Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Mystic Triathlon: Give me a decade and I'll tri anything

Okay well, since I’ve been swimming so much, and since swimming necessitates that I go to the local YMCA every morning, and since that local YMCA puts on a friendly little triathlon every year, and since so many people asked me if I was doing it, I finally bit the goddamn bullet, and Thursday morning, three days before the actual event, I signed up.
I am so glad I did. I had a blast swimming, biking and running my way around my hometown. The last time I did this race, my now-11-year-old daughter Nell was just eight weeks old. That was back when I was regularly racing triathlons. I was in a bit of a postpartum funk at the time and needed an event on the horizon to (sort of) train for, and the Mystic Triathlon came through with flying colors. I did the race, regained my sense of self, and went on to have two more kids.
That was eleven years ago. When I had babies in the house it became highly inconvenient to train for triathlons. It was much easier to put the babies in the stroller and run. And then I discovered ultra running, got hooked on the trails, and pretty much forgot about biking and swimming for a decade.
So here I am, eleven years older, slowly starting to get my running back together after a long winter of injuries, and sitting pretty with several months of solid swim training under my belt. Never mind that I had only biked once this spring, back in April, maybe 30 miles. I took a bunch of spin classes over the winter. Surely that’s good for something.
The swim portion of the race starts from the little beach behind the Y in brackish water close to the place where the Mystic River dumps into Long Island Sound. There were three waves of starts, three minutes apart, and all women were placed in the third wave, right behind the Over-40 Men. The water was chilly with a little chop, perfect for fast swimming. I took off as quickly as I could to get out in front of the pack, and then stayed there. I swam for all I was worth, gasping for air the whole time. I caught the back of the Over-40 pack before the first buoy and spent the rest of the swim like Miss PacMan, dodging in and out of big, blobby men in black rubber suits.

Coming out of the water and seeing Ben cheering made me smile and I didn't stop smiling all day. My friend John Conlon, Hawaii Ironman, died last year. This is his wetsuit. I was so happy to have it.

Learning that I am first woman out of the water.
When I got out of the water I was well and truly shocked to hear that I was the first woman. That gave me a little boost. My husband and kids were there cheering, which was the sweetest thing in the world.

And I then proceeded to have something like the third slowest transition all day onto the bike. Wrestle off wetsuit, doot de doo, sit down, put on shoes, la dee da, helmet, glasses, WOOPS, shirt before helmet, tra la tra la, hop on the bike and off we go.

Feeble attempt to put on bike shoes while standing up. (My friend Mary in purple back there was on a team and passed me so fast on the bike it made my head spin. I swear I detected a Doppler effect -- wooooosh!)

Screw it. I'm sitting down.

Finally got myself together. Number's a little askew, but here we go...
My kids and their friends cheering me on. Yay!
Immediately half the race passed me on the bike. I am the slowest biker in the world. Even when I used to seriously train for triathlons, my biking sucked. Some sort of brain body disconnect. I don’t think I have the ass for it, really. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I was biking so hard I could barely breathe and people were passing me like I was standing still. Huffety huffety huff huff.
Oh, and plus, I really had to pee. I must have swallowed a quart of salt water and it urgently needed to exit my body. The idea of getting off the bike was terrible. All that time lost already on this godforsaken bike. Getting off, peeing, and getting back on was unthinkable. So I did what Lance Armstrong would do. Why not? I waited for a woodsy stretch of road, checked to make sure there was no one coming up behind me (minor miracle that there wasn’t), kind of hung my butt off the back of the seat, yanked my shorts over to the side, and tried to pee. Except I couldn’t go. The pee wouldn’t release. Go, go, go, I kept telling myself. Go! Dammit, go! And then, finally, I went. All over the seat, my shorts, legs, everything. Aw, jeeeez.
Better on the bike than on the run, I told myself, and biked on, no one else the wiser.

Here I come back from my dismal bike leg. (Just don't think about all that you know what under there....)
Of course I didn’t practice any bike/run transitions (known as BRICKS in the triathlon world), so my legs felt simultaneously weighty and rubbery the minute I started to run. Kind of like running on two lardy Jello sticks, you know. The first mile was brutal. And then I kind of loosened up and picked up the pace. But not too much. As soon as I tried to go any faster than the minimally quick pace I was maintaining, I immediately started coughing like an asthmatic. I dearly wanted to catch the woman in front of me, and my legs were game, and I had been steadily gaining on her for the whole run, but I just couldn’t crank it into that next gear. My lungs would not allow it. I would have landed splat on the sidewalk, quivering, gasping and blue.

Chi Running paying off.
Again, my fabulous cheering section.

Bringing it home.

But still, the run was pretty good. I had gone as hard as I could for the whole race, and I finished totally exhausted, hugging my kids and smiling. The next day I was more tired than I can remember being in a long time. Funny what an hour and a half of hard, steady exertion can do to a person. Maybe I’ll do another triathlon this summer. I absolutely loved it.
But I’ll have to do a little more biking first…..
0.5 mile swim (which I now hear was actually 1000 meters: 14:11 (1st woman, 3rd overall)
14 mile bike: 48:00 (90th overall, please)
5K run: 21:53 (42nd overall)
Time: 1:24:53 (45th / 169 overall, 7th woman, 2nd 40-49 age group (bling!))

And thank you to the Mystic YMCA, all the volunteers, all the people out cheering, and my darling husband Brian for taking these photos.

Just love these guys. I'm so glad they were there. (And they want to race next year!)