The alarm went off at 5am in the dark cold hotel room. It had been cold, gray, and rainy the night before and the day before us was predicted to be much of the same. The night had been filled with tossing and turning, nervous dreams, and a randomly dinging hotel room doorbell. As I pulled myself out of bed I nervously asked myself why I was doing this. Good question.
That morning I was running, biking, and swimming in my second Ramblin' Rose Triathlon. I had done one a couple of years ago as a way to get back in shape after having my second son, and it was a really good experience. I had tried to do another one last year with my friend Liz, but after waiting in the cold on another rainy morning in our swimsuits to start the race, the whole thing was called off on account of thunderstorms. So, there I was-getting ready to head out on a rainy morning hoping that the weather would be better than on my last attempt, hoping my early morning swimming training with Liz had paid off and I would actually be able to get across the pool nine times without swallowing too much chlorine, hoping the hills on the bike course were not quite as steep as they had looked on the race maps and I would actually be able to get up them, and hoping that my legs would be able to hold up after that bike to run two miles to the finish line.
We arrived at the venue, and miraculously, the sky was gray but no rain was falling and no rain was on the radar. Things were looking up already. I parked my bike in its designated spot in the transition area, laid out all my gear, and we were ready to race. I watched all of the other ladies that were competing arrive and start setting up. It was certainly a mix of people-from the girl with the really fancy bike and helmet that looked in good enough shape to do the race at twice my speed, to mother daughter teams, and the groups of ladies wearing matching tee-shirts all participating in their first triathlon. We were all there to accomplish something for ourselves and push ourselves a little more than we usually do.
The transition area closed to non-competitors and Bob and Ian, the members of our cheering section, were kicked out. Then, 15 minutes later they gathered us up for a few rules and inspirational words and the singing of the national anthem before we got started. We got in line according to our swimming ability (fastest first), and we were off.
It was a little nerve-wracking watching the first swimmers hop in, then finish the swim and get on their bikes. We even saw the first girl finish the bike and start on the run before we got in the pool. But eventually, I posed for one last picture for Ian who was peering into the pool building from the window, was ushered across the starting mat and told to jump in the water. Here goes nothing!
I did my not-so-graceful plop in the water and started the swim. In this swim we were to swim nine lengths of the pool snaking down the lanes each lap. Swimming is definitely not my strong suit, but nine lengths is something I've been practicing. Well, the lanes definitely seemed a bit longer this time, and I didn't get as much of a push off of the wall each time as I was going under the lane lines, but before I knew it I was pulling myself out of the pool and running back to the transition area.
I could see Ian cheering me on as I ran to my gear and quickly put on my shoes, bike helmet, and shirt with race number. I was off on the leg that I was dreading. I knew those hills would be tough because we had driven the course the day before, and we had to do the loop twice. The waved to the boys as I passed back by the start and rounded the corner for the big hill. It definitely looked as big as I was imagining. I saw ladies huffing and puffing, bikes moving very slowly as they inched up the hill. I also saw some people hop off and just start walking the bikes up the hill. I started inching my way up the hill, determined the stay on the bike. The great thing about this race was that all of the women were rooting for each other. So, the whole way up you could hear words of encouragement coming from the other women and found yourself likewise cheering them on. A big thank you to the very nice lady who told me "you're making this look easy" as I was huffing and puffing up the steepest part of the hill. Before too long though, the mile uphill was over and I was on the way back down-for the first time.
However, I knew I had to do it again. I tried to muster up my strength on the downhill, smiled as I passed the boys at the starting area, and was off to do it again. Miraculously, I made it up again. That was a great feeling, and to top it all off, I saw Liz on her way back down and waved as I made it up the final part of the hill. I had done it, and I knew I could do the rest of the race. I coasted down the hill for the second time, possibly going the fastest I had ever gone on the bike, and was back in the transition area. This time, I just put my bike and helmet down and was off again.
When I got to the run part, I felt a little liberated. I had conquered the swim, I had made it up the hill-twice, and it hadn't gotten rained out. I was actually going to finish this thing if my jello legs could just carry me the remaining two miles. Fortunately, the run was flat, and I like to run. So, I pushed it as much as I could and had a good time. About halfway, I was even able to meet up with Liz for a few minutes as I ran.
As I rounded the corner and went over the bridge to head into the finish line area I thought back to my nerves-filled question from a few hours earlier that morning, the same one I have before lots of long races-why do I do this? Well, that finish-line feeling is pretty much the answer. I got to run in with the announcer calling my name, my husband cheering me on, a good friend to hug at the end, and someone putting a medal around my neck- all telling me that I accomplished something. I put myself out of my comfort zone, worked hard, did something that I really wasn't very comfortable with, and accomplished something for myself. As a stay-at-home mom who typically spends most her day doing whatever I can for my kids and family, it's pretty nice to remember that I can do some things for myself.
I finished up the weekend with a great brunch, a lovely afternoon touring the NC wine country with some friends, and a pretty decent result from the race. I was just below 50th percent in the swim, about 40th percentile in the bike, and top quarter in the run-finishing in 147th place out of about 430 finishers. Now, after enjoying about a week of well-earned exercise vacation I find myself contemplating-what race will I do next?
(All our gear is set up and we're ready to go.)
(We're all ready to go-can you find me in the purple swim cap?)
(Through the window of the pool area a few second before I start)
(I actually survived the bike-hooray!)
(Starting on the run)
(Crossing the finish line)
(Liz and I smile at the finish line!)