It's 4:45 am on Sunday morning and my alarm goes off. Time to put on the oh so flattering spandex bicycle shorts and gear up mentally for what I know will be a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience - the SheROX Women's Triathlon in Naperville, IL. Over 1,800 women competed in last Sunday's event, benefiting the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF).
This was my second time competing in the Naperville area triathlon. It was previously part of the US Women's Triathlon Series (USWTS), but this year became part of the nine-event international SheROX series, a partnership with Life Time Fitness, Inc.
As far as triathlons go, this is a great one for beginners. The open water swim takes place in Naperville's Centennial Beach complete with lifeguards and "swim buddies" for those having difficulty completing the half-mile sprint distance or just needing a brief rest. The bike route is a paved, mostly flat course along Naperville roads and 75th street. The 5K run meanders through grass and brick paths and city streets surrounding Naperville's Riverwalk area.
One of the highlights for me, other than stuffing myself into a rubber body condom with matching bathing cap, was being able to participate in the race alongside my older sister.
SheROX has "waves" of participants grouped by age, but also allows family members and close friends to be grouped together. There was a special cancer survivors wave as well. It was truly inspiring to see this group of women, having overcome such incredible circumstances, healthy and there to compete.
The Transition Area
With over 1,800 participants, organization and efficiency are key in getting in and out of the transition area quickly for each leg of the triathlon. As far as training and prepping for the race, this is often an afterthought. In reality, it can be a major time sink and source of confusion if not thought out, as evidenced by my sister accidentally running out the wrong exit to begin her 5K. I chose a bright yellow Nascar towel to help mark our spot and organize my gear, along with a "Good Luck" balloon that we purchased for ourselves and an Igloo cooler of hydrating beverages. By the time we finished, our 3 foot designated space looked more like we were setting up for a beach party than a triathlon. Oh well. We are still newbies.
Fuel for your Body
In my pre-race blogpost, The Celiac Triathlete: Fuel for Body and Mind for Race Day Readiness, I discussed the importance of rest and proper nutrition both before and during the race. Well, having a sleepover with 4 little children the night before a triathlon does not constitute proper rest for race day. You do the best you can with what you've got though, even if it's about 5 hours of sleep. Hearing my daughter cheer "Go mama! Go mama!" on the sidelines before starting the swim made up for any amount of sleep deprivation she may have caused and got me excited for a time when she and I can hopefully participate in an event like
My gluten free snacks did do a fabulous job of providing sustained energy throughout the race. It's difficult to know how many energy snacks you really need throughout the race, but
here is what worked for me:
- 1-2 hours before race: banana, gluten free bagel with tofutti cream cheese or peanut butter
- 15-20 minutes before swim: 1-2 CLIF Shot Bloks*
- During Bike: Alternate sips of water and Gatorade
- Transition between bike and run: 1-2 CLIF Shot Bloks*
- During run: Alternate sips of water and Gatorade
*Note: While CLIF Shot Bloks do not contain any gluten ingredients, they are not produced in a gluten free facility. Therefore, there is the risk of cross-contamination.
After crossing the finish line, SheROX had bottled water, bananas, and whole wheat bagels on hand for racers. Various booths in the finish area offered gluten free trail mix from Whole Foods, massages, and vendors with all of the TRI gear you could ever want. My feedback for every race I participate in is to offer a gluten free carb that those of us with intolerances can enjoy - Chex Mix or a gluten free bagel would be great! Luckily, I had stashed away a few KIND bars from the SheROX orientation the day before back at my transition area.
Someone once said "the woman who starts the race is not the same as the woman who finishes the race". After completing Sunday's triathlon, I couldn't agree more. Although physically and mentally tired, I felt a definite sense of accomplishment and appreciation that my thirty-something, gluten hating, two child-birthing body can still get out there and compete.
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Tags: bicycle shorts, biking, celiac disease, Clif, gatorade, gluten free, gluten free triathlete, GU, IL, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, KIND bars, naperville, Naperville riverwalk, ovarian cancer research fund, preparing for a triathlon, running, SheROX women's triathlon, Shot Bloks, swimming, training, transition area, women's triathlon