What comes to mind when you think of 500 women all in the same space? Usually nothing good, right? Well, you would be right and wrong. The Women’s Triathlon is a women’s only event and has been a featured race in Connecticut for many years. It’s billed as a great triathlon for first timers, complete with a “this is my first triathlon” wave that heads into the water last. It also has a reputation for having a super supportive atmosphere and is held at a gorgeous location.
Of course that did not mean the women there were any less competitive. One glance at the results from last year assured me this would be no pushover of a field. The atmosphere may be a sea of pink, there may be a heavy stench of “girl power” in the air but, make no mistake, some of these ladies were out to win. And so was I.
You know you want something badly when you’re willing to wake-up at 4:15am on a weekend for it. After a breakfast of water, an everything bagel with butter, and two bananas, I made the 45 minute drive alone with my thoughts. And coffee, because there is always coffee.
I felt unusually calm before the race. Triathlon requires a ton of stuff so there was a lot of planning and packing, then unpacking and set up involved. Sometimes this is a good thing because it occupies your mind for the hour or so leading up to the race start. Especially when that start involves putting your shivering body into water and swimming.
1/5 MILE SWIM
The swim starts in waves by age group and, because I’m getting old, I was in wave three. This is where triathlon gets confusing and ugly. The only real “fair” way to start I guess is by age. Fine, I get it. However, this staggered start was in four minute increments (first wave starts at 7am, second at 7:04, and so on) which should have given plenty of space in between swimmers. But it didn’t.
I have never been in such a crowded swim in my life. Right off the beach someone swam over me. So much for the happy/friendly girl power love fest. I had heard some horror stories about goggles being knocked off so I tried to stay right on the buoy line and keep some distance. I guess some of the first timers didn’t get the memo about the last wave because about halfway through the swim a few women ahead of me started doing backstroke. Backstroke! And, right across my line since well, they were swimming backward! WTF?
The worst was yet to come.
I was swimming strong and I felt great. My mental game was in check and I was…wait for it…actually enjoying the swim and having fun…until I neared the finish.
The last 100 yards or so was so crowded that I had to swim around people! They were just kind of bobbing around in the water, taking up space. I wanted to scream “SWIM! You’re almost there! Do a freakin’ dog paddle, hang onto my leg, whatever just get to the beach!”
Maybe they should start doing seeded starts? Maybe they already do this in some races? I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do know that traffic in the water is not a good thing when you’re racing.
I exited the water and starting running up the pavement to the transition area. I glanced at my watch and saw 18 something. My mind started yelling – 18? 18? What the hell? I swam faster at the last triathlon and I felt so much better on this swim!? I couldn’t figure it out but I quickly brushed it off and set my focus to the bike.
Swim time: 19:18 (the time doesn’t register until you reach the transition mat and it was a little bit of a run!)
11.5 MILE BIKE
I sprint into transition and get my shit together as fast as I possibly can. This is where a race can be won or lost. A lot of people forget that when you’re transitioning, you’re still racing! It all counts so move your ass!…which is what I wanted to say to the two women blocking the exit to the bike mount. They were just kind of walking their bikes out of the chute! It was too narrow for me to pass them but, in hind sight, I could have hoisted my bike up over my head and ran by them! Of course that would have probably been frowned upon in this women’s only event. Surely only a man would do something so rude.
Transition time: 53 seconds and the fastest T1 overall. Imagine what I could have done if no one was in my way!
Once I get on my bike I am all business. I try to control my breathing, focus on hitting the right gears, and think about one thing – SPEED! Ok, maybe two things because I worry about penalties on the bike, especially since my coach (CRS) is a USAT official and she was judging this race. Yep. It’s kind of like having your mom on the playground, so I was on my best behavior.
Again, the bike route was crowded. I have no idea how many women I passed but it was a lot. I didn’t spend more then a quarter mile not passing someone and the roads were not closed to traffic.
The USAT bike rule is you need to keep a three bike length distance between you and the bike in front of you. If you move to pass you have something like five seconds to do it in. Here’s the kicker, if you go to pass someone you need to complete the pass. If you move in for the pass and then drop back? Penalty! So you know what some of these oh-so-nice women did? They sped up when I went to pass them. It’s an asshole move, but men and women do it all the time, and this race was no exception.
I was passed by two women in the final miles but I didn’t let it get in my head. First of all, in this and many triathlons, your age is written on the back of your calf so, as women pass you, you know if you’re competing against them in your age group or not. In my mind, I’m competing against everyone, regardless of age. Second, because of the staggered start, I’m 4 or 8 minutes ahead of some women and others are 4 or 8 minutes behind me. You never really know who is in the lead but you obviously get a feel for how well you’re racing. I was feeling good.
Bike time: 36:29
3.1 MILE RUN
I felt strong coming off the bike and I’m usually psyched to start the run because this is what I do! During the run, most triathletes are just trying to get though it because they are super star swimmers and cyclists. For me, the run is my super power and usually where I shine. I was a bit concerned about this run though since it was on a rocky, rutted, wood chipped, and in places, deep sandy trail. Oh joy.
Transition time: 40 seconds
I don’t wear socks for the bike or run to help cut down on my transition time but, with the run terrain I was facing, I was a little nervous about my Adidas and my feet. Sand and sweat are usually a very bad mixture with your skin. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about and my legs felt as good as they can leading into the last leg of a triathlon.
About one mile in, I started feeling a little dizzy which is not how you want to feel with two miles and the finish line to go. I had eaten some GU Chomps on the bike and I had one left in my pocket. I gobbled it up and grabbed a Gatorade at the next aid station. That seemed to do the trick but I made note that I wasn’t properly fueled going into to this race!
The next two miles dragged on, as they do when it’s all that stands between you and the finish. Remember when my mantras were failing me during my training leading up to this race? Well, though out the run, one song kept playing in my head over and over and over and it was just the push I needed:
Thank you Luda and Snoop. You were there when I needed you most and I won’t soon forget it.
In the last hill (yes, there were hills!) I came up on a 30 year-old woman. I tried to focus on the fact that I was pushing passed someone 10 years younger then me who started this race four minutes ahead of me. So I surged to the finish and crossed the line I had been waiting to cross since I knew my results from the last triathlon.
Run time: 22:16
I was relived to have crossed the finish but that’s when the anxiety set in. Everyone in and around the finish was so, so nice and a I chatted with a few women who I had never met before and swapped stories about the crowding, terrain and overall “thank God it’s over” feelings.
After I grabbed some much needed food and a chocolate milk, I was able to go to my car, change my clothes, get all my stuff out of transition and then make my way back to the finish area.
As soon as I stepped though the crowd one of my friends grabbed me:
Where have you been? Do you know how hard it is to find you in a crowd? YOU WON!
I was so confused because I knew damn well I couldn’t have won…but, of course, what she meant was I won my age group.
As soon as she told me I also came in 8th overall, I was just filled with indescribable joy and relief. I did it. I DID IT! Nationals here I come…
My total time: 1:19:37
Winner’s total time: 1:12:37 (she was a 25 year-old from Hawaii who was just visiting. Holy wow!)
Second and third place women in my age group: 1:22:50 and 1:23:17
*There were three 45-50 year-olds and one 50-54 year-old in the top 7 finishers above me. Triathlons are for the old. I love it!
- I’m psyched that for the first time ever, someone at the race recognized me from my blog! HI AMY!
- I have a long way to go to dominate the swim and can still improve immensely on the bike. This only excites me.
- I’m seriously considering getting a
- How I feel in the weeks leading up to a race has almost no bearing on the race itself.
- I saw a girl get clotheslined off her bike, by a bike rack that was sticking out behind a parked car. #ThatIsGoingToLeaveAMark She was ok and also informed me she was getting married in two weeks!
USA Triathlon Nationals are in Omaha, NE in August 2016. Does anyone know anything about Omaha other then that’s what Peyton Manning likes to yell out to confuse the defense? Help.
Anyone have any words of wisdom for me?
Have you ever done and all women’s race? Thoughts?
*I’ll be taking a little blog hiatus for the Labor Day weekend. See you back here on Wednesday, September 9th but look for my Labor Day race updates on Instagram.