I registered for this race months ago because some friends were doing it. AFTER I paid I took a look at the course information (note: check out the course before registration) and realized that it had an ocean swim and a beach run. What the what??? This led to my dramatic and tearful ocean training while on vacation.
Race morning was beautiful with reasonable temps and a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean. We arrived in plenty of time to rack my bike near the bike exit and get everything organized in transition. We even had enough time for Hubby to walk back to the car and retrieve the bike pump that we left in the trunk so I could inflate my tires. I was never feeling rushed or anxious but really excited to get racing.
I was still apprehensive about the ocean swim, but adrenaline and energy took over and my fear of the ocean was gone. What was not gone was the strength and fortitude needed to fight my way out and through the waves to the first buoy. The race started about 30 minutes late and I was getting really hot in my wetsuit. The bodies in the waiting area were tight but everyone stayed calm and the time trial start went off without a hitch.
photo credit Delmo Sports
After what felt like a really long run down the sand, I dove into the ocean and started doing dolphins to get out past the breakers. There was a fairly large sandbar and the water was incredibly shallow. I alternated between running through the water and trying to swim. Neither seemed particularly effective. Finally I just threw myself in and went for it. It took FOREVER to get out to that first buoy. Bodies were everywhere flailing around and getting off course. I spent as much energy navigating the lost swimmers as I did fighting the waves. But once I made the left turn to swim with the current I was flying. I rode the current and passed a ton of people. I felt calm and strong as I swam toward the final turn buoy and headed toward shore. For whatever reason, it was harder to swim to shore than I was expecting. I couldn't seem to catch a wave to ride in. But when I finally made it in I started toward transition and was taking off my wetsuit as I ran up the beach. Final swim time for 400 meter ocean swim: 15:04.8. Even though that's slow for me for a 400, for an ocean swim I was really pleased.
The distance from the swim finish to transition registered on my Garmin as .25 of a mile. A fairly long barefoot run through some very soft sand. And now that I had my wetsuit stripped down to my waist, the top, including the full sleeves, was flopping around and making the already difficult run incredibly awkward. Something to think about in the future: sleeveless wetsuit v. no wetsuit v. keeping the top up until I'm in transition. I'll marinate on all of that for now.
Transition. The area where you leave your bike and run gear. Home base. Your little sliver of space that is set up your way. The way you feel comfortable and organized. There are rules and etiquette to properly racking your bike and setting up your transition area. Rules that were ignored at this race. Photo number 1 is how a bike rack in transition should look for the most part. Photo number 2 is what I came back to after the swim. My wheel is the one off to the left properly hanging from my rack.
In addition to the bikes just thrown on the ground in front of my transition area, what is not pictured is all of those competitors bags, towels, running gear, etc. Because I took that picture after the race was over and much of their stuff had been removed. It was a free for all with stuff everywhere. I had to straddle the bikes on the ground to put on my cycling shoes and get ready to go out on the bike. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was far from ideal and mentally I was not prepared for that disaster area. My transition time was an excruciatingly long 5:56.9. As I explained to Hubby, it felt like I was in there long enough to cook a gourmet breakfast AND eat it. But off on the bike I went.
Almost immediately I knew I was going to have an awesome bike leg of the race. My legs felt primed and ready to rock and roll. My coach had previewed the bike course and scoped out the one hill. He had already prepped us on where to let off the gas and where to give it 100% to maximize speed and passing other racers. It worked flawlessly. I rocked and rolled and passed a ton of people - particularly in the spots Coach had said they would slow down if they didn't know what they were doing. Let me tell you...this man is triathlon genius. I wish I had kept count of how many people I passed, particularly while going uphill. I felt unstoppable and enjoyed the hell out of that ride. Bike time for the 10 miles was 36:05.4 which averages to 16.7 miles an hour, my fastest race pace yet. (And that was before we realized the next day that my seat needed to be raised and I was gearing incorrectly. Watch out world - I'm only going to get faster from here.)
Back into transition to get ready for the run. This time things went a lot smoother, in large part because the pile of bikes was missing as they were out on the race course being ridden. I made sure I had everything I needed after changing shoes and was off. Transition 2 time 2:14.0. Still unacceptably slow, but improved from T1.
And that's it! The race is over! It was fantastic, amazing....wait....the run? Oh yeah. I was hoping you wouldn't notice if I left it out. Let me be honest. I dislike the run. Strongly dislike. And my foot had been bothering me for a couple of weeks aggravated all the more by the barefoot sand running earlier. But I headed out, through the very soft sand again, to get to the packed sand that would be the course for the first 1.5 miles of the run leg of the race.
Hubby and Big T were waiting down on the sand to cheer me on and high five as I got started. Hubs snapped this picture just as I was saying something. Probably something along the lines of "is it over yet?" But onward I trudged. And one by one, the women that I had flown by on the bike picked me off as they ran down the beach. Once again I got to see the backs of their racing kits, but instead of getting closer and then going behind me, they were getting smaller and smaller in the distance in front of me. This is the most difficult and demoralizing part of the whole triathlon for me. I remember it clearly happening at Kinetic as well. To have made all of that progress on the bike only to lose it and then some on the run just makes it really hard to keep a good attitude as my body is screaming at me to stop.
So what did I do? I stopped. Regretfully, as the first 1.5 miles were done and it was time to cross over the soft sand and up the ramp to the boardwalk I did what I haven't done in a 5K in years. I felt sorry for myself and started to walk. My attitude at this point was terrible and I just kind of threw in the towel. Once I was up on the boardwalk I thought the wood surface would lend a little spring to my step, but I was wrong. Instead my mental game got even worse noticing every pizza and ice cream joint on the strip. The run took us through the not yet open carnival rides at Morey's Pier and the contrast between the race and the rides was just odd. Mile 3 felt like the longest mile of my life.
Finally I could see the finish arch and new it was time to just turn on the power and give it everything I had. Unfortunately, the finish was back in the damn soft sand!! Enough with the sand!! Trying to sprint through the sand was insane and next to impossible. Hubby got a series of pictures at the end that show my feet barely leaving the ground. I'm still not sure how I was making any forward progress.
Final run time 37:20.5. Slower than I would have liked, but I'll take it all things considered.
Overall, the reason I'm glad I waited to write about this race is the time passing allowed me to remember the good parts and not just the run. Unfortunately for me, the run is always the last leg. And since its my most challenging, it provides the opportunity to have the end leave a bad taste in my mouth despite a successful swim and/or bike. And that's exactly what happened this past weekend. I finished feeling awful and only remembered the awful parts.
But a lot of good came out of this race. I quickly acknowledged that I didn't give 100% the whole time. I didn't finish with Zero Regrets. I didn't give my best efforts. And more uncomfortable than the run was the realization that I didn't leave it all out there. Having race regrets felt worse than the worst run ever. So that lesson was learned and I'm not likely to repeat it.
As I was typing this Hubby looked over my shoulder and said "Hey, you are really starting to look like an athlete in that picture." While he might not always be the most tactful guy on the block, he has the best of intentions. Good stuff after all.