Overheard at the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon this Sunday…
I found the best kombucha bar in the Highlands.
Putting on a wetsuit is like putting on a wedding dress. You’re like “Please, zip! Please, zip!”
All she ate was sandwiches and mac and cheese, for, like, every meal.
I can’t help noticing these things, I’m
a chronic eavesdropper fascinated by humanity.
I signed up for my first triathlon since 2012
I signed up for this race on a whim about a month ago. My running injuries had been under control for over a month and I was up to 15-20ish pain-free miles per week. A friend talked me into doing a Stroke and Stride (a casual but timed 750m swim + 5k run), my first since 2008. I had a blast and decided to come back several weeks in a row. As a bonus, I was pleased to find my running speed had returned and my wetsuit still fit. My biking was limited to occasional rides with the kiddos in the Burley and some longer, challenging weekend rides up Sunshine Canyon, up Flagstaff, and one epic, 60 mile ride up to Ward via Lyons and Raymond. I knew I could easily finish the race, and hopefully do well.
The distances were 750m swim, 12.9 mile bike, 5k run. A sprint triathlon is sometimes referred to as a “mini” triathlon, although even the fastest women took over an hour. Most mortals can’t just jump off the couch into a race of this distance. Case in point: I worked my way back from nine months of a fit pregnancy, birth, and six weeks of postpartum rest to do a sprint triathlon when Sweet Pea was four months old. I nearly had a panic attack during the swim (in retrospect, my wetsuit was probably suffocating me, as I had yet to lose all the baby weight), and I shuffled my way to the finish at the very back of the pack.
Since that 2012 race, my sexy orange and blue triathlon bike has sat glumly in the basement. Three weeks ago, I changed out the rear tire, worn thin from infrequent trainer workouts, for a fresh one. With only three weeks to prepare, there was no real structure to my training, but I did the best I could.
-Where I might normally have run for 45 minutes, instead I woke up a little earlier, asked Dan to start work a little later, and squeezed in a 40 minute ride followed by a 2 mile run.
-I did four Stroke and Strides (a local Thursday evening timed 750m swim followed by a 5k run).
-Where I would normally have done the 750m swim ad 5k run at the Stroke and Stride and called it a night, one night I let my friends talk me into 4 mile cool-down run afterward.
-When I would normally have met a friend for a 50 minute trail run, instead I swam at the reservoir for 45 minutes and hopped on my bike for 15 minutes right after.
-I teach spin class every Monday, so I created workouts that would maximize my performance on race day.
While I didn’t do anything major or over a sustained period of time, it was fun to add some purpose to my workouts and it was at the very least mentally useful to structure my workouts around my race.
And what I realize, in light of the fantastic race I had, was that everything—not just what I did in the short weeks since I signed up for the race—counted. Everything I’ve done since Lady Bug was born—the treadmill runs that were interrupted by a crying baby, the 20 minute bike rides with the kids to the library, the 30 minute swims—they all counted. All the training I did before Sweet Pea was born—the interminable, lonesome six hour Ironman training rides, the four thousand yard pool swims, the duathlons, the marathons, the track workouts, the mountains I pedaled up so slowly I thought my bike and I would tip over—they all counted.
I wake up at 5am. I sit at the kitchen table eating my instant oatmeal, drinking my Starbucks Via coffee while the sky is still an inky blue-black and I know it will be a good day. I could fall apart on the course but right now I am alone with my breakfast while my family sleeps and I feel grateful to have stolen this little luxury for myself.
I show up on schedule and the other women, my competitors, are milling about and they are my inspiration. They are tall and lean, short and round, and every shape and size in between. They have long, white, perfect braids, blonde ponytails, and pixie cuts. Some have wrinkles. Some have six packs. There are prominent collarbones and generous booties. I try not to stare at the big ladies. It’s just that I am intrigued and awed by them. I have no idea what it feels to stretch spandex over heaping mounds of flesh, but I imagine it takes an insane amount of courage. I want to high-five these women for being out here, for wearing these clothes, for telling the world that fitness doesn’t always look like an Instagram model, but I can’t do that so instead I give them a high five in my mind.
[bctt tweet=”Fitness doesn’t always look like an Instagram model” username=”@PamMooreWriter”]
The race starts at 8:00 and by 7:38 my transition area is arranged, my cap and goggles are tucked into the sports bra, my wetsuit is half on, and I have nothing left to do so I walk barefoot to the water’s edge and study the swim course. I smile to myself as I remember my last triathlon. It was four years ago and I was frantically nursing my baby when I should have been doing this. For the first time in my life, I swim around the warm-up area like a “real” swimmer. I figure I need to “act as if.”
I feel ready when the siren goes off for my wave. It’s a maelstrom of arms and legs. They’re on top of me, under me, in my ribcage, on my shoulder and it’s ok. Women are everywhere and I can’t see them because this water is murky and brown. I can feel them, though. Fingertips brushing my leg. A foot in my elbow. I think, this is nothing compared to the way my older brother wailed on me when we were kids.
I just need to swim and breathe. I focus on gliding, on scooping lots of water, on remembering to look up at the light blue sky. Buoey by buoey, I make it around the rectangle, and then finally through the inflatable red archway, and I am jogging to the transition area, yanking my wetsuit down to my waist, gasping for air as I go.
I stomp and cajole my way out of my wetsuit, free my head of my cap and goggles, sit down to don my bike shoes, my helmet and sunglasses and I am flying out of the transition area with my bike.
I am supposed to mount my bike on a dirt road and I am not prepared for this. Dirt roads and gravel make me anxious but I pretend they don’t while I hop on my bike and clip my right foot in. I can’t help it but I yell “Whoa!” and swerve while I’m clipping my left foot in and it’s embarrassing but soon the road turns to pavement and no one is around me and I relax my forearms into my aerobars, take a few sips of my drink, and imagine myself slicing powerfully through the air, gliding easily over the road.
The course is mostly flat with a couple of gentle climbs. I notice the edges of subdivisions. In my periphery, I see green space and a pond. Mostly though, I am focused on my breath. Is it labored enough? Is it too labored? Can I keep breathing like this and save enough for the run? I am constantly monitoring my effort. My watch is set to the stopwatch function. My mileage, my speed, and my heart rate are unknown. I say “On your left” and then “Good job” as I pass woman after woman after woman.
I feel good. I feel great, even. I had forgotten the sensation of damp spandex clinging to my body, drying in the morning sun, wind whipping in my face, ponytails dripping. I love this.
A fit-looking woman on a fancy bike passes me but I keep her close. We play cat and mouse for the entire bike course, offering each other smiles and encouragement as we pass each other.
My stomach clenches as I approach the rutted dirt road where I am supposed to dismount my bike and I think to myself “It’s ok” and it is. I run my bike into the transition area and fling off my helmet, change shoes, fasten my race belt, grab my hat, and go.
I feel like I am running in quicksand. I am take short, gasping breaths and I tell myself to just keep on going and my breathing will work itself out but it never does. I pass the fit woman who passed me on the bike and we smile and wave and I say “looking good” even though it takes way too much effort to make words.
People are cheering from the sidelines but I only see what is in front of me because I don’t have the energy to look around. There’s a dirt road that curves in the distance and on it is not an inch of shade. I tell myself it’s only 3.1 miles. Less, now that I’ve probably covered at least a few tenths of a mile.
The race announcer made a big deal about the fireman manning the aid station at the first mile marker and I thought I would not care who handed out the water but when I see the shirtless men at the crest of the hill, it is a treat. I take a little sip of water and pour the rest on my head, down my back. I look at my watch. It says eight minutes and forty seconds. I am not sure how much that hill affected my split. It doesn’t matter because there is nothing else to do but keep running.
It is only half a mile until the turn-around. I can do this. I am passing woman after woman after woman and I don’t know how because I feel like my legs are moving through mud. It feels like a dream where I need to run away from the bad guy but I can’t make my legs go.
I pass the firemen again and take a water. I hit the second mile mark. My watch says 7:40. A little over a mile to go. Can I go faster? I see a woman in yellow and black way up ahead and I imagine a rope connects us. The rope is tightening and I am getting closer and closer until I pass her.
I see another woman ahead and I want to pass her but my legs will not cooperate. I focus on getting to the next tree, the next rock, the next dad with a Baby Bjorn. I wonder if Dan and the girls are here, planning to surprise me at the finish chute. I ask myself if I will even remember how this feels a day from now, an hour from now, twenty minutes from now. Can I go faster?
I have been running for 22 minutes and change. I am practically done. Where is the finish? Why can I not see the finish? It must be soon. Keep running. Keep running. I turn a corner and there is the blessed finish line. I am steps behind Yellow and Black but I’ve lost my chance to close the gap. I cross the finish line. Someone takes my timing chip. Someone hands me a chilly water bottle. I stop. I breathe. I congratulate Yellow and Black. I press the button on my watch.
I am totally spent.
I am happy.
I am super happy with my results…. 5th in my age group, 17th woman… My swim (just under 17 minutes) was average, which for me is excellent (to put it in perspective, I swam the same distance in 22 minutes at my first triathlon in 2004, and found my bike was one of the only ones left in the transition area). I biked 19.9 mph and ran a 7:46/mile pace (faster than I’ve ever run at the end of a sprint triathlon before, even at sea level).