On Friday afternoon, Mr. R&R and I loaded up our bikes and the inordinate amount of stuff required for a multisport race and headed for Verona, Wisconsin - a small town just outside of Madison. We swung by packet pick up, sat in some spectacular traffic thanks to a PGA event in the same town this weekend, and finally checked into our hotel.
I've never traveled for a multisport race before, so figuring out where to park two bikes in a standard hotel room presented an interesting challenge. Fortunately, with a little furniture rearranging, we managed to squeeze both bikes into our room and headed out in search of dinner before an early bedtime.
Stupid O'clock (4:15am this time) came very fast like it always does, but we were both showered, dressed, packed up, and ready to rock and roll by 5:30am.
Instead of driving to the race, we opted to ride since we were only a mile and a half away and Verona is a very bike-friendly city and it was a great way to burn off some of the nervous energy we'd both built up.
We rolled up shortly after transition opened at 5:45am, went through body marking (they write your race numbers on your arm and calf with permanent marker), and made our way into transition to rack our bikes and set up our transition areas. Mr. R&R and I were on opposite sides of the same rack, so we were able to spend a little time together before the race started - which did wonders for my nerves.
After getting everything set up, I took a quick walk from Swim In, to my rack, to Bike In/Out, and to Run Out trying to memorized the path, and then I pulled on my wetsuit and we made our way down to the beach. I threw on my swim cap and goggles and went for a really short swim just to make sure that my suit was on perfectly (sometimes you can't tell if something's wrong until it's wet) and that my goggles were adjusted correctly. The water was much cloudier than it was when we went to check it out a few weeks ago and I was hoping it was just due to all the people in the water kicking up the sand near the shore. Mr. R&R had swam out farther and reported back that the water was very dark/murky and there were a lot of weeds further out. Great. We made our way back onto the beach, bumping into Mr. R&R's trainer (who was competing in the Olympic distance race) and my newbie herd teammate C in the process.
Before I knew it, someone was singing The Star Spangled Banner and the elite and relay waves were starting.
|Photo Credit: Wisconsin Triterium Triathlon|
Mr. R&R and I hung out together until it was time for his wave to get in the water. I wished him luck on his first tri and watched as his wave swam out to an area between a buoy and a dock, and an airhorn blast sent them on their way.
Once he was underway, it was time to focus on myself, my race, and all my open water demons. As much as I've tried, I have yet to conquer my fear of open water - and my last attempt at an open water swim (a week earlier) included a huge number of panic attacks. Overhearing locals talk of weeds, murk, and water snakes in the lake combined with the fact that I've never done a full wave start, much less a deep water start was unnerving to say the least. I took a deep breath, pulled my goggles on, and swam out to the designated spot; seeding myself in the center of the back line and trying not to expend too much energy.
The airhorn went off and it was on. I swam a couple of strokes with my head out of the water until I figured out where the other bodies were and then I put my head down and swam. I felt amazing. I was drafting off a woman in front of me, sighting every 6-9 strokes, and swimming straight at the first turn buoy, and in the mix without being in a war zone. I made it to the first buoy feeling like a million bucks. Everything was going perfectly and then someone to my left decided to swim breaststroke around the buoy - and her right foot slammed into the left side of my head. The kick to the head knocked the wind out of me and I rolled onto my back to try to catch my breath and calm down. I pulled it together enough to make it to the second turn buoy, but then the negative thoughts and panic started to get the best of me. I rolled back onto my back to try to calm myself down again. One of the lifeguards sitting in a kayak must have seen the hit because he paddled over to check on me. He offered to let me hang onto his kayak for a minute, but somewhere in my panic-stricken brain I knew that if I grabbed that kayak I was done. I thanked him and kept backstroking until I felt a little better and then began a routine of alternating between front crawl, sidestroke, and backstroke until the second to last sight buoy.
At that point, I was one of the last people in the water and I wanted out. I put my head down and swam until my hands touched the bottom and I stood up. I should have kept swimming until my hands touched 3-4 times, but I was so over the swim by that point that I didn't care. I threw my goggles on top of my head and reached for the leash on my wetsuit zipper.
|Photo Credit: Wisconsin Triterium Triathlon|
Official Swim Time: 11:21 (dead last out of the water for my age group)
I held my Garmin in my mouth, peeled off the top half of my wetsuit, pulled off my swim cap, and put my Garmin back on on the run/walk to T1. It was that long of a run! I hit the transition area, finished stripping my wetsuit, threw on my glasses, helmet, and bike shoes and jogged out to the mount line.
Official T1 Time: 3:34 (I blame the long run for the pokey time)
I knew from talking to Mr. R&R's trainer that the bike course started on a hill, so I already had my bike in granny gear and started spinning in hopes of catching up with the back of the pack and fixing my near-dead-last position. All I can say about the bike course is: HOLY HILLS, BATMAN! These things were no joke. I spent so much time in my granny gear, gripping my base bars, and chugging up hills, it was painful. Fortunately, I was able to pass a decent number of people in the hills, never got passed, and the downhills were magical. I was going over 30mph down some of them! In the last few miles I was finally able to settle into aero, take in a couple of Shot Blocks and some water, and make up some more ground. I think my favorite moment was seeing Mr. R&R, sort of waving to him, and realizing that he was so focused that he didn't even see me! I stayed nice and aero until the final turn into transition, nailed my dismount, and actually ran back to my rack.
Official Bike Time: 43:50 (15.1 mph avg.)
I got back to my rack and discovered that some jerk had decided that my rack space belonged to him/her. Not cool. I shoved that bike over, racked my bike, and proceed with T2 as scheduled. Off came the helmet and bike shoes. On went the socks and running shoes and I was out of there.
Official T2 Time: 2:03
It was time for Run and Done. Whether it be a duathlon or a triathlon, I always come out of T2 running way too fast because my lower body and my brain aren't exactly working together. This time was different. I depended on my watch to dictate my pace instead of just running by feel and it worked. I was pacing in the low 9:30's and it was perfect. I focused on maintaining that on my first lap of the run course and kept passing people. If you were in front of me and running slowly or walking: you were my next target. I saw Mr. R&R almost immediately, waved, and was amused again that he didn't recognize me. Another TriWI member ran by me on her second lap and we exchanged encouragements. I saw Mr. R&R again due to the layout of the course and this time he actually recognized me! I kept my pace almost perfectly at 9:30 until about 1.5 miles into the run. I slowed down a bit on my second lap due to a big hill and a walk through the water station to get a drink and dump a cup of water down my back, but still managed to have the fastest triathlon 5k I've ever had!
Official Run Time: 29:56 (9:38/mi avg.)
I was so happy to take that final left turn into the finish. I saw Mr. R&R (Yay! He's a triathlete now and rocked his very first tri!), and sped up a little as I ran under the finishing arch.
Official Finishing Time: 1:30:41
Overall Place: 152/202
Gender Place: 60/92
Age Group Place: 13/14 (F35-39)
I turned in my timing chip, collected my medal, and Mr. R&R met me by the bottled water. We enjoyed some post race food in the grass while waiting for transition to reopen so we could pack up our stuff and head back to the hotel. After we got our stuff out of transition, we staked out some space in the shade to wait for Mr. R&R's trainer to come in from the Olympic bike course and passed the time by taking pictures and rehashing the race.
|Hey...I'm finally smiling in one of these pictures!|
|We're officially a two triathlete household|
Once we cheered for Mr. R&R's trainer we rode back to the hotel with plans to shower, etc. before heading home, but opted instead to just change clothes and get on the road. We couldn't wait to see our boys!
|Welcome Home, Humans! Please go shower now.|
Overall, I'm happy that I ended my break with triathlon. It went well, but of course it could have gone better. My final thoughts are:
- The swim was 100 yards longer than Pewaukee, but somehow (despite getting kicked in the head), I swam it faster than either of my two previous triathlons, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn't gotten kicked.
- I ended up freaking out on the swim. I'm going to keep tri-ing until it stops happening!
- The bike was short, but really hard. I need to ride a lot more big hills and I need to come up with a better pre-race fueling strategy so I don't need to chew on Shot Blocks during a sprint.
- If all my triathlon runs felt like this one did, I'd be thrilled.
- Recovery was easy. No delayed soreness. No tummy troubles. Just a huge dinner, followed by a 4 hour nap,followed by another 7+ hours of sleep. Yes, please!
What am I going to do next? I'm seriously considering Me vs. The Flea: Round 3 in two weeks. I have a few days before I have to make a decision. I don't relish the thought of having to swim in that nasty piece of Guinness-colored, gasoline-tasting water, but it's soon, it's local, and I want to do another one. Anyone out there have any thoughts?