Open water swim…in the books


Yep, that’s me with a tri suit, swim cap, and goggles…and it would appear that I’m actually happy to be waiting on my turn to swim in Sardis Lake.  Well, for some unknown reason, I was!

I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t nervous.  This would be my first open water swim plus my longest distance so I was pretty much freaking out inside.  I hadn’t been able to swim in a week or so and had only run once in 3 weeks.  Not because I’m lazy, but because I found out all the hip pain I’ve been ignoring is actually a TFL muscle pull.  My low back has been really painful and swollen too since it’s taking on extra work to try to compensate for the muscle pull.  I have been getting ultrasound, electrostim, and ice therapy on both areas twice a week for a few weeks so when Dr. Cole gave me the OK to register and race, I was pumped.  This, however, only gave me 48 hours to process the fact that I would actually be doing an open-water triathlon.

Dr. Cole suggested that I backstroke to take some of the load off of my low back (since I’m not an efficient freestyler) if I started to feel any pain and to walk at any portion of the run if the pain was too bad in my hip.  As nice as it was to hear this, I really didn’t want to use these options as a crutch on race day… know if someone tells you that you can walk or take it easy, you just might not push yourself as hard.  Because of this, I knew I needed some really specific goals going into the race.  I visualized (over and over) a 25:00 swim, 3:00 T1, 1:02:00 bike, 1:00 T2, and 42:00 run for a finish of 2:13.  I had actually told Keith I was aiming for a 28:00 swim so he thought I would be happy breaking 2:17 but I really had a secret goal of breaking 2:10.

I woke up about 4:30 on race morning to get ready.  Keith and I had packed the car the night before so we were pretty much ready to walk out the door but I wanted a little time to be up so that I wouldn’t be rushing out of the house.  We met Mimi at 5:15 and were on our way.  I’m no fun to be around before a race.  I completely shut down.  I get really quiet and spend all of my time in my head so I’m sure it was a long hour drive for Keith!

We got to transition and it was just so fun to see all of our teammates.  We all ended up on the same row which was really cool.  Everyone was chatting and well-wishing which was just so great to see.  One thing that really stands out for me with the tri group is how incredibly supportive everyone is of one another.  We had 9 Star Runners doing this race- Ashley, Stacey, Stephanie, Mimi, Steve, Bevan, Katherine (her first), Keith, and me (first open water).

We all walked down to the beach to get ready for the swim start.  In years past, the racers have gotten waist-deep in the water and started their wave from there.  This year, we started on the beach and we ran into the water when they blew the horn.  Fun but a little nerve wracking for this total novice!  Keith and Steve were off before us so Keith and I said our good-luck’s and went our separate ways.  Katherine, Bevan, and I were in the same wave (all women under 40) which was reassuring.  We lost Katherine right away but Bevan and I stayed together until the first turn buoy.  I alternated backstroking and freestyle- trying to switch it up at each buoy or when I felt some low back pain.  I was very fortunate because my low back was providing me with some information but not too nagging of a pain.  As I rounded the second turn buoy, Mimi swam past me and it was really nice to see a familiar face again!  The swim felt so long so I didn’t want to look at my watch.  I was afraid I would get really discouraged.  I finally got out of the water and looked and my time was 22:30 (23:25 chip time- walked to the timing mat).  I was really excited about this.  I walked to transition (wanted to run but was nervous about my hip) and when I got there, I saw Bevan, Ashley, and Mimi.  We all headed out on our bikes together which really felt like a team (my T1 was 1:33).

Laura and Grace had come to cheer for their teammates and this was great!  I hated not being there for Keith when he exited the water and I’m sure he felt the same for me but it was so great to see friends when I got out.  It’s amazing what a friendly face and a “go, Star” can do for you!

I had chosen a 1:02 goal for the bike because that would have been the same pace I did RebelMan in but i secretly wanted 1:00:00 because that would be 18 mph (just liked the even number).  As I headed out, I was staying around 20mph so I was pretty pumped. I saw Keith and Steve headed back in which gave me even more motivation to push.   I guess I had my head in the clouds because I never thought about turning back into a headwind.  Once I turned around, I was pretty much killing myself to stay about 15 mph. I rolled back into transition at 1:00:59.  Ugh, missed this goal by 1 minute!!

My next transition seemed pretty smooth but the second I got off my bike, my back started to seize up so I was nervous.  My plan was to walk out of transition and start running within 5 minutes.  I ended up walking most of the first 2 miles.  I was really bummed and being pretty hard on myself but wasn’t about to give up.  I loved the trail portion of the run and this part actually felt pretty good on my back and hip.  Mimi caught up to me on the run and we ran the last 1/2 mile or so together.  I was really disappointed with my run time (45:42) but I can honestly say I did the best I could.  My finish time was 2:12:57.  Funny that this is what I visualized.  Apparently I should have visualized my real goal of 2:10!

Again, I almost hate to admit how much fun I had doing this.  As I was headed in the finish chute, I realized that this is longer than it took me to do my last Half Marathon but the feeling I had was totally different.  I was tired and I had worked really hard for this entire time but my body wasn’t rebelling like it does after running for this amount of time.  I love that triathlons call on all of your muscles.  I definitely see the intrigue.  Of course, I would love to be faster at all 3 of the disciplines but, for now, I’m just happy that I have decided to tri 🙂

Thanks, Keith and my fellow Star Runners tri team, for being my inspiration!


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