Our weekend was madness. Friday night football game, co-directing Saturday morning's Camptown Races, and rushing off to Syracuse in order to make packet pick up, the last mandatory athlete meeting, and bike check in at the race site. Phew. There was really no time to be nervous or to dwell on the race.
At the athlete race briefing, the speaker asked "so, will tomorrow be anyone's first tri?" I stared into my cup of Tim Horton's coffee (which should so be the favored chain over Dunkin Donuts in this country in my humble opinion) while Mike jabbed me in the ribs, but I refused to speak up. The last thing I needed as I was being hauled to shore by kayak Sunday morning was a bunch of people going "oh yeah, THAT girl". No one else raised their hand either and the speaker says "well that's probably a good thing, this is a pretty big one to jump into for your first". Oy vey.
The alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning. Got around, had a bagel and coffee and a banana. It was freezing outside! Forecasted 42 kind of cold! And the announcement at 6:30am said the water temp was 62. As I waded into the water at 7:26ish for my 7:30 wave start, I was actually thankful for the weather as it made my uncontrollable shaking in my wetsuit less conspicuous. The girls who stayed to the back of the swim start with me were all sweet and wonderful, and I was relieved to see equally nervous.
When the canon for my wave went off, I just stood there for a second. I let everyone go, took a deep breath and started doing something that was at least propelling me through the water somewhat. Like an otter. Head out and up, not a breast stroke, not quite a doggie paddle. I don't know what I was doing, but I knew quickly that it was ridiculous and that it certainly wasn't going to get me 1.2 miles, so I put my face in the water and started my slow and steady swim.
Over the next 54 minutes of swim time I talked with a kayaker who got my attention as I was swimming toward him inside the buoys (whoops), and who told me I could take a break and hang on for a second if I needed to. I didn't need to, but I thanked him for being out there and I really am super grateful for all of the swim support. I ran into and was ran into by lots and lots of fellow athletes, but it was never crowded enough to be scary. When I made the second turn to head back to shore, I got a little confidence surge and decided to work hard on the way in to try and get a little time back. That lasted about six strokes. I just wasn't comfortable feeling out of breath in the water. Baby steps.
From the minute I stepped out of that water I was just elated. You would have thought I had won the whole triathlon I was so excited. I know I can physically ride a bike for 56 miles. I could sleep run 13.1. But to know, to really KNOW that I could swim 1.2 miles in open water, meant the world to me.
The bike was fine. The scenery nice, the course was much hillier than my pancake flat trial runs, and it was no surprise to me that it was tough on the hiney. It was my least favorite leg, but I definitely feel like I accomplished what I needed to. I know now that I can drink, and take water bottles at aid stations, and eat, and stop to pee in the woods when mile after mile there is no porta jon! I biked slowly, but not so slowly that I didn't have lots of company, and again people were just great. "Great work", "Nice job Rachel!" (your name is on your bib which on the bike is on your back...how great is that?!), and my favorite "everything okay there?!" (once as I stopped to tie my jacket around my waist and once as I stopped for my bathroom break). How sweet are these tri people?!
And the run. After a long morning of firsts, it was so refreshing to end in my comfort zone. Like the rest of my day, the goal was to finish and soak in the experience, and so I settled right in to what felt comfortable and ran. I stopped to drink and almost always eat a piece of orange or banana at every single aid station (which was almost every mile) and walked up the monster hill on the back side of the run loop both times around. I joked with and thanked volunteers (your bananas are so good here I decided to run the loop again!...he he), I "great work", "we're almost there", "doing great!" 'd all kinds of fellow athletes. I loved it.
6 hours and 41 minutes after I otter'd my start of my first ever tri, I crossed the finish line ecstatic with my day. It was a long day, and even in keeping to my "just experience it and finish it" goal, it was really hard. 6 hours and 41 minutes is a long time to be moving. But I would do it again next weekend. As for doing it all twice in one day next July?...yikes. Let the training begin!