My 70.3 Ironman Triathlon Story
It is 9pm, October 16th, 2010 I am walking around our rented condo as if I have Severe OCD. I have my “Race bags” and the contents that will fill them, all laid out on the living room floor like a scene from CSI. I continually walk back and forth making sure I recite each item I will need and visually, verbally and literally touching it, speaking in Triathlon Rainman mode… “definitely Carbo-Pro, definitely!”
Our condo has wooden floors and sits above a commercial office space which around midnight, is of course, vacant. So my footsteps resonate with the thunder of a million steps tomorrow will require. I cannot for the love of all things good, fall asleep. I continually try to think about peaceful thoughts and let the silence soak in like a beautiful womans silhouette. But of course, my internal clock is on “Beast Mode” so hourly trips to the 2nd office and paranoid glances at the clock hinder my REM cycle, to say the least.
I finally just call off the search for sleep and get up at 4:01 as the fear of actually falling asleep and missing the race far outweigh my fear of not getting another 15 minutes of shut-eye.
I have a cab scheduled to arrive at 5:15am,and at 4:56, I can’t help myself and call the driver to make sure they are on schedule. Sure enough, sweet Shola is soon to arrive. I have all my stuff, locked and loaded and when I see the headlights, I head downstairs. Piling in the cab mini-van alerts my senses to conversation and excitement, but that soon fades to simply letting the driver take its fare to its destination. When I arrive, I point Shola to the drop-off area, tip her well for helping me to stay on my journey, and make sure not to leave anything behind. (Don’t want to have a panic attack, when you realize your helmet is rolling around in the back of a cab…)
So now, its pushing 5:55 and the culmination of 14 weeks of training, bricks, bridge repeats, open water swims, adding mileage on the bike and run, start to overtake my medula oblongata and a little bit of anxiousness and adrenaline start to take hold. Upon arrival and seeing the sea of people in the transition 2 area was surreal to say the least. Now I have done St. Anthony’s and 3,000+ is a lot of people, but this just feels more significant. Maybe its being in a new state for the first time (Shot out to Austin, Texas!), maybe its the distance (70.3) or maybe its trying not to think about where I’ll be for the next 6- 6.5 hours. Either way, my heart rate has jumped a bit. I saunter down to T2 following the masses, and release one of my 3 bags (I’ll explain bags shortly) as instructed. They insure me, I’ll see this later. It’s a little too late to ask questions or head home now, I mean, my cab is long gone!
Next, I am herded to a assembly line of school busses. The same school bus you rode while in middle school. Man, I hope I get a cool seat in the back! FAIL. I’m literally the last one squeezed onto a bus, so its Forrest Gump time… “Cain’t sit heer” “Seet Takin”… alright, maybe a little too dramatic. I sit next to a young guy, and after a quick introduction, I seem to recall his name was Nigel or Henry… I was so caught up in everything else, that I can’t quite remember, but nonetheless, he was from overseas, (Ireland) and while visiting Texas for a short trip, decided why not sign up and get a 70.3 done! Hell Yeah! I liked this kid already! After a short trip, we all piled off the bus at the Transition 1 area. Now this was imposing! All 2,283 bikes smashed together in a chaotic scene of mangled metal and carbon fiber skeletons posing in the darkness. The only lights were the enormous halogens that lit up T1 like it was under construction, which it kind of was. Just Saying! As I lugged my 2 remaining bags down to the T1 searching for 998, the best number EVER! Too dramatic?
I finally found it, just sitting there, patiently and obedient as ever, similar to a golden retriever waiting for you when you get home from a long day of work. My special friend, “Nikita” (Nikita is the name I have given my Kestrel Airfoil) was all dewy and glistening in the man-made lights. She just smiled knowingly.
I took a nice quiet walk with Nikita to the Jack and Adams bike tent to have her fun bags (tires) inflated. While standing in line to have the bike attended to, I glanced over and happened upon bike #1. Two time defending champion, Mr. Richie Cunningham was front and center working on his bike, more like fine tuning his Kestrel! I wished him luck and may the winds be at our backs! So upon getting the tires at optimum pressure, I returned to my rack and began my organization strategy. After unpacking some items, and repacking some others, I hoisted 1 bag over my shoulder and left the other bag hanging from Nikita’s BadonkaDonk. They had numbered boxes for us to drop our 3rd bag into and once I found my special box, I delivered the goods. It was similar to seeking out your “Cubby Hole” in kindergarten!
The bag system, as promised, is rather simple, but in brief, it means pack everything you will need for the “Run” into the “Run Bag”, (I.e.- visor, fuel belt, sneaks, etc) things you need for the “bike” go into the “Bike bag”, but here is the catch. Things you are discarding from the previous discipline, such as the wetsuit and goggles, and swim cap from the 1.2 mile swim go into the “Bike Bag”, so the downside with the bag system, although I swear I am not complaining, is you basically have to dump or pull everything out of the bag to put all the other stuff into the bag. A bit of a conundrum, and a little awkward, but all in all, not so bad! I digress.
Well, at approx. 6:45, with only 15 minutes until transition closed, I decided to head down to the swim start area. My water start was scheduled for 8am, so I had some time to burn. As I stalked the lake and the watched others stretching and talking, I simply took it all in, focused on my breathing and keeping my heart rate steady. Ironically, a woman I had met in the Austin airport that had an Ironman 70.3 backpack, and chatted with briefly about the race appeared in front of me on the hill among all the seal impersonators! I yelped out an “AIRPORT” sound and we said our quick hello’s and good luck’s! It was a reassuring feeling to see a familiar face, if only for 60 seconds or so.
6 weeks, 6 days a week, 9 workouts a week, I was ready. Aug 4th came and it was a hot, sunny Saturday, it was 40C with humidity. I spent the days before reading about hydration and warm weather racing and I was a nervous wreck. I was determined and focused and I was going to succeed, as I had in the past with my running events. I had a great swim and started on the cycle leg, it was 2x 10K loops along our canal and even though it was hot, I was right on target as I finished my first bike loop and felt great. On the second loop, disaster struck and I had a flat tire. Well, it’s a setback but I would get it fixed and finish anyway, maybe not in my expected time but I would finish. As I set out on the cycle loop again, the same tire blew again, oh no. I knew my Tri was done for that day and took my ride back to transition. I still did the 5K run for the experience but I did not take my finishers medal and asked for my results to be changed to a DNF. I told my husband, I would be back to try again.
The race organizer gave me free entry to their next event Sept 1. I opted to do the Try-a-Tri this time as my half marathon training was increasing and I did not have time to keep up the same level of tri training as well. In fact I did not swim in the 4 weeks in-between and has only 2 bike rides and one brick workout. Sept 1 was a sunny but slightly cooler day then before and I was a totally different participant that day. I was not nervous and I was not focusing on the finish but the day itself, I was going to have fun. The swim was a water start, not a beach start and it was not my best swim but it was still a good time. As I set off on the bike loop I was keeping thing cool, I was going to treat it like a training ride. I had to run 18K the next day so I did not ride as hard as I could but kept a comfortable pace. I was passing more riders then passed me, some were struggling so my cheerleader mode kicked in and as I passed them I would call out and tell them they were doing a great job and looked awesome. I was so happy when I finished the bike loop; just the run left and I knew I could do that. I started out on the run and I did not feel great, I felt I was going slowly and my legs felt heavy. I realized I was dehydrated and downed my water bottle in the 1st k. It was a 3k run and I kept up my cheerleading and encouraged others to keep my mind off me. As I entered the stadium for the last 100m, I really felt ill but nothing was going to stop me now. I was so happy I finished my first Triathlon, 4 weeks later then I had planned but it felt great.
I learned a lot through this process. I learned that I was stronger than I thought; I did not quit after my first failure and I said I will try again and did. I learned that I need to remember the fun, I can be focused and train hard but it is supposed to be fun, I had forgotten that the first time. The biggest thing I learned is it is the journey that is important not the destination. Getting a DNF did not define me; it made me a better tri-athlete.
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