I did it!! I can’t believe that after all these months and all the hours and miles of training that I can finally call myself a triathlete!

So how did it feel? HARD!  I mean, I knew that it was going to be hard but I guess I naively thought that since I had trained so hard that it wouldn’t be as hard as it was.  The feeling though as I crossed that finish line was just amazing.

Thanks Dad for being my triathlon paparazzi!

I set out all my stuff last night to make sure I had it before packing it up in my backpack, then we went out to dinner, watched a movie, and I was asleep by 9. Triathlon day started bright and early. I woke up from a nightmare in which I overslept my alarm and it was 7:00 and I missed the start. Luckily it was only 3:30am but I was wide awake.  It wasn’t too far from my 4:00am alarm so I just got up, drank some coffee, ate some breakfast and prepped mentally for the day.

I had been obsessively checking the water temperature all week and it was just hovering around 77*. The sprint race which was the day before was wetsuit legal so I was feeling optimistic. I had not had the chance to do an open water swim practice before the race and I was really nervous about the swim. Everyone kept saying “oh, you’ll be fine in the wetsuit. You’ll just float and feel safe”. I was really depending on that. I got to transition, got body marked, and heard the announcement “The water is 78.5* this morning and this race is NOT wetsuit legal.” My heart sank. I seriously almost cried. I had depended on that. It was allowed to wear the wetsuit but you had to start at 8:00 in the last wave. Mine was supposed to go at 7:20. I was so nervous and anxious as it was, I didn’t want to wait another 40 minutes, be the last wave on the course, and worry my friends and family when I got out of the water 90 minutes after I told them to expect me. I decided to do a warmup swim, felt good in the water, and decided to go without the wetsuit.

My wave went off and I hung by the back to let everyone go ahead. I felt ok at first but then started to panic a little. It was just so dark and I was getting disoriented. The finish line looked SO FAR away and I didn’t know what I got myself into. I was having a really hard time breathing and was not even swimming—sort of flailing in a mix of side stroke, back stroke, doggy paddle…Then the under 29 male wave which started 5 minutes after mine came up on us and they were so aggressive. It was like being in a washing machine—kicking and grabbing and splashing everywhere. I flipped on my back and did backstroke but was still swallowing so much water. I was hyperventilating and just could not breathe. I looked around for a kayak….I really considered quitting for a few minutes. Then when that wave passed, I thought “ok Sarah. You can do this.” Even though it felt right then that I had never swam a stroke in my life I KNEW that I could swim. I took it slow, and started breathing every other stroke. All of a sudden, everything got better. I was calmer, relaxed, and actually enjoying myself. Before I knew it I had caught up with about 5 girls from my wave! Once I got my rhythm I felt like I could have kept going for much longer. I was thankful that I didn’t have to though! Even with my panicking, I finished the swim in 34 minutes.

The calm before the storm

That little dot is most likely me out there all by myself since my wave and the wave after me all swam by 😉

Oh good---more yellow caps!

Never been happier to be on dry land!

I took my time in T1 and when I got on the bike my HR was 174! I was supposed to keep it below 170 on the bike but was having a hard time relaxing and getting it down. After the first climb/downhill it got under control but that’s when the problems started. I had swallowed so much water during the swim that it made me feel SO sick. The water was sloshing, I was so nauseous, and my stomach was clenching like someone was wringing my intestines. I really felt so awful which I was not expecting at all. I usually feel strongest on the bike. I finished the first loop in 45min but right when I started the 2nd loop I really thought I was going to throw up. I slowed down and started to unclip to get off the bike and do what I had to do, but then the feeling passed. Thank god. Instead of pushing it the 2nd loop I decided to take it easier and do everything I could possibly do to settle my stomach. I sipped my water and gaterade, ate a gel, and didn’t push too hard. It worked! By the last 20 minutes I felt back to normal. And the best part is that I kept my bike cadence at 87! I have been working really hard to average 90 but it’s so hard for me. Today I came pretty darn close and it definitely helped my run! Total Bike: 1:45.

Finishing Loop 1

Hi Dad!

Hmm, where did my stuff go? Too many bikes!

Transition madness!

Then the run! My legs actually felt pretty fresh! My calves were tight the first mile but loosened up. I walked through every water station and drank water and gaterade and dumped water on myself because it was getting hot! I wasn’t fast and had to walk on and off during the first 3 miles. Then, shockingly, the last 3 miles of the run was where I felt the best I did the entire day! I only had to walk through the water stations, and mile 5 was the only time the whole run I saw numbers under 10 min/mile. My friend Melissa came to cheer me on and was going to wait around mile 5 of the run. I actually saw her when I was finishing up the bike and shouted “I’m coming! It will be a long time but I’ll be there!” Having her there was SO amazing. On the run I kept thinking “just make it to Melissa” and I did! She was so encouraging and it was amazing to see a friendly face. It meant so much to have her there. I finished the run in 1:10 which I am really happy with! I was expecting 1:15!

3 miles to go!

Approaching the finish line! I was so happy!

DONE!

Total time: 3:35

I want to just thank everyone for all their encouragement and support. Especially my family who has been amazing through all of this. Thanks Dad for coming out to Philadelphia with me for the race and being the best cheerleader and photographer ever. Thanks to my Mom and sister for the encouragment and for anxiously waiting by the phone for updates. Thanks to all my readers, friends, and coworkers for putting up with me and my taper blues, for listening to me talk about triathlon all the time, thanks to Melissa and my friend Chris (who was doing the run section of the relay) for cheering me on during the run. And of course, a big, big thank you to my Coach Kim, I could not have done it without you. Thanks for preparing me to finish strong, for reassuring me that all the problems I deal with are normal and I’m not crazy, and thanks for always listening to me and making me feel better. You’ve become not only a coach but a friend and know that you are SUCH an inspiration to me. I listen and take in everything you tell me, and I hope I made you proud 🙂

I really am so proud of myself! I had some unanticipated problems (panicking in the water and feeling really bad on the bike) but I think I handled them really well.  I feel good about my future races because those things that slowed me down will get better with experience. My legs felt strong the whole race and I was able to control my heart rate on my bike and run. I could not be happier with my first triathlon experience! Here’s to many, many more!

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