Welp. I did it again. I conquered a terrifying swim and finished it with a bike ride and then a run. This past weekend was the 2014 Portage Lakes Triathlon in Akron and I competed in the sprint distance – 1/2 mile swim, 13.1 mile bike, 5K.
Like many other triathletes, the swim was the most terrifying part for me. The entire race got postponed 30 minutes because fog had taken over the swim course and you could barely see the first buoy. The sky was overcast with dark clouds and it was only 48 degrees, however the lake was a warm 70 degrees. It actually felt better to get in the water than to just stand around shivering on the beach waiting for the start (which of course didn’t help my nerves).
Around 8 AM the fog began to clear and the first wave of the mini triathlon went. I kept hinting to the fiancé that a “mini” might be good for his first triathlon race. He has terrible knees issues, but kept complaining that he wanted to be out there competing the entire time.
The race had a beach start (different from my first race in that we started already in the water and there was far less panic and splashing going on). I was near the front because I told myself that I needed to be more aggressive. The siren went off and basically all hell broke loose. I fought to keep my spot as we bounded toward the water, arms and legs splashing everywhere. I got hit in the head and back a couple times and did my fair share of hitting too. The first couple times I accidentally hit someone I stopped to scream “Sorry!” but then realized it was slowing me down and wasting my energy. It was still considerably crowded by the time we hit the first buoy, but then we had another problem…seaweed. Now I wouldn’t consider myself a girly girl who is terrified of unnecessary things, however this seaweed freaked me out! I later told my fiancé that it felt like a movie or video game because it felt like the seaweed was wrapping itself around my arms and legs and I couldn’t get away from it. The more I panicked about it, the more I began to sink. I tried treading water, but of course I was STILL over the stupid seaweed. I flipped over on my back for a brief second and out loud I said “CALM DOWN. YOU’RE FINE. RELAX.” At the time I didn’t care how crazy I sounded talking to myself because it began to work. I flipped over and put my head in the water, telling myself that I just needed to get around the buoy and everything would be better. And it was. Around the first turned it cleared up, the seaweed was gone and I found my stride. I began to make a rhythm in my head from my stroke (something I did my first race) and it gave me something to focus on. “Arm-Arm-Leg-Leg.” Around sixteen minutes later I was out of the water – and incredibly happy to be done with it!
The bike course was beautiful and I would have liked to just cruise and take in the scenery, but I kept telling myself “No this is a race.” During my last triathlon, I felt like I was taking a casual bike ride and kept forgetting I was “competing”. Not this race. I hit the ground running (well, biking), powering down the open road and giving it my all on hills – which can I say – the hills were UNREAL on this course. Another runner told me that the course was hilly, but good Lord! By about the 8th hill I groaned out loud “COME ON” (since there was no one around me at that point). The bike course took me way longer than I had anticipated and I got to T2 already disappointed with my time. I forced myself to keep going. I normally run a 5K around 25 minutes, but because of the hills I cramped up around mile 2 and finished the run in a stupid 31 minutes. I met a really nice runner on the trails though and we ran together for a good chunk of it. Sometimes that’s all it takes to push you and I think that if I had still been running alone I would have been even longer on the run.
The straight away into the finish was glorious because my whole body hurt and I was fighting a major leg cramp. I honestly couldn’t wait to be done! There was another woman a little ways ahead of me and when I saw my family standing there cheering for me, I made up my mind that I was going to pass her (mainly because she looked like she could have been in my age group!) The girl’s family was standing close by mine and both parties started screaming loudly as I came sprinting up behind her. The girl’s family was screaming “Hurry up she’s going to pass you!!” and my family was egging me on. I did end up passing her by just a hair at the finish line and the announcer said into the microphone “Don’t worry you guys aren’t in the same age group!” It was actually really funny and the girl and I laughed about it afterwards.
I had terrible leg and stomach cramps for about an hour after the race. Not sure if it was my nutrition (I may have had a few beers at a friends house the night before) or if it was just a challenging course. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with my time, but I tried telling myself that this is only my second triathlon and I’m still just a rookie. I actually PR’ed my swim time on this race though, finishing in 16:41. (I was 17 something at my first race.) I still need to work on my transitions though. It took me almost 4 minutes in T1 and almost two minutes in T2. T2 should only take me about 30 seconds! I’m not sure what I was even doing. Watching TV? Painting my nails? Seriously though, my time was ridiculous.
So that’s the wrap on triathlons for 2014 – one indoor race and two outdoor sprints. I’m already thinking about doing an Olympic distance at some point next summer. I think it might be my goal to compete in 3 triathlons during the season. I’ve also decided that this winter I am investing in a wetsuit and I’ve made it my goal to join Cleveland Triathlon Club in the spring. I only want to get better and more into this sport so I have to get out of my comfort zone. Another goal for next summer – find someone to race with! The friends I’ve asked all basically said “Hell No.” I can only image racing along side someone would help, however I’d never be one not to do something because I was afraid to do it alone. (Stay tuned for finding a racing partner.) Next race is my absolute favorite of the ENTIRE season – The 2014 Akron Marathon on September 27! I feel like it’s soon going to be Christmas morning soon. And don’t worry, I have one of my best friends to run this race with 🙂