So today I competed in my first triathlon, the Danskin Sprint in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. With the exception of the wind gusts between 25-30mph, it was an incredibly beautiful day for a race. Clear skies. Not too hot. No humidity. Beautiful.
With the help of two Melatonin, I conked out at 10:30pm and had a fairly restful night’s sleep the night before the race. I woke up with MM around 4:45am, and attempted to quickly get my shit together, despite the fact I was moving slowly most likely due to the Melatonin. I dressed, ate breakfast, and freaked out, but managed walked out the door forgetting only my cell phone.
At about 5:45am, I left MM and boarded a bus to the race site. Danskin is so big they bus all the spectators and athletes in from a location about four miles away. It was strange, getting on a school bus with a large duffel bag, like I was headed off to camp or a high school sporting event. But, in part, I think some of us do these things to create or recapture some kind of glory, and maybe the school bus was appropriate. I dunno. I guess it’s not necessary for me to find meaning in a school bus.
Once at the race site, I headed into the transition area, where I set out my gear near my bike, and chatted with a woman who immediately asked, “Is this your first?” which I learned is the favorite question of the event. The veterans love a newbie. They get excited for you. You’re a virgin. It’s cute for them, ya know?
The transition area closed around 6:30am, and about 20 minutes after that I finally wandered out of the area to watch the elite athlete's swim wave start. I stuck around to watch the next seven waves. I was in wave 22, and had a swim start time of 8:20. At about 7:40, I decided to stand in line for the bathroom thinking I had oodles of time to potty. I was wrong. At 8:05 when I realized that wave 19 was “on deck,” I finally asked the people in front of me if I could go ahead of them. Because Danskin is women only and has an overall attitude of “we help each other out,” they quickly were all, "You go [to the bathroom] girl!"
With my business taken care of, I ran to the swim start where I finally found MM who started snapping photos of me in my awesome green swim cap. He would spend the rest of the morning running after me with the camera.
I kissed him good-bye, and lined up dead center in my wave. After four or so minutes of being pumped up by Sally Edwards, Danskin spokeswoman and 16 time Ironman finisher – high fives and “you go girl’s” included -- I was standing in the water, thigh deep, counting down 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
So let’s get serious.
Let’s talk about the numbers.
If I was to be totally objective about my performance today, I would have to say that I fucking ROCKED this triathlon.
Swim: 15:52, rank 760/3650, 1:59/100 meters
I was just shy of the top 20 percent, which is kind of awesome. But, honestly, I expected to do better. I told everyone that I would probably be out of the water in 20 minutes, maybe a little less. In reality, I had my heart set on a swim time around 14 minutes. And, I think I could have done it, had I not swam off course... twice. TWICE! My biggest problems at this point are that I haven’t put in enough time in open water, and I was wearing clear pool goggles, when tinted open water goggles would have served me much better. With the bright sun beaming off of the water, I could barely see because of the glare. I had a bitch of a time spotting, and though I know I need more practice, if I could have seen more than 10 feet in front of me, I probably wouldn’t have swam off course – at least I wouldn’t have done it twice. I relied on spotting the heads in front of me, which led me astray at times. Midway through the course, I came up with the brilliant plan to I switch to the breast stroke every few minutes so I could keep my head above water and get my bearings. It worked, but I can do better than this. Other than that, I felt my freestyle was sloppier than usual, but I suppose when you toss a newbie in open water that’s bound to happen. Oh, and the water was warm. Warmer than some of the pools I get in.
I got lost on the way to my bike, which is what “they” – the triathlon people – tell you will probably happen when you start out. MM was close enough to yell, “Lou! You’re a row OVER!” Oh. OK. Thank god for MM. I’d probably still be there like, “But I swear my stuff was near the over-sized, inflatable bag of Sport Beans.” Again, I probably could do better than 3:23 if I knew where I was going, but this was decent for a first-timer.
Bike: 47:26, rank 1523/3650, average 15.6 mph
I’m sorry? What? 15mph?!?!? Nah uh. Seriously? Did I mention that my new bike is the best purchase I have EVER made? In reality, I had hoped to finish the bike in an hour or a little less, a time that required an average of 12mph. With the crazy wind, I am shocked that I was able to maintain a decent speed. Sure, it wasn’t the hilliest of courses, but for a new rider who wanted to give up a few weeks ago because of her heavy, old mountain bike, I am very proud of myself. I had a good, strong ride. And I didn’t want to cry once.
I attempted to run my bike into the transition area, but my legs were basically like, “Uh. Fuck no.” So, I had a little talk with myself that went something like, “Self, just calm down, walk back to your transition area, get yourself together, and run once your legs get used to being on the ground again.” So that’s what I did. And… well, read on…
Run: 32:04, 1523/3650, pace 10:20
After all that swimming, and transitioning, and biking, and transitioning, I ran a 32 minute 5k. This is actually one of my faster 5K times, which is amazing. I was hoping to be able to maintain a 12 minute mile. And, the best part is, I really didn’t feel like I was killing myself. I felt well paced, my legs felt fresh enough, and I wasn’t huffing and puffing like some of the other women who… ahem… passed me. That’s all right though. I really am amazed at how well I did after hauling ass on the bike. I think I’m one of those people who runs better if they are warmed up, and hell, I was nothing if not warm. I sprinted to the finish line, and barely heard my name being yelled by my cheering section, which consisted of MM, Meg, and @, as I “flew” by.
Final: 01:41:18, 1099/3650
Overall, I had nothing short of a great experience. The Danskin race is every bit as organized and supportive as it is trumpeted to be. I was so thankful that MM was there, running after me with the camera, and that @ and Meg made the drive up to Wisconsin to support me. It made me feel way better about being out there alone knowing that there were people in my life who understood how important today was to me to fight Chicago traffic just to cheer me on. I think they enjoyed themselves though… it sounds like @ pretty much led the crowd in imparting words of motivation to the women who were competing (“Empty the tank!” Classic @), and Meg said those sweet little words I’ve been longing to hear from her, “I could do that.” My diabolical plan is in motion…
I could not have expected to do much better than I did. Top 1/3 overall! I am never top 1/3 when I run! I'm not even top half. That is an awesome feeling. My fear is that I peaked in my first race, and I’ll never do better than I did today. Hopefully, that's not the case. I did also get a reality check about the amount of training I will need to do a race twice the distance… three times the distance… four times the distance. But, yeah. There's another triathlon in my future. You can count on that.
When I crossed the finish line, I felt a wave of emotion and had to work hard not to cry. I can’t even tell you why. I wasn’t sad; I think I just got super intense in my head toward the end of the run. I’m weirdly competitive despite the fact that I have no business thinking I can compete. Can’t help it. That’s probably part of the reason I do this. But shit. In my mind, I believe I rocked this race... because I totally did.