During one of my group’s last training sessions, we remarked that each of us clearly had a weak area out of the swim, bike, run: mine was the run, one was slower on the bike, and the third was slowest on the swim. We mentioned that we would make the perfect relay team.
Fast forward to a yoga class a few days later with one of my tri training partners. We mentioned the tri to our instructor, who is also a friend, and a runner. She said she had always wanted to do a tri, but worried about the swim. “Do they do a relay where one person only does one part?” she wondered.
And Tri Weekend suddenly became a thing.
There was a Tri, I told them both, the day after our Women’s Tri. It was also a sprint, but much shorter distances on the bike and the run. I’d done it before, when it was two weeks out of the Women’s Tri. But a friend of mine had done a relay the day after participating in the Women’s Tri last year, and it seemed doable. My friend agreed to swim, I offered to bike and our instructor said she would do the run.
I offered to drive (my bike still being racked on my car). So at 5:30am, while it was still good and dark, we met up and off we went. Fortunately the morning dawned beautifully over Long Island Sound so none of the ladies I’d talked into this level of crazy was upset. They were both game and excited.
We were at Compo Beach in Westport by 6am, but not even close to the first people to arrive. We picked up our swag bags and ankle bracelet and got body marked before the sun rose. None of us had ever done a relay before, although I did have the advantage of having done this particular tri before (four years ago, pre injury). But my memories were hazy, so we were asked a lot of curious questions. It was a very different feel to know I only had to worry about the bike. I wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. We set up our area in transition (so much easier when you don’t have to worry about changing clothes) and were ready.
We met on the beach for the safety briefing and bid our swimmer good luck. The swim was by far the most challenging part of this tri: a solid half mile in the salty Long Island Sound. Fortunately, since my friend and I had practiced our open water swims at a beach just a few miles away, she felt well prepared.
The water was calm and warm and she set off while I trotted back to transition to wait for her. It was an interesting difference from the day before, when I’d done all three legs. I watched as other swimmers came in and handed off their ankle bracelets for their relay team, and as others came in and peeled off wet suits. At one point I helped a woman put a sports bra over her suit.
After a great time of 23:22 in the water, my friend ran up to me in transition and I peeled off the ankle bracelet and set out. What a great feeling to be dry and on the bike!
I wanted to make up as much time as possible on the bike to keep us competitive so I went out as hard and as fast as I could. I had forgotten that there were a few hills early on the 5.5 mile course. A few people passed me, which surprised me. I was determined to pass a few myself. It took a few miles but eventually I did.
The bike course was harder than I remembered. It might have been I had worked so much the day before but I was surprised that it didn’t feel easier. I pushed hard the entire time and finished the 5.5 miles in 21:22. I would have liked to been under 21 minutes, but I was pleased with it.
I made it back to transition, traded off my ankle bracelet and our runner set off. That was it for me! I racked my bike. I was sweating, but quickly recovered since it wasn’t that long a ride.
We had agreed to meet our third on the beach for the last bit to cross the finish together. And after just 17 minutes (she’s a sub 9 minute runner) she showed up at the end of the 2.2 mile course on the beach and we did exactly that.
We got smaller medals than the day before, but it was still a great feeling to have been a part of two triathlons in two days. Both of my friends were new to the sport and both are very ready to try it again.
We went for a lovely walk in the neighborhood around the beach afterwards, since none of us had what we considered enough exercise for the day. It was a great way to shake off the soreness and talk out the two days of triathlon fun.
I still can’t believe it is over. I went from having done three triathlons to five in two days. And while being in a relay is not nearly the same level of exertion, it still felt great to do another one. I might not be the thinnest triathlete out there, or the fastest, but I’m still out there, logging the miles and getting the job done. And that feels really, really good.
I know. I had pretty much given up on this blog too. But since I referred to it so much while I was training for this weekend, I can’t just yet. It is a great record of my journey, which is still mostly forward, although maybe not quite in the way I thought when I first started this blog seven years ago.
Last year when I trained for my Women’s Tri (.5 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run), I put together a meticulous training program which I followed religiously. I had started the summer having just lost 15 pounds, but wasn’t in great physical shape. I worked hard, completed that tri faster than the previous time I’d done it (pre broken hip) and was pleased with my performance.
I spent the fall and winter trying to maintain fitness. I swam once a week. I kept up my running and slowly whittled down my 5K time from a 43-44 min (again, I broke my hip a few year ago, and am also a self proclaimed “chubby girl”) down to 40:02 (yes, I’m specific: the last two 5Ks I have done, despite wildly different courses and elevations, were EXACTLY that time). I lost a little weight. I began my summer training cycle with high hopes.
But then life happened. Because I’m a teacher, I had the luxury of traveling for various reasons this summer. I spent eight days visiting family out of state. While out there I injured my right foot, resulting in a stress fracture that kept me away from running for five weeks. I kept swimming and biking hoping it wouldn’t impact my training that much. Then I traveled to my son’s family for two weeks to help them with their third child’s birth. And finally, back on both feet, I came home only to leave a week later to visit my father in Florida for his 80th birthday.
I did what I could while traveling, taking advantage of local gyms and hotel fitness rooms but I worried. I worried if I’d done what it would take to maintain last year’s time on the triathlon; I’d wanted to improve it, but threw that goal out the window after I came home and finished my last two weeks of training. I worked hard, but didn’t feel confident.
Finally, race day came. I woke at 4:00am and began my journey. I picked up my two girlfriends (we’d loaded up their bikes on my car the day before) and traveled in the dark (and rain from the outer bands of the just missed us Hurricane Dorian) the hour to the triathlon site.
We unloaded, got our bikes inspected, got body marked and set up each of our transition areas. Neither of my girlfriends had ever done a triathlon before, so it was fun to guide them and help calm their nerves. The hour inbetween setting up and the start passed very quickly with them to chat with. Before we knew it, it was time for the safety meeting on the beach.
I was in the first wave of swimmers. I was honestly surprised; the swim didn’t feel as hard as it had the year before. I remembered gulping for air and feeling really rough when I started last year, and I didn’t feel that way this time. I was pushing but never felt that nervous “I’m really out of breath here” feeling. I am a slow swimmer, so of course I was in the back of the pack, and before the half way mark, the next wave of caps started to come around me, but I felt strong and sure. I was surprised to find out later I shaved 9 seconds off of my swim.
1/2 MILE SWIM: 27:22
Onto transition. I started out walking up the beach to the bike but everyone started passing me so I couldn’t help but barefoot jog into the pen. Made a wrong turn and down the wrong aisle but eventually found my bike. I had smartly laid out a gel this time (forgot to fuel last year between swim and bike) and swallowed that while I ditched my wet tank top and got my feet dry on the towel. I tried to be fast but also catch my breath.
T1: 3:20 (17 seconds slower than last year…mostly the gel consumption, I’m sure)
I left on the bike and wanted to alternately not use up all of my energy but gain as much time as I could. Bike is the strongest of my three in the tri: I have a good bike and I usually can push myself. So I went as hard as I could without killing myself. The hills felt harder than I remembered them from the year before, but other than that, I felt pretty good during the bike. I certainly pushed harder than on any of my training rides, and it went by quickly. I was surprised to learn that I was about 1:45 slower than the previous year on the bike. But considering my lack of long ride training this summer, it made sense.
No photos from the bike. Apparently I was moving too fast and took my husband by surprise.
12 MILE BIKE: 51:16
Back into transition and I wanted to go fast. Drank a bunch of water, ditched the bike and took off.
T2: 1:35 (2 seconds off last year)
At this point I had no idea where I was at time wise, but I remembered that I had no energy left for the run last year. I smartly decided to take Gatorade and not water on every chance I was given, the first being just outside of transition. I jogged where I could, walked where I had to and eventually found a rhythm. After about a mile I realized I felt MUCH better than I had at this point last year. I was definitely running more. It was still hard and I was doing a lot of walking, but I knew I was doing better.
At some point I started to expect my friends, the first timer triathletes to pass me on the trail. They started the swim 8 minutes after me, but they are both thinner and in much better shape. Both run faster than me and I assumed somewhere I would see them. I just hoped it would be somewhere in the last mile so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed at my time.
But the time and mileage ticked away. I kept doing my intervals, and finally, I could hear the roar of the crowd: I was almost at the end. I still hadn’t seen either of my friends so maybe, just maybe, I was doing better than I realized.
When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The time clock read 2:06 and change. Last year I finished at 2:10:24, so I knew I had made my original goal of beating last year’s time. I pushed myself forward and smiled the whole way.
5K RUN: 43:18
I crossed at 2:09:51 and my husband caught the exact moment. You can see I’m smiling here. Not because I’m happy to be done…but because I’m happy to have done it well.
I think I did a few things right this time. I paid better attention to hydration and diet the day before. I fueled with a gel during the event. And finally I took the Gatorade as opposed to plain water. I think the net result was more energy at the end. I was over 5 minutes faster on the run than last year, AND I was over a minute faster than my first time at this triathlon, before I’d broken my hip and when I was in much better shape. I still can’t believe it. Even though I didn’t follow a rigid training plan, I did do a workout pretty much every day this summer, focusing more on the swim and the bike as my foot healed. I had assumed my run would be weaker but it was the bike: likely due to too many stationary bike workouts and not enough long outdoor rides. I clearly was able to maintain the run fitness I’d built up earlier this year through all of the workouts even though I wasn’t running.
We all eventually crossed the finish line, and in the end I turned out to have the fastest time overall. How about that? The chubby girl came out on top this time. 🙂
We all congratulated each other and slowly made our way through the post race festivities before we went back to my car. I had Prosecco and orange juice waiting in a cooler for just this moment: to toast all of us: to them on their first tri, and to me on being able to continue doing them. I’m incredibly proud and grateful.
Part Two of Triathlon Weekend…up next!
Previous Weigh In 158.8
This Week’s Weight Loss: 0 lbs
Total Weight Loss: 16.2 lbs
This week’s exercise:
Tu: 2.25 mile run/walk
Th: 30 min bike, 30 min strength
F: 2 mi run/walk
Sa-Su: Girls’ Weekend (only exercise was raising a glass to my mouth)
So it has obviously been a zero weight loss week, but I”m OK with that. With a huge girls’ weekend this week with lots of eating and drinking, a no gain is a win in my book. While I did eat a lot of cheese, I steered mostly clear of the bread and ate lots of veggies and protein. Lots and lots of wine, but also lots and lots of water. I came back up but within two days I was back to what I’d been last week, so I’ll take that.
Still adjusting to afternoon workouts with school back in session. I’m using my treadmill at home a bit more but really missing the pool. Definitely going to make that a Saturday morning routine now. I don’t miss the bike as much but I would like to get a few rides in before the weather changes.
The weather has been a bit cooler this week and so that means putting on clothes I haven’t worn since last April or May. The great news is that a lot of things that didn’t fit or were tight last winter are feeling pretty darn good. So that’s exciting. Still a long way to go but that was a pleasant surprise this week.
Still a work in progress!
I wasn’t going to post this morning. I haven’t been careful or on plan for two weeks, giving myself a bit of a pass in the final push for triathlon training. As you can imagine, my weight is up today, by about 2.5 pounds over my last weigh in. I was just going to let that simmer and have a good week and come back next week and post about it.
But that isn’t real. That isn’t what is happening and whole point of me using this blog to push myself forward is not for what *other* people perceive my journey to be. It is to motivate *myself* to make healthier choices and hold myself accountable.
So I’m up 2.5 pounds today. I know some of that is bloat from several celebratory days of restaurant meals celebrating my triathlon and my birthday (I am 48 today). And I’m OK with that. But I want to keep myself in check and be sure that I take this chance today to be mindful and to make choices that will make that number go back down instead of going up.
That being said, for one of my birthday dinners last night I put on clothes that I haven’t been able to wear for nearly 2 years. So I was pretty psyched about that. My weight is higher than it was a few weeks ago, but my body is still leaner than it was. The pants I couldn’t wear at this same weight at the start of summer, but I can wear them now. So that was great validation that I am going in the right direction.
I am going to spend my birthday going to the YMCA to swim, which is something I wouldn’t have thought to do before the tri. Now I know I am able to do that, I enjoy it, it’s a great recovery workout. Then I’m going to celebrate my 48th birthday. My mother died just 6 days after her 53rd birthday, so as I inch closer to that milestone I am very aware of trying to make choices that will extend my days beyond that. I’m never one to complain about getting older. I’m going to embrace every year I’m able to get. Each one is a gift, and in the words of Leo D: “I don’t intend on wasting them.”
Previous Weigh In 157
Total Weight Loss: 15.4 lbs
It’s over, just like that. Even in the moment, I couldn’t believe it was happening.
The whole day before, after work that is, was spent in pre race prep. My girlfriend and I went to the packet pickup, a nearly three hour ordeal due to the distance and traffic. By then it was 6pm and I was getting edgy…I’d wanted a nice, quiet evening. A “quick” dinner out, and then it was time to gas up, and load up. We ended up deciding on my 17 year old mini van for the job, since it is spacious and roomy and I don’t have a bike rack. By 8:30 I had everything loaded, my bag packed, and my alarm set for 4am, with the plan being to drive up at 4:30am.
Of course I woke up at 3:30. I never need alarms on big days like this. I got up and put on my sports bra, swim suit and running skirt combo I’d tested last weekend. I organized my transition bag and triple checked everything.
I ate a hard boiled egg and downed a cup of coffee at 4am, with the plan being I’d eat a Clif bar on the road, and then a Larabar between the bike and the run. That plus water I figured would get me through.
We hit the road without any issues and made it to Winding Trails while it was still dark. We were early. Very early. But fortunately the women I was traveling with like to be early too, so they were fine with it. By the time we unloaded the bikes and our bags, body marking and bike check stations were open, so we took care of that before heading into transition.
At this tri, each section was marked off for a group of bib numbers, each rack for about 25 people. By the time I got into transition there were already 3 or 4 bikes already racked, all near the exit (aka fewer steps away). I quickly staked out a spot and set up my transition area under my bike. This is something that I remember researching a lot more or feeling more familiar with the last time I did it. This time, I just tried to put things out in a way that made sense…little tri towel on top of everything since I’d need it first, then the shirt I’d put on, which would be on top of the shoes and socks. That kind of thing.
Once everything was all checked and set up, I could relax. We still had an hour to go before the race but it felt like time was flying by. We decided to go down to the beach to see how big the swim looked. I honestly was a bit relieved. I remember thinking it looked super huge and scary last time, but this time it looked about the way I expected it to, and certainly I’d swum longer distances at the beach in open water.
Time ticked away quickly, and it was soon go time. We snapped this photo of my friend and I just before the race started. At this point I was struggling a bit with self doubt. I knew I’d trained hard for this and was ready, but seeing lots of super athletic looking women in super serious looking triathlete gear was intimidating me. My swimsuit felt suddenly amateurish and out of place.
Our wave was first on deck, which honestly was a relief. I was ready. We got into the corral and the horn went off. It was time.
The water was warm, and while I had been working hard at my swimming, I could see immediately I was headed for the back of the pack. I struggled with pacing, wanting to be faster but knowing what I was capable of. I finally was able to get into a rhythm of gulping down two breaths each time and pushing myself forward. I saw people dropping to backstroke but refused to do it; I wanted to really do what I had trained for. In retrospect I probably should have allowed myself a little bit of rest like that but I just really didn’t want to. I did do some breast stroke but overall my swim felt much stronger than my previous tri. So even though I was definitely in the back of my wave (I finished with the next wave colored caps all around me and even some from the wave after that) I felt really good about the swim.
0.5 mile swim: 27:31
I was determined to tighten up my transitions this time. It is a long way from the beach to the transition area, probably a quarter mile or so. I walked/jogged it in my barefeet, stopping to dip my feet in a little blow up pool they set up at the entrance to transition. From there I just mopped off, took several big swigs of water and struggled to put my t shirt over my wet body. Once I had that on, I snapped on my helmet, wiped off a bit more, took a bit more water and then walked my bike out.
Once out on the bike, I tried hard to catch my breath; I was still breathless from working hard at the swim. I always say the bike is where you can rest, but I didn’t want to rest. I wanted to make up as much time as I could on the bike from my slow swim and what I knew would be a slow run. So I pushed where I could, passing where I could. I was able to catch my breath a bit, but I really did give it more than I ever had on any training ride. As I re entered Winding Trails, my friend snapped this pic:
11.5 mile bike: 49:34
The second transition felt super fast. I racked my bike, took two swigs of water, totally forgot to grab my Larabar, ditched my helmet, and took off.
The run was always going to be slow. I knew this going in, despite having trained for it. Firstly, the course on this race is a very hilly trail. Challenging all on its own and would never be a fast race for anyone. But with me having previously injured my hip, I was erring on the side of caution. I walked even more than I’d planned on though. I tried hard to push to run more but I was so spent, having worked hard on the swim and the bike. I couldn’t catch my breath. I just tried to mentally not freak out with every person passing me. I tried to remember it was a miracle I was even here, doing a triathlon. And I just hoped beyond hope that my swim and bike were strong enough to at least be on par with my previous tri, if not a little faster.
5K Run: 48:43
As I got closer and closer to the finish I could hear the announcer and the crowd noise and I tried to pick up my pace. Finally, I left the woods, a few women by my side, and we all made for the finish line. As I got close I saw 2:10 on the clock and realized I was definitely going to beat my previous time. I was thrilled.
In the end, I was more than 7 minutes faster than my previous triathlon on the same course. Everything about it was faster, minus the 5K run, which I expected. Considering I entered this training cycle in far worse physical shape, two years post broken hip and surgery, I am beyond thrilled with how everything went in the race. If you would have told me two years ago, when I was still limping around and not sure I would ever get my life back, that I would compete in a triathlon again, I am not sure I’d have believed you. I’m definitely going to keep up with the swimming, biking and run/walking and I am already trying to figure out which triathlons (yes, maybe more than one) might be in my future.