I swam, I biked, I ran: My first triathlon

I am officially a triathlete!

Last weekend, I raced the Columbia Association Super Sprint Triathlon with Rip It Events. The race consisted of four laps/eight lanes (200 yards) in a pool, a 5-mile bike ride and a 1.75-mile run. I finished in 47:21, didn’t die during the swim and had a ton of fun!

Here’s my recap!

The day before

Kree convinced me to go get my race packet the day before to cut down on race day stress, which ended up being a great idea. Members of the Mid Maryland Triathlon Club were there sharing their race tips and explaining how the transition area worked. I’ve done the Maryland Duathlon twice, so I am somewhat familiar with transition and all its ins and outs, but it was still really helpful to hear from them (particularly how to lay out your bike gear so you can quickly get it on after the swim and get out on the bike.) It just made me feel more prepared — always a good thing!

I had planned to get up at 3:30 am on Sunday (yes, really) so I wanted to grab dinner no later than 7, but my husband was whitewater kayaking that afternoon and didn’t get back until closer to 8. THEN, on our way to dinner, we locked ourselves out of our house due to an epic miscommunication. Luckily, we had a window open upstairs and a ladder outside, so Micah broke into the house and got our keys, and we were sitting down to dinner around 8:30. I was in bed by 10:30, not ideal but what can you do? Micah didn’t go to bed until 1! Silly boy.

Race morning!

I told Micah I wanted to leave by 4:45 am — the race location is about 40 minutes or so from our house, and he still needed to get his race packet. While the race didn’t start until 7 am, all athletes had to be on the pool deck ready to go by 6:30 am. Everything was going according to plan until we started loading the bikes onto the rack on my car, and the strap holding the rack to the back of my Bug just fell apart. So we had to take the wheels off our bikes and pile them in the back of Micah’s Outback. Fortunately, that only took a few minutes and we were on our way.

Once we got there, I realized with all the rushing around that I had left my phone behind. I couldn’t have it out on the course anyway, but I did want it to take pictures for Rip It social media (and my own accounts as well!) Luckily, I had plenty of friends who were taking pictures!

We got our bikes racked relatively quickly and had plenty of time to hit the portapotties more than once. (Haha, coffee + race day nerves.) The tri club members who spoke with us told us that our time in transition before the race started would go fast, and it did! Before I knew it, we were being told to assemble at the pool.

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Rip It ambassadors before the race

The swim

Everyone racing the sprint version of the race had to enter the pool and complete their swim before the super sprint even started, so that meant Micah and I were waiting around for a long time. I thought this would just make me anxious, but it was actually really helpful to see the other swimmers navigate the pool and cheer them on. Everyone was self-seeded by their 100-yard swim time, and the paces started at 1:15 and went all the way up to 3:30. I planned to line up with the 2:30 swimmers for my race.

I’m not sure exactly what time the super sprint field lined up, but it was well after 8. At that point, I was just ready to get going. There were way less people registered for the super sprint, which surprised me. But it meant that once the first swimmers started entering the pool, the line went fast and before I knew it, it was time for me to cross the timing mat and start my race.

If you read my last blog, you know I am not a natural swimmer. I dislike getting my face wet, and I also prefer the water to feel like bath water. When I have been practicing my laps, I usually gingerly lower myself into the pool and let myself get acclimated to the water. Of course, I didn’t have that luxury in the race, because other swimmers were lined up behind me, so I just got in the pool and went off. The water was ….not warm. We’ve had a few gross, humid days that are typical of Maryland in the summer, but for the most part, it’s been unusually mild. So the pool (which was outside) felt chilly to me. However, once I finished my first lane, I forgot that I was cold and just focused on finishing. My friend and fellow Rip It ambassador Richard, who had already finished the sprint tri (and won his age group) by the time I got in the pool, came back to the pool to cheer me on. “You don’t have to put your head in the water if you don’t want to,” he kept telling me. But I did swim with my head in the water, and I also only took minimal breaks (a few seconds) between lanes! I’m proud of that.

Once I got out of the pool, I knew the hardest part (for me) was over! My official swim time was 7:19, which I was happy with. I thought I would be closer to 10 minutes!

The bike

The transition to the bike went smoothly (thanks again to the Mid Maryland Tri Club for your organizational tips!) and I was off on the course. Admittedly, I hardly trained on the bike, but I did do the course preview with other Rip It ambassadors a few weeks ago, so I was familiar with the route. I knew it was somewhat hilly but not too bad, particularly for Columbia! And I knew I wouldn’t be particularly fast — partly because I didn’t really train and partly because my bike is a hybrid that isn’t exactly optimized for speed. (It has a basket and a bell on it. Enough said. I do love it, though.) I thought the bike went well and I was relieved that Howard County delayed some road work that had been planned for part of the course. There were some sections that were a little rough during the last mile and a half of the 5-mile loop, but I was able to avoid them. Official time was 23:38 and I did pass a few other people — and yes, I rang my bell, which seemed to amuse them!

The run

“OK,” I thought to myself when I dismounted from my bike. “This is my sport! This is where I can really kick ass!” I ran my bike back into transition, where Kree, who had finished the sprint, was. “Take off your helmet!” she yelled at me. “Don’t forget your bib! Put it on while you start running!” I took her advice and fastened my Spibelt with my bib already attached to it around my waist while I booked it out of transition. (I was only in the second transition for 44 seconds!) I was so excited that I almost ran the wrong way out of transition (thank you Matt for guiding me!)

After the swim and the bike, the run definitely did not feel as easy as I expected it to! My legs felt like jelly and my effort felt like a sprint, yet at the same time I also didn’t feel like I was running all that fast, if that makes any sense.

I had also practiced the run course during the race preview, so I knew it was on a narrow, paved trail that was nice and shady. I did pass a lot of people (though it wasn’t clear who was doing the sprint, which had a 5K run at the end, and who was doing the super sprint.) At one point, I passed another woman who said to me, “You are fast as hell!” “Thanks!” I said. “This is the part of the race I’m good at!”

My run time was 14:01, an even 8 minute pace, and I’ll admit I was a little disappointed in that since it was 1.75 miles. I thought I’d be in the low 7s, but then again, this was after swimming and cycling. And it was my first ever tri. So I’ll take it. As you’ll see below, I came in fourth overall on the run and second overall female.

Final stats

I finished 11th out of 62 triathletes, and was sixth out of 43 women. Yay! The final breakdown:

Swim: 40/62 (23/43 females)

Bike: 27/62 (16/43 females)

Run: 4/62 (2/43 females) ——-> It’s pretty obvious what my strong suit is!

I’m pleased with my race and I don’t think this will be my last triathlon. I really enjoyed myself. I don’t have any plans for another one at the moment, but I could see myself doing the sprint version next year!

And you know how I joked that I wanted to beat Micah in the race because he didn’t really train for it?

I beat him by 30 seconds.

I’m trying not to rub it in too much!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2019 Rip It events can be found here. If you’re interested in running any of them, let me know and I’ll share my 15 percent discount code with you!

“Tri”-ing something new: Training for a super sprint triathlon

One of my earliest memories takes place in a pool.

Unfortunately, it’s not a good memory.

I was about two years old, and my parents decided to sign me up for beginner swim lessons at the local YMCA.

While most of the details are fuzzy (I mean, I was two!), I can recall the swim instructor picking me up and saying, “1, 2, 3, DUCK!” (or maybe it was DUNK?!) and plunging me underwater. When she pulled me to the surface after what I assume was just a second or two, I was coughing and crying.

Shockingly, this was not an effective way to teach a toddler to swim, and my parents pulled me out of swim lessons soon after. But a lifelong fear and suspicion of the water took hold, and when they re-enrolled me in swimming lessons at a popular public pool in our town several years later, I refused to put my face in the water. Like, at all. Eventually, after MANY years of lessons, I did learn to get my face wet, and I learned to swim, though not with any real proficiency.

As an adult, most of the “swimming” I’ve done has consisted of splashing around in the shallow end of a pool, preferably with a drink in my hand.

Until now. Because I’m doing my first (maybe only?!) triathlon in a week!

What possessed me to sign up for such a thing when I’m kind of afraid of the water? Rip It Events is holding its inaugural Columbia Association Triathlon, which features a super sprint and a sprint option. The super sprint is four pool laps, followed by a 5-mile bike ride and a 1.75-mile run. Surely I can do four pool laps, I thought when I signed up at the beginning of the year. (Full disclosure: As a Rip It ambassador, I am doing this race for free. But I have a 15 percent discount code to share if you want to do it, too! Send me a message if so!)

I admit training for this most definitely took a backseat to Boston training, so by the time May rolled around, I knew I needed pool time stat. I recruited my friend Kree, swimmer extraordinare and two-time Ironman triathlon finisher, to help me during my first swim practice. I warned her that it would be rough, and she assured me she would be patient and we could get Mexican food and margaritas afterwards. (I can be easily bribed with food and drink.)  

The day of my first practice, I was SO nervous and even questioned whether I really wanted to do this. I mean, I didn’t pay anything to enter the race — I could bail and it totally wouldn’t be a big deal. Except I’d told a bunch of friends I was doing it, and I knew they’d be disappointed if I chickened out. So, I sucked it up and met Kree at the North Arundel Aquatic Center for my first swim lesson in decades.

We walked in and the smell of chlorine took me right back to the 1980s. Anxiety washed over me immediately. Isn’t it crazy how smells can just do that to you? “Welcome to my happy place!” Kree said, totally serious. Get me the eff out of here, I thought to myself.

We suited up and walked out to the pool and I still wanted to run away, but I gingerly lowered myself into the pool and tried to acclimate to the water. “Want me to show you how I swim?” I asked Kree. “Sure,” she said.

I swam to the other end of the pool, head out of the water and freestyling the whole way. That’s not so bad, I thought. Then I swam back. OK, that was harder. But hey, I’m only swimming four laps, so I’m half done!  

“Good job!” Kree said. “But let’s try getting your face in the water now.”

“Ugh, OK. But hey! I made it halfway!”

“Uh, no,” she said. “It’s four laps. That’s eight pool lengths.”

Well, crap.

Kree showed me how to blow bubbles underwater and take a breath when I lifted my head up. Sounds simple, and I’m sure I learned this all those years ago in swimming lessons — and yet actually doing it was a huge mental hurdle for me. Honestly, if I had accomplished nothing else that day, I would have considered that a victory! But I actually did swim a few laps with my face in the water. It wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t fast, but I did it. And man, I was TIRED afterwards.. So tired. How do people like Kree swim 2.4 MILES in Ironmans? I can’t fathom it. I guess a lot of people think that about marathons, though!

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First real swim in years! 

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Will swim for margs

Since then, I’ve gone once or twice a week to the county’s other Olympic swim center that’s close to my home and work. It’s not easy, but it’s getting easier (I still get anxious when I smell the chlorine! It’s hard to undo all those years of believing that the pool is a scary place where someone is just going to dunk my head underwater suddenly.) I do need to take a breather in between laps, but because this is a pool swim, that shouldn’t be a problem on race day. I’m totally fine being a slow swimmer — as this is my first triathlon, I just want to finish without completely embarrassing myself!   

I’ve even convinced my husband to do the triathlon, too. He claims he doesn’t need to train and that “swimming is like walking” to him. I joked that my only goal is to beat him because he’s not taking it seriously, but I might not be able to. In addition to being a very strong swimmer, he’s faster and more comfortable on the bike. I get nervous about going too fast and having an accident. My running race pace is about three minutes per mile faster than his, but I don’t know if that can make up for the swim and bike portions!  

We went swimming together this morning and after I swam my first lap, he giggled (yes, actually giggled) and said, “Good job, sweetie! You are trying so hard!” He might as well have added a “bless your heart!” afterwards. Then later he said, “It will be nice to actually beat you in a race.”

Whatever. I’m just going to “tri” my best….. That’s all I can do, right?

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Goofing around after laps

A hilly Herald Harbor 5K

For the second year in a row, I ran the Herald Harbor 5K with my friend Cindy. Last year, I was the first female finisher, but didn’t get a medal because those went to the top three overall finishers, both male and female. I finished sixth. This year, I had heard that the top three finishers were getting trophies, so I was hopeful that I could run fast enough for a trophy! I’ve been doing a lot of speedwork this past month in hopes that I can get better at 5Ks, so I was optimistic.

No such luck. Even though I was about a minute faster than I was last year, I finished third female and eighth overall. There were some fast people this year, and I got passed early enough in the race that I knew within the first mile I would not be in the top three. Finish time was 21:34, but the course was short. My watch measured 2.9 miles, so if it had been a true 5K, I’m guessing I would have been in the high 22s. The hills of Herald Harbor got me, again! (I have not done a damn bit of hill training since Boston, although my neighborhood does have rolling hills.)

Cindy, who lives in Herald Harbor and runs on the hills regularly, did great, beating her time last year by about three minutes! The race raises money for a new pavilion at the community’s park. It’s a fun and low-key race, and I definitely recommend it as long as you aren’t going for a PR, since the course is short. 

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Cindy and I afterwards

 

 

 

 

My running goals for 2019

Happy New Year! This year is already off to a good start, running-wise. Today I ran Charm City Run’s Resolution Run 5K in Baltimore and finished second in my age group with a time of 23:54. To be honest, that was my slowest 5K in years! There are a few reasons why I believe that was the case:

  1. It was at 2 pm, which makes fueling a challenge! Usually I like to eat my bagel, peanut butter and half a banana in the morning for breakfast before a race– today, we slept in (duh, last night was New Year’s Eve), then got up and made omelettes before heading out about two hours later. By the time my husband and I got to Baltimore and lined up at the start, I was hungry again! I might not have made it had it been a longer race.
  2. There was a loooonngg hill at mile 2 that really took the gas out of me.
  3. It was so windy. It actually felt like an early spring day — I believe it was about 60 degrees — but running into the wind is never any fun.
  4. I didn’t feel 100 percent. No, not because I was hungover (seriously!) We went to Florida for Christmas and both brought home coughs. I feel mostly OK, but I’m sure it had an impact — once I crossed the finish line, I started coughing hard immediately.

I really enjoyed this race, though. It was held in Patterson Park in Baltimore, which is a lovely park, and proceeds benefited Earl’s Place, which helps men in the city who are homeless. Afterward, runners got chili (and there was a vegetarian option!) and cornbread, plus there was an epic cookie spread. Yum!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for 2019, which is a big year for me because I get to run the Boston Marathon on April 15! That is obviously going to be my main focus for the next few months, but I have a lot of other plans, too.

  1. I am going to race a triathlon. I can’t believe I am going to do this. I can barely swim! So it looks like I’ll need to take some refresher lessons. Rip It Events’ Columbia Association Triathlon in June has two options: A sprint and a super sprint. The super sprint, which is what I am going to do, is a 200 yard swim, a 5 mile bike ride and a 1.75 mile run, and fortunately, the swim is in a pool (open water freaks me the hell out.) This is so far out of my comfort zone — in addition to not being a good swimmer, I do not excel at sprinting anything — but hey, why not? As a Rip It ambassador, I am racing this tri for free. I do have a 15 percent discount code to share with anyone who is interested, so if you would like to sign up, let me know! 
  2. I would like to run a sub-1:40 half marathon. I have run 17 half marathons, with a two-year-old PR of 1:41:01. I have yet to actually follow a training plan for a half — I just kinda wing it. Maybe if I followed an actual half marathon plan, I could see some real improvements in my time. We’ll see. I’m already signed up for two halfs late in 2019 — the half at the Baltimore Running Festival in October and the Rehoboth Seashore Half in December — so I guess my training for those will depend a lot upon my training for a bigger race in the fall. Which brings me to my next goal….
  3. I need to settle on a fall marathon — or maybe something more? I have long said that I have no interest in going beyond 26.2 miles, but one of my friends was raving about an ultramarathon he did in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area a few years ago and encouraged me to consider it. It’s a 50K, so not THAT much more than a marathon … right? I’m torn. I really love the 26.2 distance and am already thinking about trying to shoot for a 2021 BQ, since I will be in a new age group. (Yet my standard will still be 3:40, thanks to the recent changes the Boston Athletic Association made to the qualifying times.) If I do run a fall marathon in 2019, it will either be Steamtown in Scranton, Pa., Marine Corps, Philly or Richmond. Gah! So many marathons I would love to run. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

What are your goals for 2019?