My first triathlon... definitely an experience I would never forget! When we arrived, the breezy air was a cool 38 degrees. I did not have the nerve to touch the water, as it was going to be all or nothing. With 600 athletes, I decided to go in the third wave out of six. The water was much warmer than the air. My nerves were pretty settled, but during those few moments just before we started I could not believe I was actually there. The countdown began and we were off! The rippled water felt like 10-foot waves. Surprisingly enough, contrary to the many stories I heard, anyone who bumped into me apologized. I had an unreal phobia about swimming in the lake... I could not see through it, and had the feeling of sharks swimming with me. Yes, I know it’s stupid and not even possible, but the mind is wicked. Previously, when I did a practice swim, I remember hearing the Jaws anthem playing. Although no fear came into play during the race, one time I thought, “Wow, I would give anything for a shark to come and eat me up to put me out of my misery, so I will not have to finish!”Out of my peripheral vision I could see women dropping like flies, getting on surf boards and quitting. Did I have the endurance? Wow, I could not even believe it. I was freestyling, breast stroking, back-stroking, doggy paddling and sometimes even drowning, nothing like my training. It never felt like I was in a groove and actually swimming. Everything was in slow motion. I would have never believed that I completed this leg in 18 minutes, when in the pool it took me 25 minutes. I guess there is something to be said for adrenaline. The fastest time in the swim I believe was just under 10 minutes. An unusual thing I saw was a woman with a snorkel. I would have paid her $100 just to have it. One element down… two more to go! So many people told me how much better road bikes were then mountain bikes. As I was not sure about my desire to do more races, I did not want to make an investment in purchasing an expensive road bike. Although I had never been on a road bike, during the race I could see how it made a difference! I was being passed up a steep hill by women who seemed less physically fit than me! Going up "Mt. Everest," the computer on my bike read four miles per hour! I am sure a bike from the Wright brothers’ era would have been better than my mountain bike. The only people I passed were broken down! Just kidding…but it sure felt like that.
The first four miles were nothing but sheer fire on my legs! When I passed the first aid station, I think all the volunteers saw the agony on my face as they all called out my number and said words of encouragement. I was simply winded! I opened my gel packs in hopes of swallowing some sort of transformational elixir into Lance Armstrong's likeness - no such luck. Once I got into my groove, I was amazed at my own determination to conquer each hill. At one time, a passer-by lifted my spirits by telling me that I was killing the hill with my mountain bike. At my top speed of 27 mph, I felt like the Lord had His hand on the back of my seat and He was giving a much needed push! Then it was just a four-mile run to go… I thought if I could just get a second wind and if my knee would be pain free, then I could do this leg of the race in under 34 minutes. However, while I was trying to get my running legs, my endurance was virtually gone and my muscles were beginning to cramp. Shins, quads, hamstrings—everything was getting ready to shut down. Coming to the finish line, there was an amazing sense of accomplishment! I was overjoyed with so many emotions! As I embraced my husband and children, I wept, laughed and screamed with excitement! My life’s resume would now include the title of “Triathlete.”By far, this experience comes in at one of the top 10 worst in my life! It’s up there with giving natural birth! That being said, the torture I endured was well worth it. At each stroke, every hill, and every step, my endurance and strength to complete this journey came from the good Lord. Never before have I called on Him more... from appreciation of the breathtaking scenery, to everything I was feeling and needing! As women, many times our identity is lost by all that we do and everyone that we take care of. Although my journey started on January 1st and the goal was only to get back into shape after my third child (my children are 15, 13 and three), in the end, I accomplished that and so much more. Along the way, I rejuvenated and redefined myself. Through the crowds, one of the greatest feelings was hearing the supportive voices of my husband and kids cheering me on during the race. After finishing the race, their greatest compliment was how sincerely proud they were of my accomplishment! What would I change? Train harder, plain and simple! Invest in a Master's swim team membership, practice more in the element (lake, ocean, etc.), ride with avid cyclists and lastly, rent or purchase better equipment: road bike and trisuit (to cut down on transition time). As it stands right now, I would never do another race, but who knows…if I became even stronger and more fit... then just maybe.