It’s FRIIIIDAYYYY!!! HURRAY!!!!
I won’t even get into what kind of a week it’s been (trust me – you don’t wanna know), but suffice to say that I wouldn’t have delayed the second part of this race recap if not absolutely necessary!! Let’s pick up right where we left off shall we – at the end of the swim course….
As irony would have it, pretty much as soon as we started our swim, the sun had come out and whenever I turned my head to breathe I could feel the sunshine on my face. It was really beautiful, and I breathed a sigh (bubbles???) of relief that we wouldn’t have to do the bike portion of the race in the rain.
I came out of the water, heard my mom and Matt screaming like lunatics for me, and feeling a bit disoriented. I somehow made my way over to my bike and started peeling off the wet suit and drying off to get ready for the bike. My head was still really foggy and I could hardly focus on what I was doing at all. I think I may have been a bit dehydrated at that point, so taking a huge gulp of water from my water bottle helped a bit.
I had racked my bike right near the fence where the spectators were, and so Matt, Jess and my mom were all literally about an arms distance away from me in the transition. I took this as an excellent opportunity to turn and chat with them about how I got lost on the swim. Guess I missed the point about efficient transitions! I later learned that my mom was commenting to Matt under her breath that she thought I was too slow moving through the transition zones and that I had better pick up the pace. Thanks mom 😉
I was really relieved to finally get my shoes on and get the heck out of the transition zone. I felt like I was one of the last people out of the water, and I really wanted to get moving. Thankfully I didn’t break any rules on my way out of the transition (i.e. you have to have your helmet on and done up before you even unrack your bike?! Who knew!?) and I was thrilled to get on my bike and take off out of Kelso and onto the road. I remember those first couple of pedals as I got going felt fantastic, the air whipping by was glorious and it felt good to actually get moving at a decent clip! Swimming feels so slow!
I knew pretty much exactly what lay ahead because we had driven the bike course the day before, and I knew that the first 15km was much harder than the second 15km. I was really surprised early on in the bike how tired my legs felt, I had totally underestimated the work that swimming is for your legs.
We cruised through the first 3 or 4 kilometres, and in my head all I could think about was that big mother of a hill that was coming up. I think this hill borders on something between a hill and a mountain (a “hountain” perhaps??? Or maybe a “mill”?). Whatever you call it, it was freakin’ huge, and I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to totally destroy me.
We came up on the hill pretty quickly, it was before the 5km mark when we turned the corner and started our ascent. I noted before making the right turn to start up the hill that they had paramedics and an ambulance standing at the ready at the bottom of the hill just in case anyone a) died trying to go up the hill or more likely b) wiped out coming back DOWN the hill. I pushed off the thoughts of coming back down the hill for future Sara to worry about, and instead tackled the immediate issue of getting myself and Jilly up the “hountain”.
Not more than 100 metres into the climb, a very fit looking woman next to me started to swear at her bike. Her bike was making this awful grinding noise, and she was grunting at it “Shift, damn you, shift!!!” It seemed like maybe her gears were stuck, and she wasn’t able to down shift (a total death sentence for the hill we were about to climb up by the way – even with my striking resemblance to Jan Ullrich, I had to down shift all the way and I still got my ass handed to me). She confirmed what I suspected when she turned to me and said “My gears are stuck, it won’t down shift!!”
Not quite sure what to do (and starting to seriously suck wind myself by that point), I made a sympathetic face and said, “I’m so sorry!!” I left her behind me as I continued to chug up the hill, and I heard her yell out “THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!!!” behind me. It was then that I fully acknowledged that out on the bike, there are really and truly some factors that are out of your control as an athlete. Your success could very well be dictated not just by how hard you work, or how hard you’ve trained, but by something else like a simple chain link that won’t shift the way it’s supposed to.
I continued on up the hill, and started to seriously, seriously die. An older man came up behind me and seemed pretty pumped up; he started bellowing “HERE WE GO PEOPLE, HERE WE GO”. My breathing got totally ragged and pretty out of control, and my average speed was dropping like a stone. I got maybe ¾ of the way up the hill, before my speed dropped down to 3km/hour and Jilly came to a stop on me. Poor Jilly. I had to walk her the rest of the way up the hill and then took a deep breath and got back on. Relieved that the “hountain” was behind me, Jilly and I continued on.
About 10 minutes after the hill, I felt the splatter of a rain drop hit my helmet. I was so totally freaked out about the rain and my tires sliding out on me that right away I started totally (internally) freaking out. I didn’t have long to really worry about it “starting to rain”, because about 30 seconds later, the heavens absolutely opened up into the heaviest, thickest torrential downpour I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
Did you know that when you’re biking 26km/hour, raindrops actually HURT when they hit you!?!? It felt like we were biking through a hail storm!! I remember turning to a woman beside me and just saying “OH MY GOD!”, but for some reason I seemed to be the only person that was totally freaking out about the situation, everyone else just kind of kept on trucking.
We biked in the torrential downpour for a while before it let up at all. I’ll admit that towards the end of the rain, I started to get totally fried out mentally. I was cold, the raindrops didn’t really hurt anymore but had become more of a nuisance, I was sluggish and pretty tired and I felt like I was getting passed by everybody including a woman who I noticed had the age “74” written on the back of her leg. A 74 freaking year old woman passed me. What the hell.
I must have heard the words “ON YOUR LEFT” (cycling etiquette when passing another rider) about 187,383 times, and every time I hear the words, they may as well have been someone shouting out “YOU’RE A FAT LOSER!” over and over and over again. My mind once again started to wander off to the place of, “What the hell are you thinking? You have no business being in this sport, and you’re delusional if you think you’re ever going to complete a Half Ironman in your entire life, let alone this September”. I also had in the back of my mind that I still had to get myself back DOWN that massive hill, and now the roads were slick with 2 inches of water. To say I was afraid just wouldn’t be enough. That hill hung over my head like a shadow of terror for the entire bike.
Somehow, someway, I got myself back to the hill, and as I rounded the corner and started the descent, I kind of chanted over and over to myself (inside my head – don’t worry) the word “fearless”. After all, that is what this whole year is about isn’t it? Being scared as hell but doing it anyways? Taking a risk? Going after what you want?
I was on both my front and my back brakes the entire way down the hill, and I still hit a top speed of 41km/hour if that gives you any indication of how steep the hill was. My stomach got that feeling that you get on a roller coaster on the way down, it was intense. As I made it to the bottom, I took a look at the paramedics and the ambulance, said a mental thank you to some higher power that I wouldn’t be needing their help today, and carried on to finish the bike strong.
I was kind of embarrassed to see Matt, my mom and Jess at the transition. Although I was happy that I had made it through, I still felt like a supreme loser, and was pretty sure that I was one of maybe 10 athletes that still had to finish the bike. As quickly as I could, I put Jilly back on the rack (and accidentally scratched her in my haste to get her back on the rack :’(), took a huge gulp of water and set off in my soaking wet running shoes to run the slowest 7.5km of my entire life.
My legs although not totally exhausted, felt strangely like they weren’t even connected to my body. I’ve heard triathletes talk a lot about the transition from the bike to the run, but didn’t really fully appreciate what they were talking about until I did it for myself. It took about 2.5km for my legs to relax a bit and for me to find my groove. Once I found it, I felt at home again, and it was just another race, just another run.
I knew I was at the back, but I got a bit of that “Sidders” determination in me on the run that I wasn’t going to get passed by any more people. No more “on your left”. I think I maybe got passed by one or two people (and one was a woman on a relay team that had just started her day with the run – I totally resented that lady) but I held my ground pretty solid. I saw Neil on his way back on the run, and he looked fantastic! I was happy with the second half of my run, not so much the first. I once again was reminded how much work I have to do before September. It’s kind of overwhelming actually.
I finished the Milton Triathlon in an all-out sprint and with a smile on my face, just as I had hoped to. I may have gotten lost on the swim and looked like a total idiot; maybe I wasn’t wearing the right cycling clothes or shoes and got passed by pretty much everyone on the bike, and maybe I ran the slowest 7.5km of my life, but I sure as hell didn’t give up.
I was at first a bit disappointed that they didn’t give out any medals at the race, but disappointment quickly turned into sheer ecstasy when I realized what they WERE giving out at the finish of the race: cold cut subs donated by Subway.
My heart swells just thinking about that sub. I think it goes up on the list of the top 5 best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Dang it was good.
As I write this post, I am realizing that Neil and I never took ANY pictures together at the finish of the race?!? How could we have missed the pictures?!? Neil had a terrific race, a great day for him! We all got back in our cars (but not before my poor, poor mom sprained her ankle stepping in a pot hole on her way back to the car?! I still feel awful about that – she is still nursing that ankle 2 weeks later!! :(), headed back to our house and ordered pizza and chicken bites to celebrate.
One of the things that I LOVE about triathlons is that they don’t hurt your body as much as running does!! Usually after a half marathon, I’m sore for about 4 days. I wasn’t sore at all after the triathlon, taught my BodyPump class the next evening with my regular weights, no problem!
Matt may tell you that’s because I wasn’t working hard enough in the triathlon, but ignore him. 😉
Overall, the Milton Triathlon taught me a very important lesson in respect for triathletes and their sport. I’m a total moron if I ever thought for even a moment that I was going to “wing” a Half Ironman. A total moron. It’s going to take a lot of really hard work and focused, dedicated training to get me there. I have a decent start, but it’s got to really ramp up over the coming months if I want to even give myself a chance.
Triathlons are no joke; these people are tough as nails, multi-talented, dedicated and SMART athletes. I was so grateful to be a part of the sport for that day, and I hope that maybe one day I will feel like one of them!
Have a terrific weekend everyone – thanks for your patience on the race recap!! 🙂 🙂