Monday, June 6, 2016

My Triathon Journey: Race Weekend

There are lots of things to remember to bring to a triathlon.  Luckily for me, the only thing I forgot was my camera.  Unfortunately, you, my reader friends, will have to deal with cell phone camera photos. 

So the big day was yesterday.  I told one of my coworkers that my life was only planned up until June 5th.  Everything happening after that would be thought about AFTER this triathlon was complete. 

My husband, daughter, and I headed to Charlotte on Friday afternoon to check in to our hotel for the weekend.  We were able to enjoy ourselves Friday night and Saturday morning exploring the city.  Packet pickup was on Saturday afternoon, and there was a free clinic about transition at 3pm.  I got a lot of good advice at that meeting.  I learned about where the starts and finishes for each event would be located.  The speaker walked us through the motions of race day, starting with what time to arrive.  The race started at 8am, so she recommended we arrive by 6:15 in order to give us time to set everything up in transition before it closed at 7:45.  She told us to try to get a spot at the end of our assigned area and to face the bike in the direction of the "bike out."  She showed us how to arrange our gear on our towels with everything ready to throw on.  She recommended laces for shoes that you don't have to tie.  If I sign up for another tri, that will be my next piece of equipment!  She also told us to pack and repack the night before, not the morning of the race.

Saturday night, I brought my bike and helmet up to our hotel room.  I affixed my number on the front of my helmet, the top bar of my bike, and onto my race belt.  I had read ahead of time that having a race belt makes transition easier so that you don't have to stop and pin your number on your shirt or change after the swim. 

My alarm went off at 5:30 Sunday morning.  I dressed in my tri suit, put on sunscreen, and ate some oatmeal and yogurt.  I loaded my bike on the back of the car as Matt and Belle finished getting ready.  We took a quick photo in front of my bike.

 We arrived at the YMCA (not as early as I was told, but still well before 7am) and found a parking spot on site.  I took all my gear to the transition area.  My rack was in the very back, and I was able to rack my bike on the end by the walkway in the middle.  I set out all of my gear:  I put my drink in the holder of my bike, I laid out my towel with my running shoes untied and socks on top.  Another tip from the clinic was to wear my socks to the race so that they would be stretched out and easier to put on.  I didn't bring flip flops, so once it was close to race time, I just walked around barefoot.  I had my helmet set upside down on the towel with the straps open to the sides and my sunglasses open as well.  I had my swim cap and goggles ready to grab when it was time to line up.  I took my number and went over to body marking and timing chip pick up.  They wrote my name on one shoulder, my number on the other, and my number on both quads.  They also put my age on my calf.  The chip was attached to my left ankle.  I learned at the clinic that the reason for the left ankle is so that it doesn't get caught on your bike chain.  Here I am all marked and ready:

The pool opened at 7:15 for warmups, so I went to check it out.  I did two lengths of the pool in the colder side (supposedly cold makes you go faster).  After that, it was just a lot of waiting until the start.  The girl next to me took a pic with my swim cap on.  I think I look ridiculous, but it was better than the selfies I was trying to take.
Just before start time, we lined up in order of swim ability.  I assigned myself to the 8s, which was able to swim 250yds in 5 minutes or less.  I wasn't quite as nervous as I thought I would be in this moment.  The line crawled forward and we were able to watch the two pools.  The warmer pool had 3 people swimming in one direction at some points, so I headed to the colder pool where people seemed more spread out.  They released one person per pool about every 15 seconds.  We were to swim one length each way before ducking under to the next lane.  When I was in the water, I did pass one girl at the wall.  I also kicked the wall with the top of my foot on my first turn around.  I knew I hurt myself, but I didn't really feel it until after the race.  I have a scrape on the top of my foot, and I bled on my sock a little bit. 

Once the swim was over, we had to walk until we hit the sidewalk outside, and then we could run to transition.  I had my cap and goggles in my hand at that point and was able to throw them down and get my shoes on.  I caught a glimpse of my family cheering me on at the side of transition. 
I put on my shoes, strapped on my helmet, and once I was out of transition and able to mount my bike, the 8 mile ride began.  The ride was on the road, and it took a lot of energy to pass people.  We are not able to draft (which is following within 5 bike lengths), so I had to decide when to pass as well as look out for cars behind me.  The bike route was 2 loops with 8 total right hand turns.  There was a good bit of downhill with uphills to balance it out.  We were supposed to ride single file, but I saw a couple of pairs riding next to each other along the way.  It made it even harder to pass when you have to go around 2 riders.  I really need to learn how to grab my drink out of the holder as I ride.  I was too afraid I would fall, so I waited until I dismounted and then chugged my fluids. 

After the bike, all I had to do was put my bike on the rack and grab my race belt with my number on it for the run.  The bike next to mine was too close to my spot, so I had a little trouble getting my bike back up.  I actually knocked hers down and had to rehang hers before I could hang mine. 

The run was actually the hardest part for me.  It was only 2 miles, but I was so exhausted from everything else.  The first mile was downhill and there was a water station at the turn around point.  I had to walk some of the second mile since most of it was uphill.  I thought that once I was back in the field, I would be able to finish, but we had to lap around part of the track before crossing the finish line.  My family was there to cheer me during the final moments.

At last, I crossed the finish line and received my medal.  The volunteers took off my timing chip, and I was handed a bottle of water.  I had just finished a triathlon!!!

Transition was closed until all athletes were finished biking, so I was able to hang around, catch my breath, and eat all the snacks that were offered!  Matt told me after we left that I had missed out on homemade mimosas!  But that's okay; I rewarded myself with brunch at a local brewery! 

Today, I was able to see the final results.  I think it's neat that you are ranked on each part of the triathlon so that you can see where you can improve.  Here are my standings:

I had finished in under an hour!  This was out of 307 individual athletes.  I placed 7th out of 23 in my age group.  I feel very proud of my accomplishment.  Now I have to decide if I want to sign up for a true sprint.  I am looking at one at the end of August.  But it requires doubling my swim distance in open water and adding on to the bike and run portions as well.  We shall see.  Stay tuned to see what's next!