Yesterday, I finished my second triathlon!
And maybe my last. It went fine, but I’m just not sure if the triathlon is my thing.
I did a handful of swims and bike rides as training, but I just couldn’t get into it. I like swimming and biking, but I’m just not interested enough to practice them enough to get better, when I could spend my time becoming a better runner instead.
Yesterday started with my alarm going off at 5am and waking up excited/wondering what the hell I was doing.
We got to the race start by a little before 6. The drive to get there? Approximately two minutes from my parents’ house. Win.
I’d read the other day that it was both the oldest and largest triathlon in New Jersey, but I still found it hard to fathom that a triathlon in my hometown would be more than just that, a hometown triathlon. But when I showed up, there were tons of people milling around. I showed up with Shannon, Ashley and Bo, and quickly lost everyone. I took about a half second to freak out and then decided to just take care of myself and go rack my bike and get marked with my bib number and age. (Interesting post on the practice of body marking.)
I went to rack my bike and ran into my friend Sara. Thank god. Seeing another familiar face was exactly what I needed right then.
After taking a little time to freak out with her and her sister Ali, I went to get body-marked and then came back with just enough time for a few more freak-out minutes before walking down to the water. I went to use the bathroom and once again lost everyone.
I walked down to the water and Bo found me.
I know you! We chatted until his wave went, and then I started freaking out again. I walked up and down the beach, hoping to find Sara and Ali. I was so happy once I finally found them. Once Bo’s wave had started off, we started edging our way to the water and somehow found ourselves in the front row.
At this point, I was so nervous, I was literally shaking. And also wishing I’d done an open-water swim prior to the race. The announcer yelled something along the lines of “Get in the water!” and we started splashing into the water. I had a moment of panic, but knew I had to move forward. I started swimming and was excited to be moving…at least for a few minutes.
At one point, I looked up and saw how far away the turnaround buoys were and started panicking. I was having a hard time getting more than a shallow breath, and my heart was pounding. How was I going to finish? How could I escape if I needed to? I started doggie-paddling for a bit to slow down and calm down and started swimming again basically only because I couldn’t figure out how to bail if I wanted to. I finally got into a groove, and realized that I had swum a half mile in the pool plenty of times and could certainly do it in the lake.
The lake was crowded, and I ended up having those freak-outs twice more. The second and third times, I flipped over and did backstroke for a little while, which was way more calming than doggie paddle. Once I caught sight of the shore, I was really freaking happy. The swim was almost done!
I ran out of the water and tried really hard to put on at least a bit of a smile for my friends and family watching me. I guess I didn’t succeed. Running back to transition, my legs felt like jelly, and I wondered how the hell I would bike 17 miles and run 5.
Swim: 25:16 (1/2 mile)
I got back to transition and was disappointed to see that my friends’ bikes were gone, and I was behind them. I got pretty discouraged, but hopped on my bike and off I went. Less than a mile into the bike, we passed my parents’ street, and it was so tempting to just pull off and hop back into bed…but I didn’t. My dad was standing around Mile 2, and it was awesome to see him as I rode past. Unfortunately, passing him meant I was about to climb a steep hill that I know well from running at my parents’.
Please see: the climb from about 1.5 to 2.5. Not fun. Finally, we hit some flat land just around my high school, and I cruised until the end of the street.
During the rest of the bike, I was still discouraged that I was behind my friends. The course was a loop, but there was an out-and-back section. I saw Bo coming back towards me and hoped I was near the turnaround point. I wasn’t. I must have rode at least another 10 minutes before turning around. During the ride, I had my Garmin on so I had an idea of the mileage (there were some mile markers, but not at all the miles), and I didn’t look at my pace once. I knew it wasn’t fast, and I tried my hardest to make the best of the ride.
The ride entered the Campgaw Reservation, which I’d never seen during the day (in high school, my super-cool friends and I would ride through there at night to spook ourselves out), and which was lush with vegetation. FINALLY! We turned around. I was thrilled.
We rode back through “downtown” Franklin Lakes and turned up Colonial Road to start looping back to transition. I hadn’t looked at the elevation profile, but I knew this hill, and I knew it was a jerk. (See: all of mile 15 above.) I really struggled up this one and ended up hopping off for a minute or two and walking my bike.
I started chatting with a guy who was also struggling up the hill, and found out he was divorced and got back into sports as a way to deal with his divorce. “Understandable,” I said, “I bet you’re not the only one who got into sports that way.” (As a single woman who’s never been married, I couldn’t quite put myself in his shoes, but certainly understand using fitness as therapy.)
Once we had passed the most difficult part of the hill, I wished him luck and passed him. In the last 1.5 miles or so, he caught up to me again, yelled “Are you really going to let an old man pass you?” and passed me again.
GAME ON, BUDDY. GAME ON. It was exactly the kick in the ass I needed to finish strong. I picked up the speed from here until the end.
I finished the 17-mile bike in 1:16:45–slow but without chaos, which is more than I can say for last year.
I racked my bike, and was REALLY excited for the run. Here’s where I knew I’d have some strength. Running is my jam, baby.
I didn’t set time goals for myself for the swim and bike, because I’m still such a beginner at both, but the run? Obviously set some time goals here.
I hoped I’d be able to to perform well in the run, but was unsure how my legs would respond to the swim/bike/hills on the run. I knew that if I felt good, I could finish under 45:00, but was just hoping to finish under 46 minutes (just over a 9-minute pace.)
I knew that we’d be running up Reservoir Drive, a steep, steep hill in town. In high school, I remember accidentally always driving way too fast down the hill and was pretty nervous about running up it.
Running out of transition, my legs were jelly. How the hell was I going to run 5 miles? I saw people ahead of me coming in to the finish as I left, and they looked so strong. I just hoped my legs would work and I wouldn’t have to drop out during my favorite leg. Around mile 1.5, I saw Sara’s mom outside of her house, and she yelled something along the lines of “Looking good! Keep it up!”
I was pretty sure it was a pity “looking good,” and hoped to start actually looking good the next time I passed her. I took a second Gu just after seeing her, and it turned things around. I finished the first mile in 9:13, and dropped to 8:45 for the second. I was feeling great! By the second time I passed Sara’s mom, she yelled “Great job! You’re almost caught up to them now!”
That was the goal. I tried not to look at my Garmin, and just ran with what I had until I got to the hill, where I knew I’d lose time.
Once we got to the hill, we started running up, and then turned right to go down a side street and turn around at the cul-de-sac. I saw Sara coming back towards me, and then her sister, and knew I could probably pass them. I gunned it to the end of the street and back. As I caught up, I tried to see how Sara and Ali were feeling and see if they wanted to run together. Sara told me to keep going, and so I did, and tried to turn it up going up the hill. I knew I wasn’t going to pick up any speed on the hill, but I also didn’t want to walk it.
Even though the hill was so difficult that I felt like I was tip-toeing up it, not running, I still felt good, and continued to run strong as I ran up it. My friend Stephanie’s family was out cheering, and seeing them lit a little more fire under my ass. I finally reached the top and TURNED. IT. ON.
My splits got messed up because the 4th mile marker came earlier than my Garmin said it would, so I hit the lap button. Whatever my splits were here, I was incredibly happy with them, for running on such tired legs.
I ran the hell out of the last mile or so and saw Stephanie’s family again just before the finish. I don’t remember what they yelled, but it was something encouraging, and I used it to run strong into the finish.
So blurry, so happy.
The official clock said I finished the run in 43:59, at an average pace of 8:48, which I’m really happy with, given my tired legs. My overall time was 2:32, which is probably nothing to write home about, but I’m happy just to have finished.
We did it!!
Last year’s tri was really easy–pool swim, really flat bike and run. This tri was a tough physical and mental test, and I was really happy to finish it.
And have a massive egg and cheese bagel sandwich afterwards.
*Edited to add: THANK YOU FOR MY CHEERING SQUAD: My parents, Ashley, Shannon and Eileen. You guys rock for waking up so early to watch this craziness.