I’ve done many difficult things in my life, but my first 70.3 triathlon was by far the most difficult thing I’ve done mentally, emotionally, and physically. I went into the race with the most butterflies I’ve ever felt, unsure if my body would be able to withstand so many hours of racing and competing at such a high intensity. After the long-awaited and anxious build-up to the race, the Without Limits race director, Lance, finally blew the horn for the red caps to start the swim leg of the 1.2-mile out and back swim. It was the beginning of many firsts for me that day.
It was my first race with an out and back swim, it was the longest consecutive open water swim I had ever done, and as gross as this may sound to the non-triathlete, it was the first time I peed in my wetsuit while swimming. Yes, it was a little gross to feel that warmth move horizontally across my body instead of vertically down with gravity, but I was very proud of myself for doing it then and saving myself the pain of possibly having to pee on the bike! Once I was out of the water, I had another series of firsts: my first time almost face planting when my foot slipped in the kiddie pool as I was running through them to rinse my feet, my first time having my drops get caught in another competitor’s back wheel as I was trying to unrack my bike during T1—but getting lucky that the owner walked up just then to help me untangle the bikes—, and my first time almost falling off my bike as I was trying to mount it on an ever-so-slight downhill!
But once I was clipped in, I was off! The first of the four loops required to complete the 56-mile bike leg was the most mentally challenging of them all. My stomach began feeling queasy again, my liquid food was extra warm, and I was trying to quiet all the doubts that make one question how they ended up doing triathlons in the first place. However, as I made the turn to complete the first loop, I heard fellow triathlete, Marty Rosenthal cheering me on, and to my surprise, one of my best friends, Nana and her dog Mouse standing next to my boyfriend Joe, cheering enthusiastically! In that instant, a smile came over my face as I rode away feeling extra loved and supported by people who mean a lot to me. I forgot about worrying and remembered that I was there to have fun! I began focusing on the things my coach, Eric Kenney, has taught me to focus on, including sticking to the watts he prescribes, racing my own race, not letting the distractions get to me, controlling the variables that are under my control, and having fun! Despite running out of water during the third loop, I felt stronger every loop and cashed in on the energy rushes I got every time I saw my friends cheering me on. My T2 went a lot more smoothly than T1 and I headed into the run feeling tired but strong.
As I ran out of T2 onto the course, I high-fived Mouse and got my final energy boost from my friends before settling into a sustainable pace for the hot, dry, and sunny 13.1 miles ahead of me. I seemed to learn something about myself at every mile, starting at mile 2. At mile 2, I learned that drinking ice water at every aid station was not going to cut it, so I decided to not only drink ice water, but also put the remainder of the second cup down my bra. This created a nice pocket of thirst-quenching ice chips to nibble on between each station, plus a refreshing splash all the way down to my shoes. These things might sound minor to one who has never done a long-course triathlon, but they made the biggest difference in my hydration and my mood. I looked forward to every time I got to refresh my body and it gave me a way to break the race down one mile at a time! Even though the timing chip caused me to stop a few times to adjust it so it would stop smacking against my ankle, I was getting through every mile feeling stronger than I had expected. As I approached the turnaround after mile 6, I patted myself on the back for still having the energy to say, “Good job!” to all my fellow competitors running in the opposite direction. By that point, I had counted over 20 women ahead of me, but was happy that I was still going strong and passing people along the way. However, by mile 8, I started noticing the blisters on the bottoms of my feet and the reality of the distance I was racing started setting in. This is where I truly began feeling tested both mentally and physically. My pace declined dramatically at every mile and my cheers to the other runners had dwindled to a mere nod. Apart from the physical pain, miles 10-12 were especially difficult because of all the competitors who had been subjected to walking. Walking never looked so enticing, but I kept my pace under 9 minutes per mile nonetheless.
Now let’s talk about mile 12-13.1. This last 1.1-mile is the hardest mile I have ever run in my life. My body and mind felt completely exhausted and every step hurt just a tiny bit more than the last. Just as I was feeling like my thoughts were going to take over and my body was going to break down, I caught a glimpse of my favorite cheerleader, Joe, excitedly waving his arms for me to finish the last 1/3 of a mile strong. Although it didn’t seem like it, his presence gave me that last little boost I needed to get to the finish line. I finished the race by plunging myself onto the bouncy water slide and making it halfway before having to crawl my way off. Nana and Mouse were waiting at the end as Joe ran to catch up. I stumbled away with the proudest finisher medal I’ve gotten since I competed at the USAT National Championship in August and gave my friends the sweatiest and grossest hugs they’ve probably ever received.
The after part of the race is a blur as I had a bit of a bronchospasm that sent me to the medical tent for a little while, but I have to say that I’ve never been more proud of myself for overcoming so many challenges and obstacles without having to stop and walk. Lots of blisters on my feet, multiple random scrapes on my belly, a bleeding left ankle, and 5 hours 56 minutes and one second after I began swimming that morning, I walked away feeling like I had come in first place. I had raced my own race without letting the distractions get to me and my friends were a constant reminder that I was there to enjoy the process no matter what the outcome! Almost a month after the race, I’m already looking forward to my next 70.3! Until then, stay tuned to @
Vixxenracing for more updates!