Sunday morning was two big firsts for me: my first olympic distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) and first open water swim! The race was at Allen Beach on Hubbles Lake just 30 minutes outside of Edmonton. My husband and I made a little mini holiday out of the very short trip by leaving our little girl at home with my parents (to have an epic weekend of activities of her own) and driving down together, luxuriously stopping for roadtrip snacks and pee breaks whenever our hearts desired because there was no small human in the backseat to desperately try and keep asleep this trip! GLORIOUS. We also shopped around our two favorite stores, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Chapters, ate dinner with Grandma which turned into tea and dessert. We visited until bedtime, which was dang early for a "holiday away from the baby" because we had alarms set for 5:30am the next morning to get race-ready. I had the absolute best pre-race sleep I have ever had, thanks to a melatonin, a relaxing wind-down evening with my Grandma, her quiet and dark spare bedroom, and no child. Anyways, on to the race, because that's really what this weekend was about.
I was seriously intimidated upon arriving at the beach and wheeling my bicycle into the transition area. I looked up and down the rows of bikes and realized just how different big city races are compared to ours at home. Last year, at our local triathlon, there were many mountain bikes lined up in the transition area making me very proud of my beautiful road bike. Our local race boasts it's rookie-friendly, welcoming vibe and so it's a great race for people new to the sport who are either just testing it out, crossing an event off their bucket list or haven't decided to invest in the fancy gear yet. Plus. we have lots of potholes - a mountain bike just is a common and practical commuting bike up here, haha! This weekend, mine was the only bike I could see that didn't have dropped handle bars and cost under a grand. YIKES. I actually felt insecurity creeping in as I set up my transition area, but I shook it off and located a friend of mine from the swimming team who was also registered in the race, and who I knew is even more of a newbie triathlete than me! We joked about my handlebars and her 3/4 length wetsuit, calming each others nerves and killing time until the race start.
My husband shook his head as I stood on the beach visiting my way through warm-up time and the race instructions. I'm a nervous talker, I couldn't help it! For this reason, I was very surprised when the race official shouted "30 seconds left!". I quickly pulled my goggles on in time for the "5..4..3..2..1" and ran into the water with the rest of the crowd!
The first 200 meters were crowded. My husband lost sight of me right away. I was having my own little mini-panic in the water because I tried to immediately jump into my stroke like I would in the pool, but my body just froze up! I couldn't put my face under water. I swam front crawl with my head out of the water for 100 meters or so, trying to get my groove and trying every few strokes to put my face in but as soon as I would I would become short of breath and panic-y. I was starting to worry because my neck was getting sore holding my head up and I knew I couldn't maintain that for 1500 meters. It took another 100 meters or so to start swimming properly, but I don't know what changed to make me be able to get my head in the water! I just finally calmed down and settled into a normal stroke pattern breathing every three strokes. As soon as I felt comfortable in my swimming I began LOVING the swim portion of the race. I found the water temperature to be the perfect temperature, the crowd spread out so I had more than enough room and I felt strong and smooth in the water. It was fun!
The swim was two 750 meter triangle shaped laps from the beach, and after the first 750m we had to get out of the water, run around the point of the triangle on the beach and re-enter the water to swim the second lap. I think this was nice for spectators because it gave them a chance to find the racer they were cheering for in the crowd. My husband said I came out of the water with a giant smile on my face and he could spot me right away. I was seriously loving swimming in open water once I got over the initial shock.
When I got to the transition area there weren't wet suit strippers around like I had thought there would be, but it was fine because my wet suit came off really easy. I dried my feet off with a towel and pulled on my socks and shoes. This felt like it took forever. Thankfully I wore a tri-suit under my wetsuit and the weather was warm so I didn't have to add any layers. I buckled my helmet on, shoved a half a banana into my mouth (you can see it in the next photo haha) and grabbed my bike off the rack to run out of the transition area.
The bike was by far the hardest section for me. It was a 40km bike divided into four 10km loops and it was seriously hilly! I came out of the water in good time and at a good place in the race (I don't know exactly where but my husband guessed around 15th) and then got passed continuously the whole bike. You can see in the photo above the kind of competition I was up against! That wasn't nearly the fanciest bike on the course, haha. It was a mental battle not to get discouraged because of this, but I managed not to! Instead of feeling like a failure I focused on the fast that I was riding my bicycle faster than I ever had before, that the hills weren't killing me because my training buddy and I practice riding and running on hills like crazy and that I'm very new and young to this sport. I was telling myself what my husband had told me earlier, that one day in ten years I will look back on this race and laugh at new I was on my first road bike. I kept telling myself I can only get better from here! And that, compared to myself - not the incredible cyclists passing me - I was crushing it! My training buddy and I always aimed to keep my odometer reading around 27 km/hr during training rides, and during the race most of the times I looked at it it read over 30 km/hr. The highest speed I saw was 46 km/hr! I couldn't believe it! I was using my legs and my gear to their max of the ability, and had enough ham string and butt cramps along the bike that I knew it, haha!
I also learnt a big lesson, and that is to UNLOCK my water bottle next time! I couldn't believe it was locked when I tried to take a drink during the first lap of the bike. I must not have unlocked my bottle since putting it in my backpack in the morning. Eventually I just took the entire lid off and threw it into the ditch since I really could not unlock it during the ride, I tried so many times but I wasn't going to stop biking just for the that. So oh well, I lost a bottle lid.
I was still smiling the whole bike course through, despite the mental battle going on in my head! It's just so dang fun to go fast on a bicycle, and races are so exciting. I actually received a lot of comments from fellow racers as they passed me on my less-than-competitive bicycle, like "good work on your hybrid!" (although it is in fact a road bike haha), "I can't believe you don't even have clip-in shoes!" and "you're keeping up well on that thing!" After being passed so many times, but the third lap when I rode past my husband after he took the photo above I asked him if I was in last place! Obviously, I wasn't, but it really felt like it! I learnt something very important (so many lessons learned during this race!) that it's not all about the fancy gear - although I am hoping to upgrade - it's about the engine and love of the sport, which I definitely do have!
^^ riding into transition, just so stoked to get off my bike seat and on to the run! ^^
^^ starting the run course, which was two 5km loops. The run course was very hilly as well, but as my husband and I drove the course the day before we discussed how that was probably an advantage to me from cross country running and how hard my training buddy and I practice hills ^^
Like look at that hill! My glutes and hamstrings were so spent from the bike that they borderline cramped up every hill, but I didn't let myself stop running to walk once. I knew I wouldn't start running again! Instead, I kept an uncomfortable pace and distracted my mind by counting off people as I passed them, wishing other racers good luck and saying "good job" on the exhale. I passed my 13th person just before turning into the final stretch of the race which was downhill to the finish line. I LOVE downhill finishes. Who doesn't, really?!
They handed me a water bottle and put a medal around my neck as soon as I crossed the finish line, where my husband was there to greet me and tell me to turn around the look at the clock! I read 2:56, and was so SO happy because I had wanted to finish as close to 3 hours as possible but didn't think I could break it. Turns out, my official time was actually 2:55:13. I can't believe it! We grabbed a free burger and salad from the race volunteers and plopped down on the beach to eat it while my butt seized up, haha. Ahh isn't triathlon just lovely? ;)
My official times are:
1500m swim 31:41
40km bike 1:33:45
10km run 49:42
for a total race time of 2:55:13
I'm so hooked.