Sunday, September 18, 2011

Title 9 Women's Only Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Title 9 Women’s Only Sprint Triathlon

Someone once told me the key to a good race is to be prepared. I have been training for this race since January. I have endured ups, downs, twists, turns, tears, laughter, and I’ve made so many new friends via this 9-month long adventure. I have done numerous 5k road races, a duathlon, and countless training swims, bikes, and runs to prepare for this race. I knew I could do it. I was physically and mentally ready. Well, maybe not totally mentally, I did get a little crazy a few times, but I was at least pretending to be mentally prepared. I created this blog because of my journey to this triathlon.

This was a big deal.

The few days leading up to Sunday September 11th, I got my bike tuned up, attended a Newbie Night put on by Max Performance, ate better than I had all year (all balanced and stuff, crazy, I know), and took it easy on the training so I could be rested and ready to go on race day. At the newbie night, I learned that hydrating well before a race and getting enough rest during the week leading up to the race were two key things to do before a big race. I drank so much, and peed just as much, my coworkers probably thought something was wrong with me. I also made myself get 8-9 hours of sleep for 3 days before the race. That way if I didn’t get much sleep the night before the race, which as it happened was only 5 hours, I would still be rested enough to perform well.

I rarely get out of bed the moment my alarm goes off. Normally I hit snooze as many times as I can before scooting out the door in the morning, but on Sunday morning, I practically bounded out of bed when my alarm went off. I might have even skipped into the bathroom, but if you ask me later, I’ll deny it. I ate my usual pre race breakfast of a bagel w/ peanut butter on it (though, NOT while I was in the bathroom). And I also had 2 bananas throughout the rest of the morning leading up to the race.

My mom had planned a party for after the triathlon and we invited a bunch of people to the party and also to the triathlon to cheer me on. We had a pretty good-sized group, so she had shirts made up and made a little goodie bag for everyone who came. Inside the goodie bag was a t-shirt, a bracelet, a disposable camera and a few business cards of mine, in case people asked about the t shirt or me. (Hi, to anyone I met at the race!).

The big thing for me was the disposable cameras. I wanted to have as many pictures of the race, from as many points of view as possible. Especially from my almost 3-year-old Goddaughter. Even if the pictures weren’t of me, I wanted to see what everyone else saw at the race while I was off killing myself racing.

When I got to the race site, I got numbers written on me and headed in the “Athletes Only” section to set up my transition area. Just like everyone else who has a first triathlon, I brought way more than I needed with me to the race. There wasn’t much time during transitions to use everything. Oh well, live and learn.

I walked around with one pant leg up so my legs markings would dry and not rub off. I don’t know why I wanted to show it off. It was my age, and not even my real age. It was the age I would be by the end of the year. Since my birthday is in December that means I got to add +1. Awesome. I also thought I was wicked cool and channeling LL Cool J with my pant leg. He’s hot, don’t judge. 
Me, Beth
I found some friends and we tried to convince ourselves that we weren’t nervous and were ready to go. Time flew by and all of a sudden we had to get our swim caps on and head over to the pre-race meeting. They gave us some info about the race, sang the National Anthem, had a moment of silence for 9/11 and told us all about the flag that they hung at the finish line. They hung it low so that finishers could reach up and touch the flag as they crossed the finish line. I couldn’t hear a word they were saying because there were so many people around and I heard about all this about 30 minutes after I finished the race. Apparently everyone else hit the flag. I didn’t. I still love America. I’m sorry.

We all walked over to the swim organized by swim cap color. I was in wave 6 out of 8. 
Me & Christa laughing about the fact that 2 people
were following me around taking pictures of me.
I had my own paparazzi!!!
It was pretty chilly for a swim, and by the time we had walked across the cold ground and waited for each swim wave to start, the water felt pretty warm to my feet. Of course as I got further in, it was freezing and my calf muscles seized up almost immediately. I was thinking “Oh god, not now, not now, stop it!”. I did my best to shake it all out, but the water temp wasn’t helping. All the adrenaline rushing through me made it bearable and I knew I could at least cover the 1/3-mile distance.

It was an in water start and they gave us a countdown with signs from the shore. The horn sounded and our wave was off! Being in a newbie wave in a women’s only event, there was barely any thrashing or jostling for spots. We all kind of swam around each other and pointed each other in the right direction if someone started to go of course. I started out slowly since the only warm up time I got was the minute thirty of treading water before the horn went off and most of that time was spent peeing. Yeah, I said it. To the girls around me: The water was freezing, you’re welcome for that warm spot.

And we're off!
I think being so cold, it actually made me go faster. I just wanted to get out of the water. This might sound weird, but I felt like a machine in the water. I was surging through it like it was nothing. I wasn’t even doing my regular stroke, I was doing a drill stroke, because I knew it was faster, but it was subconscious. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until later. I got up to the beach and could immediately hear my cheering crew. I’ve only done one practice swim to run transition, so I didn’t have much to go on for being ready to go right out of the water. I felt slightly drunk. Awesome. I walked through the transition area into the first transition. No need to run. I’d be doing plenty of that later in the race. Trust.

Swim time: 14:23 (Pace of 42:42/hr – my fastest ever!)

In my head, I needed to bring my entire bathroom with me for transition 1. I brought a towel, water to wash off my feet, baby wipes, baby powder, another towel, sunscreen, an extra t-shirt, another extra t-shirt, an extra pair of flip flops, hair ties and a brush. I honestly thought I’d brush my hair before throwing my helmet on. I had to look good for the pictures, you know. In reality, I sat on the ground, poured water from my water bottle onto my feet, dried them off, threw some baby powder on them (it actually helped), tossed my socks on and got my feet into my shoes. I took off my swim shirt and put on my bike/run shirt. Even though I had been making it work with my Grab Gulp and Return move for hydration during the bike, I decided to go with the hydration pack for the race. I didn’t want to worry about dropping a bottle and getting a penalty or not being able to grab a drink when I needed it, or not having enough liquids with me on the bike, so I just went with the hydration pack. As it turns out, I only drank about 1/3 of the water. Oh well, live and learn. I made sure to remember my helmet, grabbed a Gatorade Prime and walked off towards the bike out. 

This was after the race when I knew I had survived!
Along the way I got to chat with Megan from Max Performance who I met at a swim clinic and newbie night. She might not have known my name, but she never forgot my face and was always there to help me out with a quick word or ask how my swim attire worked for me (we discussed that at the Newbie Night) and she made me feel more comfortable just seeing her around transition. Thanks again Megan!

T1 time: 4:12

I had done the entire bike course in training once. But I had done the hills in and out of the bike course several times, so I knew them, and I definitely knew I could fly up the first one because it was at the beginning of the course and my legs were fresh. So I did just that. I took off hard and fast. I passed about 5 people right at the bottom of the hill and continued to pass people all the way up. At the top of that hill, it was all downhill until we got out of the park. I was confident passing on the downhill. I know some cyclists are more cautious on the downhills, so I was all set to take advantage of that. For the entire 10 miles on the bike, I passed people on the downhills and flat parts, and they passed me on the uphills. I’m not strong on the uphills, but I think taking the spinning classes for the month before race day really helped me out and made my legs stronger. I didn’t stop once and although I might have been in the lowest gear for the steeper uphills, I was able to maintain my speed and get up there. The last time I did the bike route, I did it in 1:12. Technically, I guess it was done in 1:24 because we stopped and took water breaks along the way and I stopped my watch every time we stopped. The clock doesn’t stop in a race though! According to my official time, I shaved 12 (or 24, however you look at it) minutes off my bike time over the course of training.

Bike time: 1:00:02

Helmet removal: check
My biggest fear for transition 2 was forgetting to take off my helmet and having to complete the run with my helmet on my head. That would be an embarrassing picture, for sure. First on my mental list was take your helmet off.  Second on the list was seriously, take your helmet off. T2 was a lot easier than T1. There was no wardrobe change, just removal of helmet, take off hydration pack, put on visor, put on race belt, grab water, fuel and go. Simple right? Well I grabbed everything and went, but didn’t have enough hands to hold it all as I tried to put my race belt on. I dropped my water bottle once. Then as soon as I picked it up, I dropped it again and kicked about 3 feet away from me. I finally put my visor on, put my water bottle between my knees and put my race belt on. It was crooked, but it was on. I grabbed my water bottle and dropped it again. At this point I was still in transition and really wanted to just kick the water bottle and leave it there, but I knew that I didn’t drink as much as I should have on the bike and I really needed that water bottle. So, cursing under my breath (there were kids around!!) I grabbed my water bottle one last time and got out of the transition area.

T2 time: 1:36

My cheering squad was waiting for me right at the Run Out and got my good-natured glare as I was starting out. I tried to straighten my race belt and ripped my bib in the process. Awesome. I had to keep tucking it into my race belt for the rest of the run.

The run started up the same hill that the bike route did, and since my legs weren’t so fresh anymore after 10 miles of torture hills, I planned to walk up the hill. The rest of the course (minus a short, but steep hill right out side of the park) was downhill, so I was looking forward to be able to jog a bit faster than usual for the majority of the race. Halfway up the first hill, I got a searing pain in my left knee making it impossible to bend my leg and put weight on it. Awesome. Walking was okay, but running or jogging was out of the question. Except that I looked at my watch and calculated that if I wanted to make my time of 2:15 for a total time in the race, I had to maintain a 17-minute mile. Which mean I had to run. I settle into a limp/shuffle thing and tried to go as fast as I could, whenever someone came up behind me I’d make conversation with them and use them as my motivation to start a jog. I’d stick with them for a little while, and then watch them go. I didn’t pass one person on the run, but I never usually do. Running is my worst of the 3 sports and I wasn’t expecting much, but it was a little disappointing that I couldn’t really give it my all. Although at that point in the race all of my “all” had been given! As I got closer to the finish, I started thinking “Oh my god, I’m actually finishing this!”. It was a surreal moment. I mean, I knew I could do it, but it was really happening. I checked my Garmin, G-cube, and saw that I had 2 minutes to get to the finish line. I could SEE the finish line, so I knew I was going to hit my goal time. I wanted to be that girl who sprinted in there and made it look good, but I just Could. Not. Go. Faster. I felt like my heart was in it to win it, but my body was going in slow motion. As I came down the chute to cross the finish line, I saw the announcers check my number and announce my name as I crossed the line, but I didn’t hear it. I felt like I was watching it from the outside with everything else on mute. Like an out of body experience. Then I got sucked back in, did my signature double fist pump and crossed the finish line in style

Disregard the time. I started in wave 6: about 25 minutes after the clock start
I hugged all my friends and family and then I may or may not have cried a little, but I had sunglasses on, so you can’t prove anything.

Run time: 54:41 (my slowest 5K time ever)

This race felt good. I mean, during, it hurt. But getting it done inside my goal time frame and completing it in an upright position (and not finishing last!!!!!!!) really makes me feel proud. I trained for this almost all year. Nine months. I had crazy moments, believe me. The stress of “am I doing enough?” versus “am I doing too much?” plus trying to balance work and a social life was starting to take its toll on me. I feel so much more relaxed now and I’m so lucky that I have amazing people in my life who listened to my constant talk about the triathlon, training, my fears and successes along the way and didn’t throttle me in the process. They may have tuned me out most of the time, but at least they supported me! I was also lucky enough to have some training buddies throughout the process. We did 5Ks together throughout the summer and encouraged each other to keep up the training. I hope to continue my friendships with these girls as we head towards the fall 5K season!

Carolyn, Karen, Me, Beth, Christy, & Christa
I am so blessed and so lucky to have such awesome people in my life. Thank you to all of my friends and family who came to support me in my race and hang out all morning while I was out there getting it done.

Meaghan, Alyson, Suzette, Claire, Emily, Jahmony, Me, Jane, Marta,  my mom-Janet, Donna

Total race time: 2:14:53



  1. YEAH YOU DID!!!!!! And uh, sorry for all the shots of my crotch from Claire. Although, if you post them on the web, I'll become famous like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan and I'll definitely bring you along for the fun. Cuz, you know, you have all that experience with the paparazzi now... I'll need your guidance. ;) Congrats again!! You did great!!

  2. Congratulations! What a great recap. Way to squeeze in under your goal time :) That's amazing. You're an inspiration! What are you conquering next?

  3. Thank you!!

    The next BIG thing I have plans for is the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, but I spent all day yesterday searching for 5Ks in the area and I signed up for 6 of them! I'm ready to GO!

  4. Awesome job, Sara! Congratulations!! Looking forward to hearing more training recaps as you work toward the Disney Half. I want a close-up pic of the medal!

  5. Congratulations Sara!!! You totally did it! You set a goal - a big goal - and you worked your butt off to achieve it. Be proud!!! Sounds like you had a really strong race - sorry about the issues that slowed you down on the run (so frustrating!) but you hung in there and made it!

  6. Congratulations!!! What a wonderful achievement!!! Love the recap, love all the pictures - and especially love that your mom made goodie bags for your spectators. That was sweet. :)

  7. You KICK BUTT! I am seriously so happy for you...I've been reading your blog this whole time, don't you worry... and you are making huuuge improvements each time you get out there! Can't wait to hear about the next one. :-)

  8. I love this recap post - congrats girl! It was great to meet you last night as well!

  9. WOW! This is so impressive! You are a rock star. It was so great to meet you the other night. You inspired me to keep pushing myself to run. I actually did Week 5, Day 2 of the C25K where I ran for EIGHT minutes straight (2x)! Hope to meet up again soon and hear about your Disney race training. Rock on!


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