Given my history with previous Cherry Blossom races, my goal for this year’s race was simple: to finish! Finishing was going to be a PR at the ten mile distance regardless so I was laid back in terms of preparing for it. I wasn’t nervous or worried about finishing. I wasn’t injured and I’ve been training well so I knew I had a good race in me. Saturday I did some household chores (I was going to ride my bike, but seasonal allergies had too much of an impact so I stayed inside. I did manage an outing to The Home Depot with my family, but that was it) and just took it easy. That evening I started thinking about what I wanted to wear and how early I needed to leave to head into the city. Recently, I purchased a new running skirt from Lucy. I hadn’t tried it yet (Saturday night it still had the tags on it!), but I decided to wear it Sunday. For tops, I decided to go with a Fila tank top that I’ve owned for years. It is ridiculously comfortable when I wear it for long treadmill runs, but I’ve never worn it in a race or even outside. I keep saying that I’m going to wear it for a race and then I end up changing my mind. This time I decided that since I was already wearing a new skirt I should go ahead with the tank top as well. To this outfit I added my Zensah compression culfs, Feetures cycling socks (I have super sweaty feet!), my Asics Gel Kayano 20s and a race belt with a couple Gus. I was going to forgo running with a bottle and rely on course aid. After getting everything laid out, I spoke to a friend who mentioned how cold it was supposed to be Sunday morning. I hadn’t even bothered to check the weather. I get so hot quickly and easily that I figured I would be fine. I did decide to add a throw-away shirt and jacket as well as an ear cover since my ears tend to bother me easily.
Last year, I spent most of the year injured. First, there were shin issues that just didn’t want to resolve. Then, in July I fractured a couple bones in my left foot at the Colonial Beach Sprint Triathlon. Sometime in September, I fractured a bone in my right foot, which I didn’t discover until I was getting x-rays of my left foot because I had re-fractured those previously broken bones by running too soon. Once I was able to start running pain-free in early November, I vowed to run smartly, follow my training plan to a T, and listen to my body. I signed up for my goal spring race, the Anthem Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA. The three previous years I had ran the Townebank 8K, but I decided that since this training cycle was going to be my successful, triumphant return to racing that I would register for the half. The last half I did was the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in April 2013 and I missed running 13.1. It is my favorite distance. I trained smart all winter; I followed my coach’s training plan religiously. Even if my legs felt great and I wanted to run longer (or faster), I held back. I was going to get the Anthem Half Marathon injury-free.
In late February, my local moms running club (MRTT) put out a call for ladies to run on the MRTT team for a local event, the Pacers St. Patrick’s Day 8K. I didn’t even give it a second thought – I wasn’t going to do any “racing” until the Half because I didn’t want to risk injury. However, the first week of March my daughter and husband had to travel overseas for a week due to a family emergency. Because I had so much time to myself, when another call came out for runners, I went ahead and signed up. My training plan for the race day called for an easy 8 mile run (I was in taper for the half marathon, which was the following weekend) so I decided that I would run the 8k and then finish up with an easy three mile run around the Mall since I would be in DC for the race.
If the Reston Sprint had been my first triathlon there is no amount of money I would have accepted to do another. Going into this tri (like my previous), I had three goals:
- Don’t drown;
- Don’t wreck my bike; and
One out of three isn’t bad.
I wasn’t too nervous this morning. I typically swim in a 25m pool and this snake swim was being held in a 50m pool so that was a bit daunting. Also, this swim was a longer distance than my last triathlon – 400m. Still, I have the most confidence in the swimming portion so I was eager to get started. I waited on the pool deck and chatted with a friend, only occasionally glancing at the pool. The water was a warm 81 degrees and the air temperature was around 80. At least I wouldn’t be cold!
Once I finally queued up to start the swim, I focused on the swimmers already in the pool – some athletes had beautiful, fluid strokes; one man was doing a doggy paddle; another man was just walking. All levels of swimming skills (or lack thereof) were definitely represented! As I neared the start with about 5 swimmers in front of me, I noticed that people had a choice of diving from the side of the pool or jumping in and pushing off from the wall. I decided to push off from the wall since that is how I have been practicing. Once it was my turn to start, I jumped in to get ready. However, when I jumped in my feet didn’t hit the bottom of the pool. I kept going down. Uh-oh! I had assumed that the pool was 5-6 feet deep – it clearly wasn’t. I hadn’t held my breath before jumping in so, without thinking, I tried to take in air – except I was underwater. I came up spluttering and coughing and before I could recover from my miserable entry I heard the word “Go!”
Well, darn! This wasn’t the swim start that I had envisioned. I was really looking forward to this portion, but my confidence was shot. I struggled down the lane, still coughing and trying to recover from swallowing water and getting so much up my nose. 25m down the lane I had to roll onto my back. I quickly was passed by the swimmer behind me and I thought about quitting. My heart rate was through the roof, I couldn’t catch my breath and I just didn’t think I could recover. I’m not a quitter though so I rolled back over and tried to get into a swim groove. That 50m portion ended and I took a 5 second stop at the end of the lane to calm down and catch my breath. It was not working so I took off anyway. I decided to switch to my backstroke (it’s not as good as my freestyle, but I refused to doggy paddle or walk) but that didn’t really help. Soon enough I finished my second 50m length but I was still struggling. I let a couple swimmers pass me before I pushed off the wall. I made it through the next 100m with a combination of backstroking and freestyle.
Finally! I seemed to calm down. I caught my breath and could feel my heart rate slowing. At this point, I had 200m to go and I was confident that I could freestyle the rest of the way. My form was good and I began to pass swimmers. According to my Garmin, I negative split the second half of the swim so I climbed out of the pool, confident that the worst of the day was behind me.
I managed to snag the best spot in transition for the ride portion – my bike was the closest to the exit. I cleared T1, mounted my bike and was on my way up the tiniest of hills. I turned onto the bike course and started to pick up speed as a rider came by on my left. He hadn’t called out so I was a bit surprised. He passed me and started to cut back over in front of me. He was a bit close to my wheel, but I thought it would be alright as he would speed up to pull away. Nope. He braked, held his diagonal line and clipped my front tire. !?#?!@?# I panicked, knowing that I was going down. I managed to unclip my shoes and fortunately came down in some grass. I quickly picked myself up, checked that I wasn’t bleeding and hopped back on my bike. That set the tone for the rest of my ride – I was tentative, slow and fearful of everyone who passed me.
Finally, I made it back into transition. My bike was quickly racked, I slipped my trainers on and I began the run. By this time, it was hot and sunny. The hat and sunglasses weren’t cutting it and Reston is very hilly. I soon started walking. I wanted the race to be over yet I didn’t run to end the pain sooner. Such faulty thinking. Those were the longest 3.1 miles of my life, I think (pretty close! It took me 41 minutes to walk). I crossed that finish mat thankful that this was my second triathlon. Given the abysmal swim and the bike incident, I would have never signed up for another tri (and I would have earned DNSs for the rest of my tris this season) if this had been my first experience with triathlons.
But here is the kicker: this race was longer, I nearly drowned getting into the pool, I had a bike wreck (and I was riding a new bike), I walked most of the 5K and I still beat my previous time. !?!?!!? I don’t even know what to say…