On My First Tri…

Miscellaneous

I paced back and forth on the edge of the beach. My transition area was set up. I knew the courses. My pre-workout and energy gel were taken. My swim cap was on.

The only thing left to do was get in the water and do what I had come there to do – compete and finish my first triathlon.

One hour and 46 minutes later I was crossing the finish line in the pouring rain and listening to my family cheering me on from somewhere near by…

The Swim:

Nerves filled my entire body as I wadded into the water. It was 7:34 AM.

“Three minutes until start for women’s sprint distance!” boomed the announcer on the beach not far away from us.

I made light conversation with a few of the girls around me. I stretched my arms. I adjusted my goggles. I took a deep breath in.

The siren suddenly went off and splashes took off all around me. STAY CALM. I told myself.

I cruised through the majority of the swim, not even winded by the time I finished. I had a few moments of panic around the deepest area of the swim. My foot kicked seaweed at one point and I felt my engagement ring start to wiggle and slide around on my finger. Why didn’t you take your ring off?! I screamed at myself as I struggled to kick away from the seaweed. My mind suddenly flashed down to what could possibly be at the bottom of the lake where the seaweed came from. I thought about how far away from the shore I suddenly was and how no other swimmers seemed to be around me. I felt my heart rate quicken rapidly and my chest grew tight. Suddenly I heard myself say out loud “Come on girl…”  I treaded water for about 10 seconds and it helped calm me down. I jammed my ring on as tight as it would go and I was ready to keep going. I was half way done and I knew I could finish strong. I picked up the pace and swam in. I powered into the shore and swam until my fingers grasped the sand on the beach. I flung myself up and sprinted out of the water. My mind and heart were racing. I had just finished the scariest part of the race. I was back on solid ground. I had survived. My eyes darted around the crowd gathered on the beach for my family, but I couldn’t see them. No time to waste though. I sprinted up the grass and into the transition area.

The Bike:

Transition one took me a few moments to gather myself, try to dry off and get on the bike. I took off feeling the cool air on my wet skin. I was so happy that I had survived the swim that I did the first couple miles at a somewhat easy pace since I was so joyful and relieved. I didn’t drown!

I rode by myself the majority of the first half of the bike ride. Then suddenly out of no where I was getting passed by the half Iron Man distance bikers. I felt like they were celebrities – wizzing by me with high tech bikes and pointy helmets. I tried my best to get the hell out of their way. To them a  rookie sprint distance racer was probably the equivalent of an annoying freshman to a cool senior.

The miles weren’t marked on the bike ride so I had to judge where I was based off the time on my watch. The bike course was filled with rolling hills, while the website boasted it was fast and flat! It wasn’t completely unbearable though and I powered through it with my thighs aching.

The bike ride was beautiful though, especially when the course opened up to view the lake we had just swam in. At 52 minutes I was back in the transition area and I saw my family taking pictures and cheering for me. The fiancé came running over snapping pictures and cheering “Great job babe! We thought you drown during the swim because you were so fast we missed you coming out!”

The Run:

The first five minutes of the run were absolutely brutal. I had done a good chunk of brick training and knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk, but wow was it tough! I felt like I couldn’t even pick my legs up. Every step was a combined effort just to keep moving forward and not walk. It seriously felt like my legs were made of bricks and I wondered how I had ever run correctly in the past or ever would again.

Eventually, I found my footing and began to run more smoothly.

At mile one, I heard the rain before I saw it and felt it. The run was a down and back course with thick, dark woods surrounding the road we ran on. I heard the rain hitting the trees and it was delayed a few seconds before it started coming down on us. A couple runners around me started cheering and screaming. I started laughing because I knew it was only a matter of seconds before we were all completely soaked. And I was right. A minute later we were drenched and it was pouring down hard. My shoes instantly felt 10 pounds heavier. A lot of runners slowed down, but I tried to power through. I kept a good pace and finished the run in 29 minutes.

“And here comes Cassandra Beck from Chardon, Ohio!” yelled the announcer as I sprinted to the finish line. I heard cheers and saw my family jumping up and down waving at me. It was still pouring down rain and they were huddled under a pavilion nearby.

I had made it. I had survived. I was an official triathlete!

Thoughts On My First Triathlon

The biggest thing that I took away from my first tri was that I was well prepared – and it made a huge difference. I read an entire book about competing for the first time and I searched the internet finding all sorts of helpful newbie tips. I brought everything I needed with me plus doubles of everything. I knew the course. I completed all the training (and then some). I was strong.  I was well rested. I ate right. I knew what to expect and I competed very well – winning first in my age group even. (OK so there was only like three of us, but still!) I aimed to finish in two hours and ended up cruising in with 15 minutes to spare. Despite the rain, I loved every single second of it and in my head I knew that I could have easily competed in the Olympic distance. I rode home in the car in the pouring rain with a giant grin on my face.

I still cannot believe I did it. I already found myself Googling more triathlons in Northeast Ohio to compete it too. Unfortunately, the three big races that I would love to do fall on weekends that we already have plans for. Who knows if I will compete again this summer? It may be too early to tell – but I am already visioning myself competing in the same race next year (The Great Western Reserve Triathlon), but the Olympic distance. The fiancé is giving it some thought too, saying that when he was on the sidelines watching he just wanted to be out there competing too. Who knows what this crazy life will throw at me and what insane dream I will have next. All I know is that I went for something that scared the complete living crap out of me. I got tangled in seaweed, practically peed myself having a heart attack, pedaled through when my quads were about to kill me and I ran through the pouring rain with aching leg muscles screaming at me to stop…and I loved every single flipping second of it.

Sprint distance rookie or Iron Man distance veteran, we are all in this together and I now understand the love and challenge of swim, bike, run!


Cleveland Half Marathon Review & Preparing to “TRI”

Miscellaneous

SPOILER ALERT: They changed the course this year and although I only ran it once before in 2013, compared to last year, it didn’t meet my expectations.

2014 Cleveland Half Marathon Review:

  • Cleveland has been obsessed with the new Cleveland Convention Center lately, and to be honest, it’s really not that amazing. Yes it looks pretty, but this was the Cleveland freaking Marathon – it should have stayed right there in front of Lake Erie, in front of the Cleveland Browns Stadium and in front of the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Instead they pushed us into Public Square to start the race and then crammed us into the green by the new Convention Center to end the race.
  •  The corals leading up to the start of the race were irrelevant and it was packed to the brim. Starting in Public Square is overrated and was just a bad idea in general. We had way more room in front of the Browns Stadium last year, plus we were right on the water – it screamed Cleveland! This year we were smashed between buildings and unable to see anything around us.

    Smashed into corals pre-race

    Smashed into corals pre-race

  • The crowd support wasn’t as great as I expected. I read somewhere that the reason the course changed was to get MORE crowd support, ironically.
  • One of my favorite parts about last year was entering the Shoreway stretch into Lakewood and looking ahead and seeing a giant swarm of runners heading up the hill. It was amazing and inspiring to see. This year they threw that hill and highway stretch in for the last 1.5 miles of the course. Nothing was more suffocating than a hill at mile 11 and seeing nothing but a stretch of bland highway ahead of you. At this point runners were all spread out and struggling and it didn’t have the same inspiring effect as last year.
  • In 2013’s course, I loved crossing the bridge from Tremont and heading back into the city past Progressive Field. I loved turning the corner on St. Clair and heading down to the finish line. The 2013 course winded and twisted runners around the buildings of downtown Cleveland and you could hear the finish line as you grew closer and closer. This year, the finish line appeared out of nowhere after a grueling highway hill. There was nothing special. No magic. No inspiration.
  • The entire course was reversed compared to 2013. At mile three this year we were passing a church and neighborhood block party passing out beer that we had passed at mile 11 the year before. The whole thing mentally threw me off.
  • The finish line straight was super narrow and I had a hard time getting around other runners while I was trying to sprint it out.
  • Despite how awful I thought the course was, I still managed to set a new PR time for a half – and so did the fiance! My new PR is 2:11. (Next I’m going for 2:05.)
Still managed to set a new PR!

Still managed to set a new PR!

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but the race really did not meet my expectations this year. Maybe I set them too high though. Last year this was my first half marathon ever and the entire sport of competitive running was brand new to me. Regardless, I favored 2013’s course and I hope they switch some things around based off of people’s comments – because from what I heard – the hill during the last 1.5 miles was not a crowd favorite. I still love Cleveland though and I imagine I’ll be back next year.

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

The three amigos flexing at mile 3

So what’s next?

Well… I’m doing it… My first triathlon! I’m two weeks out from The Great Western Reserve Triathlon on June 8th in Ravenna. Of course I’ll be doing the Sprint Distance – 750 meter swim (.46 mile), 13.1 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. I’ve been training for about three months and although I’ve gotten better at swimming in that time, I’m still incredibly nervous and intimidated by the open water.

This past weekend I did my trial run-through in which I completed the entire distance in all three sports. I finished everything (including transitioning) in 1:53. I set my goal to finish in around 2 hours, although I won’t be mad if I don’t make that time. My main goal here is to not drown during the swim! As soon as my feet hit the solid ground after that swim on race day I will be one happy girl! My trial run-through gave me confidence that I can compete in the swim, but I have a tendency to focus more on time and just trying to get it over with. When I think like this my form gets sloppy and I quickly become exhausted. As long as I remain cool, calm and collected and I swim with good form then I’ll be good to go, but if I panic and flop around trying to stay afloat I’m done for. Worrying about the swim has seriously kept me up at night lately, but I have to remain in control of my fears.  I have to go into the race with the mentality that I will beast mode that swim and it will be a piece of cake. If I think and believe that I can do, then I’m already half way there.


In terms of the bike and run – I got this 🙂

More races coming up:

  • Mentor Flag Day 5K on June 11.
  • Lake Health Half Marathon in Kirtland on June 15 (I wanted to run this race last year, but it was all sold out when I went to register. It should be a nice, scenic run and I’ve heard good things about it.)
  • Woodland 5K in Kirtland on June 22 at the Holden Arboretum.

Lots of big races coming up! I’m so excited and nervous for all of them. Big things are happening and training is at an all-time high. (Is it weird that I get excited about waking up at 5AM to train!?)

This is what I love about summer – training and going out there and running your heart out at the race. I love summer and I love race season!