It was 1997 and I was a week away from turning 13. I cannot recall the exact temperature but from what I do remember, it was a comfortable, sunny day and I felt honored that my dad was allowing me to do a triathlon with him. I had done plenty of swimming and biking despite my young age, but not a whole lot of running unless it was to chase after something. Either way, I was fresh and full of energy.
I made it through the race and finished a few minutes before my dad.
A few weeks after the race I received a medal in the mail. As it turns out, I had won a medal for getting first place in the 12 and under age group. “What did you get, dad?” He still remembers my obnoxious question. I won something and I was proud of it.
Fast forward 16 years and here I am doing another triathlon. Ashley had asked me for weeks to do the Lebanon Triathlon with her and I refused, stating that I wanted to watch her do another one before I committed to doing one myself. However, to my surprise, the opportunity popped up and I found out two days before race day that I needed to be ready because I was doing it also.
Ashley was in charge of setting everything out the night before our race. I was nervous enough; the last thing I needed was to forget something that was essential to my getting through the day.
I did pay attention to what she did, though; she broke it down into sports. I’ll try to remember everything we had that day. There is a list in the triathlon book I am reading but it has a few extra items I am unable to identify so they were clearly not necessary. 🙂
Before the race:
-Tri-suit (or swim suit)
-Sweatshirt and sweatpants (because it was 45 degrees)
-Sweatshirt (because it was 50 degrees)
-Bike shorts if not wearing a tri suit
Optional: some people will want to wear their watches as well… I on the other hand don’t have one nor do I think I need one since I seem to do just fine without. Be sure to have air in your bike tires as well…get the bike ready a day or two in advance.
I felt (and slept) better knowing that Ashley had prepared everything for me so I didn’t have to worry or risk forgetting something. The morning of the race was fairly easy since everything had been laid out the night before. We arrived at the state park about 30 minutes before bikes had to be in transition, then set our bikes where they needed to be. We set everything out according to the order in which we would complete each sport. I had the honor of wearing a brand new tri suit so I didn’t have to worry about wearing a swim suit and dealing with bike shorts later. I wore my flip flops and long sleeves/pants to the race, I put my socks in my running shoes (I bike in my running shoes), my sunglasses with my helmet and my towel in front for easy access. My hat was in back so I could grab it before I started running.
A few minutes before 8:00 we left our warm clothes (I really had to psych myself up for that) and headed over to the pool area. By this time it was still about 50 degrees out, not much of a breeze which was nice, but we were standing on the concrete around the pool which caused our feet to be numb after about 15 minutes. The race director asked us to line up in numerical order, made a few announcements and let us know that we would be starting about 3 seconds after the swimmer in front of us. 6-10 people would stand in the water at a time, waiting for their turn to start the swim. The director also mentioned that we were allowed to move back in line but not forward. Since Ashley and I were 100 numbers apart, she moved back and started around 210 since I was 216. This way we would finish swimming closer to each other and possibly be able to do the rest of the race together (she promised she would do my first one with meJ ).
As I stood on the pool deck (concrete) I tried to keep my blood circulating by moving my feet a bit. It didn’t work too well since the concrete was so cold, but it made me feel better knowing I was doing what I could to warm up a little.
As we got closer to the pool, I remember Ashley glancing back at me, and I realized this was it. We really had to do this. I had heard people saying earlier that the pool water felt decent since it was warmer than the outside temperature, so I had my hopes up. The tall, athletic-looking woman directly in front of me in line was covered in goose bumps as she told me that she had recently become a triathlete. She said her main passion is biking but she had recently picked up swimming. She said she ran only when she had to. This gave me the idea that I may catch her during the swim, but since this was my first time swimming with others in several years, I had hoped she would be fast and I wouldn’t have to worry about passing her.
It was time to get in. I tried not to think about it too much; all I had going through my head was that there were hundreds of other people doing this also, and they all seemed to be fine, so I shouldn’t have any trouble. I eased my way in, and although it was certainly cold, it was not completely unbearable. Every three seconds, another swimmer took off. Ashley pushed off the wall and began her swim. I moved up in line as I waited for my own turn. I got about half of my body under water and decided the rest would be forced to get in when I no longer had a choice.
The lady in front of me took off and I waited for them to say “216….go.” I went under water and pushed off the wall with both feet. The water was certainly cold but still not unbearable, or so I thought. I made it down to the end of the pool. I just had to do that three more times. Breathing was quickly becoming difficult and I had to breathe every two strokes rather than every three as I usually do. My oxygen level was so low that I started to hyperventilate. I quickly convinced myself that I was okay and I just needed to keep moving even if I had to slow down. How had everyone else made this look so easy while I was watching from the side? I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was breathing that way because I was freezing or if it was due to nerves. Either way, I got through it somehow and finished my swim.
I walked a few steps before I started running (slowly) to transition. Once I got to my area, I dried off quickly and started layering; sweatshirt, socks and shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I headed out for my 10 mile bike. It was a slightly hilly 5 mile loop that we had to repeat once.
My body would not warm up. My hands and feet were extremely cold and uncomfortable and I still had a hard time breathing. I managed to keep Ashley within eyesight as I made it through the 10 miles. As I finished my second loop, I dismounted before the green line as instructed. Although I knew every second counted, I was too cold and stiff to run. I walked my bike over to my place in transition and took my helmet off. I proudly put on “my Da Bears hat,” slowly worked my way into a jog as I merged through the transition exit with Ashley by my side and headed out for the third and final part of the race. Running was hard. Our legs were stiff and our feet were in pain since they were so cold and still wet. We walked/jogged through the two miles and tried our best to just get through it.
The good thing is that it wasn’t a dull course and there were plenty of other triathletes suffering around us! The run was a loop also, mostly through the campground area of the state park, so the scenery was pretty and there were plenty of people around.
As we ran up the very last hill, with about 200 m left, a lady heading out on her run yelled for the man beside us and said “great job, dad!” This made me think of all the races I have done with my dad and how encouraging it is that he does races with me! It was exactly what I needed to get through the last bit of the run.
We made it up the last hill, turned toward the finish and made it through!
It felt so good to stop running but it only took about 30 seconds before I was immediately freezing.
We were not able to get into the transition area yet since the last runner had not gone out of there yet, but luckily we had been thinking ahead. We packed a bag of warm clothes and we gave it to Kim, who came to support us. We were able to change clothes and it felt good to have dry pants on, but I had forgotten my sweatshirt. I was so cold that I had a hard time eating the food they had out for the triathletes. We were offered drinks that I was too cold to hold. I figured out a place to set a drink, however, when I found out we each received two cans of Rammer Jammer, an Alabama beer that I quickly fell in love with.
Although I put up a big fight when I was originally asked to do this triathlon, I have to say I am very happy that the opportunity to do this race was placed in my lap. I had a hard time due to the lack of training and the bitter cold temperatures, but once I was finished (and warm), I realized how much I had enjoyed it. I couldn’t wait to see the results and photos, and I couldn’t wait to hang up my finisher’s medal at home because I was proud of my accomplishment even though I didn’t win anything for my age group this time. 🙂