Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: My first triathlon

My first venture into multisport was the sprint distance Motor City Triathon June 12, 2011. I panicked on the swim and had mechanical issues on the bike, but I finished.

This was my race report, first published at (unfortunately the old forums are no longer available).

Well, first triathlon in the books... and I'm only exaggerating a little when I say it was a disaster. The Detroit River chewed me up and spat me out and my bike didn't cooperate. But... I finished.

Sister-in-law and I headed to the race site yesterday to pick up our stuff and check the site out. We had to run a few errands for her and did our pre-race tradition of pizza the night before. Tried to get some sleep but neither of us were very successful. 5 a.m. wake-up call and we had our breakfasts of choice and were out the door before 6 a.m.

This race had two transition areas, so we parked by T2 and organized our running stuff -- it was just a towel and my number, for me. Walked our bikes the mile or so to T1, got marked, used the potty, organized our stuff, etc. Had the course meeting and watched a guy on a jet-ski do the course for us (that was a nice touch), watch the Olympic distance racers take off, and we got in the water. The director emphasized that they wanted everyone to finish, so if you had to hang on to a boogie board 10 times to catch your breath, fine.

Sis-in-law is a stronger swimmer so she started in the middle of the pack and I was near the back. Horn blasted and we were off! I tried to get into a rhythm with all the other racers, and I was doing ok even getting kicked a wee bit and kicking others a wee bit. I got out to the first buoy -- and this is where it all went to hell. First I swam right past it, stopped, and swore. Tried to turn around and I must have been catching the current just wrong, because I kept getting wave after wave right in my face. I kept swallowing and choking on water. I tried to tread water and do a modified breaststroke just to keep my wits about me. I'm thinking, "This is not good." Made it to the second buoy and headed out around the third. I was still getting wave after wave in the face, so I rolled on my back and did sculling arms. OK, I could do that. On my back with scull arms for a few minutes, stop, look around, make sure I'm on course, do it again. I was so disoriented, I couldn't hear anything except waves, and I was getting freaked out. I couldn't see any of the boogie boarders or kayakers. "I am going to die alone in the Detroit River today," I thought. But, I kept going and going and I started to be able to hear cheers and the loudspeaker, which was reassuring. From my back I could see the men's wave gaining on me and I'm thinking, "I have to get out before I get swum over." I started to get more and more tired and freaked out, so I decided to call for help from a boogie boarder to hang on for a minute or so, just to take a break. I raised my hand and he started paddling over -- and I realized I could touch bottom! Praise heaven! I walked the rest of the way in, shocked I wasn't the last woman out of the water, still coughing up river water. I chatted with another girl who looked as beat up as me -- "Well, that sucked, huh? You OK?" etc. Took my sweet time coming in, gasping for breath, unzipping my wetsuit. But I was out of the water!!!!!

I was in no hurry out of T1. Got out of my wetsuit easily, rinsed off feet, shirt on, helmet on, Garmin on, socks and shoes, etc. Slammed some Gatorade, shoved everything in my bag (volunteers took them to T2 for us to pick up after the race), on the bike, here we go! It was two and a half laps around the island and I tried to settle into a rhythm. It was discouraging getting passed by all these serious racers in their expensive bikes and race wheels, but I actually passed a few slower people. Then -- disaster! Chain pops off! It had been giving me trouble but I thought I'd fixed it. Arrgh! I pull over, pop it back on, keep going. Not half a lap later -- pops off again! OK, maybe I changed gears too fast that time. Pull over, pop it back on, keep going. I hear a rattling, look down -- and my water bottle cage is about to fall off! By this time I'm thinking, "Are you fricking serious?" I grab it and ride the rest of the way holding it in my hand. Chain pops off one more time on the second lap. I'm livid by this point, cursing, covered in chain grease. I don't *touch* my gearshifts for the rest of the race and just suffer up the hills. It stays on. In to T2! Dismount and don't fall over, success! Find my spot, rack bike, helmet off, race number on, and I'm off!

I am immediately thankful for all those runs I do immediately after spin class. I'm keeping a pretty steady 8:15-8:30, but we're on a paved nature trail, which is only narrow but pretty rough. Eyes on the ground at all times watching for bumps and holes. I give it my all the whole time. I pass tons of people and yes, get passed by a few. I see my husband, with our dog, taking pictures, and he reaches out to give me a high-five -- and I pet our dog instead. People laugh. Around the turn, over the bridge, I can hear music and cheering, and I'm thinking, "Go, go, go, you still got gas in the tank!" I speed up, pass a bunch more people, around the corner, there's the finish line! An older guy says to me, "Race ya!" I blast past him and he can't keep up. I hear more laughter. Then I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!

Potty, watermelon, find my sis-in-law, etc. Someone sees my hands covered in grease and asks, "Did you wipe out?" I tell her no, I lost my chain three times, and she says, "But you finished!" We high-five. I find out that I had the 10th to last slowest sprint swim. Yes, I'm discouraged by this. But I also feel that for my first time out there, to at least propel myself the whole way, without help, in water rougher than I was prepared for, is something. Sis-in-law says the water was worse than when she swam in the San Francisco Bay and she also had to backstroke the majority of the time. So really, I have nowhere to go but up from here, right?

I don't have official results yet but I'll update when I do. Now I am going to take a nap!

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