This was my FIFTH sprint!! I decided last week to sign up. I was getting antsy waiting for the Sugar River tri at the end of August, and looking at the training plan of brick workouts….booooring. The weather looked promising, and some of my friends are susceptible to peer pressure, so Stefany and I signed up for an early morning 70 minute drive to beautiful, tiny Ottawa Lake yesterday. **Note–There are no coffee shops, nearby. *sad face* **
Had to leave at 4:30 am, so planning and organization were dialed in. Remembered breakfast and actually ate it.
Wave #11 for the swim, and I was pukey-nervous that I didn’t have my wetsuit. 95% of my wave is suited up, and I deliberately left mine at home and have been training for this…but my inner dialog of “what even the hell were you thinking, Tiefenthaler?” is getting louder. Go for a warm-up run. Get in the water. Line up. I make some joke about no fish around to eat whatever I’m about to vomit in the start corral, and we’re off!
And it’s fine, great even. We’re swimming close together, the water is dark with tannins, but no weeds. Fifty meters in, and I’m so glad I don’t have my wetsuit on—-I’m warm but not steaming up my goggles and overheating like in the past. It’s lovely. I’m swimming, actually swimming, and sighting and I realize I could pick up the pace, but actually settle for low and slow. It’s amazing.
Some of the previous wave are ahead, in the swim lane or clutching to the buoy and looking exhausted. There are no support kayaks around, so, I’m not the only one asking people as we swim past if they’re okay. They are.
I’ve been following Stef, and actually push her toward the inner lane now. I don’t know why. The only hiccup is the field of water lilies we crawl through on the last stretch and I cannot stop myself from screaming like a little kid a few times. Oh god, the swamp thing is touching meeee! Make it through!
A minute slower than what I’ve done with a wet suit, but I know I don’t need it as a crutch any longer. Yes!
Onto the bike, and I’m so pumped about the swim I war-whoop as I leave. This was an interesting bike, and the first time I’ve been disappointed in fellow athletes. I don’t know the route, despite what I learned at the last race, but I hear it is “flat and fast with gentle sloping.” It is. Some new pavement, some very old, some shade, lots of farmland. It is also ridiculously crowded with both sprint and Olympic athletes doing the same course (two loops for the Olympic). It makes me nervous—narrow country roads, tons and tons of newbie athletes including a whole wave of cancer survivors doing their very best on hybrid bikes, and a couple hundred hot-shot jerks who somehow can’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner. It’s not a closed course–we’re on the road with vans and pickups and even semis. TWO bikers of the hundred who pass me call out ahead of time. Just two. They’re flying by, no warning, a handful even cross double yellow ON HILLS, and I’m worried we’re about to see a semi cab-bike duel. You know who’d win that. **Elite athletes: Clean up your act. You were unsafe, unwelcoming, and unkind yesterday and hugely disappointing. Pick a different race or tone it way the hell down.**
I stay in my drop handles the whole time, and just keep eyes are ears out for speed demons on the left and these amazing cancer warriors on the right. Both are apt to swerve without announcement and it takes a lot of concentration. It’s the fastest I’ve ever biked, and a relief to be done.
I messed up T2 a bit, forgetting my bib number and rack placement, not taking in any salt, hunting for a bathroom, but the win here is that I’ve gotten so used to numb hands and feet I’m calm and capable and can still tie my shoes.
The run is a struggle, as my calves are so tight I’m afraid they’re tearing in half. Soon it’s hamstrings, too. I’m wearing my ice vest, but it thaws so quickly and starts to feel heavy and hot. My hands are on fire, but it’s a familiar feeling, and hell, it hasn’t killed me yet. It’s two out-and-back tangents and a tiny piece on a single-track grass trail. A little shade. Lots of water stations, thankfully. See some familiar faces and am so grateful to be out here. Stefany blows past me with encouragement, and I try to stick with her, but I hit the wall with a quarter mile to go.
Now, in college, my brother ran cross country, and he joked about running (it might have been a long run after a long night)…it was something like “I’m just going to lay down and die. In a ditch. That ditch right there. I’m just going to lay down in that ditch and die.”
And that is all I can think at the end of this race, laying down in a ditch and dying. I know I backed off the swim a little, and twice, I relaxed on purpose on the bike, but at this point, I’ve given everything. I’m crabby and exhausted and rip off my sun sleeves, hat and ice vest and throw them in the grass as I power by . I don’t care if I’m DQ’d right now.
The Team Phoenix cancer survivor fans are in full force and they cheer me past the finish line. What a privilege to race with them and their supporters. It’s the first race I’ve ever heard my name (and Stefany cheering!) at the finish. I did it.
I have to sit down before I fall down, have volunteers open bottles and pour water on me, and Stef gets me ice which I shove indelicately down my shorts and bra. Drink the best Coke I’ve ever had. As rough as I was at the finish, I bounce back really fast. I am more than a little surprised by this.
We go collect all the filthy heat gear I dropped, which some kind person has gathered into one disgusting pile for me. ❤ We gather our post-race snacks from the Controlling Lunch Matron, trade in t-shirts and drift around until my mind starts working again and transition opens back up.
If you can’t tell, I’m totally hooked on this sport. I loved being out there with all the Team Phoenix warriors and cheering them on. I love being up early, watching the fog on the lake, getting barfy and nervous, joking, on a new beach with strangers. I love knowing all the ways my body is alive and capable, and finding new ways to challenge myself.