I finally participated in an open water swim triathlon! This day has been a good two years in the making! Two years ago I decided that if I wanted to get into the triathlon world I needed to study. I bought Sally Edwards Book, Triathlons for Women and quickly read it cover to cover. Yet I was so nervous about the transition phases of the triathlon (many will tell you they are an additional two phases of the triathlon and actually when your time is broken down there is a section for T1 & T2). So to help calm my nerves and continue my studies I volunteered for a triathlon. Troy and I volunteered for the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon back in 2011 and I purposely worked the transition area so I could watch what happened and what to do/not do. I learned so much about the triathlon world that day and highly recommend volunteering for a triathlon if you’re interested in learning more or seeing what this tri stuff is all about.
In 2012 I volunteered for the Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon again at a whopping 36 weeks pregnant. Oh I forgot to mention that we camped out, yes camped as in a tent, for the weekend in 2011 & 2012. My love for the Jekyll Island tri was solidified and I was determined to participate in 2013.
So when registration opened up for the 2013 Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Sprint Triathlon I signed up! I sadly had to tell the volunteer coordinator that I wouldn’t be helping out this year because of it but I did see her the night before and the day of the race which was nice. The weekend before the event I went does to the beach to check it out and feel how “cold” the water was. I ended up sun burnt but it wasn’t too bad. It was no where near as cold as some people make it out to be. During the week my Dad came down to visit and help me out with the kiddos during the event. 2013 was much different than in the past not just because I was actually participating in the tri but also because we stayed in a hotel!
Thanks Dad for footing the bill for a hotel!
The night before the race we went to the pasta dinner in the convention center (it opened up about a year ago – gorgeous! I’m a personal fan of the little hatchling sea turtles on the floors leading out to the ocean).
Not gonna lie I really never settled! I was nervous! Plus I was sharing a double bed with my three bed hog kiddos. I was literally awake every hour! I was relieved when my alarm went off at 4:30AM and I could get up and get going. Since we had such a big day the day before my dad and I decided it would be best to let the kids sleep until they woke up and then I’d return when I was done and we would all head back over for the nest fest (visit Jekyll Island and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for more info on nesting season).
At 5:00 AM I loaded up and headed over to put my gear in the transition area. When I took out my bike I noticed that the front tire was deflated a little so I took out my small hand held pump to inflate it and…nothing. I thought well maybe it’s because I used a small pump and it’s just not working as fast as I want to so I took out my floor pump and…nothing. I thought we’ll maybe it’s me so I took my stuff and headed to the transition area. Once I found my spot in the transition area I attempted to inflate it again and…nothing! I started to get an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. Luckily I saw a few people I knew from Team FCA Endurance and they told me some bike shops were supposed to be here to help with any pre-race maintenance. I asked the race official where they were and he sent someone to find out. When she came back I grabbed my bike and pump and attempted to find them. Well it was very dark out because of how turtle friendly Jekyll Island is and I tripped over a parking spot “fry” and down I went with my bike. I got up, picked up my bike and even though I couldn’t see much it sounded like my chain came off as well. I went over to where I was told a bike mechanic would be and…no one was there. I began to feel nauseated and walked back to the transition area and told the official that I still couldn’t find them. Luckily a gentleman from http://swimbikerunboro.com/ over heard me, said he was set up, and took my bike to his tent. Finally in partial light I saw my leg all cut up as I explained to the bike mechanic what happened.
I was right about my chain and he showed me how to put the chain back on my bike; which I do know how to do I just don’t like to get my hands all greasy. He then attempted to pump up my tire and…nothing! Aaahhhh! He asked if I had any extra tubes and alas no I didn’t and that sinking feeling in my stomach grew and I wanted to cry. I really missed my bike mechanic, my hubby, Troy, because nope I didn’t have a spare tube with me and I know Troy wouldn’t have let me leave without spare tubes and his tools. The bike mechanic asked one of his buddies if he had a tube handy and he didn’t. So he said he had some extras of his own with his tri gear and went over and got me a new tube. Don’t ask my how but somehow the valve stem on the tube broke. (Ugh those were new). While my bike was being worked on I heard and then saw (note: bring a head lamp next time) my new friend and was glad we were able to easily meet up. I told her where our area was and when I got back there we all said “it can only go up from here!” By golly was that true! I went over and got my chip and when I came back was telling my friend about how I couldn’t find my race belt for my bib (I put things away so well I don’t know where I put them). Luckily she had an extra and got it for me. There was another girl near me asking about how to put her running bib on and since I had a race belt to use I gave her my pins. I noticed that many of the ladies in our area were novice / very new to the tri scene. Since I had worked this event for the past two years and scoped the course out really well the night before I described it to them. The race official just so happened to over hear me and gave me a thumbs up for explaining it so well. The sinking feeling in my stomach started to fade.
Around 6:30AM we headed over to the FCA tent for the Athletes Creed and a prayer. I have met some amazing people through that group and I am very thankful for that. Just before 7:00AM we went to the beach and got ready for the swim start.
While on the beach we discussed the swim (oops I didn’t realize it was a 600) and how to go around the buoys and many of us agreed that we didn’t think the water felt cold. They had said the water was 72 which makes it wet suit legal (under 78). Besides the possibility of critters, I was a bit nervous about the scrape on my leg stinging. When it was time to split into our waves I wished my friends good luck and said I’d see them at the finish. As we neared the edge of the water a new nervousness set in. I dipped my toes in the water and it felt nice, not cold. The starter counted us down: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-GO! We ran into the water then when I couldn’t run anymore I dove in. Aahhh it was dark! I popped up and swam breaststroke a bit. I tried to swim my normal freestyle but I quickly realized between the crowd and the darkness of the water freaking me out I couldn’t do that so I switched to lateral breathing on my left so I could easily spot the buoy to swim around. Once around the buoy and on the swim course I switched to backstroke for a bit to relax. I switched back to lateral breathing on my left freestyle so I could stay on course and spot the buoys that marked the way. Plus the murkiness of the water made me anxious. Shortly after I passed the first buoy my goggles were bugging me so I decided to tread and fix them. When I went to tread I noticed that I could touch the bottom. Sweet! Being able to touch the bottom made me feel a bit better. I adjusted my goggles and kept swimming. Next thing I knew I was swimming around the finish buoy and back to the shore. I saw that some people were walking so I put my foot down to walk and ick I didn’t like how it felt so I kept swimming until my hands touched the bottom then I got up, took off my goggles and cap and ran into transition. My feet were sandy and icky and I tried to not dilly dally too much in transition. I took a big swig of water to help get the salt water taste out of my mouth and ran out of transition and to the mount line. I mounted my bike and…my left foot wouldn’t clip in. I felt uneasy but finally got it in (I really need to invest in some new cleats).
I headed down the road and was past mile one in no time. Oops I forgot to reset my bike computer so I took a look at it and saw it was at 21 miles so it worked out just right for my tracking purposes. I was cruising pretty good around 18 mph for the first 4 miles and then between being slightly distracted by the beauty of the island and noticing that my wheel really needs to be trued (probably because my bike slammed to the ground when I fell) my pace slowed to about 16 mph. I started to pray the rosary as I cruised along, not really paying much attention to my speed but just trying to take a moment to thank God for be being able to even be on the bike at this moment because of how the morning started (I actually do keep rosary beads in my saddle bag). After the rosary the song Mad was stuck in my head and I peddled along. Only frustrating thing was how much I noticed my bike needs some adjustments because it wasn’t as smooth and comfortable to drop into my aerobars and my saddle didn’t felt too far forward. It made me really want a new tri bike. It’s on my list but I think I’ll wait until Troy can go with me and for when I’m into some longer distances. Next thing I knew I was around the island and heading into transition. My dismount wasn’t that smooth (again I need some new cleats) but at least I didn’t fall.
I ran my bike in, racked it, took off my helmet and switched into my newtons. My transition from bike to run seemed pretty quick, thanks to my friend loaning me a race belt (note: buy an extra). On the way to the run course I took a swig of water at the water station to help get rid of that salt water taste still in my mouth. I had no clue how fast I was running (I’ve actually debated getting a GPS watch to help me with that yet alas I’ve yet to invest in one) because my legs felt so awkward from getting off the bike (note: do more brick training). I saw lots of the 5K participants going by (many of them were walking but hey at least they were out there). At mile 1 I was thankful for the water/powerade station and I took a cup or powerade to help me get that icky salt water out of my mouth once and for all. As I left the station I knew the turn around point wasn’t that much further. I saw our hotel and hoped that the kiddos were either sleeping or being well behaved for Grandpa. When I got to the turn around point I said “woohoo almost done” and the volunteer guy said everyone loves this spot, I thanked him for volunteering as well (I try to thank all the volunteers on the course especially the ones directing me on the or else I’d probably get lost. Please take a moment to shout out thanks to the volunteers because these events wouldn’t be possible without them). Once I was turned around I saw lots of peeps and we high fives and shouted words of encouragement to each other (some of the people I had literally just met that morning – I love it)! Once I passed the water station again I knew I was on the homestretch and had about a mile to go so I picked up my pace a bit better to finish strong. When I turned into the finish I stopped my watch and it read 1:37:55 not too shabby I thought. I thanked all of the volunteers there and it warmed my heart to see the group exceptional high schoolers handing out water to the athletes. I didn’t see too many sprint tri bibs hanging around and I thought huh maybe I did better than I thought and so I headed back to transition to grab my gear. Luckily the race director allowed me to take my gear out of transition so I could go back to the hotel. The tough thing about doing these races is that I’m still a nursing mama and can feel when it’s about time for my baby Ceci to eat again. I think being a breastfeeding mama has actually helped me push my limits more too because of that.
I went back to the hotel and the kiddos had just gotten up. Grandpa Billiam was changing Ceci’s diaper (way to go dad for changing a cloth diaper). I took a quick shower to wash off the body marker, sand, salt, chain grease, and clean up my leg real good. When I got out of the shower I noticed I had a text message from my friend letting me know I got first place in my age group – I was shocked (she got first place in her category as well which is amazing since it was her first tri)! I wanted to cry I couldn’t believe it, this day had been a good two years in the making and I kicked its butt! We all loaded up and headed to the Nestfest for the awards ceremony and other activities. When we got there and I saw the board with my name at the top of my age group (30-34, see in the triathlon world you race based on the year you were born because there are other rankings and such so that way you stay in the same group all season and there’s no confusion) it seemed so surreal (my watch wasn’t that far off either the time posted was 1:37:28).
At the Nestfest I met up with some friends and we checked out all the cool turtle activities as well. Then when it came time for awards and I heard my name called, I wanted to cry. Seriously this medal was a team effort – huge thanks to the bike mechanic that helped me out that morning; plus to my dad for watching the kiddos, my friend Jennifer for the race belt, team FCA endurance for the prayers and support, Maggie for letting me volunteer at the transition area for the past two years, Troy for his encouragement, Megan for watching Toby…the list goes on and on! I cannot thank you all enough for all of your well wishes for this event, for all the love and support, etc. this age group win was not just for me it’s for all of you!