Why did I start swimming? Triathlons… someone suggested I get into
them as I could already bike and run. As you can see from previous
entries, I have completed 2 open water competitions. On this race, my
first Tri, I got to put all the elements together.
My friend Cenk, who has completed a number of Tri’s, signed us up for
the Harriman State Park Sprint Triathlon. This was great because I like
having a guide the first time I attempt anything of this caliber.
Cenk and Carla picked me up Saturday afternoon and we headed into
Jersey. They took me to one of their local restaurants which was really
good. Cenk and I decided to fuel up on pasta and steak. It seemed to do
the trick… I added beer into my pre-race diet as usual.
Later that night at their house Cenk gave me the run down of how the
race works, with transitions etc. It was very helpful and I would have
been lost on race day without this important knowledge. I went to bed
at 11 or so anticipating a solid 6 hours of sleep.
5AM… Im awake but so sleepy. I think it was a rare treat for Carla (her and I work together 9-5) to see me docile, quiet and spaced out. We packed up our gear and headed out to Harriman State Park which would take us 50 minutes.
The park was beautiful! rolling hills and still lakes surrounded by thick cliff covered forest.
Arriving at the transition area, there were already a lot of people gearing up. We grabbed our bike number, running number, timing chip, swim caps etc. Its funny to me because Im used to only getting one of the 3 or 4 elements. Now, I had all of them at once to piece together. We went to our transition areas and I set mine up like Cenk had instructed me the night before.
Cenk and I then (since we were ready ahead of time per his instruction) went to the lake to take a pre race dip. It was a great idea especially since I hadnt taken a swim in over 2 months so it eased my anxiety. My wetsuit is two pieces and my pants might be a size too small so i have to constantly hike them up. It was at one of these moments that a few members of Team Lipstick (an all female group of 10) started teasing me. They were a real cool group and very bad ass. One gal thought I was starting a new trend with my ‘low-rise wetsuit bottoms’. Funny.
2 minutes to start we were all lined up on the beach.
The gun went off and we all ran into the water and began our swim portion. What a sight to see! It was a relatively easy 0.5 Mile swim out to a buoy and back. A few people swam over me but nothing to stressful. I was actually working on some new techniques this time that I think might have helped me out. I finished in 18 minutes in change and as I turned around I realized I was in maybe the top 50 out of 400 swimmers which was way better than I expected. I made my way up the beach undoing my suit and high-fiving Carla who was watching and cheering. Mad props to Carla for taking al the great photos as well! Looking back on it, I should have been hustling a bit more to get to my bike, but hello, have you ever tried running in a wetsuit? Its hard.
At T1 I dried my feet and chest and put on my bike shoes and my tank top. I also put on my ceremonial Nautical Star wristband (which can be seen on me throughout past races). I grabbed my bike and headed to the road taking off in a hurry. I did take quite some time in T1 and my friend Jim (who has done an Ironman) asked if I was cooking burgers on the grill while getting ready for the biking!
In my mind the hardest part was over. Now I had to play catch up with the fast swimmers and overtake them.
Wow was I wrong. I had just started the hardest part. The hills were mild at first and I was pushing hard, passing riders. About 3 Miles in I caught up to Cenk who was really flying! As I got next to him I planned on hanging out for a minute but he yelled at me and pointed “Go get them!” Adrenaline! I booked. These guys had some sick bikes too. I was rocking a 1975 vintage Mercian with the shifters on the down tube! She a worthy ship though. SIDENOTE: get a new bike. Next thing I know we are going down a huge decline so fast I couldn’t pedal anymore. Id say 45 MPH at least. My fingers were on my brakes ready for any sudden emergency. At roughly Mile 6 we hit this crazy U-turn. You had to slow from 45 MPH to almost a standstill so as not to slide out. Then, the pain began.
As we came out of the U-turn with no propulsion we were confronted with a 3 Mile incline. It was brutal. The next 5 Miles would continue like this with ups and downs through the woods. I took a few moments here and there to take in the scenery which was beautiful. I also made a few friends along the way with some fellow bike riders. Mostly we talked about how bad the hills sucked. I have never looked forward to getting off a bike to start a run so much in my life.
I cruised into the transition area fast and saw lots of runners ahead of me leaving. I just kept thinking to myself, “I will chase them down.” I popped off my bike and slipped into my running shoes. I was off again.
It was a bit difficult to just start running after blazing the hills on a bike. Id say at Mile 0.5 I was in full range of speed. Not to sound cocky, but the run was very easy compared to the last 2 events. I was picking off runners and trying to figure out how far from the lead I was. (I would later find out that the winner was finished the run at the time I was starting. He was an animal, putting a gap of 10 minutes between him and the 2nd place person). Cenk and I crossed paths as I was ending my run and we cheered each other on, very exciting. The finish was a downhill and I saved up some sprint energy for the end. I blazed in at full speed crossing the line at 1:28: 50. To be honest I was just excited to finish my first Tri.
I grabbed some water and found Carla. We waited for Cenk and cheered him on as he crossed the line!
All 3 of us were quite excited and the vibe in the air was all positive! Triathletes are a little different from singular athletes I found. They are competitive, but very supportive of one another. I made friends with a 65 year old guy who had been doing Tri’s for like 20 years. He was inspirational.
We took a few pics, packed up our gear and hung around the finish to see if the times would be released. They started giving out the awards and they were doing age groups when I heard 3rd Place for the 29-34 Group goes to Chris Baker! Carla practically punched me in the shoulder out of excitement! I went up and got my plaque. It was very cool! I had no idea I would get a prize.
Afterward we went to the Coach Diner in Jersey for a big meal. We were all really starving.
It was a great experience and Im very grateful that Cenk helped me through this first one. Im very addicted to this as he predicted and just signed up for my first Half-Ironman next June.
I am officially a Triathlete now, cool.