As I rehab my ankle to try to be able to do the IRONMAN this year, I had told y’all that I was looking forward to doing the short course triathlons that were on my schedule. Even that didn’t go as expected. I broke a spoke on my bike the night before the Long Beach Tri so I wasn’t able to compete at all, then the Newport Beach tri got cancelled, which left Life Time Tri San Diego as the last short course triathlon on my schedule. There was a question as to whether or not I should do it because my ankle is responding to rehab and the general consensus was that I shouldn’t undo all that. While I understood that point of view, I really wanted to do the race and cross the finish line.
So we settled on a compromise – I would do the SuperSprint (.24 mile swim, 6.35 mile bike, 1.65 mile run) instead of the Sprint (about twice as long,) I would’t push a big gear on the bike, and I would absolutely not, under any circumstances, run (not in transition, not during the run, not at all.)
So I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be about racing to get my best time, but practicing being out on the course and enjoying being in a race. I train alone and so it’s important for me to get practice with open water swimming and biking in a race. I also decided that in addition to my usual goal – which is just to focus on getting to the finish line and getting my medal, that I would really try to enjoy actually being out on the course.
Race Morning (more like middle of the night, really. Why can’t we do these at night?)
One of the things that I look forward to about the full IRONMAN is that you get to change clothes. This isn’t just because I don’t enjoy cycling in clothes that are soaked with ocean water and sand (though I don’t) but also because they don’t really make tri shirts in my size (I’m a size 26/28 and even companies that claim to sell up to a 4x don’t come close to fitting me.) I was able to find tri shorts from Aerotech designs (I’m not affiliated, I just appreciate that they make clothing in my size) and thanks to a recommendation from a Fit Fatties member (thanks Katie!) I found a tankini to pair with it from swimsuitsforall (they once gave me a free suit, but I bought the rest with my own money and I’m not affiliated.)
If I was racing for time I probably would have just worn the tankini throughout (despite the serious chaffing that would occur,) but since time wasn’t really of the essence I decided to change out of it after the swim and wear my bike shirt on the bike and my Flying Rhinos shirt for the run.
I convinced Julianne that I should take an Uber so that she could go back to sleep for a little bit so I took my bag of stuff and bike pump and headed to the race site. My bike rack mates were awesome and hilarious as we all set up our transition areas. They had told us during the course briefing that we were allowed to put shoes at the specialty table for when we got out of the swim and I decided to do that.
I headed down to the water. We were allowed to get in and warm up and I dipped my hand in. I was very excited that it was nice and warm. I elected not to get in because it was about 8 degrees colder outside the water than inside and I didn’t want to stand there and freeze until my wave. The race was wetsuit legal, but I’ve been really intimidated in the past to swim without a wetsuit so I had decided that this was a good opportunity to get over that.
I went and left my shoes and that’s when I learned that walking barefoot on the boat launch was not very fun at all. I looked up to find that I was not the only person mincing around, and I talked to several people who agreed that this would be the toughest part of the tri for sure! I was befriended by an amazing woman named Kay and we hung out and talked while we waited for our swim start.
It was a wave start, they sent 2 people in every 5 or so seconds. They suggested that we try to self-seed within the wave (I think his exact words were “If you’re not the world’s strongest swimmer, don’t lead the charge!) I’m a decent swimmer but certainly not the fastest so I put myself about half way back in the wave. I headed down the dock with my new buddy, dove in and started swimming. There was contact at the beginning – getting bumped and kicked and such – and I didn’t freak out so that was a nice victory.
Then things got frustrating – there were three women in front of me who were struggling – they would swim freestyle for a little bit, then switch to backstroke or breast stroke, or just stop and tread water. I didn’t feel like I could get between them without bumping/kicking them which I worried would freak them out, and in terms of passing at that point it was like being behind a car that’s broken down in the middle lane – the people behind me were all passing on both sides, besides, to pass on the right I would have had to go around the lifeguard which I’m pretty sure isn’t allowed, and to pass on the right I would have to swim across all three of them, then try to pass them, all while other people were swimming by.
To be clear, the women in front of me weren’t doing anything wrong, the problem here is that I didn’t have the skill/experience to deal with the situation so I just swam at their pace which was probably the wrong thing to do. I definitely need to get more practice in the open water. I knew that it was taking too long but I wasn’t sure how long, I looked down at my watch and realized that I had neglected to start it. Genius!
Per the official results I was 70th out of 85 people overall, and 50 out of 59 in my division.
This was the first time that the urge to run hit, I watched people zoom by me as I made what the walk back to my bike. I switched shirts and then started to rinse my feet and put on my socks and shoes. That process did not go as smoothly as I would have hoped. Net result, I left T1 82 of 85 and 57 of 59.
I got to the mount line and prepared to get going, just as I started to pedal someone came up really close to me on the left. It startled me, and for a terrifying millisecond I was afraid I was going to crash on the mount line. But I got going smoothly and headed out.
Soon after I got on the course I executed my first pass which also went smoothly, so I was feeling pretty good. The only way I can really get any speed on a flat course is to push a big gear. I can spin at a high cadence until the cows come home in an easier gear but I just don’t get speed. I was under instruction not to push a big gear on the bike because of my ankle so I felt like I was crawling along. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery. In addition to my wave, there were relays going on and so people from the relays started passing me, and I passed a few more people. Everyone was friendly and we cheered each other on which was awesome.
As I got close to the dismount line my old fear of falling down (a very real fear based on the fact that when I started training on the bike I fell almost every time I tried to stop,) came bubbling to the surface. It’s been ages since this was a problem but the after the blip at the mount line the idea of biting it on the dismount line was not appealing. It went completely smoothly and I suppressed the urge to cheer for myself out loud. I finished the bike 80 out of 86 and and 53 of 59.
I can get lost in a hotel or shopping mall so I had practiced coming from bike in and finding my bike on the rack. Still, I was momentarily disoriented but I pulled it together and quickly found my bike rack. I changed my shirt, changed my shoes and pondered a problem. I had needed to pee since the beginning of the bike, I was looking at over 30 minutes to finish this run and while I felt like I could hold it, it didn’t sound like much fun.
Ultimately I decided that since I was looking at over 30 minutes for this run, adding a couple minutes to pee wasn’t really a big deal. I hit the port-a-potty that was just a few yards into the run, and then headed out. For me, of course it was a walk. And a slow walk at that. I tried to push the pace and was rewarded with ankle pain. Dammit.
The spectators and volunteers though the whole day had been amazing and this wasn’t any exception. People were super supportive and encouraging. I met lots of fun people on the path and tried to just enjoy my time on the course. It was getting seriously hot outside and so I was ready to be done. As I checked my watch and saw my pace the urge to run, just a little bit, just to make up some time, was really strong (who would have thought that I would actually want to run?) As I got near the finish line the urge to run became nearly over whelming, but I kept my promise and kept my pace.
One super cool thing about this tri is that they were announcing people’s names at the finish line. They called my name and I raised my arms (which is how I always try to cross the finish line) and finished the tri. Despite the fact that it was ridiculously hot and she had to park a mile away, Julianne was right there, cheering and taking pictures. I was then greeted by a throng of volunteers handing me my medal, cold water and Gatorade and a lovely towel soaked in cold water.
My overall feelings are somewhat mixed. The event was awesome, the people were amazing, and I made my overall goal (cross finish line, get medal.)
I’m definitely not sad about being slow or being last place. There’s no shame in my slow game. In the words of the awesome Jeanette DePatie “I own last place, I make last place work!”
The frustrating thing is that I didn’t get to see all my training pay off on race day. I’ve worked so hard and trained so many hours and I didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of those labors. Still, crossed finish line, got medal!
Thanks to Life Time Tri, all the crew, volunteers, spectators, and most especially Julianne for a great race! If my doctor doesn’t ok me to do the IRONMAN then this was a lovely way to end the year. Huge thanks to Coach Steve – anything I do well is thanks to his guidance, anything I don’t is totally on me!
Here are some pictures!