The day before the race, after packet pickup, was when the director did one last transition clinic. We saw where everything was going to be, how she suggested we lay everything out and what to bring/not bring:
“Don’t use a beach towel. You’re not going to be laying down in transition.”
I did a quick search around the Long Branch, NJ area for a race belt, which apparently the expo had an exclusive on, but I never did get one. I then had a pasta dinner and off to bed at 10pm for a 4:30am wake up.
I knew I was supposed to get up at 4:30 am, but apparently my body missed the memo and woke up at 2:30 am. My mind started to wander and worry. How will I keep my number from blowing away? What if I forget my wristband to get into the transition area? What about the fact there will be sand everywhere? Is the economy really getting better? Is a national healthcare system the best thing for this country? Do the writers on Bones have the slightest clue what they’re doing? Sharks. The last thought I remember was that I would just stay up the rest of the night. I rolled over and fell asleep until 4:30 am.
I always have coffee and a protein bar for breakfast, so I did just that. The bikes were already on the car and my aunt (who was doing the tri with me) and I were ready to go! Originally I was planning to wear only my sunglasses and leave my regular glasses at home. It’s awfully dark at 5am. Oh, well. We got there, got good parking, and headed over to the transition area. There was a high school cheerleading squad who was marking the women-only event and I got my timing chip and water bottle. Over to transition. I picked the side nearest the bike entrance/exit with my swim wave, figuring it would be easier to not run the longer distance with my bike. I have a horridly obnoxious bright yellow windbreaker with zip-off sleeves, so I brought just the sleeves to tie around the rack to find my bike easier. You could see my spot from Mars.
I put on and took off my socks so they were a little stretched out, and put them in my bike shoes. My race number went under the shoes, helmet with sunglasses on top. The baby powder and running headband went in my running shoes. My inhaler went in my bike along with enough food and nutrition for two weeks in the wilderness. Hey, stuff happens!
I’m all set, now what? I watched the sunrise over the ocean. I then got into the ocean to test the water, so to speak. And also to pee. That’s one way you can tell it’s a women-only event; the porta-potty lines are insanely long. There is a big, beautiful ocean out there, use it! Coming in, the waves were starting to get bigger, but were still far between. Of course I wasn’t paying attention and got knocked off my feet a bit, which is when I realized my timing chip was a little loose and would rub on my sock during the run. But now fixing it, despite my best efforts, there was sand under the strap. I got most of it out, moved it up my leg, and hoped for the best.
They finally corralled us by wave. I was wave six; my aunt was wave two. She apparently was the first in and out of the water in her wave. Go Aunt K! Around wave four, the real waves started to pick up and a huge one came over the swimmers. I turned to the woman next to me and said, “I hope my mother didn’t see that, she’ll freak out” (she did, and did.) Wave six, turquoise, women 25-29 were finally called. There were about ten swim angels near us, asking if anyone wanted a noodle or needed a buddy to swim out with. They had halos over their caps, it was cute. AND WE’RE OFF! A big wave just broke then, so I waited a second for it to flatten a bit. By the time the next wave rolled up, I was far enough out to dive under it. I swam lifeguard-style out to the buoy, did a quick turn around it, and had a little trouble swimming far enough left to get straight in. When I was almost there, the lifeguard near me yelled ,“Hurry up! C’mon c’mon!” and extended his hand. I took it, hey; maybe there was a shark or something. Nope, it was just a wave. I slow jogged up the beach and across the little road into T1. Total time for the 300 yd ocean swim plus getting to T1: 6:20.
I made it to T1! Whew! I think I’ll catch my breath a bit. I found my spot easily and took a big breath. What first? Helmet. Then baby powder. I shook a bunch onto my feet, and tried to wipe off the sand best I could. Socks, shoes, pin the race number to my front, get the bike and go. Somehow I must have taken a nap, or pondered the meaning of life (42). T1 time was 5:10. Oops.
Onto the bike. Being fairly new to clipless pedals, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t fall over. I decided that I was going to take it slow, eat some Gu Chomps, and then pick it up. Guess who put the Gu Chomps under the inhaler and forgot to open them? I can really only stomach two of those at a time, so I washed them down with some Gatorade and went on my merry way. I passed a decent amount of people. A decent amount of people passed me. My back tire was rubbing a little, I think on my brake, but not enough to stop and check. Finally I see the dismount part after 10.5 miles. “Don’t forget to unclip, don’t forget to unclip, don’t’ forget to unclip.” I unclipped and jogged the bike back to transition. Total bike time was 40:58, 15.4mph average. A little slow, but there was a run to worry about!
Bike shoes off, grab a swig of water, helmet off, running shoes on, and I’m off! I think. I did a couple really weird strides that I thought would help my legs recover from the bike to the run. But remember that sand under my timing strap? Now that it was drying, it was annoying. I wiped the sand out best I could, and just went. T2 time 2:17.
Water! Yes please! I was shocked beyond belief that my legs felt fine. Great, in fact. Every brick workout, my legs felt tight, like they weren’t my legs. Not this time. I jogged along the boardwalk, smelling breakfast from a nearby café. Mmm, bacon. I decided that I wasn’t going to walk on the run, except a few steps at water stations. I wasn’t about to choke to save a few seconds. It takes me almost exactly a mile to actually like running. Prior to that, I hate it. I knew the water station was at mile one, and a realized suddenly that I was doing ok. I got a cup, drank, ditched it, and kept going. Around the turnaround I saw my aunt! She was doing great! Then I thought, "I wonder if I can catch her.” So I sped up. Later, I learned she thought, “No way am I letting Allie catch me!” and sped up as well. I did not catch her. Suddenly I was at the mile two water stop. I can almost hear the DJ and people yelling. Someone on the route yelled “looking good, 832!” That’s right, I was looking good. It encouraged me to speed up, considering around then the Gu Chomp or lack of Gu Chomp three and four was making my stomach do flips. Down to the finish line, I see my dad and hear him yell, “Great time!” Finish line!
My Mom and Aunt K are waiting there with water; I rip off the offending timing chip and just feel happy. Ecstatic, really. 30:58 on the run! A 10:17 average! I usually run an 11:30 min/mile. Holy moley! 1:25:34 for the whole event. 399/860 overall, 37/67 in my age group.
Not bad, not bad at all. My goal was to not die, not drown, and not walk.
I love this sport. It’s awesome. When’s the next one? The training paid off, it was a great atmosphere, and I loved every second of it, having never seen a shark.