Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Race Report: YWCA of Minneapolis Women's Tri

Short story: I did it! And it was awesome!

Long story: What a fantastic experience. First, I had such a great time with my friends. They're such amazing, hilarious ladies and I love them to bits. Any time we get together is always a blast, and this was no exception. (And as an aside, we were interviewed for an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It was pretty fun to see a brief history of our friendship in print!)

The tri experience began Saturday with a smooth packet pick-up and informative course talk. The race organizers took the time to thoroughly explain all the nuances of the course and the race basics, which was especially helpful for us tri newbies. After that, we drove to the lake so Michelle and I could take a quick dip and get a feel for the water. The water was gorgeous--clear and clean and, as far as I could tell, fishless--although a bit more chilly than what I'm used to. (I think official temp was 76.) But we got in a short swim and I know it helped me a great deal just to see where the "magic" would happen. Organizers were setting up the transition areas while we were there, so we got to see a basic layout of things, too. After our swim--and a short downpour--Becky, the local of the group, took us out on the bike route so we could scope it out. Again, immensely helpful for me as I could finally visualize the area, see the hills and rough spots and get a better idea of what was in store.

After the bike course tour and a carb-y dinner, we headed home to pack our bags and set out our gear and rest up for our big day.

Race Day!
My day started with a surprise--my alarm didn't go off! Guess I should remember to make sure my iPod is fully charged before I decide to use it as my alarm clock. Luckily M had set HER alarm, and since we were sleeping in the same room, I woke when she did. After a quick shower, a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast, we were on the road. The sun rose as we arrived at the lake--it was still a bit chilly and foggy, but we could tell it was going to be a gorgeous day.

We quickly found our assigned rack and set up our transition areas. Michelle had purchased a huuuuge mylar unicorn balloon to mark our spot, so we got her all settled in, knowing she'd guide us back to our transition area safely. The area was bustling with activity and nervous energy. It was reassuring to see plenty of other first-timers--or at least participants who were NOT professionals/elites--and I felt much less intimidated than I thought I would. Then we picked up chips and got marked up (fun!) and double-triple-quadruple-checked our transition spots one last time and left the area so we could find the pre-race meeting.

Our wave was the second-to-last group to go, so we had plenty of time to stand around and watch everyone else get started. About the time the third or fourth wave got going, I noticed something familiar floating in the sky. Yep, our unicorn balloon had set itself free and was floating it's way to the heavens, to join the great rainbow in the sky. Sigh...

Soon enough our wave was queueing up, and every three minutes we moved a little closer to the shore. By now I was starting to get nervous and had quite a bit of excess energy. When we got to the final staging area, I thought I would burst from anticipation. I forced myself to take some deep breaths just to settle my nerves and to (hopefully) keep myself from getting out of breath as soon as I hit the water. Next thing I know they're giving us the 30-second warning. I give my girls the biggest hug I can muster and then we're off!

The Swim!
I stay to the back left (we were doing right-turns) as advised, and the first 50yds or so was the chaos you'd imagine it would be. I imagine the Buddy Waves we were in were considerably less competitive than the regular age group waves, so no one was too crazy and I even got an apology from someone who kicked me. About halfway to the first buoy, I knew I needed to find a clear spot or else I'd never get my rhythm so I managed to maneuver around a few folks to get away from the fray. From then on it was smooth swimming. I felt AWESOME. Water temp was in the mid-70s--brisk and refreshing but not freezing cold--my breathing was great, and I fell right into a good rhythm. I managed to stay on course and never had any sighting issues. Next thing I knew, I was rounding the final buoy and was on the long stretch for the beach. At this point I was still feeling great and decided to bump up the speed a little bit. I cranked it home and swam until my hands fully touched bottom and then I was up. I walked in until the water was low on my legs, so as not to waste too much energy. I really could've kept walking all the way up the beach, but I remembered I was in a race and probably should at least TRY to speed it up. ;)

Swim: 11:25 (Super pleased with that time. Zero complaints.)

Transition 1!
I hit the baby pools to rinse my feet and ran in to transition. Oy. Transition. Since I had my fancy tri suit, I didn't have much to do except put on my helmet, glasses and shoes, pound a couple Shot Bloks and grab my bike. Easy-peasy, right? For some reason, I could NOT get my shoes tied properly and had to re-tie my right one three times. Sheesh. Then I couldn't get my bike off the rack. Then once I did, I knocked it over. Then as I was leaving I tried riding it away from the rack, but luckily my friend Laura caught me and reminded me I couldn't ride it until I was at the mount line. Oy. What a flustered nightmare. At least I remembered to eat my Shot Bloks! I finally got out of there in one piece and hit the road.

T1: 5:49 (Hahaha!)

The bike!
There's not a whole lot to say about the bike course. It was long, but it was beautiful. It took us through some lovely park areas, across the river, by some beautiful houses. It was shady and had just enough downhills to give your legs a bit of a rest. A few uphills too, but nothing awful. My only issue was that my rental bike seat cut into my leg in a spot I wasn't used to--or perhaps I should've raised my seat a bit?--so I was getting some pretty bad leg/glute pain/cramps from about mile 5 onward. It made for a very, VERY long ride. I kept trying to stand and stretch that area or adjust myself on the seat to take pressure off, but nothing helped for very long. I was extremely happy when I found myself at the end of that ride. I hit the dismount line and hopped off with every intention of running in, but opting to give my legs a little walk/stretch break instead.

Bike: 1:02:52 (Totally pleased with this time, especially considering how uncomfortable i was the whole time.)

Transition 2!
Thankfully T2 went much smoother than T1. I was able to re-rack my bike much faster than it took me to un-rack it, and that was blissfully uneventful. I ditched my helmet, bandana and glasses, slid into my faux-race belt (the headband that goes to my LED headlamp), threw on my running hat and downed another Shot Blok and some water.

T2: 2:36

The run!
Our bike rack was right near the Run In entrance, so I was on the course in no time. My legs had the typical post-bike wobbles, but I expected them and took it slow and easy at first. I made it to the first aide station and had some water and dumped ice down my shirt. Ahhhh.... By now I was feeling good--it usually takes me about a mile into any run to get loosened up and find my groove, and this race was no exception. I was feeling good and was able to pass a few folks (and not just the walkers). About mile 2, I started to get a little grumpy. The run course took us all the way around the lake, and by now I was on the opposite side as the finish and the other side looked so far away. It HAD to be more than a mile to the finish line! Ugh. I grabbed another drink at the Mile 2 station and pushed on, vowing that I was NOT going to allow myself to walk this course, with the exception of aid stations. So I kept on, trying to think about other things--the scenery, other people's outfits, what kind of snack I'd have later--just to keep my mind off the distance. Soon enough I was rounding a bend and could hear the finish line announcer and the cheering crowd. I could also see a few finishers coming back to greet friends or just on their way home. I asked one of them how much farther I had left, and she told me I had just about a 1/3 of a mile! So close! Finally, I rounded the last curve and could see the big orange arch that signaled the finish line. Spectators and athletes were lining the walk, cheering folks on into the finish. I got a sudden burst of adrenaline and energy and gave it one final sprint, trying to smile the whole way in. I saw M there, and gave her a big high-five as I ran in, and she was waiting for me at the finish line to give me a big hug.

I DID IT! It was over and I DID IT!

Run: 33:32 (10:48 pace) Completely, totally, 100% happy with that.

Final finish time: 1:56:13 Overall place: 709 of 972 Age group: 145 of 190

I grabbed some water and M and I waited for Becky and Laura to come in. Becky wasn't too far behind me, and her mom ran with her to the finish. (So sweet!) Laura wasn't too far behind Becky, and Michelle and I were able to run across the finish line with her. Everyone finished with a smile on their face and, I hope, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment.

It was a fantastic experience from start to finish. The event was well-run, had great post-race food, a supportive atmposphere and a beautiful venue. I couldn't have asked for a better experience for my first triathlon, and I was honored that I got to do it with three of my best friends. What an amazing day! Pics to come, eventually. ;)

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