Race day was perfect - about 72 degrees, no flaming hail or tornadoes (we had to ditch the first sprint tri in Emporia, Kansas, in March due to tornadoes). The lake water was a balmy 68 degrees. I swam the lake last year as part of a relay team and the water was 58 degrees, so really, this was no big deal. I was surprised at the number of women in wet suits. Wet suits creep me out - way too restrictive and claustrophobic.
I was with Sydney Brown and Laura Kastens, which made it a party. And it was fun to see some friendly faces of ladies I've met through the TNT facebook group and other connections. My mom and my hubby Paul were there for moral support and photography. You can view a slideshow I made from Paul's photos here:
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We entered the water in 3 waves (or heats as we call it in swimming) at 3 minutes apart. The youngins went first, followed by the not so youngins and then my group - the majestic elders. The water was bracing at first, but the obstacles of finding a gap between other swimmers and literally plowing through gobs of seaweed quickly replaced any concern over water temps. In fact, after about 5 minutes of swimming, it felt great to be in the open water, occasionally popping my head up like a prairie dog to see where the next buoy was. I wandered a bit off course, but set my mind to getting through the swim as efficiently as possible. I relaxed and concentrated on stretching out, rotating and getting past other swimmers without being rude. Nobody likes to be kicked in the face.
After 14 minutes of lake swimming, I successfully navigated the buoys, made it to the boat ramp and ran to the transition area to put on socks, shoes, sunglasses and helmet. I had read a nifty tip about keeping a water bottle at your transition towel to wash off your feet and was glad to have that ready. With clean feet in my cycling shoes, I got my gear on and quickly walked my bike to the orange line. There ain't no mounting your bike before that yellow line. I was in a panic hoping I'd get my shoes into those damn clipless pedals without crashing. Fortunately, they clicked in after a few tries and I was on my way up the hill. Yes, that's right, as soon as you leave the transition area, you get to climb a hill. The first of many. There was also a charming old brick road. Charming if you are walking along, hand in hand, with your sweetie. A teeth rattling, bone shaking portal to misery if you are on a road bike with freshly pumped tires.
It's not that I hate hills. I just hate the ascending half. The descent is pure bliss. I'd huff and puff and pound my way up these things, getting passed by little girls and grandmas, but after rounding the top - I'd crank the gears up, get all aero and zoom past them like a wild Irish banshee (or how I assume a wild banshee might zoom). It was like this for 12 miles - and since it was an out and back route, we had to endure the brick road again, too. I noticed a cyclist down on that segment. She was already being tended to by several people, so I didn't stop, but it looked like a nasty spill. I found out later she'd had a concussion, but was treated at a hospital and went home that evening.
The transition to running is the most fun, if you like to run with cement pillars for legs. And we got to run up that hill right after the transition exit again. I focused on running the right way - on the forefoot rather than the heal and tried not to over stride. Thanks again for that running video, Syd. It helped! iPods are not allowed and that's usually how I get through my jogging, but I understand the need to not have them for safety, and really, my own gasping kind of became its own techno beat.
The great thing about this race is the camaraderie. As women would pass me, as a lot of them did, they always shared a "good job" or "keep it up." I cheered the gals who were already on their way back as I was still making my way to the turn-around.
There is one giant hill to climb near the finish. It was so, so hard to keep going up that hill. I focused on the street right in front of me and took it a step at a time. I was not going to walk. I was slow, but I was jogging. I had just enough left for a rush to the finish line. I could hear a woman behind me and I wasn't going to get passed with just a few yards to the finish. Crossing that finish line was fantastic! It was such a rush. I found Paul and my mom, then Sydney and a few other people I knew. I was keeping my eye out for Laura. I knew she wasn't far behind and sure enough, in a few minutes I saw her make her own personal victory across the finish line.
Every woman who crossed that line celebrated success. Sydney won first in her age group, I somehow managed to snag 3rd in mine and Laura bettered her sprint tri time by 10 minutes! I'd say it was an awesome introduction to triathlon racing. And a wonderful lunch with Laura's mom and step-dad at the Upstream Brewery made it complete. I'm already looking up geeky tips to help me ramp up training for an Olympic distance tri in September.
Sheclismo women rock everything they do!