Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A "Real" Triathlete

Before this past weekend's triathlon, I had done two other triathlons. This technically earned me my "Triathlete" title, but because both races were pool swims, I didn't really feel like a true triathlete. Stupid, I know. But open water is a tougher beast, especially for a novice swimmer. I needed to conquer that type of race to really feel like I earned my wings.

Enter The Rookie Triathlon.

Seriously, this name is a misnomer. They do have a separate division and awards for rookies, but that bike course? That ain't no easy thing.

Unfortunately, according to the official rules, I had to register as a Veteran. You could only be a Rookie if this was your first or second triathlon.

Dammit. I was going to be with all the fast masters chicks. Dammit dammit dammit. I just hoped I didn't make a fool out of myself out there!

I did a handful of open water swims with my wetsuit to get used to the feeling of being out there. I liked swimming in a wetsuit. I felt safe with it on, and it was a confidence booster. I figured having to get it stripped off on the way to transition wasn't a big deal and would only lose me a few seconds. Totally worth it.

As for the bike, I didn't get it out on the road as much as I had hoped. But when I did ride it, I loved it. It's a bit faster, but I'm still scared of aero position so it makes shifting trickier since the shifters are on the aerobars. I'd have to wing this part of the race. Of course, I sort of forgot about how hilly the bike course was. I really needed to have a bit more experience riding this bike on hills. I considered riding my road bike in the race, but with as great of a bike as my tri bike is, that would've been dumb.

I was nervous as hell the morning of the race, but as the start approached, I calmed down a bit. The swim really didn't look so bad. The waters were calm and it was so short. I wanted to swim well, but was still scared a bit about the other swimmers. How could I get into a groove with all those other people splashing around?

Confident Steph

Nervous Steph

The morning went by fast, and the race started and before I knew it, there I was being told "Go!" and I had to swim. It took a few seconds for me to just go, and once I did I was surrounded by all these people.

My turn!

I'm out there somewhere

 I could not get into any kind of rhythm and my heartrate skyrocketed right away. Not so good. I tried to do one sided breathing to calm down a bit but I was just nervous out there and a bit panicky. After the first buoy turn I hoped I'd feel better, but I panicked even more and had to breaststroke and backstroke for a few seconds. Once I felt my breathing had calmed I reverted back to my freestyle, sighting periodically to be sure I wasn't going off course at all. Thank God for the last buoy turn, because I was just totally done with being out there! Only about 6 minutes had passed but it felt like an eternity. I wasn't having a good swim at all.

Almost done!

Eight minutes of swimming and I was out of that water. About a minute longer than I had hoped, which bummed me out. Transition is after a long run up a grassy hill and I was breathing way too heavy to have to run up a hill. Once I got to my bike, I switched out gear as quickly as I could and got myself out of there.

Now for the bike hills. Ugh, those sucked. But surprisingly I found myself passing people on them, which was a great feeling! The great feeling would pass, however, when those same people would blow by me on the downhills. Yes, I'm still fearful of speed. It sucks. It's stupid. I'll get over it. I did bike my fastest downhill speed ever during this race, however, so there's that.

It's only an 11.2 mile route, so it did seem like it went by very quickly. I never looked at my watch so I had no idea what kind of pace I was going. I was hoping it could be over 17 mph, but those hills were bad and long enough to mess with overall pace when you're not used to them,  and when you can't make up for that slower pace on the downhills (like me). The results showed I biked 16.7 mph. Not what I had hoped, but I did learn a lot on that course of what I need to improve upon. Better next time!

How sweet of them to make us finish on a hill

Bike done!

I pulled a rookie mistake coming into T2. I lost my spot and had to search for it. I figured that cost me 20 seconds and I'm still kinda pissed about that. The actual gear switch was quick, however, once I found my stuff, and I was off on the run. Easily my best discipline, and I hoped for a solid pace.

Coming out of T2

I glanced at my watch right after I hit the run course and saw it said 53 minutes. Not what I was hoping for, but I could still break 1:10 overall on the course. I was going to try!


It took that entire first mile to get into my groove and it was a slow first mile. With it only being a 2 mile route, I knew I just needed to suck it up and I sped up considerably on that second mile. It was all dirt and grass, with several spots where you needed to watch your footing, but during that second mile I felt so much better. Rather than being passed, I was finally passing a lot more people.  That second mile flew by and with the finish line in sight and Christine screaming at me to run faster, I had a solid finish.

Thank God, because I really needed that race to be over!

My splits - 300 meter swim in 8:19 (timing mat was after wetsuit stripping, so my swim was actually right at 8:00), 2:46 T1, 11.2 mile bike in 40:11 (16.7mph), 1:44 T2, and 2 mile run in 16:10.
Overall time of 1:09:13
6th out of 30 in my age group of Veteran women 40-44

I'm conflicted about the results. I'm very happy with my placing. It was an extremely competitive veteran race. But I'm not really happy with how the race felt. I need to not be hard on myself, however. This was my first open water swim triathlon, my first time on my new bike, and I'm still really kind of a rookie in this sport. It was a solid race. I guess I just wish I had felt better!

My teammates did a phenomenal job today and I'm proud of each and every one of them. Everyone pulled off a solid race and it was a very fun day (even with the swim!). I'm so glad I did it and I can't say enough great things about the organizers, my teammates, and my competitors.

Me and my fearless Captain Christine

Georgetown Triathletes

I'm going to compete on this course again in July, with a slightly longer swim and run, but the same bike course. I do plan to do better and I'm looking forward to it!


  1. Congratulations on so many things! But you know what I liked best? Your honesty. So many race recaps kind of gloss over the sucky parts and leave me thinking, "Why is it so easy for you??" I'd be so freaked out about the swimming in a crowd part, and about riding a tri bike in a crowd. You did both things, and came in 6th in a tough age group. That's so impressive!!

  2. Sounds like a great learning experience! Nice way to get it done, and your placing was awesome! You really are a beast, and I mean that in the best sense. Great job Steph!