Iron Girl Syracuse: Swim, Bike, Runnn!

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On Sunday, August 7th, 2016, I officially became a triathlete!  I cannot believe it has taken me this long to write about the race. I had trained all last year for it. With my whole heart and soul.  But after the race was over, I went through some strange post-racing depression. My emotions were through the roof on race day, and then…I crashed hard. Not sure if any of you have ever experienced that too?  Well that,  and  I went on that life sabbatical.

Anyway, as I begin my training journey for Ironman Maine 70.3 in August, this race…my first triathlon ever, has been replaying in my mind.  It was truly one of the best days ever!

Maybe the reason was attempting to capture the very essence of every emotion, every high, every…everything of my first triathlon was just too enormous for me to wrap my writing fingers around.  I was afraid I would not do it justice.  Not even close.

Nevertheless, here it goes.

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The Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon was a 600m swim-30K bike-5K run.  Completely doable in my mind for a first timer.

The day had finally come.  I arrived in Brewerton the day before the race with my oldest daughter. It was a quick hour and 10 minute drive or so. My parents were flying into Syracuse later that day, so Nina and I headed right to Oneida Shores to check in and rack my bike.

Once they arrived, we went over the plan for race day.


Nerves raced through my body faster than lightning. Checking and rechecking the transition areas, the entrance and exit points, checking and rechecking again. We finally departed the shores, enjoyed an amazing dinner at Pastabilities and then called it a night.

Because when your alarm goes off at 4 a.m…

You wrangle in those same nerves and rush down to the venue.  The volunteers were incredible!  With their headlamps on, getting our body markings done at 5 a.m.  Smiles, words of encouragement, hugs…you name it, they were able to deliver!

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I barely spoke.  This would be my first tri..my first open water race…my first race with my new bike…I was a nervous wreck!

So just as soon as I set up my transition area…

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I did what I always do when my anxiety is vying for a full-blown takeover…

I get thee to water!  The sunrise was breathtaking.  All the other participants were hanging out in T1, with their tri clubs, or racing friends. Me?  I was down at the beach watching the sunrise…

There was a father walking down to the beach with his dog, while I was leaving. So I asked him if he would take a photo for me.  The weather was chilly for early August, and the damp sand was quite freezing as well on my bare feet!

Back at T1…the countdown began.  My parents and Nina arrived around 6:30 a.m. and we headed down to the beach again so I could take my warmup swim.

My cheering section!!

Then without delay, it was hugs and well wishes, as I quickly made my way back to the transition area. My wave time was 7:16 a.m.  There were 100 women in my age group.  The most swimmers I ever swam with, thus far, was about twenty.  I remember still waiting for my wave to begin, when the first woman exited the water!  Chills everywhere watching and cheering for her!

Now it was time to take my march of courage!

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Waiting, right in the front row, for the horn to blow…and then it was insane!  I dove in and started swimming frantically right away, as others ran as far as they could before swimming.  My short legs wouldn’t have gotten me much farther, so I thought swimming right away was the smart option.  Wrong!

Women jumped over me, around me, practically through me! (haha) I tried my best to remain calm. I tried my best to rely on my training, my breathing pattern, my ease I felt so often in the water.  But instead, I panicked.  PANICKED!  To me, what felt like an eternity, was a panic attack that was just about the length of 5 side strokes, before I regained my composure and got my bubbles back under me.

Then…it was amazing!!! I just swam.  Swam with slight fear, but swam.  Swam to the first giant Doritos buoy.  Breathe.  Swam to the second gigantic Doritos buoy.  Breathe.  Only the home stretch remained now.   And I swam fast and hard until I could stand. After that, these short legs ran out of that water, as the disassembling my wetsuit began.

Running on pavement in bare feet, all the way  into the transition area…ouch!  But I, like all the other athletes, pushed on.  I spotted my daughter and parents as I was running out of the water…and tears started flowing.

I was crying out of relief.  Realizing what had just transpired.  I just completed my first open water swim!

Now here is where a sprint tri becomes like an amusement park ride.  The energy and excitement in T1 was contagious and inspiring!  Words of encouragement, laughter and cheers were heard from every direction.  Strong women.  Everywhere.  What an incredible venue!

My T1 transition time was a bit long, but I wanted to make sure all my gear was fastened and tied correctly before heading out on my bike. And when I finally did…

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Freedom!  The bike portion was my favorite.  Which is extremely ironic since it had been my worst discipline heading into this race.

I loved my bike.  My friend’s dad lent me his bike watch, which was a blessing! I was able to glance down and check my speed throughout the race now.

The weather was absolutely perfect. No wind. Clear skies.  Sun shining. It.was.perfection.  The bike course led you through the countryside of Oneida Lake.  It took everything inside of me NOT to stop and take pictures of the landscape (well, because it was a race and all).

Everywhere I turned, there were sweet, delicate wildflowers flooding the fields.   Bales of hay, old beautiful barns, goats…goats!  I love goats and there they were!  Just cascading the countryside.  A smile was plastered on my face for the entire ride.  Again, cheers, encouraging words, support from other participants could be heard from every direction.

I’ll admit, being lapped by 20 and 30 year olds, was a little discouraging at first.  But then I past “Grandma.”  That is what she had written on the back of her race shirt.  She had flowers on her bike and big beautiful side mirrors, and a bell!  A bell…that she would ring every time another racer passed her.  Ring ring...it would go.  “Great job honey!” She would yell, “Keep it up!”  On her calf, was the number 80.  What?!?

I want to be Granny…racing at 80 years old!  She was amazing!  From that moment on, I felt pure joy!  Joy, exhilaration and speed. I loved my bike.  And I loved Granny for being awe-inspiring and reminding us what life is truly about.

Immediately after, speeding into T2…I encountered “the jelly legs” everyone had warned me about.  Because let’s be honest, I know I did not practice nearly enough bike-run bricks for this race.  So dismounting my bike immediately sent my legs into some unfamiliar jello spasm.  I could not feel a thing!  I was fairly sure my feet were making contact with the pavement…but who knew for sure?!

Racked the bike and off I went!  The run!  Yesssss!  A whole new level of energy arrived once again! Sprint triathlons are fast-paced and full of excitement!  The run course winds you through the waterfront community…and the residents were entertaining and high-spirited!  It sure was not my fastest 5K time by any means, but it sure was one of my favorites!  Fun, fun, fun.  My cheeks hurt from smiling still!

My legs started to come back to life around 1.5 miles into the run.  It was tough. Fun and joyous..but tough!  I didn’t have music to listen to or a watch to keep my pace for the run.  So it did feel like I was running forever!

But soon enough…the finish line was in sight!  (I didn’t even know my dad at this spot videotaping! So thankful!)

When you are approaching the finish of a race, the adrenaline within spikes furiously.  The spectators are cheering and shouting your name. It is all very surreal.  The only view in sight is that finish line…

It was…THE BEST MOMENT!

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After crossing that finish, the first person I searched for was my daughter.  I literally collapsed in her arms!  I’ve run many races up until this point in my life…but this was the first race, and my first triathlon at that, where my family was in attendance.  It was an incredible blessing and completed the entire experience. I was unbelievably grateful to feel their love and support.

At 41 years old, I completed my first triathlon in 1:59:01! I was thrilled!  My goal was to get in under 2 hours and I did!

I have attempted to articulate my exact emotions of this whole experience.  But I have always fell short.  Fortunately for me, my dad captured my heart and soul perfectly.  This sums it all up.

 

Astonished. Elated.  Proud.  Humbled.  Blessed.  (and was officially hooked on triathlons!)

 

“It is always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

That was definitely the case.  Victory.  A personal victory that I poured my blood, sweats and many, many tears into over the past 6 months prior.  I had done the impossible for myself.  Learning, practicing, racing in 3 different disciplines.  All requiring a very different strong mind, strong body and strong soul from me.

There was the music of the water…the balance, the gliding, the fearless power of the swim.

There was the acceleration of the road…the freedom, the grit, the passionate explosion of the bike.

And there was the joy of the cadence…one foot after the other, light as a feather, the fun and perseverance of the run.

I loved them equally.  I respected them. The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

 Swim. Bike. Run. 

Those 3 words would settle into my soul, along with Dance and Climb now.

See you in August, IM 70.3 Maine…

“Tri”-ing into freedom,

J

 

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