The crowd gasped as my leopard-spotted form burst up out of the water of Black Canyon Reservoir. I had just finished the most comfortable triathlon swim of my 4 sprint triathlon career, and I felt like shaking my psuedo fur in a display of triumph, but the race had really only just begun. I needed to trot on to the bike transition.
There I would peel off my home made full body swim suit with ease. It was a bit of a shame that it had to come off. The suit had gotten a lot of comments while I waited on the shore of the reservoir before my swimming heat, the start of the women’s Sprint Distance at Emmetts Most Excellent Triathlon. One burly 30something man had high-fived me while he told me how great the suit was. A 72 year old gentleman had told me it was the best swim suit he had seen in 72 years. Many men and women came up smiling, saying how much they liked it. Many asked if it was a wetsuit and where I had gotten it.
Getting into the water just 5 minutes before the starting gun was not at all difficult with this extra layer of fabric. I did not miss not having a wetsuit. I treaded water in the back-middle of the pack next to the inner orange buoy. When the cannon went off, I began at a low-key pace. I think I might be better at pacing myself than many of the swimmers, because it wasn’t long before I was slipping past them. (click on any photo to enlarge)
I was more ready for the crowded conditions this time and not as willing to give way as last year. I was polite, but I held my ground when others around me bumped and pushed. I know that I also collided inadvertently with some swimmers, because in the murky water, it is not easy to see people until you are right next to them.
About half way through the swim, I made my first ever strategic swim move and made a short power effort to squeeze through a slow bottle neck. I don’t remember kicking anyone, but it was either get by or have their feet in my teeth. That group seemed to be thrashing and more tired than I was, and once I was past, there was very little bumping again.
I was very pleased to realize that I was not nearly as tired from this swim. Being able to swim without lap turning in my Endless Pool Fastlane current had really given me the feel for the longer swim. I was relaxed and I still cut my time by about 35 seconds. It is true that some of that time may have been because I did not have to stop for a few seconds this year while they fished out a distressed swimmer. It was still a much more enjoyable swim overall. Swim time 11:41 (minutes:seconds)
The bike ride was very non-eventful compared to last year. For one thing, the hours I have spent on the bike since then have given me a much better feel for riding. I owe a special thanks to several people involved with Nampa Cycling and Rolling H Cycles for their encouragement on training rides. I rode lower on the bike and felt so much more balanced. Of course, the new bike seat helped a lot, too. But I also know that I was riding much more consistently in higher gears, even going up the moderate hills on the course. I am going to have to learn how to switch into the higher gear range, which sounds scary to me.
I did play leap frog with a group of about four 30something women, which was fun for me. They seemed friendly about it all, so I’m going with the theory that it was just “inspiring” to have a 52 year old constantly pass them, so it spurred them on to pass me again. But there were not farmers on combines chasing me down and no pick-up trucks trying to take me out when they turned corners. It really went by quite fast. On this leg, I trimmed last year’s time by about 3.5 minutes. Bike time 41:24 (minutes:seconds)
The transition to the run was kind of funny because I didn’t have anything to leave there at the start of the race, nothing to “mark” my spot. All I needed to do was park the bike, then take off shoes, remove another shirt layer, and deposit my hydration pack.
I was glad I had become aware that I could hang my bike from either side of the rack, that it didn’t have to be facing the same direction as all the other bikes. My husband would probably have had to suffer through watching me walk the bike all the way around the rack again and I would have lost 2-3 minutes going through the transition. I can tend toward ridiculous levels or organization….also, still being fairly new to triathlons, I’m still learning what all the rules of order are. Don’t want to get disqualified for something stupid.
My legs felt much more tired than they had during my trial triathlon a week prior, and I had apparently taken a bit too much to drink at the end of the bike ride. I had a persistent side ache for about 2 miles. However, I kept telling myself to just run light and enjoy myself. It helped that I kept receiving fun comments about my bare feet.
There were so many comments that I can’t remember all of them, but they are all positive and a few stand out.
One spectator observing from her yard yelled to her companions, “She’s my hero! She has bare feet!”
A tough Olympic distance triathlete passed me and said, “Well, now I feel a wimp! Bare feet!”
Another Olympic fellow calmly intoned as he glided by from behind me, “Barefoot and beautiful.”
It’s kind of nice that a little old lady sprint distance triathlete like me can impress some hard core competitors. (recall that my age is written boldly on the back of my calf)
Exclamations and comments of amazement were directed to me throughout, all the way to the finish line. It’s funny to think that probably no one knew I had been the lady in the leopard suit. Now, I was the barefoot lady.
I really wished I could have sprinted the finish, but 2 things were against me. One, there was a set of mats that my tired mind mistook for the finish line right before I rounded the corner to the finish line. Fortunately, my husband called out my name when I stopped to walk there, so I looked up and saw my mistake.
The other issue was that I was concerned my legs might cramp up, like at the end of the half marathon. Having been fighting the side ache, I had declined any other fluids during the 3.1 miles of running, but I doubt that would really have made a difference. The legs were just tired and doing what they could. I would just have to rely on the feeling of pace I had worked on developing all these weeks.
I ended up running an overall pace that was 7 seconds a mile faster than last year, so that obviously made me happy. I really didn’t feel like I was running that pace. Even though I had been attaining that pace regularly during training, it just didn’t have the same sensation at this point in the race. I wanted to feel faster, but an average 8:16 minute mile pace is very satisfactory for me at this stage at the end of a sprint triathlon! Run time 25:37 (minutes:seconds)
Having beat my last year’s total finish time by 5 minutes, I was disappointed to see that another 52 year old woman had crossed the finish line 10 minutes before me. Hmpf. So, it looked like this year I would get 2nd in my age group. When the awards were being given out, I was even more disappointed because I saw that first place winners were getting a fun lime green baseball cap. Second place only got a black cap.
Then, when they were calling second place for my age group, they called someone else’s name! My heart fell! When my name was called next, I was confused, but happy. I got my bright green hat! :-) It turns out that the 52 year old woman who beat me took first place for all sprint distance women, which “disqualifies her” for an age group award. (she got much nicer awards) So, I have mixed feelings about this.
My overall ranking among all sprint distance racers was 10 places better than last year, but what really counts is that my personal time was better. The mix of people is going to be different every year. For instance, the woman’s overall winner last year completed the course in 1 hour 5 minutes 13 seconds. The time for this year’s winner was just over 1 hour 12 minutes.
Being beat by 10 minutes by another 52 year old woman means that I really can’t use my age as an excuse for anything.
Total finish time: 1:22:36 (hour:minutes:seconds) (transition 1 took 2:51, transition 2 only 1:02)
“First” in age group awards, 2nd actual in my age group
79th out of all 199 sprint distance racers
23th out of 97 women in the sprint triathlon
For the record, I did not use my bike side mirror (the one that attaches to my sunglasses) or my Garmin watch (not water proof) for this race. I thought both would slow me down too much trying to put them on during transitions. I found that I did not miss the mirror, probably partly because I was only dealing with other cyclists and not motor vehicle traffic. I was able to glance over my shoulder adequately before moving out to pass others.
I was concerned about not having any idea of my total race time or running pace, but between the adrenaline from the race atmosphere and the consistent training where I DID know what my pace was it seems I was fine without the Garmin. It was nice to be aware that the clock at the finish line was set for the male Olympic racers and did not reflect my time. That would have been depressing! The race coordinators post the finish times pretty promptly for all to crowd around. :-)
That afternoon I had dreams of the triathlon while I napped. I was in the run telling myself, “Just go a little faster. You can do it. Just a little faster.” In the dream, I did go faster. The next day, I found myself constantly thinking, “I could have gone faster!” Coach/Husband says this is normal. And the training doldrums that I felt about 6 weeks ago are a thing of the past. I’m already thinking about doing it again next year. Who’s going to do it with me??!!