Today, I finished my third triathlon…
and I loved it??
[This is not the recap I thought I’d be writing. I was fully prepared to talk about my triathlon retirement here.]
Those two faces on the left are actually the faces of two terrified ladies, despite how happy we look.
I signed up for this race because Ashley wanted to do it after watching me and her husband do it last year. I didn’t really want to do it, but figured if she were also doing it, it would be fun. Because of her big upcoming move, she dropped out. (And I don’t blame her.) But with her dropping out went any of my own desire to do the race. However, I talked my college roomie Jen (on the left) into doing it and it was going to be her first, so I couldn’t quite drop out…though I sort of wanted to. For months, I called it the “stupid tri.”
I was dreading it. Especially after last week’s rough open water swim. But I’d come that far. I couldn’t drop out…could I?
Believe me, I contemplated it as I walked down to the lake.
It’s one of the biggest tris in New Jersey, and there were a lot of people.
I was terrified. I tried to do some Ujjayi breathing to calm down and center myself. I sort of tuned out my friends as they talked, and did my own thing to get ready mentally.
My high school buddy Steph was also doing the race, and she’s done quite a few tris, so she was a great calming force before the race. She reminded us that we were swimming at a country club lake (so, likely not too many creepie crawlies and pretty clean), and she told us to focus on exhaling as much as possible if we got nervous.
WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT? This all worked! (Along with the gazillions of swim tips you all passed on – I’m going to put together a post soon to share all the tips!)
We started getting in, and I totally froze again. (See the person in the back in the red??? That’s me.) Once again, I contemplated bailing as I let everyone go out ahead of me. I could just watch Jen and Shannon with my mom. It’d be fine. But then I decided to just take it as slowly as I needed to. I let even more people get ahead of me, calmed my breathing down a bit more, and started swimming–with my head out of the water. I remembered putting my head in the water freaking me out last week, so I decided to wait until I felt comfortable swimming to do that. After a minute or two, that felt comfortable, and I put my head in…and it was fine.
I remember looking up, seeing the first buoy and just thinking “oh, okay. There’s the buoy.” No OMG THERE’S THE BUOY. IT’S SO FAR. I turned it, remembered Victoria’s tip for me on Twitter to turn wide to avoid the mass of people at the turn. When she told me that, I originally thought “hey, if I am calm enough to even think to swim wide, that will be a miracle.”
AND I WAS ACTUALLY CALM ENOUGH. I swam over a bit wide and then powered on (powering on is relative to previous states of panic) to the second buoy. I did not backstroke, and I did not panic how far it was. I doggie paddled for a few seconds when I got tired but then went right on back to regular freestyle quickly. Before I knew it, I was at the second buoy.
It should be said at this point that one of the key pointers from Victoria-and everyone else-was to have a song I thought of while swimming. I’ve been sort of obsessed with T-Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble since hearing it one of Mary’s SoulCycle classes recently. (More to come soon on that too!) I just kept singing the chorus in my head while swimming…and simultaneously wondering how I could do tapbacks in the water.
Finally, we headed back for the water. I was positively ecstatic at this point! I had swum probably 95% in freestyle, with minimal panic. MIRACLES! I finished the swim and ran grinning out of the water.
So freaking happy.
Swim time: 22:51 (1/2 mile) – Swim time last year? 25:16
I have been swimming a little more than last year, but I credit this improvement to not freaking the hell out.
I ran off to transition and hoped that Jen would still be there. We had discussed trying to do the bike together. I got there…and she was there! YAY. We had both survived, and we would have biking buddies. We transitioned and hopped on our bikes.
I’ve been SoulCycling and spinning at my gym, but honestly I haven’t spent much time on my actual bike that goes places, so I was a bit nervous about the bike.
But that, too, was fine! Jen and I stuck together most of the time, and while the hills weren’t easy for me, I felt so much stronger, and I thought about how even if I’ve gained a few pounds this year, I’ve become so much stronger both physically and mentally. Last year, I got off my bike to walk on several steep hills, but this year I was determined not to do that, no matter how hard things got.
Riding with Jen made a huge difference, too, mentally. Last year, I was bummed for most of the bike that my friends were all ahead of me. This year, I was happy to have Jen with me and happy to feel strong. I had so much fun riding with my college roomie and thinking about how much we’d changed in the past 12 years! We were both grinning like idiots. The miles went by so quickly! I remember saying “we’re at 3 already! We’re at 4 already!”…and then saying “we’re already at 13!”
We rode up two steep hills and made our second-to-last turn onto a nice flat road. I thought my last year’s time was around 1:17, and I knew we were going to beat it! As we rode that last flat road, I asked her how she felt about running together. As in, did she want me to run with her or was she okay if I took off on my own? I was happy to do whatever she wanted/needed, but she said she knew I must want to try to PR on the run so she was okay with that. And so was I.
Bike time: 1:10 (17 miles) – Bike time last year? 1:16
I knew I’d PRed on the bike and figured not panicking on the swim had gained me some time, too, so I thought I’d probably be looking at an overall PR! Going into the race, I just wanted to PR on the run, since that was all I cared about.
I saw my mom and Jen’s boyfriend just before transition, and I grinned at them before hopping off the bike and high-fiving Jen.
I racked my bike, took off my helmet and sunglasses, and I was off! Last year, my legs felt like serious jelly the first mile, so I reminded myself this would probably happen again and not to push it too hard the first mile as I ran off the jelly. I looked down at my watch at the end of the first street we ran down and was thrilled to see an 8:30 pace. UM, OKAY! After the swim and bike? On jelly legs? Things could only get better from here!
There was a water stop coming up just after Mile 1, so I waited until just before then to take some Margarita Shot Bloks. Last year, I felt like magic after fueling at this point, and I started looking forward to this here, too. “Well, wait,” I thought to myself. “That doesn’t mean this run will be awesome, too.” I caught that negative self-talk and realized I just needed to visualize a strong run. I took water from some sweet little high school boy and he pointed to some guy just ahead of me.
“Pass him!” he whispered to me.
DONE, kind young sir. I chicked that fine man and then decided to pass as many people as I could the rest of the race. My legs were kind of tired, but overall, I felt amazing. I was happy to be almost done, happy to be in the part of the race I felt the strongest and happy to be feeling good. When I faced a hill or started feeling tired, I reminded myself I was almost done. I saw Steph’s family on one tough hill and was grateful to see them out there.
I alternated between imagining I was at mile 2x of a marathon or that I was running a 5-mile race. And then I picked someone else to pick off…and did so. I grinned like an idiot for the photographers. I was having SO much fun! I hit Mile 4 (out of 5) around 33 and remember thinking that unless I fell apart, I’d certainly PR my last time of 43:xx. As soon as I hit 4 miles, I turned things up. I could do anything for ~8 minutes. Or, as it turned out, 7:33!!!!
The finish line was packed with spectators and there weren’t a ton of runners coming through, so it felt like everyone was there for me. I caught sight of my mom and Jen’s boyfriend, and I was so so happy.
Best cheerleader ever.
Run time: 41:42 – Last year: 43:59
Overall time: 2:20:50 – Last year: 2:32:01
Going in, my biggest goal was for the race to not be terrible. My secondary goal was to PR in the run. Other than that, I came to the race with zero expectations…and left with a PR in each leg and an overall PR of 12 minutes!
I truly expected to write that this would be my last triathlon…but I loved this one!
And a little open water swim has nothing on me.
Did you ever go into a race with zero expectations and come out pleasantly surprised? Do you have any fun tris on the horizon? (This is especially directed to those in the NY tristate area. Not saying I’m looking for another one…but I wouldn’t mind hearing about yours.) Triathletes: what’s your favorite leg?