Portage Lakes Triathlon 2014

Miscellaneous, Running

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).

Fog covered the entire swim course.

Fog covered the entire swim course.

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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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!