Settle in. The following provides lots of details.
The week before: My friend asks me how I’m feeling about the triathlon and I reply “apathetic”. I don’t care about it either way. Not too nervous. Not too excited. Just “meh”.
Later, I investigate this feeling a little more. It’s familiar. Actually, I have it before every race. This is the mode I switch into when the clock is ticking and the race is approaching. I go apathetic as a coping mechanism for my hatred of competition and fear that I am totally unprepared for what I am going to do.
So: apathy masking fear and nerves. Check.
7:30: My sister-in-law and I drive to the race site together. She is doing the Sprint (.5 mile swim, 17 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) and I am doing the Olympic (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). We arrive and quickly determine that we are way out of our league. We see fancy bike racks (I didn’t know those existed), teeny tiny racing bikes, and lots of triathlon suits (think wrestling singlets/bathing suits??). And a bunch of people who don’t look like they are nervous at all.
We unload our bikes (mine: a feather-light road bike I borrowed from a friend, and hers, a hybrid that looks like that one kid in your elementary class who was a foot taller than everyone else. You sort of feel sorry for her because she is almost like everyone else, but she’s just too big and it’s awkward).
I start to freak out about my polyester-blend running capris. I am going to look like such a dork. There’s no way I’d wear the triathlon singlet thing, but WHY DIDN’T I BUY BIKER SHORTS?
[Shakes fist at sky and yells WHHHHYYYY a lot]
We (nervously) laugh at ourselves a lot that morning, and talk each other down from the ledges we are prepared to jump off of. For example, I realize that I will die if I have to run out of the water in my bathing suit in front of spectators. Should I wear my polyester blend pants over my one-piece speedo in the water? And why on earth did I not think of this prior to 8:00 on race day?
I ask three complete strangers about this bathing suit dilemma, including: the girl in front of me in the bathroom line, the Nice Man from Goochland who we met in the transition area, and the poor man who he set his bike up next to mine. (I’m suuuuure he cared about my bathing suit insecurities.)
When I get nervous I have diarrhea of the mouth.
8:30: Olympic distance pre-race meeting. Rules are discussed. I ignore most of them. There will always be plenty of people for me to follow, so I don’t need to pay attention to the course. I look around for anyone a) old or b) at least 10 pounds overweight. I find neither. I am racing with a fleet of young, svelte, bizarro-athletes. Damn.
9:00: Standing in line for the bathroom. I am holding a wetsuit that I am yet to wrestle on, and there are four women in front of me in the one-toilet restroom. I realize my race starts in 8 minutes. Crap. (Not literally- just thinking the word).
9:05: Wetsuit is on and I am spitting in my goggles (keeps them from fogging up). I am shaking from the cold and my nerves. The girl next to me tells me to “find my zen”.
9:09: I realize that I cannot swim in this wetsuit. I really question my decision to wear it. After all, I did borrow it from a friend who is several inches taller and maybe 50 pounds heavier. Maybe this wasn’t such a bright idea?? The neck of the suit is cutting into me and that, combined with my nervous hyperventilating, makes it really hard to breath. And the sleeves- don’t even get me started. I realize I might have to breast-stroke this whole race. (As if I didn’t already stick out like the newbie I am…).
9:15: I flag down a kid in a rescue kayak and ask him if I can give him my wetsuit. He looks startled and unsure. I am sure he is thinking “Lady, I don’t know if that’s allowed. I’m just here to get credits for my kinesiology class/volunteer hours for my fraternity/padding for my resume.” I peel the wetsuit off, fling it at him, and swim away (polyester pants on!) in sweet freedom.
The rest of the swim went well. I made up some time and passed some people (yay me!). When I tried to get in a good rhythm with my freestyle, I ended up waaaay off course. So people I passed then passed me. You know, taking the direct route and all. (Booo me). I learned to swim four or six strokes and then look up for my bearings. Repeat repeat, until I was finished!
I ran out of the water like Baywatch, except I do not look like any of those women. I am thankful I am not running in just my bathing suit, as it feels like there are a bazillion people there, watching.
The bike portion of the race is my biggest learning curve. I start off on the hill affectionately called “quadzilla”. It’s a long, steep burn of a hill. I was so thankful to my sister in law, who tipped me off that I should set my gears on a nice easy “granny gear” for this part. Shifting on these hills would have been tough. Quadzilla is hard, but I am confident that once I get past it and out of the park, I can get a good pace and sort of catch my breath and calm down.
Have I mentioned that I live in Charlottesville? There is no catching your breath unless you pull off and sit on the side of the road. IT IS ALL HILLS.
I got passed twice pretty early on by other cyclists and tried to pace with both of them, but was left behind pretty quickly. That’s when I noticed something verrrrry different between other cyclists and myself. It is this: When they were going down hills, they were pedaling almost the whole time. By the time the hill leveled out, they were already well into a good gear to keep their speed up. They worked consistently and kept a fast pace as a result.
In contrast, I practically stuck my legs out and yelled “WHEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!” as I sped down the hills. I would coast the heck out of it, then frantically try to find a good gear when approaching another hill.
The remainder of the race recap to be continued in part two. Alternate title/spoiler alert: How Undertraining Really Came Back to Bite Me