When I woke up on Sunday it was dark but not stormy. Jason and I left the apartment to pick up another of my Live Grit team members. With our bikes on the back of the car and our bags full of wetsuits, swim caps, bike shoes, running shoes, and other assorted paraphernalia we headed to Naperville for the Esprit de She sprint triathlon – my very first tri.
I’ve been swimming once a week in a pool and I’d been in Lake Michigan twice but I still wasn’t sure about the swim. I’d read blogs and attended a talk on how to set-up transition and I’d heard the course talk. But what I wasn’t sure how to do was set-up my transition area in the rain. And there was rain. Lots of it.
My teammate Kristan and I racked our bikes next to one another and stared at the river of rain that was creating a small lake under our bikes. Lake Live Grit, I named it. She laid down her towel and it was immediately soaked. The rain just kept coming. Thankfully there was no lightning so we just kept looking at each other and laughing. Who knew we’d be soaked before we even got to the swim?
I’d been told that most people who wear a wetsuit for the swim don’t put it on until they were on the beach. However, with the rain and the slightly chilly temperatures I donned my wetsuit and swim cap almost two hours before I needed to. I was still shaking, though, but I wasn’t sure if that was due to being wet and cold or just from nerves.
Into the water we waded. The horn sounded and off we went. I’d started near the front of my wave and immediately it was a flurry of arms and legs and bodies bumping into me on every side. Amazingly, I didn’t panic or freak out. I just put my feet down since I could still stand and I waited for the masses to subside a bit before I took off.The whole ridiculous rain situation made it a bit difficult to lay out everything I needed so I just left it in plastic trash bags and hoped I wouldn’t forget anything for each leg. However, the ridiculous rain situation also made for a great distraction! Looking around at all the other woman, laughing with my teammates when the rain seemed to swell in time with the national anthem, and then realizing that, yes, I was going to start swimming while it was still raining.
Well, took off might be overstating it. I tried to put into practice everything I’d learned in swim class since January. Don’t kick too hard. Pull with both arms. Breathe out underwater.
I admit, this race is perfect for beginners because you can touch the bottom at the halfway point of each lap since the swim is basically in a huge pool. This was a godsend for me because, as it turns out, my swim endurance still isn’t as good as I want it to be. Yet, I never once panicked. I did have to do backstroke for a bit and I definitely interspersed some breaststroke and doggy paddling. But I had enough energy and spirit to encourage one of my teammates (who later told me that hearing my voice say she could do really helped) and I came out of the water in one piece thrilled that I managed to complete 750 meters!
I was also thrilled that the rain had stopped as I jogged to my bike and stripped off my wetsuit. I grabbed my only-slightly-damp socks and bike shoes out of a plastic trash bag, exchanged my swim cap and goggles for a bike helmet and sunglasses (not that there was any sun, but it would keep the wind and water out of my eyes) and ran for the exit with my bike.
Because of the water logged roads I was a bit more cautious on my bike than I would have been, especially around the turns. Still, I felt good on the bike and pedaled hard. I took a Gu at the beginning of the bike and another one a few miles from the end when I could feel my quads starting to ache. I passed lots of people on the bike but only four people passed me (and all of them had nicer road/tri bikes than I did). I waved to one of our team’s mechanics who was riding the course and doing bike repairs. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Off the bike I was warned that the parking lot in transition was slippery so I opted to walk my bike back to the rack and swap my bike shoes for my running shoes. My socks were soaked so I was happy I’d chosen to wear my Nike Flyknits sans socks for the run.
My legs felt surprisingly good. Even better than when I do duathlons! I opted not to wear my Garmin so I honestly had no idea how fast I was running. I just ran by feel, grabbed water at the water stations, and encouraged other runners. And realized I’d forgotten to put on my race belt with my race number! Oops. I felt like I’d forgotten something when I left on the bike but I hadn’t. Turns out I was just foreshadowing my run. Thankfully it didn’t end up mattering.
I ran through that finish line with my fist in the air and a huge smile on my face. I honestly never thought I’d do a triathlon and I fully admit that part way through the swim I thought I’d just stick to duathlons. Right now I wouldn’t say I’m hooked but I will say that I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the summer with my Live Grit team getting better and better at this sport of triathlon.
P.S. For those of you interested in stats, I finished in 1:31:04. Unsurprisingly, my run was my best leg and I almost set a 5K PR! Only missed it by 4 seconds!
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