This past Sunday I competed in TriFitness All Women’s Triathlon in Norwalk, CT. This was my 4th triathlon of the season (this being my first season of competing.) It was a great day with warmish water and a flat course. I crushed it, finishing 3rd in my age group with a time of 1:15:18 and 21st overall (13th percentile.) And that kind of surprised me. I felt like my mind wasn’t “in the game” the entire week. Self doubt and fatigue crept in like a little mouse and wouldn’t leave until race day.
The day before my family had a huge clambake full of friends, family, beer and butter. All my high school friends came down and it was a blast. But of course I had a race the next day and couldn’t play beer pong or gorge myself on cake and ice cream. Sad. But I had a blast. And I went to bed at a semi-decent time before the race.
The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 am, I woke up at 4:20 am. I’m pretty sure the earliest I have ever woken up for a race so far. I made myself my classic race day breakfast of Kashi oatmeal with banana and a glass of water. I forgot my foam roller at my apartment and rolled out on one of my sisters softballs (it worked but hurt a little more.) My dad grabbed my bike and gear and we were off.
We arrived to the parking lot at 5:20 am. Super early. It was pitch black and of course I didn’t think to bring a flashlight. I made do with the light of my iPhone. I managed to get to the transition area where there were bike boxes to place your bike on instead of a bar. I thought that was kind of fancy, I set up my bike at the end of a row. I like being at the end because it’s easy access and you have more room to set up your gear. (I also think it’s a mental thing. Whenever I go to yoga or sit in the classroom I always pick a spot next to the wall, never in the middle.)
It was just my dad with me this time. We were sitting at a picnic table by the beach and he had a moment of realization. “Where are the men?” I replied, “Oh, it’s an all women’s triathlon. I thought I told you.” He laughed as he realized there were only a few other men standing around. He immediately told me that my mother should be with me.
6:00 am I wiggled into my wet suit. I pulled up my sleeves as high as I could to make sure there was as little pressure on my zipper. (Last time my zipper ripped open.) I was zipped in and ready to go. I walked down to the water and you might be thinking I’m walking on soft, fluffy sand, not in New England. In New England we walk on rocks. A good 1/3rd of the beach was rocks and stones. Everyone trying to get into the water looked like we had ants in our pants. It hurt. I managed to slowly get to the waters edge and jumped in. Surprisingly the Long Island Sound wasn’t freezing! Last time I was in that water I could hardly keep my head down because it was so shockingly cold. It was nice, and for the first time ever I felt really comfortable and calm in the water. I really think that open water swim session I did the week before helped me a lot.
6:30 am the race director, a tiny fit French woman who clearly does triathlons based on her 0% body fat, explained that they were waiting for police to shut down some roads. We stood around a while until the national anthem. I gave my dad a goodbye hug and walked over to the start. I was calm and ready, even though the buoys lined up out in the water seemed really far apart. I ignored the fact and told myself to keep a steady pace.
On your marks, get set, GO!
The horn went off and we were in the water. I followed a pack to the first buoy and then turned the corner. The pack separated a little and I had a decent amount of space to swim at my own pace. I had difficulty swimming in a straight line. I pulled to the right constantly and often found that I was swimming with no one around me. So I swam back to the pack and then did it again, pulling out to the right. My swim was just a big zigzag course, which I’m sure added on some time but it was my best swim to date. I was calm and found myself breathing on both sides (usually I just breath on my right). For the most part I swam freestyle, I only stopped to take a few strokes of breast stroke to get myself going in the right direction. (A huge accomplishment!)
I made my way over the rocks (ouch) and into the transition area. I whipped off my wet suit threw on my bike shoes and helmet and was off. (1:40 sec transition.) The bike was two loops of 5.5 miles. For the most part it was pretty flat with some baby hills, nothing major. I like the bike because this is the part where I can pick off my competition. Whoever I pass or passes me I glance down at their age. Ticking off my competition in my head. I managed to pass a lot of 20-24 year olds which gave me a confidence boost. I was targeting 20mph for the entire ride and I managed to keep it, speeding up at some parts and slowing down at others.
During the bike and run, I like to either (a) chase people or (b) pace with people. I found a 43 year old woman who was cycling at around the same pace as I was. I chose to pace with her. I stayed behind her for the first loop of the ride and then I passed her on the second loop. I found a second woman to pace with. A 50 year old on an awesome tri bike. I stayed behind her and then the 43 year old caught up with us. It was the 3 of us in a pack riding the rest of the second loop together at about 21mph. These women were awesome and I just hope one day when I’m their age I’m as strong as them.
I made it to the transition area where I could here my dad yelling “Go Maria!” I took of my bike shoes and threw on my running shoes, grabbed my water bottle, visor and took off. (0:45 second transition, my fastest ever!) It’s a funny feeling when I take off for the run. My legs feel weightless and kind of good. I just run as fast as my bouncy legs can take me before they come back down to earth. For the first half mile I was running 6:45 min/mi. Super fast for me. I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep that pace, and I was right. I lost about 45 seconds each mile ending at a 8:00 min/mi pace. Still, not bad but I should have aimed to get negative splits not positive.
I managed to keep my pace until I saw the finish line, which was on the beach. I sprinted for it, passing a bunch of women. The beach part of the sprint was interesting, I must have looked like a clumsy giraffe trying to push through the sand. I looked up and saw the clock, 1:15! That was my goal time I had in my head and I did it! I beat my first sprint time (on practically the same course) by 6 minutes! It felt great. The 43 year old women on the bike tapped me on the shoulder. “All I can say is thank you! You paced me for that run and it was great.” I smiled back, “Well you paced me for the bike! You did awesome.”
Done and Done.
I found my dad and gave him a big hug. I was smiling from ear to ear. We waited around for the preliminary results where I saw my name! 3rd place in my division. I was ecstatic. The race results were announced and I got a little Douney and Burke bag for 3rd place prize. Yay! Now it’s time to buckle down and tackle some off season training.
Pictures coming soon!
-Train Hard. Tri Harder.