Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Triathlon recap

In case it wasn't clear in my last post, pictures of the triathlon are here.

Now onto the breakdown of the day (warning: this will be long and boring for a lot of people, just so you know), starting of course, with the pre-race day.

Arrived in Ottawa 3pm, picked up wetsuits, went to site, picked up race kits, attended Nick's pre-race meeting, figured out how to move from transition zones, late dinner, unpack and repack bag for race, prepare drinks/water/food, celebrated Wesley's birthday and my own with some belated presents and slept 2 hours. The following 4 hours or so were spent going through each part of the race in my mind, over and over and over and (decided somewhere in there to change from a white sports bra to a navy coloured one, more on this later), you get the idea.

Race day:
Gave up trying to sleep. Nick and I left early and arrived on site to score a prime free parking spot. As we were pulling our stuff out of the van, I asked Nick if it was too late to back out now.  But I did not back out!  Set up bike, wetsuit, gear for transitions, finished drinking my smoothie, went for a last stop to the bathroom and slithered into the wetsuit.

7:30am:  pre-race meeting at the beach. Nerves mounting. After Nick left me at the beach, took some wise advice and did a short 2-3 minute swim warm up. Good thing - found the sight and feel of the weeds quite overwhelming, felt panicky, short of breath, turned around and swam back just using breast stroke. Watched the 2-3 races start ahead of me. Was surprised by the sound of 100+ people running into the water all at once. Kept rotating my shoulders, swinging my arms, trying to keep my upper body loose.  A woman asked me how I liked my wetsuit. I told her I really liked it and she asked how much I'd paid. She was surprised to learn I'd rented it for only $30 for the day. She complimented me on how it looked. Admittedly, I thought it made me look incredible.

8:10am:  horn sounded, found myself toward the end of the pack and waded in with the other 118 women. Started swimming breast stroke up to the turn around the first buoy before heading straight out to the 300m mark. The weeds were gone by the time I hit the first buoy and suddenly I knew I could do this but my breathing was too fast and I couldn't wait three strokes to breathe, had to breathe every two and found this comforting. A few strokes of crawl and found I keep running into people. Weird because I really didn't think I was moving fast. Changed to breast stroke to get some space and then onto crawl again to pass a few more people. Then continued onto crawl and tried to sight every 10 strokes. Swimming all over the place, far to the left, then far to the right, then touching up beside somebody. More sighting but could only do it on the right because of where the sun was coming up on the left. Good thing I can breathe on both sides. But all of a sudden I'd passed a bunch of people and then realised that the person beside me wasn't wearing a wetsuit and it was a man. Passed him and then soon found myself at the turn around point. Going around that I passed another man, then onto the back stretch and passed another guy there.  Huh - didn't the men start 10 minutes before the women? Anyway, on the way back down the course swam way off course to the left here and thought I was about to end up in the middle of the river but finally lifted my head and swam back in. Kept to the left of the crowd and was able to swim past more people. Coming up to the last buoy, passed another 2 guys discussing whether they were supposed to swim past a certain buoy or not. Did my turn and swam up so far that all of a sudden my arms were hitting the sand. Came up onto shore and spent a good 10-15 seconds hunting for my flip flops that Nick said he'd leave for me beside a tree. Nothing to find because apparently I was about 10 minutes early finishing the swim and Nick wasn't even back down at the beach yet. Started running up the path, over to the Transition Zone and discovered that running in a wet wetsuit is heavy. Did not expect that.  Later I saw pictures that an official race day photographer had taken and was glad the navy sports bra won out because there would've been some embarrassing pictures if I'd kept to the white one. (Enough about that, right? Right.)

Transition 1 (or T1, if you speak "Tri" language): Found my transition spot easily enough thanks to my Swiss flag flying at my spot. Pulled the wetsuit down past my knees (as practiced) and then sat down on my towel and managed to pull each leg out, slowly, but without panicking that I couldn't get the suit off. Dried off a little with a second towel, got my socks/shoes on, got my heart rate strap around me, t-shirt on, then watch, smeared some sunscreen on my face, lip balm on my lips, pulled on my bike helmet and clipped it closed, sunglasses on and gloves. Ready to go.

8:33am: Ran over to the Mount/Dismount line and started the 30km bike ride. Within the first 5 minutes the laces on my left shoe fell out of my shoe and got caught on the bike pedal. Wondered if I should pull over and fix them or not. In the end decided to just do it before I did have an accident and would rather lose 20 seconds than have an accident. Pulled over to the side and tucked them back in securely. Back on the bike, felt the headwind Nick had told me about but managed to maintain a speed somewhere between 27-28km/h. The bike felt good. Spent a few minutes adjusting to the different feel of it. Let some people pass me as I worked on my breathing and trying to control it. Felt nervous again and knew I had to just get over it and remind myself that this was a race - a RACE, not just an early morning training ride.  Took a couple of deep breaths and shrugged my shoulders and honestly, before I knew it I was coming up to the first turn at the 7.5km mark. The ride back was good. Started passing people. A few people passed me, then I would pass them and we played that game for a bit. Came up to the start of the 2nd lap and found that it had taken me 33 minutes to do the first 15km. Had to laugh at myself a bit as I remembered my panic late last week when it took me 25 minutes to do 7.3km.  Things were moving much differently now.  The second lap seemed to go pretty much as the first. Pushed a bit going down the hills so I could gain some speed, also was able to change gears without looking down - hooray!  As I was coming up to the turn-around point, I could feel I needed to pee and remembered there was a Johnny-on-the-spot at some point on the course. Wondered if I would see it early enough to have time to jump off and use it. As it turns out, I was moving too quickly (!) when it did appear and I figured I was close enough to the end that I could just hold it until I was back in the Transition Zone.  I did worry about the state of my legs and how quickly/slowly I'd be running if I kept up this pace, so I started spinning out my legs a bit earlier than I should have. Oh well. I still managed to finish the 30km in 1h 04m (according to my watch). Apparently it took me another 4 minutes to go from the finish of the bike, through the dismount and down the path into the Transition Zone. I did try to run at first, with my bike, but couldn't do it. The grass was so bumpy and my nerves were back, making my legs wobbly again. Decided to just walk it through. In the end I'm glad I did. I avoided falling over or otherwise muddling things up.

T2: Back at my spot, got the bike handle bars over the bar securely and let go of my bike. I was so worried about getting disqualified for touching my bike without my helmet that I think that was the last thing I took off before heading out for the run. Anyway, turned my race belt around and got my run bottle in place, put on some more lip balm and was all ready to try to find the bathroom when I realised I didn't really need to pee as badly as I thought while on the bike. Figured it was just the position of being hunched over, and I knew I could hold it for 25 minutes, so I decided to just run. As I ran out of the stadium, I quickly tried to see if my family was in the stands. Didn't look like it, so off I went.

9:44am:  Legs felt heavy, heavy, heavy. Heavier than any of the bricks or practice tri's I'd done previously. Told myself to take it easy to start with, got my breathing under control again and just kept moving. Passed a few people, some older, some younger - that felt good. Just kept moving. Onto the street portion of the run, felt very much alone, there were people coming back the other way but not many heading out ahead of me. Got onto Revelstoke and there were suddenly a few people ahead of me. Slowly I passed one, then another, then another. Kept going along this road looking for the turnaround point but it never came. Followed the road to the end and there was a lone volunteer cheering on each racer as we turned around at this point. Felt good to hear somebody shout out my name. Now that I knew I was at the halfway point of the run, I knew I could finish this and feel good about it. I'd already done the hard work. Kept my pace steady, had a sip of water, kept going. The way back seemed shorter somehow. Probably because now I knew where I was going and just how much closer I was to the finish line. Coming back through the park, passed a few more people and then noticed I was on the path with some people coming out the water from their swims. That meant I was really close now!  And I was. Up the little hill, around the corner and into the stadium.  There was a woman a few seconds ahead of me. Looked up at the stands to see if my family was there yet but it didn't seem like it. Last few metres and that was it.

10:10am:  I finished a sprint triathlon in exactly 2 hours and 58 seconds (didn't know that at the time).  Had some water, a banana and picked up my finishers medal. Walked around in front of the stands to see if my family was there and I'd just missed them. Nobody around. Went back to the athletes area and finally went to the bathroom. Back to my transition spot, reapplied some sunscreen, topped up my water bottle and sat down to stretch for a few minutes. Wasn't quite sure what to do at this point, didn't know where the family was so headed back to the main area. Walked in front of the stands again, walked around the registration tent and gear sales tents. Couldn't see anybody I knew. Back to the stands and waited. Finally around 10:30 my mom showed up and that's when we realised that they had missed me on the bike and they thought I had had an accident (not unheard of for me, haha), so they were still waiting at the bike dismount zone. Mom took me to get a coffee and a cookie, then back to the stands to wait for the rest of the family.  A few minutes after that Sue appeared and my Dad showed up with my niece and nephew.

They told me how Nick was doing in his own race (half Ironman, if you please). He had done well on his swim and was into his ride and ahead of schedule. They'd all seen him and were able to shout out to him.

Closing in on the end of the morning and I wanted to get home for a shower and a change of clothes. So that's what we did.  We came back in the early afternoon and were able to see Nick at various stages of his run and for his big finish. He finished his race in 5 hours 35 minutes (I think. Sorry, if I got that wrong, Nick.)

Later in the afternoon, one of Nick's friends was able to tell me that I'd finished my race in 4th place (!!!), out of 11 women in my age group, and 51st place of 119 women doing the sprint triathlon. Wow. Just wow. I never in a thousand years thought I could finish so well. It's true I didn't want to finish last but squarely in the middle of the pack, with women of all ages? Nope. And 4th for my age group?!  Never. It never even crossed my mind that I could be in the top 5.

All in all a great day. Yes, there were a few things I would change, but I cannot complain at the final result.

Now all that's left is to finish Saturday's race here in Montreal. Wish me luck!


erict said...

You're so amazing. I love you.


Stef said...

Thank you very, very much. Means a lot.

nickt said...

That's a cool report Stef. I'm glad you did it!

Stef said...

Thanks, Nick!