I’m a creature of habit. I have routines, races I do every year and a long list of “traditions” for almost every month of the year. Consistency eases my anxiety and helps control my OCD. I also love doing the same races year after year to see my improvement or lack thereof. Some results have been surprising and, the hometown sprint triathlon I recently raced was no different.
Let’s walk the line from past to present and back again as I reflect on this one triathlon that started it all.
For the purposes of this post, “then” means the first time I raced here (and my first triathlon ever) in 2009. The “now” is just last week when I returned, after a few years away, in 2016.
Then: Scared shitless pretty much sums it up. I had delivered twin boys three months prior, had never practiced open water swimming and had a mountain bike with road bike tires to ride in the cycling portion of the race. I had to stop running after my first trimester and had re-started about 2 1/2 weeks after delivery. I was clearly suffering from insanity but no one was brave enough to bring this to my attention.
Now: I’m at the point where a sprint triathlon is a relief and I treat it like the name implies – – a sprint. I absolutely could not wait to get into the water since swimming 1/4 mile is less than a warm-up for me these days. I just bought a new triathlon bike that makes me feel like I can fly and the run is usually the best part for me. Bring it.
Then: My swim was comparable to that of a labrador retriever. Not even kidding. I seriously thought I might drown and just tried to keep my head up (literally) and breast stroke my way through. I had no clue how to even freestyle swim and my heart rate was off the charts as soon as the race director yelled “Go!”
Time: 7:12 (I think the swim was shorter than a 1/4 mile in this inaugural year)
Now: I did a quick warm-up as they weather was already warm and I wanted to get a little groove going. When we lined up, I stood right at the front of the pack and was filled with nervous excitement for what was about to happen!
Water levels on the lake are at an all time low so we basically “ran” for a short distance before we could even swim. It was bananas. Even at the furthest part of the swim from the shore, the water was probably on up to my chest. And trying to get out? Have you ever run in knee-deep muck? You never want to. Trust me.
Then: As I mentioned, I had a mountain bike with road bike tires on it. A friend had suggested it would be better than the mountain bike tires and she was correct. I did get out and bike the hilly route and, even made it up “Minor Hill” which has an 18% grade!
Now: I love that this was my first race with my new tri bike! It’s so appropriate, isn’t it? I never dreamed I would have such a fancy bike and be flying around the course like I felt I was on Sunday. This year, I had a challenger on the bike too! A woman came past me about 8 miles into the course and we played cat and mouse for a bit.
In triathlon your age is written on the back of your calf, so you know who your age group competitors are while you’re out on the course. I swear her age said 69 and I almost died! Turns out she was 49 and gave me a run for it on the bike. A few miles later, I was able to drop her for good and came into transition with about a minute on her, to start the run.
Then: Obviously running was the best part of the race and, once I had my running shoes on, I finally felt like I was back in my element. Although my run time was slow for me these days, I’m still amazed I pulled it off after only being back to running for about two months and basically zero sleep. The mind is a very powerful thing.
Now: After all these years, I still love the run, but this particular run was pretty painful. It’s hilly, it was hot and the course ended up being long. Not cool, not cool at all. Everyone who had done this race in the past was complaining about it afterward. My Garmin read 3.21 miles and trust me, I ran all the tangents!
I’m seven years older and so are my kids
I put more pressure on myself
My friend Julie, who initially told me about the race and that I had to do it, passed away a year and half ago. I cannot train for and race this event without thinking about her everyday.
Attendance for the race is at an all time low with only about 90 participants this year.
Directional signs left a lot to be desired this year and I felt badly for those who did not know the course. I saw more than one cyclist who went the wrong way and it was no fault of their own.
I have a lot more confidence
I loved having the crowd cheer for me
I know the course inside and out as I swim, bike and run parts of it almost daily
I know more participants at the race and the pre-race is relaxing and fun
I know how to properly set up my transitions
I’m having an absolute blast!
Overall time 2009: 1:25:34 and third in my age group (30-34)
Overall time 2016: 1:06:12 – 1st woman overall, 1st in my 40-49 age group, and 8th overall finisher!
After all these years, I’m just so happy to still be out there and doing what I love. I know it sounds super cornball but it’s true. I make fun of my little cow town but I truly love it and the fact that I can swim, bike and run challenging courses right outside my door. I would encourage anyone who is thinking of doing a triathlon to get after it! Look at the paltry training and equipment I had for my first race and look at me now. You will never know, until you TRI.
Have you ever raced the same course years apart? What was it like?
Have you ever thought about doing triathlon?