It’s 5:30 AM and my alarm is going off. I didn’t go to bed early the night before, but early enough to get about 6 or so hours of sleep (which is actually really good for me). I wasn’t exactly well rested, but I wasn’t exhausted when I woke up either. The great thing about a race that’s literally 5 minutes from your house is that you can sleep in a tad bit longer. Had the race been downtown, I would’ve had to be up an hour or so earlier.
I laid out my swimsuit to wear the night before and had my bag packed and ready to go, so all I really had to do was wash my face, get dressed, pull back my hair, eat a little something, grab my bike and go. My friend Elena was doing the race with me, so we decided she’d come pick me up and we could just shove my bike onto her car rack. Shove, we did. But we got it on and headed the 5 minutes down the road to the race.
As soon as I saw the pool, my stomach had knots in it. It was chilly outside, but my shaking was more than because of the cold. We set up our bikes in the transition area and made our way to the pool deck for a brief overview of the rules. Thankfully I had read the rules they had online earlier because I was not able to pay attention for a second.
We got marked with our numbers and headed back up to the transition area to grab our goggles and swimcaps and head back down to the pool. Elena’s start time was at 7:20, while mine was at 7:45. I had A LOT of time to stand and watch and get more and more nervous, but it was nice to hear other people around the pool deck who were also doing their first triathlon yesterday.
I was sort of thankful that my swim time was 45 minutes into the race because it gave me a lot of time to watch the swim part. Everyone was started 15 seconds apart and it was a serpentine swim, meaning you go up a lane and back down the same lane before moving on to the next lane over until you have gone up and back the entire pool. And the pool was TINY. Definitely shorter than the 25-yard pool that I’m used to at the gym.
It was nice getting to watch E do her swim completely and head up to the transition area with her. Good thing I did too because she put her helmet on backwards! ;) And then it was me by myself, waiting to go.
It really wasn’t much longer after that when it was my turn to wait in line. I was still freezing and nervous but ready to get started. And then it was, “Van Horn in the pool… 3, 2, 1, GO!”
I felt great in the pool. And I actually really loved the shorter pool since it gave me a little more time to rest for a second. I passed one guy in front of me pretty quickly (I lucked out and the person who was supposed to be behind me didn’t show, so there was 30 seconds between me and the person behind me instead of 15). I also tried to pass the girl in front of me while I had the chance and accidentally ended up kicking her, hopefully her hand and not her face. Oops. I was able to pass a few more people waiting at the wall, and just like that, I was done. It went so quickly and easily that I almost wish that the swim had been longer. Almost.
Swim Time = 6:09 / 300-meters
Swim Rank = 116
I ran out of the pool up to the transition area and quickly slapped on some vaseline on my inner thighs, pulled on some shorts, changed my swim top into a tank top, put on my socks and shoes, grabbed my helmet and jogged my bike to the end of the transition area.
I was really worried about the turn right out of the transition area, but it ended up being really easy. I was ready to go until I realized I wasn’t able to get into an easier gear. I kept pulling my gear thingy (I know so much about bikes, isn’t it obvious?!), but it just kept braking my bike. I thought Matt had put my front tire on wrong but realized that wouldn’t make my gears stop working. It was also at this point that I realized I hadn’t tucked my shoe laces into my shoes and they were getting caught on the pedals.
I came to a HUGE hill less than a quarter mile in, hopped off the bike, figured out I had to push my gears to the inside to change, tucked in my shoes laces, and walked up the hill. Once I got back on, I was definitely ready to go.
The first part of the bike is through a subdivision, with lots of turns and lots of hills. Well, really, the whole ride was hills galore, but the turns in the subdivision made it harder. Not even a mile into the race, I was going up a big hill and I heard something fall off my bike. My water! But, I wasn’t about to go turn around to get it. I knew I would be fine without it and it was a cheap bottle anyway (thank goodness).
The bike course weaved around several different towns on a few 2 lane, windy roads. I don’t particularly like turns, but the hills were my enemy more than anything else. The first 6 miles, I just couldn’t get into a groove on the hills. I don’t know if they were just to steep or if my lack of bike knowledge kept me from really knowing how to get up a hill correctly, but I had to walk up the first 2 really big ones, which made it even worse trying to get back on the bike. After those 2, I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike and was much more proactive in getting into the correct gear before attempting to go up a big hill. I never got off the bike again!
I only passed a handful of people. All but one of them were on a hybrid or mountain bike. It made me eternally thankful to my friend Michelle for letting me borrow her road bike. I think I really would’ve hated the bike more than I did without it!
For the most part, it was just me and the road. I wish I could say it was relaxing, but my wrists were hurting and my legs were tired. I was counting down the miles until the finish. Which of course, you turn up a big hill to get to the transition entrance. But, by that point, 18 miles in, I knew exactly what I was doing and was able to hammer up the hill for a strong finish.
Bike Time (includes both transitions) = 1:16:05 / 18 miles
Bike Rank = 141
Hopping off the bike, my legs were jello. They didn’t want to move or go anywhere. I grabbed a quick drink at the transition area and ran out. Matt and MacKenna were waiting just outside of the transition area and it was great to get to see them before the run.
The run went back through that same subdivision we biked through, so I knew it was going to be a tough run. I really wanted to finish under 24 minutes, but with my legs feeling like jello, I decided that I just wanted to keep running – no walking.
Right at about the first mile, my legs started to feel slightly more normal and I started passing people. I pushed it of the uphills and opened up my stride on the downhills. Mile 2 seemed to come very quickly and I knew I had a few more people in front of me that I could pass.
And I swear, not even 30 seconds later, I was at mile 3. I know it was longer than that, but mile 2 and 3 flew by! I kicked it in to the finish feeling confident and strong.
Run Time = 22:48
Run Rank = 17
I finish the entire race in 1:45:05 – 15 minutes faster than I was hoping. I was the 21st female to finish and was 5th in my age group, just after Elena, except her finish time was 15 minutes faster. I beat her on the run, but she had me on the bike by a good 10 minutes.
I am so happy to be done and to finally say that I’m a triathlete! I had a really great race and I a great time doing it! I feel like a true athlete, not just a runner, or a runner posing as a triathlete.
I am still a runner at heart (obviously – LOOK AT THAT RUN TIME!), but I loved being a triathlete. It was such a great change of pace and a wonderful new challenge that made me wanting more. Alligator Creek was a great first one for me as well, even with all the hills. It was well organized and I even enjoyed the course quite a bit. Plus, the smaller field of racers made me feel right at home.
I will definitely be doing another tri and sooner rather than later! I don’t think it will ever take the place of running but it was fun to do and fun to train for. I’m ready for the next one! I guess that means I really do need to go find a bike!
Thank you for all your words of encouragement and congratulations the last few days! You guys are awesome!