Well, if you haven’t heard… this was my best triathlon to date.
And it started like this…
Last week I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do this race. I pretty much decided the week before that I would do it even though I didn’t think I would be completely prepared. I went to bed the night before the race with so much nervousness that I barely slept a wink. I was awake before my alarm and I couldn’t even eat. I had packed up my gear and everything the night before, so I grabbed up my bag and some food and headed out the door.
I met up with friends Bree and Bryce on the way out of town and jumped in their car. Bree is a seasoned triathlete at this point, but this was Bryce’s first race. He seemed pretty calm, cool and collected during the drive, but I may not have been quite as observant as usual because I was so nervous I felt like I was going to throw up. Shhh. Don’t tell those guys. I think they thought I was just channeling my inner zen and resting in the calmness of the morning. In reality I felt like a multi-car wreck with injuries.
I really have no idea why I was so nervous. Maybe it was because it was the first race of the season. Maybe it was because in my head, I didn’t feel prepared. Maybe it was constipation. Who knows?
We arrived at the Marine base on Parris Island with plenty of time to get our packets, set up transition and prepare ourselves for the first race of the 2014 South Carolina Triathlon Series. I checked in and quickly set up my transition. That left me with enough time to stroll around, check in on Bree and Bryce, go get marked and pick up my timing chip.
But it also left just enough time for the nerves to start flaring. I had brought some food to eat about 30 minutes before the race start, but I couldn’t even bring myself to eat it. What in the gracious name of the Almighty was my problem?!?
Well they made the call for all athletes to come into the the pool area to get ready for the race. So I did. I lined up on the pool deck in my seeding order and started having those old feelings of “Why am I doing this…” They played the National Anthem and the race was getting ready to start. I went ahead an hopped into the pool at the end so I could get a quick warm up in. I swam 2 laps and hopped out. The pool felt great and I realized that I felt great too, physically. They always play music just before the race starts and the race director for the series almost always plays Eminem’s Lose Yourself. I was standing there on the pool deck wondering why I was there when the beat started. I looked up and all of the sudden the nerves shed off of me like a pair of button sided track pants at a Magic Mike show (that makes a lot of sense in my head. i hope that it conveys…) Suddenly I remembered why I was there.
Suddenly I was ready to race.
Swim – 500 meters – Marine Combat Training Pool
I waited my turn to jump in the pool, which took entirely too long. Remember my recap from last year’s race? Once again I seeded myself way too low. So much for confidence. Regardless, when my turn finally arrived, I hit the start on my Garmin and I jumped in. I started hard. So hard in fact, I almost jammed my arm and head on the the wall at the end of the first length. I was tearing it up. I am positive that I passed and swam over even more people than I did last year. I had several people wait at the wall and let me pass too. I was swimming hard, but never felt like I was swimming too hard. That probably means that I could have swam even harder. I was passing people on the inside and the outside of the lane. Before I knew it, I was in the last lane and heading for the exit. I hit the wall and had to wait a couple of seconds for the person in front of me to crawl up the ladder. I looked at my watch and knew that I had beat my previous years time. I scrambled out of the pool and out the door and down into transition. I knew that this race was going to be a good one.
Official swim time: 09:38
(2013 time: 10:18 – 40 sec improvement)
The morning had been a bit chilly and I had left a jacket at transition just in case I thought I would want it for the bike portion. As soon as I ran out of the door to the pool area I decided to take a few seconds more in transition to put it on. In hindsight I probably could have done with just arm warmers, but whatevs. The previous year I had taken time to put on shoes and socks AND a cycle jersey for the bike. But this year I was seasoned. I had left my shoes clipped into my pedals and after I got my jacket and my helmet on, I ran for the T1 exit, barefoot and ready to go.
Official T1 Time: 1:16
(2013 time: 2:46 – 1:30 improvement)
Bike – 10 Miles – Out to the Golf Course and Back
I hopped on the bike, got my left foot in my shoe put my right foot on top of my shoe and started pedaling. Once I was out a bit further away from the mount line, I reached down and got my right foot in and was ready to lay it down. Then I realized that because I was wearing the jacket, I could not really see my watch. I had thought about moving it to my bars in transition but decided it would take too much time with no real reward. I rode the entire bike leg without looking at my watch at all. I never knew for sure what my pace was, but I felt like I was trucking. I got a new triathlon specific bike in the off season that I will talk about in a later post. Needless to say, I felt like I was flying right out of the gate. Every time it seemed like I was just settling in, I picked the pace up again. I passed several people with in the first 2 miles and was passed by no more than two folks myself. I know that some of you will take offense at what I am about to say, but I am going to say it anyway. I made up my own term for triathlon. Some of you will have heard of the term “getting chicked.” Chauvinistically, that is when a male gets passed by a female in a race. It is not a very nice term at all, and to be honest, I have mad respect for anyone faster than me, so if you pass me (male or female) you are awesome. But here is where I might step on toes… I coined my own phrase for getting passed by a Clydesdale in a race. It is called “getting chunked.” I know that it probably burns some of these folks even more when a “big” guy passes them. Ok, ok. Enough with the self-deprecating humor. Let’s just say this chunkster was moving like a scalded walrus. It was a bit windy, but not as bad as I had remembered it being last year. I tried to stay in aero position for as much of the race as possible and I could really tell the differencce between being down in aero position and sitting up and catching all of the wind right in the chest. The course ended up being closer to 10.7 miles according to my Garmin which gave me an average pace of 18.3 mph. I came around and pulled my feet out of my shoes and jumped off the bike at the dismount line. Unfortunately, one of my shoes caught and popped off as I was running in. I stopped and was about to turn around and go back for it when one of the spectators scooped it up and tossed it to me. He saved me some precious seconds and I ran into T2.
Official bike time: 34:59
(2013 time: 37:39 – 2:40 sec improvement)
As soon as I hopped off my bike at the dismount line I knew that it would be a tough run through T2. The bike finish was at one end of transition and my rack spot was at the other. My feet were really cold and running on the asphalt was not as comfy as grass or pillows or bunny rabbits. But I am a triathlete now so I just HTFU’d. Don’t Google that if you are squeamish about cuss words. I racked my bike, threw on my shoes, grabbed my race belt and headed out. My feet were cold, but my resolve was red hot
Official T2 Time: 1:07
(2013 time: 1:45 – 38 sec improvement)
Run – 5K – Out and Back
I felt fine as I started looking for my run groove. I remembered that Stella had once lost her run groove, but she somehow got it back. I felt like I was knocking the off-season rust off pretty well, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing as hard out of the gate as I wanted. I looked down to check my watch and, low and behold, I was pacing about a minute per mile faster than I thought I was. That felt incredible because I knew that I could push it even harder. So i did. I hit the first mile before I knew it and was at the turn around before it hit me that I was going to PR the run. I had slowed a bit in the second mile, but when it hit me that I had a chance to hit the PR I tried to pick up the pace. I would like to take the time to thank the people on the side lines who were cheering, although I must say that it irked me just a little that there were people about a quarter of a mile BEFORE the turn around yelling, “You got this! You’re almost there!” I guess they meant that I was almost at the turnaround? Ok, Jim. I digress. When I got about a quarter mile from the finish, I could hear the music and hear more people cheering. I turned on the finish line jets and hit the chute. I heard Jeremy, the race director, announce my name on the PA and it was over. The first race of the season was behind me and the nerves and the rust had been shed.
Official Run Time: 28:00
(2013 time: 31:20 – 3:20 improvement)
So there it was… I looked down at my watch after I took off my timing chip and it showed just over 1:15 for my unofficial time. I was in shock. That would mean that I had PR’d the race by almost 10 minutes. I actually thought for a second that maybe something was wrong and my watch had stopped. I went to the timing tent and watched the official time scroll past on the screen. It was too early and my time had not posted yet. I walked around for a bit before I decided that regardless of my time, I would be proud and excited. I went back to the finish line to cheer Bree and Bryce in. Bree bested her last year time by 16 MINUTES! What a PR! And then Bryce finished and became a triathlete for the first time! It was awesome to be there with them for their accomplishments. I went back to the timing tent to see my scores when two different people that I know came up and high-fived me and said congrats on the podium… Well I figured that I had gotten a podium but I also wasn’t sure if there were any other folks racing in my category. Then I saw my official time…
Official Parris Island Triathlon Time: 1:14:58
(2013 time: 1:23:45 – 8:13 improvement)
An 8 minute improvement over last year! Holy wow. And then it hit me. I might have come in first in my division. They give trophies at this race for podium finishes! I might get a trophy! All of the people that were there that knew me knew before me that I had come in first place in my division, and not only that, I WASN’T THE ONLY PERSON IN MY DIVISION!
I was over the moon. My first earned podium. My first earned first place finish. My first trophy. What a way to start the season!
And to think, I almost didn’t even race. I almost didn’t show up. How can you ever know the joy of finishing if you don’t show up for the start?
Let me end this post with a quote from the 2013 Parris Island Triathlon recap…
“Granted, I will probably go through all of the doubts and self-consciousness again in a few weeks when I line up to do a freaking 70.3 triathlon. But hey, I know that as soon as I cross that line at the end, I will feel like I am capable of anything.”
Amen brotha. Amen.