Thursday, September 27, 2012

Race day: Go!

In a pool triathlon, the start is staggered.  You couldn't very well have all those women jumping in the pool at once, trying to navigate the lanes.  It would be mass chaos.  So, the start is based on each woman's estimated swim time.  The fastest swimmers go first, one at a time.  Every ten seconds, another swimmer enters the lane and starts her swim.

Not everybody gives a very accurate of her swim time, so there are some slower swimmers in the early groups.  This means there is some passing, which can happen either in the middle of the lane, if the swimmer ahead of you is far enough to one side of the lane, or at the end of a lane, if the swimmer in front of you will move aside and let you pass.  I passed a couple of women mid-lane and one at the end.  It was pretty exciting to see that distance between the swimmer and me decrease as I caught up to the woman ahead of me.  I've told you before that I am not a particularly competitive person, but having someone ahead to key off of, and to work at reducing the distance was a real incentive to keep working hard when my heart was pounding and I was gulping air!

Another thing that was fun during the swim was hearing someone shout "Go, Beth!!!" when I got to the end of the lanes on the side where the spectators were.  I learned after the race that it was my neighbor who was inside the aquatic center.  She and her son spotted me and they gave me so much verbal encouragement. It really helped.

You climb out of the pool and jog across the mats laid on the pool deck leading to the door.  No lifeguard is shouting, "NO RUNNING" at you because the faster you go at this point, the shorter your transition time.  I got to my spot, dried my feet a little on that bright blue towel on the ground, slid on my shoes, donned sunglasses and helmet, and swiped on lip gloss.  I opted to leave the bike jersey and just cycle in my tri-tank.  It was cool, but I knew I'd be heating up pretty quickly with the exertion on the bike.

Jog out the bike exit to the dismount line.  Get on the bike as quickly as possible and start pedaling. Coty had reminded me to get my gears set so pedaling would be easy as I started out and I'm glad I did.  The start is a very small uphill before turning the corner out onto the street and it was good to start out pedaling fast.

One of my favorite moments of the whole triathlon was when I came around the cones marking the route out of the parking lot to the road.  Standing at that corner was my family - Coty, Thomas and Kay, Andrew, Anne, Rusty, and Joseph.  They were cheering like crazy and I felt so incredibly happy to see them.  Can you tell?   Coty took this picture just as I was passing them.  It was really a sweet thrill to see and hear them.

Of the three legs of the triathlon, I enjoyed the bike portion the most.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day.  I had been buoyed by my family.  I felt strong.  I love my bike.  I knew the course.  It just all clicked.  I was able to pass several people going up the first long hill.  All along the course, as in the pool, I was able to key off of riders ahead of me to help me keep pedaling hard.  A couple of times when I passed people, they shouted things like, "Way to go.  Keep it up!"  I got passed a few times, too, so I decided to shout encouragement to any rider that went past me.

The volunteers along the course, monitoring each turn were also super encouraging, cheering every single rider that went by and sometimes augmenting their cheers with cowbells and horns. So fun!  At some points along the course, there were also words chalked on the road, messages to specific riders, chalked there in the wee hours of the morning.

How to describe the bike ride?  Hard work, persistence, feeling the burn in my quads that signaled exertion up a hill, but experiencing that pain of exertion completely drowned out by the voices of all those encouragers.

The last 100 yards of the bike route go up a steep-ish hill, around a corner and back into the parking lot where you dismount.  Waiting at the bottom of the hill was Coty, reminding me that this was it, the last push, I could do it, go hard, go hard, go hard up the hill.  I shifted into the highest gear and pedaled as fast as I could, legs beginning to feel like burning lead.  And when I reached the dismount line ... whoa!  I wasn't sure I could walk.  But, of course, legs stiff as could be, I did.  I even tried to jog with my bike a little, back to my transition spot.  I racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my cap, and started to jog.  Stiff, jerky, slow.  That's how it felt, but I knew I had two out of three legs done and all I had to do was hang in there for the run.

And now, I'm heading out the door for a run on this beautiful morning.  I'll tell you about the finish later ...

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