As far as conditions go for triathlon race day, today was a very good day. Not a cloud in the sky and the breeze was light. By the time we got to the race area and into transition, it was about 65 degrees. The creek the swim was in was cool and definitely wet suit eligible. For sprint swims I wear an “short john”, a sleeveless wetsuit with the legs cut off at the knee. Perfect for a swim like this. Once transition was set up, we headed down to the beach. Our swim wave was second to last, good to get a practice swim in, bad for nerves. As we got to the beach I told my friend my biggest concern with the swim was I was uncertain about my ability. Sure I am swimming faster in the pool, I hopped it would translate into open water. I hadn’t swam in open water since September.
When our wave was called into the area between the buoys (it is an in water start) I noticed my age group appeared to be smaller than last year. Both men and women started together. Right up front was a woman I recognized from last year. She place first in our age group last year, swam the half mile swim in just over 11 minutes – without a wet suit. Again, no wet suit. The horn went off and so did we. My first 10 strokes were fast – too fast. I started breathing heavy and getting a bit concerned. I slowed my pace and kept at my stroke. This is a point to point swim along the shore, which is on our right side. The sun was behind us so sighting was clear. So was the very large man walking in the water next to me. Not a good sign as to my pace I thought. The water was shallow enough for anyone over 5’6″ to touch. He freaked me out so much that I touched down a few times. Angry with myself knowing this would slow me and got back in my rhythm swimming and away from the walker. As I sighted in front I noticed two things. My wave wore navy swim caps and there were plenty all around me. I was in the pack, not the back of it. The second thing I noticed was I was approaching a few white caps. The wave that started four minutes before me. When the swim was over and I was racing out of the water, I waited until my cap was off and my wet suit down to my waist before I looked at my watch. I couldn’t believe it – I saw 12:46 – I swam a half mile in 12:46! Very happy I jogged up to transition. I should have ran because just before I crossed the timing pad I was passed up. By the woman who won our age group last year. I out swam her. Unbelievable! If I hadn’t touched down a few times and ran faster to transition, I might have had a larger lead on her. My actual swim time by the time I got to the timing pad was 13:52, or 1:43 per 100 meters. That is 2:45 faster than last year. And I checked my watch – the distance it recorded was spot on .5 miles – so it wasn’t a short course. Whoo. Hoo.
Transition went well and one of my friends from the gym who came to cheer us on was standing right outside of the fence by our bikes. My training parter was still in transition and happy to see I wasn’t far behind her. She headed out on the bike before I did, I knew I would catch her on the road. The hilly course I feared was nothing to fear. I had it. It was longer than last year, but despite the more challenging course I road faster than last year. I past my friend around mile four and kept going. Out of 18.8 miles only three did I average under 17 miles per hour. A few were over 20. The three hilliest miles I ranged between 13.4 an 14.5 miles per hour. About a tenth of a mile before crossing the timing pad into transition is where triathletes have to dismount the bike. I came to a fast stop and felt a jerk in my rear tire. I dismounted and found my wheel had pulled out of the frame and the gears jammed the wheel into the frame, not moving at all. Good thing I have been lifting weights because my 18 pound bike was not a problem to lift and carry into transition. It slowed me a little, but my watch showed me I had ridden the 18.8 miles averaging 17.2 miles per hour. Whoo. Whoo. Hoo. I was happy. It was hilly and I went far faster than I thought I would with the four climbs. Last year on the flatter course I only averaged 16.3 miles per hour.
Into transition, I changed shoes (new brace on fast), lost the helmet and gloves and headed out to run 5 kilometers. About two tenths of a mile into the run I saw my training partner enter transition. She swims faster and runs faster, I ride faster but I wasn’t sure if I had a big enough lead. The first half mile is a switch back climb up a trail to run the next mile along the top of a dam, turn around and head back. About .15 mile past the turn around I saw my friend coming in. This would be close. When I finished on the dam and headed to the trail I tried to see if I could see here behind me but the sun was glaring and I couldn’t tell. I got off the trail, into the parking lot and looked back. There she was smiling and saying “come on run with me!” I looked at my watch at the moment and I was running a 9:22 pace at the time and she was flying past me. I told her what we always tell each other “run your race and keep going, I will slow you down.” I kept her in sight as I ran into the finish area. I ran the 5K at a 10:31 pace over all – the switch back climb must have gotten to me. The best part -according to our watches, my friend and I finished 22 seconds apart. I was 16 seconds slower on the 5K than last year, but I made up for it by being much faster in the other two legs. Because the course was longer, I had a longer time, but I was happy with how I did.
In the finish area it was fun to see several friends who had also competed and share experiences. After cleaning up we went to lunch before driving home. Our conversations and demeanors were so different than yesterday. We did well, the fear was gone and we had fun things to share. Then my friend mentioned that she registered for the 10 mile race that I am also doing this coming Sunday. In a flash the nerves came back, but only for a second. That is a week away. Right now I am in the moment. All of my swim training paid off, more than I thought. I just looked online and our results are up. The woman I out swam came in third overall. The results show she was 3 seconds faster on the swim and assumed our bike pace based on last year’s course of 17 miles, not 18.8. It doesn’t matter. I know the truth…
Beautiful weather. Great race. Fabulous friends. Yes, a very good day.