I guess I should back up and give a little recap since the last time I posted. That post was written in one of several moments of panic before the race.
After my post on 9/4, I went out that weekend and walked and biked, but didn't get back in the wetsuit. When the pool at my gym reopened on Tuesday, I decided that would be my chance to try the suit on again and try swimming in it. This time I was prepared. I had a ton of body glide and made sure to go after 8pm when the pool was pretty quiet. I had some suggestions on facebook to get the suit wet before putting it on. So, my way of doing that was to get the bottom on, get in the pool, and then put on the top and zip up. Bad move in hindsight. I trapped a ton of water in there and it was like swimming with a lead weight all over my body. I took off the suit and it felt so free to swim.
I got home that night and emailed my coach. He suggested I still wear the wetsuit for safety since it's my first tri and the wetsuit gives you tons of buoyancy. So, if I tucker out, I can just float. Great.
I drove down to DC on Friday, checked in at the expo, and then headed up to my sister's for dinner w/ the girls. The next day, I met up w/ the team to ride down and rack our bikes in the transition area and listen to Dave Scott speak. Afterwards, we got into our wetsuits for a practice swim in the Potomac.
This is a picture of me before my "first" open water swim. I look so happy and calm, don't I?
Sadly, that didn't last. I got in the water and tried to swim, but I couldn't breathe. I stopped and floated for a bit, but every time I put my face in the water, I couldn't breathe. Two women stopped to ask if I was alright and if I was having trouble breathing. I explained my issue and the one asked if I was having a panic attack. I hadn't thought of it that way, but that's probably what it was. So, I doggie paddled it across all the swimmers to the swim exit and got out. It was really scary. I didn't know what I was going to do. My coach suggested that it's b/c I wasn't used to open water and that on race day, I'd have a minute or so to get adjusted before the start horn goes off. During that time, I should put my face in the water and get used to breathing. Didn't think that would work, but promised I would try again on race day.
The next day, we were up at 4:30 and down at transition by 5:45. It's hard to get an idea of just how big transition was, especially in the dark, but there were close to 5,000 participants yesterday! It's hard to see, but the sun is just starting to come up behind the Washington Monument in the distance.
At 6:45, everyone had to be out of transition and in the "swim pen" before the first group (elites) dropped in the water at 7:00. I wasn't thrilled about this since I wasn't scheduled to drop in until 8:00. It's not fun standing around for an hour in your wetsuit. I put it on up to my waist and then waited to put the rest on until soon before we were called up. The weather that morning was nice and cool so we weren't overheated trying to get that suit on.
In line, I mentioned my panic the day before and someone mentioned singing a song over and over in my head and that it should help calm me. Jefferson Airplane's Volunteer must have been playing b/c it was in my head during the whole swim. Anyway, I dropped in and did what my coach said. When the horn blew, I did a little crawl, but then flipped on my back. I had originally figured it would take me an hour to do the swim, but was afraid it would take longer. I was ok and pretty calm after about 10 minutes of finding my groove. I did a combination of crawl, a modified breast stroke, and elementary back stroke. Toward the end, I was most doing crawl, but kept stopping to check and make sure I wasn't going in the wrong direction! Needless to say, I completed the 0.9 mile swim in the Potomac.
I was soooooo happy I finished the swim. I walked to transition, stripped off my wetsuit, changed into my bike shoes, and was off. Soon after I hopped on my bike I saw friends of mine there to cheer me on. It gave me a nice little burst of energy to get me started on the bike and boy did I need it. I totally spaced stretching before hopping on the bike and my legs felt like jello. I had to stop 2-3 times to stretch out my adductor which cramped up on my a couple times. I had issues w/ that muscle in 2006 when I did 7 half marathons that year, but it was never anything like I felt on the bike. Once I stretched, I was fine. So, the 25-mile bike course (and the rest of the course for that matter) was touted as a flat and fast course. Yeah right. That bike course was pretty hilly! I was surprised. Still, I kept going.
I knew there were a bunch of people that were supposed to be behind me, but I couldn't understand where they were. I was passed by some folks, but not everyone. I came to find out afterwards that some folks that were in the last few swim waves were turned around on the bike course, even though there roads were supposed to be open until 12:00 (it was 10:30 when they were told to turn around). All these folks went back to transition and moved onto the run. Not fair!
Anyway, I finished the bike and my legs were mush. I strapped on my fanny pack full of water and my race number and put one foot in front of the other. It took me about 5-10 minutes to really get into a groove, but I never made it to the "brisk" walking pace that I do for the marathons. I was lucky that I was average 19-mile minutes. Like I said, I was toast. Still, I was hydrating well, taking my electrolyte pills and eating pretzels and gels.
By the time I came around and was under a mile to the finish, I broke out my camera and decided to take some touristy pictures of myself on the course. Here I am, in front of the Jefferson Memorial.
The nice thing about doing this event in DC is that my sister got to come down w/ the family and cheer me on at the end. They were right at the finish line as I came running down the finish chute. It's not the most flattering picture, but damn, I just completed a triathlon -- WHO CARES????
My sister also took a video of me finishing, but I can't figure out how to link it. I have it up on facebook for now.
Here I am (above) showing off my medal w/ the Potomac in the background. And below is a picture of me w/ my sister, brother-in-law and nieces after the race.
Thanks to everyone who supported me on this adventure. I am now hooked and plan to do more; however, next time I plan to train just a little bit more!