I knew it was coming -- we'd heard about it at the store and thought it was a bit hokey for a small sprint tri -- but standing there, as the race was about to start, it was pretty cool.
We had just a few minutes to get a warm-up swim done in the lake, and the race began. I was in the 3rd (of 4) waves, and I positioned myself off to the side, away from the rest of the wave. They all lined up in the deeper water and had to tread for a couple minutes before we were off. I stayed in the shallower water, and as the wave began, I had a straight line to the first buoy. I swam hard. I wanted to get out in front -- fewer people to deal with until I caught up to the stragglers from the first wave -- and I did. There was one other woman right near me until about a third of the way through the swim, but we never got in each other's way. I kept swimming. I swam hard. And I passed women from the wave in front of me. And then, although I kept repeating pace yourself, I was swimming hard -- and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I had just made the last turn past the buoy that put us on the straightaway to the swim exit, and I couldn't breathe. Keep calm! I repeated. But I couldn't help it -- I eventually had to turn onto my back and catch my breath for a few seconds. I did, and then I swam to the exit. I wasn't happy about that, but I thought I had swam hard and probably had a good time anyway.
The water got shallow well before the exit, and though it would've been faster to keep swimming, I couldn't. There were about 10 woment stopped and walking through the knee-deep water with about 10 yards to go. I had no choice, I had to do the same. As I ran out up the steps and across the mat, I worked to get my breathing in control and my wetsuit off. I got to my bike, got out of the suit, threw on my helmet and my sunglasses, and grabbed my bike. I knew I accomplished goal #1 -- that T1 time would definitely be faster than 4:06!
My bike shoes were already clipped onto my pedals, so I ran out in my barefeet, got my right foot into the shoe and started to ride. Got the left foot in, and off I went. So far, so good for goal #2!
The bike leg was 10 miles of rolling hills. Nothing too exciting on the bike -- I started to look for women in my age group and see how strong I could ride. I got passed by a few, then passed a few, and overall felt like my bike was decent.
Until the last 2 miles. I knew I had a run coming up, and I knew I had the first race dismount with these pedals coming up, and I started to prepare mentally. Then 2 women in my age group flew by me. AGH! How are they going so fast???!!! I tried to keep up, but they dropped my quickly. I was a bit distracted now as I safely dismounted at the base of a hill and then had a long run into the parking lot and into transition for the run leg. (They had, at the last minute, decided it would be better to have everyone dismount at the hill, rather than turning into the lot. Really? Safer to have everyone stop at the base of the hill and get off their bikes? okay....) For me, it was fine. Goal #2 accomplished!
Into T2, I racked my bike, dropped my helmet, and quickly cleaned off my feet, threw socks on, tied my shoes, grabbed my visor, and off I went for the 5k run. Legs weren't bad! But huh -- there's a hill right there to start the run. Ok, let's go! My friend J (who sponsors the OWS) was there, and as I ran out he yelled -- this is your strength, Lora! You've got at least 15 people you can pick off!
I gave him the thumbs up and started to count.
I passed more than 15. I settled into a decent pace that I felt I could hold, and went to work. I saw the eventual winner coming back, and I counted. I counted how far back I was from her, and I counted how many women I passed. We all passed "Good job!"'s onto each other, shouted words of encouragement, and I counted.
As I made my way to the finish, I felt pretty good about my run. I knew the time was solid, and I felt good about doing what J told me I should do out there. As I crossed the line, I was happy with the day, even though I didn't feel great about what happened in the swim.
After meeting up with my friends, cheering on other racers, and going for a cool-down jog, the results were posted.
22 OA/185 finishers
4/46 AG (agh! 4th!)
swim: 7:25 (8th fastest swim on the day!)
bike: nothing impressive 35:06
For my first race in a new age-group, it was a pretty decent showing. A well-run race, a solid effort, and two goals accomplished. I should note that if I were in the 35-39 AG, I would've been 6th...
Still tons to improve on, but I'll take it!