In case you’ve ever wondered what goes through my mind as I run a triathlon (and I’m sure it’s one of the pressing questions of your life), I thought I would share some of my mental race chatter with the world. Of course, it starts long before the race with all the nervous what ifs. Like what if I have a “wardrobe malfunction” and split out my shorts? What if I crash my bike? Or worse, what if I have a flat tire? I know…but if you crash, you get back up and keep riding. In theory, I can fix a flat but have never had to so that could be a race ender! Then, I remember all the great volunteers out there on the course and breathe a sigh of relief.
So then there is the transition area where you get your shoes on after the swim. This year, I carefully planned where to put my bike and stuff for the fastest bike out and in. Then they moved the timing mats and completely messed up my little plan. Because really, that extra 17 seconds would have made such a huge difference. Oh well. So I decided not to worry about that either. My bike was on the end of a row, so it was easy to find. You definitely want your transition spot to be visible or memorable in a group of 150 other racers so that you aren’t wandering around after your swim or bike trying to find it. Transition time is on the clock! I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the big races with over 1000 competitors.
So we sing the National Anthem and line up for the swim start as the butterflies start dancing in my stomach. Actually, they feel more like butterfly demolition derby in there. I wonder if the person I’m sharing the lane with will be doing some sort of frog kick that I have to watch out for so I don’t get my goggles kicked off. She was. She didn’t kick me. I just kept telling myself to go slow and steady. In the past, I’ve tried to go out fast, gotten completely out of breath and then had to side stroke just to keep moving. This year my mantra was “good form, slow and steady”. Which was about all I could do anyway, considering I haven’t been in the pool for almost a year. Happily about 2 weeks before the race, I found out my little local summer pool now offers lap swimming so I was able to get in a whopping 5 whole practice swims before the triathlon. Getting out of the pool after finishing my swim was definitely not graceful or athletic. But out I got.
My only thought on the bike was that “nobody passes me on the bike” because they don’t. I have a great little tri bike, and the bike segment is my fastest part of the tri. I didn’t even have any worries out on the bike course except catching and passing the next person in front of me. Well, and hoping not to have a flat. Which I didn’t. Pulling into transition after the bike, my legs felt like jelly because of the climb on the last part of the bike course. I pushed it pretty hard up that last hill. Like gasping for breath and thinking I was going to barf hard. I love the bike segment!
Ah, then there is the run. Or for me the fast walk. My knees simply won’t take much running, and given that I had fully committed to this race about a month before the day, I decided to walk the course and not worry about being fast. There is something to be said for 8-12 weeks of training before a triathlon. Which I didn’t do, but I had been doing a lot of biking so at least I was in pretty good shape from that. As yet another woman passed me on the run course, I couldn’t help but think “yeah, but I smoked you on the bike”. I’m not competitive or anything.
The beautiful thing about the Montana Women’s Triathlon is that women of all ages, sizes and shapes get a chance to try something hard and scary. But everyone is supportive and funny and just a little competitive. We are all feeling the same things and having the same worries but triathlon is a sport that you run as an individual. For me, I’m competing against that inner voice that says I can’t do this, its too hard, I’m too old, too fat, too out of shape. Well, and competing against you on the bike…
I saved up a little energy for the finish line. I ran the last 20 yards or so because I must run across the finish line…upright…with a smile on my face. I just completed my 8th triathlon and that is the win for me.