Well I did it! I survived my very first triathlon!
Zach and I headed out to Annapolis Friday evening for TriRock Annapolis packet pick-up and to scope out the course. We got a glimpse of where the swim would start and end. We did a quick walk through of the transition area and found the bike out and run out areas before heading to our friend’s place for the evening.
Our friend Mike graciously let us crash at his apartment in Annapolis so we wouldn’t have to drive all the way from DC on race morning. After grabbing dinner, asking Zach a million questions about race logistics, and putting Garmin on the charger, I promptly passed out on the sofa.
Being the night before a race, I didn’t sleep great, but I slept better than I thought I would and when the alarm went off, I dragged myself out of bed to begin race prep.
We got to the race start with a decent amount of time to spare.
There was quite a line to get into the transition area, but it moved along as volunteers checked people’s bike tags and numbers.
My spot in transition was steps away from the swim finish, on an end row, making it super easy to remember where my stuff was during the race.
After I got my bike racked and laid out all my gear, I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with my Aunt Marybeth and my cousin Laura who came out to watch me in the race. They had made a fantastic sign and I was so thrilled to have them there!
After that, the waiting game began.
I was in wave 12, the second-to-last wave to go and with seven minutes in between waves, I had a long time until my start. Luckily the race let people in waves 9-13 stay in transition until the other waves had gone to help alleviate congestion at the start.
So I hung out and chatted with some of the other girls whose bikes were racked next to mine. I found out most people were as nervous as I was since this was their first race too. That was definitely a comforting fact. Talking with them passed the time and soon enough, our wave was lining up to start the swim. (P.S. Hi ladies if any of you are reading today!!!)
The swim was an in-water start, so everyone jumped off the docks and into the water before swimming over to the start buoys.
When I first hit the water I was cold, but I dunked my head in right away to try to get acclimated. I waded over to the start, trying to keep my heart rate low. I wasn’t sure where I should start on the swim. I didn’t want to start right at the front, but I was trying to get to one of the sides so I’d at least have room to move when we went. Unfortunately, I never made it and ended up in the middle of the pack as the swim started.
Immediately I realized I should have started at the front of the pack. I was definitely one of the stronger swimmers in our group, and I was having a really, really hard time getting around the people in front of me. I eventually found some open water and settled into a really nice groove. My heart rate was surprisingly low compared to my other open water swims and I was just cruising along. The swim was hands down my favorite leg of the course.
As I made the last turn I started catching up to people from the wave in front of me.
Now remember, there were seven minutes between waves, so those people were definitely having a rough go of it in the water. I had to slow up quite a few times to get around people toward the end, which was frustrating. The one other frustrating part is that there were only four ladders to get out of the water and of course all of them were being used when I finished. So I had to wait a few seconds before I could get out of the water.
I came running out of the water at a pretty good clip. Ripped off my cap and googles and unzipped my wetsuit. I got the wetsuit off pretty quickly, and went to work drying off my feet and getting into my shoes.
I probably wasted too much time fiddling with Garmin, but then with lots of cheers from Laura and Marybeth I was off and running to bike out.
The start of the bike was a little rocky. I was trying to go quickly and I had a hard time getting my feet into the toe clips and actually getting going. After a frustrating couple of minutes, I was situated on the bike. I was trying to control my breathing and just relax through the start of the bike.
This was definitely the leg I was most worried about and I wanted to enjoy it while still pushing.
The course was shaped like a lollipop. You rode out, did two loops and then rode back in. Of course, in those two loops there were some monster hills.
I tried to crank hard on the uphills without burning myself out and then fly on the downhills. I was doing an OK job, passing lots of people on the uphills, but then getting passed a decent amount on the downhills.
I tried not to worry about the number of times I was being passed. I know the bike is where I have the most room for improvement, and on a hilly course, I knew I wasn’t going to rock it. I wish I hadn’t messed up my Garmin multisport function because I would have loved to see the comparison in my times on the climbs versus my times on the downhills. I’m not sure what I did, but all I have is my average speed being 13.1 mph.
As I headed back to bike dismount, I could hear Laura and Marybeth cheering super loudly for me.
I stopped just before the dismount line and sprinted into T2.
I had a bit of a ways to run through transition to get back to where my spot was and I had to dodge a few people who had already finished the race.
I tossed my bike into the rack, unclipped my helmet, grabbed my water bottle and race number and took off.
Apparently I was so in the zone I didn’t even see Zach standing super close to me taking these pictures.
Oh I was so happy to be on the run because it meant the race was almost over. Yes my legs felt like complete and utter crap, but I knew that feeling would wear off eventually.
I passed my aunt and cousin again and then a little while later saw my friends Tracy and Marianne. It was so nice having so many people out there cheering for me. Each cheer gave me a little boost of energy.
The run course started on an uphill, and though my legs were tired, I was passing people left and right. I spotted Heidi right at the top of the hill. She was out being an awesome spectator! Minutes later I spotted my other friend Brooke. One of the perks of local races is that you randomly see a lot of your friends spectating.
My legs continued to feel like hell for a decent part of the run. Plus at this point I was tired, and it was hot out. There wasn’t a ton of shade on the course so I felt like I was baking. I was sipping plenty of Gatorade and was so glad I decided to carry it with me on the run.
But even though I felt crappy I was still passing people, which made me feel good.
When I hit the downhill at the end of the course, I knew I had the race in the bag. I let things go and just flew down the hill. I rode that momentum around the last turn and straight into the finish.
Final Time: 1:39:21
In the last two days I have had so many mixed emotions about the race that I’m not sure how to process them all.
When I first crossed the finish line, I told Zach that I had a decent time, but I didn’t think triathlons were for me. I enjoyed the experience but felt meh about the whole thing. In fact, I said I’d rather run a marathon because it’s more fun, and all the logistics surrounding triathlons are super stressful compared to a road race. (I cannot be held accountable for what I say immediately after finishing a race.)
But then I saw my results. I beat my goal time of 1:40 and found out I placed 7th out of all beginner women ages 25-34. That’s not too shabby.
And then I started thinking about all the ways I could have improved or done better.
And then I realized that I actually did have a fun time during the whole experience (and for some reason realllly loved the swim), and that I actually wanted to take the time to get better.
And so yes, I do see more triathlons in my future, starting with the Philadelphia Olympic Distance Tri in June.
A huge thank you to my cousin and aunt for coming out, cheering and taking a million pictures. And a big thank you to Tracy, Marianne and all my other friends I saw on the course. Seeing you guys made the race so much more fun.
Probably the biggest thank you of all goes to my training partner/coach Zach, who pretty much taught me everything I know about biking and talked me down from many panic attacks throughout training.
I don’t think I could have picked a better tri for my first one. TriRock Annapolis was beginner friendly and just a ton of fun from start to finish.