own for the last 0.4 miles. I sprinted the rest of the way along the causeway, letting my legs take the lead and ignoring my wheezy lungs, and finished in 31 minutes and 27 seconds. It was the fastest 5K I’ve run in awhile… Go figure.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, the first thing I did (after giving the finish line timer a high five) was blurt out: “I’m never doing that again!” When the words came out of my mouth, I knew it was a lie. I’ve never felt such a feeling of accomplishment for pushing myself beyond my limits than when I crossed that white, spray painted finish line.
I don’t know when my next triathlon will be, but this was my first and I promise it won’t be my last. I was just 1.5 minutes shy of meeting my two hour personal goal, so I kind of have to do it again, don’t I? Just because you cross something off your bucket list doesn’t mean you can’t cross it off again and again.
The event: Commonwealth Triathlon
The location: Cataumet, Cape Cod, MA
The date: September 16, 2012
My time: 2:01:35 (1:50:13 w/o transition)
The cause: Buzzard’s Bay Coalition
The swag: Blue technical t-shirt
The grub: Burgers, sausages, pasta & potato salad, beer & wine