Saturday, July 26, 2014

Echo Olympic Triathlon 2014

I can not believe how nervous I was for this race!

It had been almost 2 years since my last tri.

I felt sick with nerves for like 2 days leading up to this race and I was even to the point where I was mad at myself for signing up and having it disrupt my life so much!

But race morning came and I got up right when my alarm went off at 4am, got ready and got out of the house pretty much on schedule. I got to the little town of Coalville at a little after 5:30, which is when they opened transition. For this race, you park at the high school in town, then ride your bike a few miles to the lake where the finish line and transition area are set up. I had to go get my number, timing chip and body marked before I could set up in transition because we were assigned spots according to our numbers. I was number 71 which I thought was a cool number. The lady who was right next to me, number 70, was really nice and this was going to be her first Olympic distance tri so it was fun to talk to and be excited for her.

I was feeling pretty good, telling everyone that I've been doing tris for 10 years (It's actually only been 9!) and handing out advice and encouragement to anyone who seemed like they needed it. I had a lot of time to set up my transition area and get my wetsuit on. Then we found out that we would be starting 15 minutes late and I was a little annoyed because that meant it would just be that much later (and hotter) when we finished. But that is to be expected at pretty much any tri.

I met a few more people who were doing their first tri when I went down to the water. I acted all calm and gave them some pointers, the number one being to stay calm when you start the swim. To just stick your face in and focus on your breathing. I didn't realize how much I would need to follow my own advice!

We watched the people from Push To The Finish come out of their water with the people they were pulling and we all cheered so loud! I realized that this was why our start had been pushed back, and I was not annoyed  any more. It was so inspiring! I remember seeing one little kid in a raft waving to everyone as they came in, looking so happy. It was so great! It was fun to see them out there on the rest of the course as well.

I got in the water for a short warm up, then suddenly it was time for the first wave to get into position. The first wave included a good portion of the Olympic distance age groupers, and also the elite athletes.

The gun went off and I started swimming, then everything changed. My confidence totally disappeared. I felt so disoriented and claustrophobic. The sun was shining in my eyes on the right, it was pitch black when I put my face in the water, and I could only see a short distance in front of me. I tried just to follow all the other swim caps and keep swimming, but a voice in my head started saying, "I don't want to do this! Why am I doing this? What am I doing? I don't even care about finishing, I just want to get out of this water!" I was so scared, and started looking around for the nearest kayak or boat, and there weren't really any nearby. I rolled onto my back for a few seconds and tried to just breath.

I realized that even if I wanted to get into a boat and drop out of the race, I'd have to swim over to one. I started reminding myself that I was a good swimmer, that I have done this many times, and that I would be OK. I decided to wipe my goggles off and that actually helped a lot! Now I could at least see where I was going! I just needed to start sticking my face back into that dark water, blowing bubbles, and counting. "1, 2, 3, breathe, 1, 2, 3, site..." So that's what I started doing. And the panic went away almost immediately. I was going to be ok!

I was reminded of a Mormon Expression Voices podcast that I had just recently listened to with a guy who had really bad panic attacks that would affect his every day life. He explained that he had to start letting the panic just wash over him, feel the fear, embrace it, and then it would go away. That was kind of what I experienced out there. I got into my groove and finished the first lap, then headed out on for another go around. As I got to the first buoy of the second lap, it started to get crowded, and I started to feel that fear again. This time I looked at that fear and said, "Bring it on!" I reminded myself that THIS is why I do triathlons. I don't do it because it's easy. I do it because it is freaking scary out there! And IT IS AWESOME! Overcoming that fear and doing hard things is why I do triathlons. And, oh yeah, I love swimming! I just had fun the rest of the swim. I actually found myself feeling sad that the swim was over when I got to the end.

I had gone into this race with the goal of coming out of the water less than 4th in my age group because that's where I ended up last time I did Echo, and my times in the pool have improved a lot this year. Turns out I was 4th in my age group out of the water again! I was still pretty happy with my time, considering it included a small panic attack, and it was almost 4 minutes faster than last time. It really makes me want to do another one without the panic attack! How fast could I be then?

SWIM TIME (1.5k) - 29:50

I didn't really rush through transition. It took me forever to get my wetsuit off and shoes on, but I was ok with that. Seriously, I hadn't even practiced that for almost 2 years so I was not planning on being fast in transition.

T1 TIME: 3:37

The bike was just really fun. I got passed by a LOT of people! But, with everyone who passed me I was able to think, "I beat them in the swim!" Of course, that's not completely true because some of those people would have been in different waves than me, but still, I didn't let it get to me. Besides, I had really not gotten out on my bike as much as I would have liked anyway so I just tried to enjoy it. There's a pretty long, sustained but not too steep uphill leading to the turn around so it's really fun to come back down!  Towards the end, though, you have to go up a pretty steep hill. I got a side ache, which never happens to me on the bike so that was weird, and a ton of people passed me at this point. I was worried about how my run would be after biking because I hadn't practiced that at all either so I didn't push it on the bike as much as I could have, and I took some time trying to get that side ache to go away.

BIKE TIME (40k) - 1:22:06

Again, I had a pretty slow transition, making sure to apply a lot of sunscreen before heading out on the run. I also stopped at the port-o-potties just outside of transition so that time was added onto my run. Grrr. But you gotta do what you gotta do! For some reason my T2 time didn't show up in my results, and I'm not willing to do the math to figure out what it was...

I started my garmin after I left the port-o-pottie which I knew wasn't going to reflect my finish time on the run, but it would show me more what I actually ran. I felt pretty tired, but I just got back into counting. I said, "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3..." really quickly over and over in my head to get my legs moving fast, and that actually worked really well! I was pretty much always happy with my pace when I'd look down at my garmin.

After the mile 4 aid station, where I stopped to dump water on my head and drink the sports drink (which I did at every mile), I passed the guy in front of me and told him my goal was to just get to the next aid station. Then I heard his footsteps right behind me. It was like he was chasing me, and it really pushed me to keep my pace up! After about half a mile, he passed me and told me to get right behind him and draft off of him, and that that's what he had been doing with me. I got right in behind him and just focused on stepping when he stepped and staying right with him. That helped me so much! We got to the next aid station and we both stopped to drink and dump water on our heads. I wondered if he'd go on without me, but he looked at me and said, "Come on, keep up!" So I got right behind him again and he totally pulled me in! Just before the finish, I moved up next to him and he asked me if I was going to pass him at the end and I told him "No, this is already faster than I'm used to running!" So we crossed the finish line together, and I gave him a high five and told him thank you for helping me do the fastest run I've ever done at a tri. I don't know if that's true now looking at the results, but I really felt like I was pushing harder for the whole time like I've never done before. But with all the stopping at aid stations and the bathroom break, it still ended up being 10 minute miles. Oh well.

RUN TIME (10k) - 1:02:42

FINISH TIME - 2:58:17

My finish time was tied with the 2 fastest Olympic times I've had so I was happy with that even though it wasn't quite a PR. The race shirt we got is really nice and soft, and the cutest one I've ever gotten! It's nice to get a shirt that I'll actually wear.

When I got home, Pete asked me if it felt good to be a triathlete again and I said, "YES!"

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