Packet pickup Friday afternoon was really easy. I met my friend, Mindy (who was also doing her first tri), at the downtown Y and we easily found our numbers and got our packets. There wasn't much expo to speak of, just a couple booths selling other Millennium Triathlon gear. Swag included a nice, long-sleeve wicking shirt and a fun lidded tumbler. We didn't really know what to do with all the extra numbers in our packet so we asked a couple of the volunteers (one of whom I knew through another friend of mine) and they both set us straight on how to mark our bikes and helmets, as well as how to wear our timing chips.
Race morning I woke up around 3:30, which REALLY sucked, and I didn't fall back to sleep until sometime after 4:30. Then the damn alarm went off at 5:30. Ugh. That's early. Luckily the race is only about 8 miles from home so I didn't need to be up any earlier than that. I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal and some coffee, woke up the husband, and we were off to Millennium Park. (If you ever have a chance to come to Grand Rapids, I highly recommend a visit here - it's beautiful.) Parking was easy (although a bit muddy - had to carry my bike from the car) and there were tons of volunteers to direct the athletes to the transition area. The bike racks were organized by number (I was in the last wave & waves were by gender and age group) so it was easy to find where I needed to rack my bike. Did you know if you are really short and ride a tiny bike it might not touch the ground when you hang it on the rack? Now you do! I had to use my shoes to keep it from spinning around :)
The Swim: 500m in 13:22 (rank 310/445)
The guy starting each heat counted us down and we were off. The water was COLD but it was warmer than the air. Still, putting my face in sort of took my breath away. So weird. I tried to keep my head down and just swim but there were so many people jostling for position. I don't know how many times I got kicked or had to stop and tread water because I was trapped. I realized early on that I was a better swimmer than a lot of the other women but I couldn't figure out how to get around them. I actually made my way to the inside which was probably more crowded but people were swimming faster here. It wasn't until I made it almost to the 2nd buoy that I really felt like I was in a decent swimming groove. My breathing was all over the place - 3 strokes, 5 strokes, every stroke, head out of the water, head down with good form - but I never switched strokes (unless you count needing to tread water because I couldn't go anywhere & I'm not counting that). The water gets really shallow and weedy (EWWW) near the exit and a lot of us started to walk but then it dropped off again. I decided to swim until my hands hit bottom and then I got up and ran out of the water. I am THRILLED with how well I did in the swim. M said I was out of the water in about 12 minutes (the time is longer than that because you have to run up the beach and sidewalk a ways before hitting the timing mat). I thought my swim time would be closer to 15 minutes so this shows me that I really pushed myself in that lake. I even think I could've gone faster if there weren't all those other women in my way!
T1 Swim to Bike: 3:00
I headed into the transition area and had a momentary brain fart when I realized we came into the area from the opposite side than I had gone in to set up. The bonus was that my bike was closer, but that meant I had to run farther with my bike, too. I had a small towel to sit on, so I plopped down, quickly threw on my socks and shoes without really drying my feet (this would cause them to become VERY icy on the bike), pulled on my skirt and race number, my helmet, shades & my gloves. The gloves gave me fits because my hands were still really wet and dummy me kept wiping them on my ALSO WET shorts. DUH. I unhooked my bike and trotted out to where we were allowed to get on them. It was really far - or at least it seemed like it. I feel like I should've run faster here, but overall my transition seemed to go pretty smoothly.
The Bike: 14.8 miles in 57:58 (15.3 mph rank 374/445)
I had ridden the bike course once in training and it also follows a lot of the Grand Rapids Marathon and 5/3 Riverbank Run 25k route, so I knew what to expect. Hills. Lots of small, rolling hills. Nothing too crazy but enough that I had to work. I got passed on the bike right away by several people, but I also passed 6 or 7 myself - including a few I took going up hills. This made me happy. What I wasn't prepared for was the wind. Holy moly the wind was strong and there was a headwind for a good portion of the ride. I was tired and kept switching from small to large gear and then downshifting into easier gears, but I was thankful for a nice bike that could take it. I hadn't inflated my tires the night before since I was anticipating biking on wet pavement and I would quickly regret this. They felt a little soft the whole ride and I just prayed over and over that I wasn't getting a flat. Being in the last heat and having most of the fastest people long done before I even got out there made for a lonely bike ride for most of the route. My inner mean girl kept trying to tell me I was last but I just told her to STFU. I had passed at least a few people and I even took a couple girls right at the end of the nearly 15 mile ride. My feet were FROZEN and numb during the entire ride and I felt a little cold but not as cold as I thought I would. Not unbearable but not entirely pleasant either. I know I didn't drink enough on the ride - only about 1/2 my bottle of Nuun. I'm sure I finished the bike course pretty dehydrated but the temperature made me feel like I wasn't sweating. Learning experience - drink even if you don't feel like you need the fluids. I commented on twitter that I really felt like I left it all out on the course. This was hard. The wind was hard. I felt like I was going sooo slow but I finished and I beat my sub-1 hour bike goal by over 2 minutes!
T2 Bike to Run: 1:23
Nothing much to report here. I came in REALLY fast around the curves in the parking area and was *thisclose* to wiping out, so I probably slowed down before I really should have. In any case, I managed to stop before the red line, hop off my bike and sorta run to my transition area. My frozen feet were NOT happy. I quickly ditched the gloves and swapped my helmet for a hat and off I went.
The Run: 3.1 miles in 37:11 (12 m/m rank 400/445)
This, in a word, SUCKED. All my bricks in training were done in warm weather and weren't quite this long. Plus, they didn't have hills right at the beginning of the run. Note to self: run more hills. My feet were still so cold and stiff from the bike ride that I felt like I was running on rocks. Also, my left calf/achilles cramped up right away. I had it in my head that I was NOT going to walk today - I mean, it's only 3 freaking miles! but I couldn't do it. Mentally it was really hard to push through. I kept worrying that I was going to re-injure myself because my muscles were so cold and I probably walked 4 times in the first mile. I kept leapfrogging this poor girl who was running the entire time. I've been that girl and I know how it sucks to have someone run/walk and pass you. It's hard. By around 1.5 miles my legs had loosened up a little but were still in pain. I just started counting my steps. I can't tell you how many times I counted to 60 - telling myself I needed to do at least 5 counts before I walked again. It worked though. I made it to the aid station at mile 2 and then only walked 1 more little hill before the finish. As we were coming into the parking lot and about 1/4 mile from the end, I saw a girl ahead of me in my age group (the beauty of having our ages written on our legs). I made it my mission to beat her and I did with about 25 yards to spare. Can you tell I was happy to be done? I believe I should have been able to finish this run at an 11 m/m pace at the very worst. In my head I even had a goal of 33 minutes - maybe foolish, but there you go, so running a 12 m/m really disappoints me. I wonder if I'd had my Garmin if I would've run better. If I'd seen how badly my time was sucking maybe that would've made me push through the pain and helped me suck it up. Who knows. I know I gave it my all and I finished with a very strong kick at the end (I really wish I knew what THAT pace was). Just shows me that A) I completely suck at judging my pace, and B) my running is no where close to where it needs to be for my half in November. I have a ton of work to do.
Finished in 1:52:56
19/26 in my age groupOverall, I am very pleased with my first triathlon. I obviously have room for improvement (especially in the run) but I beat my A (just finish) and B (finish in under 2 hours) goals by a landslide. The race was well organized and the course is fun. My one big complaint is the lack of a finisher's medal. The water bottle and towel are nice, but this self-professed bling whore wants her medals! Apparently medals are more of a running thing. Guess I'll just be adding a charm to my running necklace instead :) I'm already looking ahead at a tri in September, but the run is 5 miles and I want to see how my leg holds up over the next few weeks as Wine and Dine Half Marathon training starts Tuesday!