1400 m swim, 28 mi bike ride, 6.2 mi run. Done, done and done!
I successfully completed my first Olympic triathlon this morning Seaweed, sweat and tears couldn't stop me.
My husband did it too!
I am SO proud of myself. This was hands-down the hardest race I have ever done. I almost quit a few times, but I stuck it out.
Our morning started early: 4:15 am. We were out the door before 5 for the hour drive to Blacksburg, SC.
When we left, it was raining. I started freaking a bit since I've never biked on wet roads. But it was only 70 degrees with tolerable humidity and a breeze.
By the time we arrived at Kings Mountain National Park, the rain stopped. And the temperatures stayed steady throughout the race. We were incredibly lucky. This is the coolest weekend in Charlotte in more than 3 months. We seriously couldn't have asked for better weather. Score.
We picked up our timing chips, got marked with our numbers and age and set up our transition areas.
This is when I learned my Garmin was on "low battery". #Fail. I'd have to bike and run without knowing my speed or distance. Huge obstacle since there weren't mile markers on the course.
Before we knew it, it was time to head down to the lake for the start.
Originally my hubby and I were told we were in the same wave. But this morning they divided us into 4 waves: Open men (hubby!), Master's men, Open women (me!) and Master's women. Each wave started 4 minutes after the previous.
After hubby went off, I chatted with a few of the women in my wave. This was a small race- only around 100 triathlon participants total (there was also a duathlon and a relay). There were only about 10 women in my wave. All of these girls were experienced triathletes. When I told one it was my first Olympic tri, she asked "WHY did you pick this race?" And then she asked what my favorite event was and I told her I was a runner. Then she said "well good luck on the bike..." Panic.
*The results for the race aren't posted yet so I won't have times to share. I'll update this post when they're up.
I was incredibly nervous, but my goal was just to finish.
As soon as we started, I was way behind the other girls. Instead of getting discouraged, I reminded myself this was a good thing because I wouldn't have to worry about getting kicked in the face.
Then after a few minutes, I felt this disgusting stuff on me. And it kept getting worse and thicker. I was completely covered in seaweed. This made me nervous and I accidentally inhaled a huge gulp of water. Complete panic ensued. I'm a huge germaphobe (I used to work in infectious disease prevention) and this lake was dirty. I kept thinking I was going to get some type of recreational water illness from this stupid swim so I wanted to stop. I was barely swimming as it was with the seaweed engulfing me, so why go on?
I really thought about heading over to a canoe and dropping out. But I kept swimming. And soon the seaweed diminished. I was so thankful. And eventually I calmed down and settled into a rhythm. Almost all of the Master's women passed me, but I was fine with that. This race was against me only.
When the swim was over, I was thrilled. Just so happy to be done. 1400 m was likely the furthest I've ever swam in open water, and I did it!
But to get to transition 1, we had a half mile run up a hill. I ran in my flip-flops which was a but tricky when you're wet.
When I actually got to the transition area, I felt like crap. Almost all of the bikes were gone which meant I was very close to last.
I sucked it up. This race was about me, not other people. I'd have a PR no matter what. All I had to do was finish.
I gobbled some Sharkies, put on my bike shoes, and grabbed my bike, helmet and sunglasses.
I've only biked more than 28 miles one time, and that was back in May. I expected this hilly ride to be incredibly trying, but nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen.
Within the first couple of miles, the few women who were behind me passed me. I was pretty sure I was dead last.
The course was worse than what I expected. It was on roads without a shoulder in the middle of no where SC, where the speed limit was 55, and cars and trucks blew by me. I've never ridden alone on roads like this. And that's what I was: completely alone. I saw no one ahead of me, had no idea what my speed was, what the distance I covered was and felt completely lost. If I crashed, had trouble with my bike or just gave up, no one would know where I was. And the hills OMG! I thought I was used to hills, but these suckers were steep and long.
I was in a bad place. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I cried a lot on the bike ride. I kept hoping that my husband would turn around and come help me, but I knew he was trying to win his age group. I really wanted to give up, but where would I go? The almost 2 hours I spent on the bike were hands down the most physically challenging thing I've ever done.
Oddly enough, I also went through periods of feeling really calm and free. It felt kind of good to go fast on my bike and know that it was just me and the road out there. If I got through this, no one else could take credit. This was all me.
And then I'd get back to the bottom of a big hill and start crying again. There were a few times when I was going to get off my bike and walk up the hill, but then I feared I'd never get back on.
After what felt like eternity, I arrived back into Kings Mountain State Park. Where I saw all of the other competitors running. Including my husband. Cue insane jealousy.
And then it was time to dismount from the bike. I was elated! All I had to do now was run a 10k. Piece of cake!
After I got off my bike, I realized I hadn't eaten anything and barely drank any Gatorade. I inhaled some more Sharkies and grabbed my Gatorade bottle to run with.
As soon as I tore out of transition, I passed my husband approaching the finish line. He yelled out encouraging words like "Go Jen! It's easy now, finish strong blah blah blah". I yelled out nice words like "Not fair, I hate you, etc".
And the run really was cake. The course was hilly, but as soon as I was pounding the pavement, I felt like me. I had my sea legs back and for the first time all race, I knew I'd finish. It also felt great to run in cooler temps.
I started passing people in front of me for the first time all day. During triathlons, your age is written on your calf so others can see if you're in their age group. The only people I passed were people in their 40's and 50's. You'd think this would make me feel like poo, but I was running Jen (i.e., happy Jen) so I felt so proud for these older participants and hoped I'd be in their shoes in a couple of decades.
One guy saw me pass him and goes "aww, did you have mechanical problems on the bike?" I was like "what?" He said something like "well you're running so fast, you're obviously not meant to be back here." Ha, I kindly explained that I was an experienced runner, but a novice swimmer and cyclist.
The 6.2 miles flew by. According to the results I glanced at after the race, I kept about an 8:00 min/ mi pace the whole time. Walk breaks included.
I can't explain how happy I was when I approached the finish line. I sprinted in with a smile on my face
After 3:30:50 I was an Olympic triathlete!
We later found out I came in 3rd in my age group and got a $10 gift card to a local running store Sweet! I think there were only 3 people in my age group, but I'll wait for official results.
And my hubby got second in his age group. So proud of him! He beat me by about 40 minutes, but guess who's run was about a minute faster? Oh yeah.
I don't think I've ever been so proud of myself. I can't believe I did it. I also don't think my quads have ever hurt so much