Back in May I started toying with the idea of setting a big challenge for myself: the Olympic distance triathlon. I picked the Tri Indy race. A fairly small (only 415 finishers in the Oly distance this year) race in downtown Indy. I enjoy races in Indy for lots of reasons. I liked the idea of it being a little more low key than Chicago’s Triathlon (which is HUGE) and the price was right. If you read my blog regularly you know that this summer’s training program was not easy. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve put myself through. August 4th was the test to see how well that training program prepared me.
I didn’t go to packet pick up so I can’t tell you what it was like. I was at my daughter’s swim meet all day Saturday – and she had a great meet coming in 9th in her event at Divisionals, first time she’s placed top 10 at that level. I took it as a good omen for my race weekend.
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4:25 a.m. (that’s 3:25 for my Central time body). I got ready and attempted to swallow an oatmeal bar along with my butterflies as we drove downtown. My daughter, her friend and my mother-in-law were volunteering at pre-race pick up (LOVE that they wanted to be part of the race). So I was first in line to pick up my packet and while they worked I ate two bites of a banana, drank some water and proceeded to the transition area just as the sun was finally coming up over the horizon.
I snagged an end spot on a bike rack and set up my space. They were placing eight bikes to a rack so things were pretty crowded pretty quickly. I met another woman who was also doing her first Oly Tri. We both had similar shell-shocked looks on our faces and were one of the few people not wearing an Ironman finisher shirt in the transition area. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.
My new friend and I listened to pre-race instructions. The water temp was 77 (lovely) the skies were blue, the predicted high temp was 75 and with little humidity or wind it was promising to be a great race day. We then strolled down the canal a mile to the swim start. As we walked we listened to everyone around us talk about Ironman Muncie that they had just finished a few weeks ago or Ironman Louisville that is coming in a few weeks. Seriously – the majority of the 415 Olympic distance racers seemed to be using this race as a tune-up in their Ironman training. I get that but at the same time I was seriously beginning to feel like I was in over my head. More than once I asked myself what I was thinking when I decided to throw my non-athletic, slightly heavy, clumsy body into the midst of all these people.
The Swim: 39:28
The swim is a point-to-point swim in a canal so the sighting was easy. Better yet, they started us time trial fashion – one-at-a-time every three seconds. No crowds of people swimming over each other. No getting kicked and punched in the face. I loved it. I had plenty of room for the first 500 meters and then the course narrowed and a crowd popped up. After that I would occasionally be bumped or brushed against and I did the same to some swimmers. There were a few art installations in the middle of the canal we had to watch out for and swim around and a few turns towards the end to navigate. The canal was shallow (4.5 feet deep) so you could stand if you needed to (I never did). It wasn’t any grosser than swimming in a lake – there were patches of seaweed that would rub against the length of your body as you swam over them (creepy) and it got very dark when we went under bridges – but all in all I liked the swim. I wasn’t quite as strong as I was in the pool in training. Race day adrenaline had me spending the first half of the swim just trying to calm my breathing and heart rate. Still I hit my primary goal and was out of the water in less than 40 minutes. And my husband was at the swim finish to cheer me on.
My rack was just two in from the swim and easy to find. I was the last bike off my rack (damn speedy Ironmen) and I ended up wrestling with one of my socks. Long run out to the bike start and I was off. My husband was there too so he knew exactly when I started on the bike. It was a little longer transition than I would have liked (I was hoping to keep them under 2 minutes) but I’m not disappointed.
The Bike: 1:30:11
This was the leg I knew would make or break my time goal for the day. My back starts hurting when I’m on the bike much longer than 90 minutes so I wanted to do my best to keep pedaling hard, take the turns fast (there were quite a few turns on this course) and have a safe ride. The start is a little on the bumpy side with some curbs to hop down and I lost my bike tire pump in the first mile. That freaked me out a bit since I knew we had some railroad tracks to cross and a few bumpy streets to ride. My biggest nightmare leading up to this race was getting a flat tire. Good news – I didn’t get a flat. I kept the pace strong, especially considering the turns included a handful of hard 90 degree turns. The first railroad crossing was pretty bad but the second was smooth. There were just two patches of road that were rough and they were each less than a mile. I think the course was good and fairly flat. My husband continued to be the expert spectator and had my daughter, her friend, my MIL and my brother all stationed with him so that I saw them three times on the bike course. Awesome. The bike was two loops and while I was passed quite a few times by the serious racers on loop one, I was able to keep my spirits up and stick to my race plan. Considering I finished just 11 seconds off my best case goal – I was extra happy when I hopped off the bike.
Nothing crazy to report here. My left hand was a little numb (I must have been clenching the handlebars too tightly) so I had a bit of a hard time tying my shoes. If I were doing triathlons regularly I would definitely invest in bungie laces. But close to my goal of less than 2 minutes so again, nothing discouraging. Changed my shoes, grabbed my belt and took off.
The Run: 1:10:50
I have not had the strongest runs this summer. I definitely focused more on the bike in training and I knew the run would be a struggle. On rested legs I would be looking at 60-65 minutes for the 10K distance. I set my goal at 70 minutes and decided to be as smart as I could. I ran the entire first mile and at the first water stop did a quick scan of how I was feeling. I was tired and my calves were starting to cramp a bit. I decided to do a 4/1 run/walk plan with a goal of running strong for those four minutes. It actually helped the run go faster because I wasn’t really focused on the miles at all – just blocks of four minutes. I didn’t extend my walk breaks. I didn’t walk slowly. I kept my runs around 10-10:30 pace and had enough energy to respond when I saw my cheer leading squad and to joke and talk with the other back-of-the-pack runners. It wasn’t easy but I was actually enjoying myself and that is far better than slogging through the run. I even had enough in me to pull out a 9:40 for the last .2 of the race.
I didn’t mean too but I was crying as I finished the race. My brother laughed and asked if I was crying because I just realized that I paid for that torture. I just couldn’t believe it was over. That I had the race for which I hoped. More than once that day I thought that this was the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself and had my body actually respond. At the same time the race seemed to fly by. It was almost surreal.
My prayer as I stood at the swim start (and tried to block out all the Ironman talk around me) was to stay in my race and to celebrate the strength and determination that had brought me to that point. I didn’t (and still don’t) care where I fell in the race order. I just wanted to push my body to what it was capable of and accomplish something outside my comfort zone.
I did it.