Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mayo Lake Triathalon 8/11/12

I did something really stupid the other week. I registered for my first triathalon. I have been saying for a few years now to anyone who encouraged me to do one and also to my poor husband who is afraid I will find more reasons to train and not be home, that I was not interested in tris because I don't have time for 3 sports (its hard enough with running plus the cycling for cross training) and I don't have money for fancy tri stuff like $10,000 bikes. But Mo Percy, aka "No Mercy" was doing it and she thought I could do it, so then I started thinking I could do it. It was Mo's very favorite tri ever and besides, I've been kinda bored with my training lately and I didn't have a race for August. I thought it might be a good change, something to keep me on my toes and wake me from my summer drowsiness. Never mind the fact that I don't swim.

So, I signed up Wednesday; the tri was on Saturday. When I went to packet pick up, the girl started to hand me a nice green T-shirt then snatched it back when she realized I was "NG" - Not Guaranteed a shirt. I mentioned to her I had just signed up yesterday morning and she asked whether I had "just gotten a wild hair" or something. Yep, something like that.

The morning of the tri me, Mo and our training partner, Gene, met at early o'clock to carpool together. We joked that we were always getting together at 5 or 5:30 AM and never at a decent time. Gene was along for cheering, coaching, and photography support. As we neared Roxboro, we saw several streaks of lightening and the rain was steady at times. I worried about the weather, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. By the time we arrived, the stormy weather had passed, leaving the gravel parking lot a lovely expanse of puddles and mud. We trudged through the wet lot pushing our bikes and carrying our stuff. Gene graciously helped us with some of our load. Still, I complained that the tri was just like an ultra in that I had to bring so much crap with me! A couple of people were carrying their bikes instead of rolling them through the dirt. I guess I would do that too if I had a fancy Cervelo! Ha! 'Ol Blue didn't mind. He's used to it since he's a cross bike. Yep, that's right - I don't own a road bike, I have a knobby-tired $500 cross bike and I was going to ride the damn thing the best I could.

We found our assigned areas in transition and set all our crap out ready to go. I looked around at the other race participants with their tri suits on and had no clue what I was doing there. I wandered over and I got all marked up with my bib number and my future age by one of the volunteers. At these tri things, they make you older than you actually are. Like we need that!
What the hell am I doing at a tri? Photo Gene Meade
Mo, Coach Gene, and me before the start

Our ages +1 written on our legs. I am sporting a nice bruise and scar from a tangle with my bike 2 weeks prior                        Photo Gene Meade
When it was nearing race start, we headed down to the water for the swim portion of the race. The first two waves were men and the third wave was all us women. While we waited to get in the water, my heart pounded in my chest. I was really scared. I stuck close to Mo and literally wanted to cling to her. Here's the thing, the swim was a significant 750 meters in the lake - the dreaded open water swim - and I had done zero swim training! The last time I had swam at all was a couple hours of snorkeling in shallow water in the FL keys in June. Other than two awkward laps back in March 2011 I tried when I was injured and subjected to pool running, I hadn't swam laps in a pool since I was a small child. I didn't even know how to put the swim cap on because I had never worn one. I tried putting it on the wrong way and I couldn't get it on my head until I realized I needed to turn it around the other way. I had borrowed goggles from Mo because I didn't own any. I had tried the goggles on in my shower to make sure they wouldn't leak. You know the expression "fish out of water"? I was about to be a runner/cyclist "in the water" and I was freaking out. I'm sure I looked a fool. Yep, the photo confirms I did in fact look a fool.
Clinging to Mo for dear life while waiting to start the swim Photo Gene Meade
I finally got my ugly white cap on my noggin and within a couple of minutes, we were in the water. I had a few seconds to get my goggles securely suctioned to my face and then we were off. I started out freestyle and breathing on alternating sides like google had told me to do for open water. This didn't last long as I soon found freestyle with zero training to be exhausting. I coughed a couple of times. I switched to breast stroke and my pace slowed significantly but at least I could breath better. I noticed a few women around me doing the same. I stuck with it until the first buoy and then the second buoy. Then we were headed to the 3rd buoy. By this time, my heart was pounding, I was breathing hard, coughing, and I had a long way to go before my feet would be on ground. I flipped on my back for a couple minutes of rest via unskilled backstroke and promptly got lake water up my nose. Revelation: lake water stings when it goes up there. I resumed backstroke and tried to make some good progress. My arms are weak, but my legs are strong, so I managed to pick up the pace this way. After a while, I turned over to check where I was I didn't know. There were no other racers near me and the rescue boat was to my left. The guy in the boat asked if I was okay and I assured him I was and asked him which way I was going. He informed me I was going the wrong way! I turned back around doing breast stroke again so I could see the next buoy. I had gone backwards for a few minutes and I'm guessing 10 swimmers had passed me while I was doing so. Trying not to think about the wasted effort and time, I kept swimming. Here is where my ultra training helped me. I told myself to keep making relentless forward progress and not to panic. I kept breathing steadily and little by little made my way towards the next buoy. I was behind almost all of the field. Finally, I reached the last buoy and closed in on the exit out of the lake. It was a relief when I was close enough to shore that I could get my feet back under me and walk out. Whew! I made it! And I didn't even hang on to a canoe or buoy. After exiting the water, the course went up a grassy hill that was now wet and slick with mud from the traffic. I ultra-walked with a purpose up the hill, grinned and waved at Gene as he snapped a photo of me, and arrived in the transition area. I was really pumped up by the fact that I had survived the open water swim!
Thrilled to have made it out alive! Photo Gene Meade
In transition, I saw that there was one other bike still there besides mine. This worried me, but Gene told me something like they're out there and I would get them and I focused on that. I sat on my 5 gallon bucket, put my socks and bike shoes on, pulled my helmet on and ran out of the transition area with my bike next to me and holding onto my gloves. Got to the mount bike line and carefully clipped in to the right pedal and pushed off. Stupidly, I tried to pull my gloves on while on the bike and nearly lost control - twice. I used my teeth to pull them the rest of the way on while I pedaled in pursuit of whoever was ahead of me. The bike course was reportedly rolling hills, but I soon found that I had ridden hillier routes in my training and I didn't think it was that bad. Within a couple of miles, I saw another cyclist. Determined, I closed in on her and passed. I set my eyes on the next person I saw and passed them, then another and another. Every time I passed, I told the person "Good job". I hoped it was nice and not obnoxious to say that. Every time I passed a volunteer, I thanked them. Before I knew it, I rode by the 5 mile mark. I continued to ride as hard as I could knowing that it was only 16 miles compared to the usual 25+ mile rides I had been doing recently. I stayed in my highest gear on the flats and downhills and downshifted just enough for the climbs. I drank most of my Gu Brew and snacked on a few Shot Blocks that I had taped to my bike. The course was pretty countryside and we passed over the lake twice. I enjoyed myself, looked at the scenery, and passed as many racers as I could. I didn't see the 10 mile marker so I was pleasantly surprised when I came upon the 15 mile marker. The ride went really quickly and soon I was coming to a stop at the dismount line and running to the transition area to change into my running shoes. 

Starting the run. Finally, something I knew how to do! Photo Gene Meade
I sat on my bucket, pulled off the cycling shoes, and pulled on my running shoes. I grabbed my handheld water bottle, snapped on my race number belt (thanks to Mo for the belt) and ran out of transition on a mission. I was psyched to have made it to the run part of the event because running is what I know best. I have had my bike for just over a year and as mentioned earlier, I don't swim. The run started uphill on the road but quickly entered the woods and changed to single track. There is a water stop just before the woods, but I had my handheld, so I ran on by. The trail was rolling hills and all single track with the exception of a few short field crossings which were grass. I passed several ladies and men who were all walking or running very slowly. I happily ran by them at the best pace I could muster at this point. I was running hard enough that I was breathing loudly and they would hear me coming and move to the side. The trail was pleasant and I confidently ran down and up, over roots, and through light mud. Here is where I had an advantage over the average triathlete who I doubt was thrilled with trail for the run. Though I was in my element, I was also ready for the race to be over but the course seemed to go and on. I thought I must be almost done but then I saw a sign that said 2 miles. I was in disbelief so sure was I that I was about to round a corner and see the finish line. Soon after the 2 mile mark I made it up a short climb and saw Gene at the top taking my photo and cheering me on.
Trucking up a hill Photo Gene Mead
Another minute or so and I was surprised to come upon Mo. She moved to the side when she heard my ragged breath and I called to her that it was just me. I tried to encourage her to pick up the pace a bit to lead me in, but her knee was not feeling good and she let me go on ahead. I continued to pass runners as I steadily made my way through the last mile. Finally, I could hear and see the end. There was one last devious climb to the finish which I stubbornly slogged up though I really wanted to walk. As soon as I stopped, I had the sudden urge to puke but I just heaved a bit and managed not to decorate the volunteer's shoes as he removed my timing chip.

Here are my results:  I crossed the line in 1:52:41.
Swim (750 m open water): 23:19, T1: 2:47, Bike (16 miles): 57:30, T2: 1:51, Run (3 miles): 27:12. I ended up 2 out of 4 Athenas (and got a sweet shoulder bag) and 45 out of 72 females.
Finished! Finally! Photo Gene Meade
Mo was right behind me in 1:53:11 and got 3rd in her age group. All in all, the event was a success. One bummer was that Mo discovered that the vehicle parked next to us hit her car when they pulled out. They were in a rust orange Honda Element and got out of there without leaving a note or anything. Jerks! You can bet that an ultra runner would not have done that. Just saying.

So, I may have gotten lucky to not drown due to foolishness, but the tri went well enough for me that I would do another one. I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed myself. Maybe next time I will do a few pool laps for training. At the very least, I will know how to put the swim cap on. ;)

Me and Mo at the finish :) Photo Gene Meade


  1. Great job! I enjoyed the gory details....

    1. Thanks mom! I try to include enough gory details to keep it interesting but not so much my audience is grossed out.

  2. It was with a mixture of pride and relief that I watched you come out of the water. (you weren't even sobbing!) Great job girl!

  3. Thanks buddy! I was also relieved I made it out alive. Thanks again for being there - good times.