Despite the fact that I’m not sure if MTV still makes episodes of True Life, I’m pretty sure that my experience at the triathlon this past Saturday would have been a perfect addition to the series. Not only did I practically fall on my face (more than once) but I ran the gamut of emotions. I have a feeling my episode of True Life would have kept viewers laughing, cheering, and making fun of me for years to come… and think about the money I could have made in syndication! Anyway, since I can’t go back and make an episode of True Life, I’ll tell you all about it here instead!
Our day started at 4Am, and so did my gamut of emotions. As soon as I woke up I was excited, nervous, and overwhelmed by what was in front of me. My first thought was, what was I thinking?!?! Then I reminded myself just how many times I’ve thought “what was I thinking” this year. There was the first time I went to flywheel, my first kickboxing class, my first race (in 85 degree heat with 80% humidity), and countless other times. And you know what? Every time I’ve felt that way, I’ve been all the more proud when I finished.
When we arrived at the Tri, a new emotion set in… STRESS. I am already someone who stresses a lot, but when I do something for the first time that increases, ten-fold. I was stressing about every detail: Big towel or small towel? Goggles under or over the swim cap? Hair in a ponytail or a bun? Just to name a few… And then I walked up to Julia, who is smiling like we’re about to go sit in a movie theater to watch a romantic comedy, rather than, I don’t know, do a triathlon!! I was grateful for her sanity though… because I’m pretty sure mine had hit an all time low 🙂
After we set everything up we went to wait… and wait… and wait to start the swim. A note to anyone who plans on doing a Tri, bring flip flops, it will make this waiting time MUCH more tolerable (being barefoot in cold, wet grass= no fun!). When it was finally time for us to swim, we got into the water and waited about ten minutes for the first wave to go out. We made a few new friends who were also doing their first Tri’s, and for some reason, that helped me relax a little.
With a count down and a few cheers we were off. And about 30 seconds in, I quickly realized just how affected I was by the open water, the cold, and my wet suit. It was REALLY hard for me to breath. And on top of all that, a new emotion set it… frustration, and eventually anger. I was angry at my body for not allowing me to do what I knew it was capable of doing. But, I just kept telling myself I would finish, no matter what. When I came out of the water… an agonizing 27 minutes later… Julia’s husband Ben was waiting to take pictures during the transition, and he told me later that he has never seen me look so angry. And I felt that, but as I headed for the transition area, I did my best to shake it off.
I got a little pick me up when I got to run into Jolene (the third member of our group) in the transition area. We exchanged a smile and a high five and that was enough to put me (metaphorically and physically) back on my feet. This brought on a new and much better emotion… relief. Relief that the swim was over, and I was one step closer to the part I felt most confident about: the run.
I transitioned pretty quickly and headed out on my bike. Here’s another suggestion for new triathletes. I got a hybrid bike, which means it was a crossover between a road bike and a mountain bike. In hindsight I would go back and learn how to use a road bike, and rent one of those instead. It would have made my life easier, and probably removed a bit of frustration as I struggled to keep up with everyone on their lighter, more aerodynamic bikes. That being said, it was my first Tri, and going into the weekend, using that bike is what made me feel comfortable… and I wasn’t all that worried about time, just completion.
As I was riding, I let myself soak in the magnitude of what I was doing, something that would have physically been impossible for me just six months ago. For the first time, I started to let myself feel a little bit of pride. And as I rounded one of the last turns on the bike portion of the race, I was taken back by the beautiful views… and in that moment, I promised myself that I would finish this strong, no matter what I was feeling.
When I got back to the transition area I was SO ready for the run, I was FINALLY excited!!! I was so excited in fact, that I transitioned in just 45 seconds! Probably one of the most difficult moments of the entire triathlon came next. The entire first half mile of the run was uphill. I have never had my legs feel as fatigued as they did in those first five minutes. I was probably running at the pace of about a 12 minute mile at first… it was SO hard. There were moments that I felt like walking… and then something really great happened. I started thinking about all of the people who had helped me get to that point. Not only did that distract me, but their voices, their words of encouragement, were reminders I really needed.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I experienced a very interesting emotion… and it was not any of the ones I thought I would feel… I felt distracted. I was distracted by the need to take pictures and meet up with Julia and Jolene but even more so by hunger… I was STARVING.
Once I had eaten, we gathered all of our stuff and walked to the car. I walked over to hug Julia, to thank her for being my encouragement to even sign up for the Tri in the first place. And in that moment, the enormous roller coaster of emotions I had just been on hit me (incase you missed them… excited, nervous, overwhelmed, stress, frustration, anger, relief, pride, distracted). When I say those emotions hit me, I mean they smacked me in the face… and I cried, hard… sobbed… for 5 straight minutes… into Julia’s shoulder (sorry Julia!). But you know what? I’m glad I let it out, because after I faced what I had been trying not to face for two hours.. I was able to feel a slight pang of pride and accomplishment in what I had just completed. Did it go exactly the way I would have liked it to? Not by any means. Will I do another one? Absolutely! And above all else, I am a triathlete! I can’t believe I can call myself that. Its unimaginable really.
I will hold that pride in my back pocket as I move on to tackle the next goal… a half marathon on December 14th! When training gets tough, I’ll remember that feeling like I am not well prepared on race day is harder. And I am looking forward to the next Tri when I go into it with a much better emotion… confidence![PS: Its amazing how two people can do the exact same race and have two very different experiences… Check out Julia’s experience and a lot more pictures here.]