Today was such a whirlwind, but an amazing one. The day started early with a 4:25 wakeup call and 4:45 departure. My dad and I stayed at my apartment down at school Friday night and then drove to Marbury in the morning so we didn’t have to pay for a hotel room. We were expecting it to take 90 minutes to get there but thanks to little traffic we got there closer to 6:00. I ate my breakfast of a bagel with Nutella around 5:30 and sipped a bottle filled with nuun all morning.
As soon as we arrived I went straight to packet pickup. After, I got body marked and picked up my timing chip. Then I set up my transition area. It was pretty intimidating seeing everyone with their fancy bikes and equipment but I tried to just focus on myself as much as possible. After setting up transition my dad and I went to check out the swim course. The bay looked beautiful and calm, although there was a lot of green seaweed stuff in the water. I hit up the porta-potties a couple times and before I knew it the pre-race meeting was taking place down by the water. I wandered over but when I saw people warming up in the water I knew I needed to get in. As soon as I hopped in I started to panic. I couldn’t see ANYTHING. I was having trouble breathing and was becoming increasingly nervous for the race. After some sculling and treading water I tried just swimming around near some people and my nerves and anxiety were almost instantly calmed. After I got out of the water there was about 10 minutes until the start.
About two minutes before the women’s 39 and under wave went off we jumped off the dock into the water. We were given a countdown and before we knew it the horn was being sounded. The beginning of the swim wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I expected. I didn’t position myself close enough to the front and ended up passing a lot of people within the first 100 meters or so. Despite my earlier panic I was very calm during the swim. I felt at ease and very comfortable in the water. I ended up wearing a two-piece bathing suit top and my tri shorts. This worked out very well for the swim as I wasn’t too hot and never felt like my clothes were filling up with too much water. Because I have minimal (none) open water swimming experience I am not so good at sighting. I would swim 10-15 strokes and then remember that I needed to sight. I was surprised how early on I caught people from the first two waves. Definite confidence boost. My goal was to beat as many people from my wave as possible since the swim is my strongest leg. I ended up finishing first in my age group and 12th female overall. I wasn’t too happy with my time but a lot of people thought that the course was long. Either way I had a great time out there in the water.
The run from the bay to transition was pretty long and on a concrete sidewalk, making it pretty difficult to be fast. I felt a little nauseous as I was exiting the water so I walked to transition instead of running. I spent a lot of time trying to put on my bike jersey while I was all wet. Note to self: buy a tri top.
I knew that I was going to be passed by pretty much everyone so it came as no surprise when the first half of the bike I was being passed every few minutes. I didn’t let it get to me and just focused on getting in a good ride. I wasn’t prepared for the hills at the beginning of the course and wanted to quit within the first mile. I, again, have minimal experience climbing hills so I was worried about the rest of the course. Luckily after the first five mile the hills went from big and terrifying to nice rollers. Besides my slowness, I really enjoyed the bike. I pushed myself more than I thought I could and didn’t give up. About half way into the ride I dropped one of my bottles filled with nuun so I turned around to go get it. It was supposed to reach 105 degrees with a heat index of 112 so I knew I needed the electrolytes. With about 5 miles left I was really ready to be done riding. My legs were getting tired from the hills and my butt was hurting way more than it should have been. I was estimating that I would finish in about 1:45 so I was pleasantly surprised when I came in early.
T2 was pretty uneventful.
As I was starting the run my dad tossed me a cold water bottle and it felt amazing. After you get off the bike the heat hits you like a wall. My legs felt great and I had energy but the heat wasn’t going to let me do anything spectacular. The run was also really hilly, making it even more difficult to run. I started off running but soon switched to walking the uphills and running the downhills and when I felt good enough to run. Most of the run is not in the shade, making it even more unpleasant. There were aid stations every mile and most had ice water. At each stop I would drink two cups and pour another two on me. It was so miserably hot that almost everyone in sight was walking. About 50 people were pulled from the course because of heat exhaustion. There was a girl at the first aid station who looked absolutely terrible and at that point I decided being safe was far more important than running. I tried to run the parts that were in the shade but it was still difficult to do anything. The last mile is on a shaded trail in the park and I was able to run the whole thing. I was holding a decent pace so I know if it weren’t for the heat I wouldn’t had a great time. Before you know it the bay is in sight and the finish line is right around the corner.
As soon as I crossed the finish line volunteers were icing me down and giving bottles of water to drink. I was pretty dizzy so I sat down for a little and then went to find my dad. We stocked up on food and drinks and then found a spot in the shade to relax for a little. I had a pretty bad headache but I think it was from dehydration. I had at least 10 bottles of fluid between 8:30 and 12:30 and I never had to pee once (TMI, sorry). I was sweating so incredibly much that I felt like I couldn’t get enough fluids in me. I did make sure to drink nuun and Gatorade so that hyponatremia was not as issue.
This race was one of the hardest things I have ever done but I am so proud of myself for not giving up and pushing through the harsh temps. It was not ideal for my first triathlon but now I feel ready for anything. I have a lot to improve on but this was a great learning experience.