What Really Happened at the Sandy Hook Iron Girl Tri

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

photo: Jordan 

Thank you to Iron Girl for providing me with a free bib for this race.

This morning, I *participated (foreshadowing) in my seventh triathlon.


Several months ago, when Jordan (bosslady at work/amazingly kind friend/one of my favorite people) was swimming to rehab a back injury, I suggested a triathlon. She already ran, and, if she took spin classes once in a while, even, I thought she could handle a sprint. And so I suggested she sign up for Iron Girl, since it was a great beginner-friendly race.

My back got injured, and I put all thoughts of this race on the back burner, until about a month ago when things started looking up and I confirmed that she was, in fact, in. Well, alright then! I booked us a room at the Blue Bay Inn, where my mom and I stayed last year. (I highly recommend it if it’s in your budget!)

Things I don’t really recommend: driving down the shore with two bikes in the back of a convertible with the top down…in the rain. A+++.

Convertible Driving Bicycle

(Driving in said convertible with bikes in the back…not in the rain. Or moving.)

But by some miracle, we made it, checked in and headed out for dinner. At the wild time of approximately 6pm! Our front desk recommended Gaslight down the street, and so we went.

Orecchiete Sausage Gaslight Atlantic Highlands

photo: Jordan / inapprop cleavage all my own but hey it got us a free appetizer? 

Orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe is a dish I’ll always get if I see it on the menu, so my decision was easy, plus I knew it would be easy to digest on my sensitive stomach.

Boho Flash Tats Etsy

Wait, is flash-tatting for races not something serious triathletes do? I figured they were going to write on my arms anyway, so…

After our flash-tatting session, we were in bed by 9 to fall asleep to the sweet sounds of a couple in the next room fighting and then, um, making up… Needless to say, I had a hard time falling asleep, but then I had a difficult time staying asleep as well.

And 4:15 a.m. came all too soon. I got dressed, nibbled on a Kind bar and we were out the door by 5. I’d remembered a long trip to get into Sandy Hook Gateway National Park plus a long walk to transition, so I allowed us plenty of time to get there by 6 (even though our hotel was only about 15-20 minutes away.)

We got to transition right around 6 when they were closing the entrance. We racked our stuff, hit the Port-a-Potties, and meandered down to the beach.

(from last year)

The waves were in descending age order, so although the race started at 7, we didn’t go until probably at least 7:20ish, so we had nearly an hour by the water. It was a little chilly, and Jordan was really nervous, so shivering didn’t really help her nerves.

Deep down, I was a little nervous myself since I didn’t do any triathlons this year, but it helped to focus on keeping Jordan calm to take away from my own nerves.

FINALLY it was time for us to line up! While I’m sad to report no T-Swift was played upon entry to the water, Uptown Funk was played, so all was okay. We started the swim, and while I had a nanosecond of panic, I quickly settled into a rhythm. The water wasn’t completely smooth, so several times, I got a noseful of salt water as I took a breath. SWEET. The swim wasn’t particularly physically draining to me, but I started to fatigue mentally as I got closer and saw I still wasn’t there. As I was about 2/3 of the way done, I started wondering about Jordan and hoped she was doing OK!

Swim: 1/3 mile: 16:53 (This is nearly a minute PR from my swim last year! I have no idea how that happened.

I got out of the water and shuffled over to T1. As I was leaving, I was SO happy to see Jordan coming in.

T1: 3:21


Spoiler alert: here’s where things fall apart.

I haven’t touched my bike since July, when I got injured. Biking isn’t the greatest for back injuries, so I stayed away from it. I hadn’t clipped in in months…and hoped I would remember. Thankfully, even with clipping in, you still remember how to ride a bike!

I was off! And I remembered how bad I am at cycling to begin with, much less when I haven’t rode in months. I packed a tote bag and a tri bag yesterday, and I totally forgot to transfer my Garmin to my tri bag, something I realized as I was walking into transition in the morning. I took off on the bike vowing just to ride what felt strong.

Nothing feels strong to me on the bike, though. It all hurts, for whatever reason. I have terrible leg turnover on the bike.

Anyway, I hadn’t looked at the course since last year, but I remembered there was an out-and-back. I started out and saw a sign that said “10 miles.” I knew I hadn’t ridden 10 miles but thought it possible I’d ridden 5 and the signs were showing what was left. We turned around at the end, and I started riding back. I felt decent, and even started passing a few people. I saw another sign that said “5 miles.” SWEET, only 5 to go. Some time after that, I saw a sign that said “2nd lap” and another that said “finishers.” I got really disoriented and thought that if I already rode 20 miles and I did a second lap, I’d be riding too long.

As I was nearly back to transition, I realized there were way less people than there should have been for my slow-ass cycling skills…

And that I’d probably missed a lap. I was nearly back to transition, though. What to do? I’m not sure what the *right* answer is, but I decided to try for an okay run time and accept whatever would happen with my bike time.

T2: 2:25


And it was off for my favorite part of any tri, the run. I got off the bike (even though I didn’t finish…) with some serious jelly legs, and just hoped for an okay run. I had no watch, so I was going to do this crazy “run by feel” thing the kids talk about. Maybe I wasn’t hydrated enough, maybe I’d had too many carbs and not enough rest in the past few days, maybe I was pissed about the bike, maybe I was just not having the best day, but the run never felt awesome. I just wanted to do decently on it, though, to make up for the bike. Even if I ended up being disqualified, I wanted to leave this race knowing I put all I could into it even after I knew I might be disqualified — but I certainly felt defeated.

Time: 25:02 / 5K

I finished and immediately called my mom to tell her about the dumb thing I’d done and how frustrated I was. “Everyone makes mistakes,” she told me. Yeah, but I’d put time and money into getting down there for this race…and messed it up.

Jordan’s husband and a friend of his had come to spectate, and I knew I needed to pull myself together, even briefly, to watch Jordan finish with them. I wasn’t about to let my sulking ruin her big moment of finishing her first tri! I joined them, told them really briefly what happened, and we turned our attention to waiting for Jordan. She finished looking strong, and I was SO proud of her.

She hadn’t seen me on that second bike lap, so she knew something was up. “What happened?” she asked. I told her that I’d messed up, that I’d not realized there was a second lap. She kept asking if I was ok, but I didn’t want to ruin her big moment and was still too upset with myself to talk.

We hung out with the guys for a bit and then went off to transition to collect our stuff before brunch. She told me she couldn’t have done the race without me, gave me a big hug, and asked if I was really okay. It meant a lot to me that she cared so much about how I was doing when she should be so excited about her finish, and I teared up a bit and told her I was upset but okay, really. I told her that I was frustrated with myself but moreso frustrated that I’d have to relive this on Instagram, on my blog, at work when people asked. Sure, I could have not posted anything but I’d rather just address the elephant in the room. I grumbled a bit as we packed up our stuff and then told her I was leaving my negative feelings in transition.


We went for breakfast at a nearby diner, and by the time I got there, I was fully ready to make the morning all about Jordan and celebrating her big accomplishment.

Am I bummed about what happened today? Sure. But quite honestly, my heart is so full having watched someone important to me achieve something she never thought she could. And I still got in a good workout this morning.

Well, Iron Girl Sandy Hook, I guess I’ll be seeing you next year. We have a score to settle.

How have you reframed a negative race experience as a positive?


7 comments on “What Really Happened at the Sandy Hook Iron Girl Tri

  1. Katie

    Feeling for you dear!!! I hate racing with friends because 99% of the time I’m the last one to finish. That’s also why I started getting into triathlons. None of my close friends do them, so I get to be the rockstar. Of course I’ve made friends through the local triathlon group, but I’m happy to always be the youngest one who tags along with the big kids (most of them are doing ironman wisconsin today!). As for reframing the race, I think you’re doing a good job of it. Shit happens. You have every right to be mad, but please know that none of us are judging you, it could happen to anyone! (I totally have added a couple miles to trail runs in the past….I’m not so great at following directions).

  2. Mary

    TOTALLY something i would do! very easy mistake to make, especially with the signs being confusing?? that’s really awesome of you to stick around and still be wicked supportive!

  3. Victoria

    Oh man, sorry to hear about the missed sportz. I know that if I didn’t have a watch or bike computer on the bike leg, I would have no idea of how far I’d gone, so I can definitely see how that would happen.

  4. Meagan

    I’d imagine swimming like that in saltwater would be pretty hard! I did my first triathlon last month and it was actually an irongirl! It was tons of fun.


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