Shew! It's been a busy week - welcome to May! Welcoming in the month with my first triathlon was a momentous way to mark it. By now, of course, the euphoria has worn off, but it did last for a good 36 hours.
Back to race day - Sunday. We woke up pretty early (5:30) and set out around 6:15 or so, without coffee! When we arrived in Paso Robles, around 7:00, we searched for a Starbucks. It wasn't my first preference for a coffee stop, but we decided that it was better than nothing. So, coffee in hand, we pushed on and arrived at Lake San Antonio around 8:00. We were far from being the first people there! Lines of parked cars had already formed, and we joined up. Before dealing with my gear, we (or I) cooked our breakfast - a fail-proof meal of oatmeal. At least we could say that we used some of our camping gear.
Around 8:00 am, I lined up all of my gear and made sure that I had everything to take to the transition area. It was a long-ish walk down the hill - about a mile. Most people were biking it, but since my cycling skills still suck (in my opinion), we walked the bike and all of my other gear down. I had images dancing through my mind of crashing on the way down to the transition area, and I wanted to avoid that situation if at all possible. Once we arrived at the transition area, I was on my own - Michael couldn't enter and help me out in any way, shape or form.
I felt SO intimidated when I walked through the aisles and aisles of bike racks. Once I found my number and reserved spot, I realized that someone had put all of her stuff where mine rightfully belonged. Oh well! I managed as best I could - racked the bike (the wrong way first, and then I corrected it), put my gear out. Then, a volunteer 'marked me' - wrote #7148 all over my arms and legs, in addition to a nice big 39 on my right calf. Am I really that old?! At that point, it was 9:30 and the race had begun! For the more competitive athletes, that was.
I watched some of the race starts with Michael - here is a fun photo of the starting line:
My start wasn't until 10:30, so I had plenty of time to stretch and relax, and I even had my leg taped for free! I felt kind of cool and almost like a bad-ass with the kinesio tape in place! By 10:00, I decided that I needed to head back to the transition area and get serious about gearing up. I put on my wetsuit and headed out to wait for my start. I found Michael before the start, and he gave me some of his sports drink.
I don't look as nervous as I feel here! Actually, I think that I was just ready to start!
Around 10:25, the group ahead of me started (Women, 34-39, Group A - I was in Group B), and we got to dive into the lake to practice a quick swim before our 10:30 start time. I swam out and the water felt cold but good! I stuck my face in the water and swam around 25-50 yards before turning back. I was ready! When they counted us down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, I didn't make a power move into the lake, but I did not hang back and linger either. Before I knew it, I was in the water, jostling around with other people for about the first 100 yards until we spread out. Although it was a bit of a rough beginning, bodies hitting bodies, no one kicked me in the face, and I soon felt comfortable in the water, breathing pretty easily. I even passed a few people! After 3 right turns, I turned left and headed to land, knowing that 1500 meters was coming up soon. Once my feet hit the surface, I stood up and kind of ran/waddled out of the water and up the hill to the transition area.
After a VERY slow transition, I ran my bike to the "Mount Line" and rather ungracefully hopped on it, ready to begin the long climb up "Lynch Hill", ascending 400 feet or so within the first mile. I was nervous about the hills on the course, and they basically were relentless - one after another. For the first time EVER, I found myself thankful for all of the hills around where I live because they definitely prepared me for the sometimes rolling, sometimes steep hills of the Wildflower course. There were tons of climbs - and descents! Despite the difficulty at times, it was a beautiful area, and once we turned onto the main road, I actually decided that I was going to enjoy the ride. So, it wasn't the fastest ride, but I wasn't the slowest one out there.
It was a straight out-and-back, nice and easy, in terms of the course lay-out. Michael caught me on the final downhill, headed back to the transition zone and I gave him the hand:
Here is a lay-out of the course - see, wicked hills:
Once I dismounted and walked/ran the bike to my area, I racked the bike, changed socks and shoes, put on more sunscreen (I think that took two minutes) and soon I was literally off and running. Again, more hills, almost a constant uphill grade until the final mile. Ironically, because I hadn't run much AT ALL for my training, that was my best leg. I felt fan-fing-tastic for the run, which was a loop through mixed trails and roads, and I hauled on it. In fact, when I hit the 5 mile mark, I decided to push my pace up a notch more, and a spectator cautioned me "Leave some for the finish line!". Not to worry, there was plenty there!
Michael, again, strategically placed himself and managed to take a picture of me with a huge grin. At that point, I was on the downhill and had less than a mile to go - why not smile?!
I was probably half a mile to the finish line, maybe less, when I rounded a bend and had a full view of the lake. I've never had this experience in a race, but I started to cry. Knowing that I had done it, despite all of the frustrations and the really DOWN moments that I experienced in training, it suddenly hit me, and I became so emotional that I couldn't help crying. It totally took me by surprise because I am not an overly emotional person by nature, but I can't even describe how HUGE it felt to me to finish the race.
I had a strong run across the finish line, and I honestly can't remember the last time I was so euphoric. Maybe my wedding?!
I was so excited and, as I said, pretty emotional after the race. Michael supported me in such an amazing way over the past few months and on race day. I do feel like giving an Oscar speech and saying, "I couldn't have done it without you". Same for my friend Katie who gave me gear, packing lists and tons of advice.
Once the race was over, I felt exhausted and deliriously happy, and I was also suddenly sad that it was all over. So strange, I know! I also had a total pang, knowing that even if I sign up for the Wildflower next year, it won't be new to me. I didn't feel a huge sense of loss, but a small one, knowing that the rawness of the experience was/is so fleeting.
Obviously there is no regret - just a twinge of something that isn't sadness but something else. It's hard to describe.
Finally something more concrete, my splits:
Swim - 33:58
Bike - 1:51:29 (super slow, but I did stop and probably lost 2 minutes!)
Run - 54:56 (not too terribly bad for a hilly course after a swim and a bike, in the heat of the day!)
My transition times - TOTALLY sucked! I do blame the fact that I lathered up with sunscreen after the swim and the bike. The bonus to that was that I did not suffer from a sunburn anywhere! I suppose that I can sacrifice a slower transition time for that.
One final note - I really loved the experience of the tri. I am not sure if it was this tri in particular that made it such a magical, wonderful experience - a fun getaway for Michael and me, lots of great energy and major support from friends and even people I didn't know (the spectators were amazing!). I don't want to make triathlons a "hobby" because it is a very, very, very expensive one, but I *have* already signed up for my next race! Santa Barbara, here I come!