[This Tri AC race report comes from one of our athletes, who prefers to stay anonymous. She completed her first triathlon season in 2015. This report is about Tri AC, held on August 9, 2015, which was her third race of the season, and her first race in open water with current AND on a tri bike. She likes to GO BIG, OR GO HOME. That’s why we <3 her.]
Preparing for AC Tri was much different that past races and overall it was a humbling experience.
Two weeks out from the race, I made the very small realization that lake swims may be different from bay swims. At this moment, these thoughts were tucked away in the back of the brain and nothing had truly made its way to the frontal lobe yet.
One week out from the race, during the post Shoreman Quarterman race wrap up session, super coach Maria (Mrs. Miagi as I refer to her) gently inserted into the conversation, “AC Tri may not be wetsuit legal and it’s not a beach start.” (She then paused and discreetly assessed my facial expressions for levels of panic and possible dismay.) I then said with my inside voice, as I began to spiral, “Houston, we have a problem.”
However, a fellow No Limits teammate had inserted a tiny glimmer of hope by confirming the swim is a ‘seeded start’. Seeded start…….it’s a damn shame I had to google that to confirm it meant to drop my wagon into the water whenever and wherever I deemed appropriate.
So as my mind raced with this new information, praying activities commenced. First order of business:
Please make the race wetsuit legal. Second, let’s hope I can muster up the balls to jump into the water. And, third, if feasible don’t let my nemesis (my period) show up until late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, as recreating horror movie scenes in front of strangers/seasoned athletes with shredded bodies really isn’t what I was aiming for.
Leave that shit to Sissy Spacek. I knew the race would look drastically different depending on the timing of things:
Since I can’t control the human body, the next best thing was to find open water and confront a few things. First and foremost, learn how to channel my inner child and get my ass off the dock and into the water since there was no option for a pre-swim protocol (which includes spending 10-15 minutes slowly acclimating to the water and warming up).
This inner-child approach sounds good in theory but it looked (and felt) much different when trying to execute.
Day 1 was spent sitting on the edge of the dock with my legs dangling in the water for 15 minutes as I tell myself: You can do this, what’s the big deal? You did this your whole life as a kid, remember?
I ended up head down, scooching my butt off the dock into the water; it was a painful site for all to see.
Day 2, I convince myself today’s the day I’m jumping in. After many minutes of failed coaxing yet again resulted in a butt scooch followed by a swim that was so full of current it sent me home teary eyed.
Day 3, driving over to the bay, I’m pissed and there will be no tears as I say various words to myself with a tight lip and locked jaw angry voice. We all know that voice: it’s the one your parents would give you when you were in trouble and they didn’t want to embarrass themselves by yelling at you in public. It really should be called the ‘wait til we get home voice’.
So it sounds like this: Stop being a triangle and get your ass in that water. However day 3 resulted in me jumping off the bottom step of the ladder which I managed to convince myself was my way of getting closer to the water, but still no cigar.
Day 4, FINALLY I learned how to find my inner child and jump into the water with reckless abandonment. Wow! I did it but I had to keep going back all week to make sure I had it, that it wasn’t a fluke or beginner’s luck.
So as I returned again and again, it was confirmed to be no fluke. I could jump in on command and swim with some level of current. Neither was pretty but I would survive.
Along the way, I also learned some other things, such as all of the lifeguards’ names at 26th Street Brigantine beach and what snacks they enjoy while manning the life guard post. (These small details become second nature when you’re spending continuous afternoons with the same folks).
While I originally planned to race the longer decision, as the race grew closer I made the decision to opt out of the International and do the Sprint based on not feeling 100% sure if I could truly pull out a strong enough swim with current. I wanted more time to get comfortable in an extremely uncomfortable space.
On race day as I stood on the dock waiting to start, I was filled with a sense of confidence that in the past had never shown itself. And in the same moment, I made the realization that all of the hurdles, fears and occasional tears were well worth it to get to here. Suffice to say, I survived the swim.
Key things to work on were to get in and stay in the right cadence and be more aggressive. Mrs. Miagi had a great idea; let’s ride together so she could help me navigate and work on gearing etc. I agreed it was a great idea.
Here’s a picture from our ride and the MPH is accurately captured as well. (And yes I fell with my fancy new bike during the ride and Mrs. Miagi was gracious enough to barely acknowledge it and let me walk off unscathed with my dignity intact).
My new mantra for the bike ‘Cadence and gearing and heart rate oh my’. And if I was able to manage the swim, I would have to be able to figure this out as well if I keep doing it over and over until I get it right. (I have to admit the bike was much more forgiving than Brigantine bay). After numerous sessions on the trainer and on the street, it started to make sense.
Here’s a picture from my last session pre-race. Better MPH for sure and not falling off was gravy.
For the run, the only goal I had was to run in proper form to keep my fickle hip happy, hit it hard and continue to hang on. Along the run I saw folks giving every ounce, fighting their own battles and pushing very real physical constraints. Since I started this journey it’s become more apparent it’s a blessing if you are fortunate enough to have the physical ability and overall wellness to simply make it to the starting line, not all of us have that gift.
Shout outs and a big, sincere thank you to my Sherpa. Without him I’m simply an unorganized, technically challenged person who can’t change a tire, utilize most functions on the Garmin or find my heartrate strap without some level of support.
Also huge props to him for launching in the air (for my high hand fist grab) a fresh tampon as I ran from the water transition to the porta potty. Whoop whoop to him and the attempted non-discreet handoff of goodies stowed in a bright yellow ShopRite bag. I’ve shared more details with him this week than in all of our marriage about certain feminine woes, and he’s now eternally scarred. For that, I truly am sorry.
Note to self, after the feminine hygiene product launch I need to thank him more for trekking the mountain with me and for the sacrifices he makes on a daily basis to foster my growth and success.
Last but not least, Mrs. Miagi who I didn’t want to see at the start since, in my case, ‘the cheese is better left standing alone’ on race days. Thank you for your web of lies and continually reinforcing you weren’t there to see me. Your awesome race day hair and infectious laugh started the morning off right. I was setting up my gear in transition and there was no way to be nervous hearing that very familiar laugh.
I will say this until the end of time and repeat along the way thank you for knowing your audience and what words to say and precisely when to say them. Thanks for fielding absolutely ridiculous questions like which ring should my bike chain be on, ouch! Thanks for gently knowing how and when to push. Thank you for leading this horse to water and for the various one on one sessions as you patiently wait for the light bulb to go on. Thanks for running behind and swimming next to me during our one on ones with your camera as you’re forced to watch things move, drop and wiggle in an array of directions. And adding insult to injury, you retreat home and watch the footage again – but this time in slow motion. I know you’ve seen too much and for that my apologies. My words can never express my gratitude but I’ll never stop trying to convey the message.
There are numerous takeaway messages from this experience and most profoundly they were discovered not on race day but in the preparation. But what I’ve determined from race day is Sprint distance triathlons are actually a very long fire drill (not the kind you’re forced to do in grade school every month to assess the smoke alarm system, but the ones at your workplace where you’re not sure if the building really is actually on fire or not – so you fly down stairs, avoid elevators and run out of the building with intent). Sprint tri’s = urgency.
I welcome all of the experiences and correlating lessons and look forward to many more years of personal growth and hilariousness.
[From “Mrs. Miagi” –> Congratulations to you! This race proves how strong you are and the courage you exhibit every day in training. We couldn’t be more proud! Also: You are hilarious (and honest)!]