Last weekend I bagged my first triathlon.
Now before you go thinking I crushed an Ironman, let me clarify. I finished my first ever USAT sanctioned sprint tri, which means I survived a 750 meter [open water] swim, a 17.2 mile bike ride and a 5k. (The most mean-spirited 3.1 miles I’ve ever run, btw.) When I look at these numbers on paper I think, “No problem B.K, you can do this sh*t in your sleep.” Turns out the gap between ‘seeing’ the numbers and actually crossing them off your get-ir’-done list is prodigious.
To me, doing your first tri is like lighting your own fart on fire. (It’s hard on your a** and could sideline you for months if you’re not careful.) Not only is everything about the event harshly foreign, (the swim, the bike, the transitions and the fact you packed half your closet ‘just in case’), but you also struggle through an insufferable case of what I’ll call imposter syndrome. (I.e. can anyone here tell this is my first? Do I look as ridiculous as I feel?)
Overall, I’m more than satisfied with the outcome. (I finished!) That said; during the event I found myself wavering between, “I’m damn proud to be here” and “Good night almighty, how in the world will I survive 70.3?”
In lieu of boring you with every tiny race detail, I thought instead it’d be more fun to share a few of my ‘this is where sh*t went terribly wrong’ mistakes. Cool? Let’s go…
The Start Line
At 7:45 a.m., the announcer asks Wave 4 to step forward. (Women age 35 – 49.) Donning my ‘damn this is tight’ wet suit, (and with few tears in my eyes!), I do as I’m told. As I waddle my way down shore, I stand to the side and let most of the women pass until I’m at the back of the pack. (Hey, this first timer did NOT want to be kicked, slapped, sucker punched or crawled over under water.)
At approximately 7:47 a.m., we wade into the Boulder Reservoir. (65 degrees.) A few minutes later, the gun fires and I hang back to give those ahead of me a chance to duke it out. Finally, I stick my head in the water and think, “It’s go time b*tch, let’s roll.”
Here are my mistakes:
- I under-estimated my swimming skills. (I.e. I’m a stronger swimmer than I gave myself credit for… which means I spent too much time trying to get around others.)
- I likely swam 1000 meters instead of 750. (My fear of being kicked led me waaaaay outside the buoys.) It’s a wonder I didn’t end up in Nebraska.
- My goggles leaked from the moment I put my head in the water ‘til the moment I drug myself out. I’m happy to report you CAN swim 1000 meters with one or both eyes closed.
- For reasons I won’t discuss, I ended up wearing clear goggles instead of tinted. Clear goggles + swimming due east + early morning = screwed.
Official Swim Time: 19:03.
I swim ‘til my hands touch the bottom of the Reservoir, then stand up and wade to the exit. Once my feet hit the pavement, I unzip my wetsuit, tear off my cap and goggles and walk/jog to the transition area. It takes longer than I anticipate to wrestle off my wet suit, I also stand there for longer than I should have thinking, “F*, what am I forgetting?”
With the clock ticking, I grab my bike and walk to the line where they give you the ‘go ahead’ to get on. Knowing the bike is my weakest link, I tell myself, “Breathe BK… and just take it as it comes.”
T1 Time: 4:12.
Here are my mistakes:
- I did not take my hands off the handle bars for 59 minutes and 35 seconds. (Think death grip.) Which also means I did not drink during the ride. I did, however, ingest a bug or two for good measure.
- I lost more time than I care to admit on the down hills. (Trust me; you do whatever it takes to stave off panic.) It’s defeating to pass the same people over and over on the uphill only to watch them roar by you on the decline.
- Knowing I still had 3.1 miles to run, I gave myself permission to leave a little gas in the tank instead of leaving it all out on the road.
Official Bike Time: 59:35.
I ride up to the ‘get off here’ line, unclip my feet and walk/jog my bike back to the rack. I rip off my shoes, take off my helmet, turn my bib to the front and slip on my running shoes. I stand there a few seconds (again!) thinking, “F*, what am I forgetting?”
I grab a sleeve of Clif Bloks, chug some water and high tail out of transition area for the final, (thank you Jesus), leg of the event. In that moment, I tell myself, “This is where you shine sunshine, go get it.”
T2 Time: 1:52.
The first quarter mile of the run is uphill, and I can’t help but curse the course director for his lack of compassion. A mile in, I walk through a water station and wonder, “How fast am I going?” (My legs felt terrible – I figured I was probably slogging along at 15 – 17 minutes per mile.) When I hit the turnaround, the only thing going through my mind was, “Gawd almighty, this is a total body assault.”
Here are my mistakes:
- I didn’t work out a race day fuel plan in advance… and skipping water on the bike didn’t help.
- I did apply sunscreen [to my face] pre-race, but at no other time during the event did I attempt to save myself from skin cancer.
- I did not practice transitioning through all 3 sports back to back during training. I also had no idea how ‘over it’ I’d feel by the time the run came around.
Official Run Time: 27:08.
Here are my final lessons:
1) It doesn’t matter how much deodorant you apply (or where). By the end of the race, you stink.
2) If you can’t roll in public with no make-up, hair that’s jacked or a body that smells, this sport may not be right for you.
3) When you exit the water, your tri suit dries within minutes. (Yes girls, so does the pad.)
4) They ink you with permanent black marker on your hands, arms and the back of your legs. It takes days to wear off. (They write your age on the back of your right calf – now half of Colorado knows I’m not 21.)
5) Marathon shape does not = triathlon shape. (If it does for you, call me, I have questions.)
6) There is a ginormous gap between a sprint tri and a half Ironman. (I’ll liken it to running your first 5k… at that point, a marathon feels almost impossible, right?)
When I finally cleared the, “OMG! What have I done?” phase, this quote from Muhammad Ali became my life saving mantra…
‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’
And Sunday, I absolutely felt like a champion.
P.S. A special thanks to Brian, Patience, Steve and my Sole Sisters for believing in me until I could believe for myself. Your support and wisdom mean more than I could ever express. And to those of you who have bagged HIM and IM events, I now see, with clear eyes, just how HEROIC that truly is.
P.S.S. I shot this post-race video just for you – careful, I’m wired.
P.P.S.S. The pic up top is of my friend Chris (and I) post race. She seriously crushed it… super inspiring.