Thursday, May 17, 2012

My first triathlon...and why my mom is awesome

I am a triathlete!  OK, a sprint triathlete, but an accomplishment anyway.  This is a long post, so if you don't care about the details of a triathlon, you might want to skip ahead a bit to "Overall thoughts".  If you're new to triathlons too, it might be useful to read all of it to help you get a feel for how they work.

Saturday, Dad and I headed out for our first triathlon.  We decided we would finish it together no matter what.  If you haven't noticed, he and I like to take on adventures.  Even though his 60th birthday has come and gone, I'm convinced that every time he has a birthday he gets a year younger.  I do things with my dad that some of my friends can't handle.  It's pretty awesome, right?

Friday after work, Adam and I headed up to Annapolis for TriRock and my parents came in from Virginia Beach.  There was a lot of traffic, so we got to packet pickup just before closing.  When I registered, it never said anything about wave starts by age group, and never having done a triathlon I didn't know this might happen.  So when I saw that my dad and I were in different heats the week before, I called TriRock/Competitor Group and asked if one of us could change into the other person's heat.  After waiting about 10 minutes on the phone, they said no problem, just go to the Solutions deck the day before and they will switch it.  So after getting my tshirt and all the other stuff, I headed over to Solutions.They told me this would be impossible to switch waves, so I was beyond disappointed - I REALLY wanted to do this with my dad.  My dad showed up a few minutes later to the Expo, spoke to someone else, who told him it was easy to switch his wave if he just went back afterward.  Silly Competitor Group - creating drama for no reason.

I spent the night trying to put a million numbers on myself, my bike, my bags, everything.  I had four "tri tats" (remember temporary tattoos as a kid?  It's like that, but huge numbers on your arm, etc), tons of stickers, a running number bib, a swim cap, etc.  I was overwhelmed but amused.  I didn't sleep well but got up at 4:30, ready to go.  Continuing to win "boyfriend of the year", Adam got up with me, got me coffee, kept me calm, and was just generally his great self.  We met our friends Jeff and Amanda (Amanda did Princess half with me last year) and all headed over to the start. 
 My bike and my stuff set up in the transition area.

Everything was really smooth.  I tried to get my stuff set up (which mainly meant looking around at what everyone else was doing and trying to copy it since I was clueless) and chatted with the girls around me.  Since I was in a heat with beginner 25-29 year old females, we were all new to this and all nervous.  They were awesome girls and the time flew while we chatted it up and waited.  We eventually headed to the start (it took awhile, since I was heat 12 and there were 7 minutes between heats).  Your swim cap is a different color for each heat, so the announcer starts making fun of my dad for joining all the ladies in their heat.  I quickly jumped in to defend him that he was my dad, not a creeper, and suddenly the guy was announcing how cute it was to see a father-daughter team out there!

In case you're wondering, wetsuits and swimcaps are NOT flattering.

The water was cold, and the swim was tough.  I've been training about once a week in the pool for a month or so , and built up to a mile, so I was feeling good that this was only 500M.  But as soon as I got in the water, I realized an open water swim was nothing like a pool swim.  Instead of doing a normal stroke, I basically kept my head up most of the time (I know, not good, but I looked around and so were a lot of other beginners).
 Waiting to start

Then with about 100M to go, I got a cramp in my calf.  Thank goodness for a wetsuit, because I wasn't worried I'd drown, but I didn't know what to do because the pain was SO intense.  I was able to make it to the end, and luckily it went away when I was able to put weight on it.
There were definitely a few minutes I thought I'd have to drop out.  Lesson learned: wetsuits are awesome!
Then it was on to Transition 1, which took me way too long.  I got my wetsuit off (not an easy feat), dried off my feet, put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and headed over to find dad.  We eventually made our way to the 12 mile bike section, which I expected to be my toughest leg.  It didn't disappoint.
 Leaving transition and heading for the bike section!
I decided to buy a bike for the race, since I plan to do a longer tri at the end of the summer.  I got a great road bike - a Specialized Ruby Expert - that I bought used from someone who had barely used it.
I got in one ride about two weeks before the race, decided it needed a tuneup, took it to the shop, and unfortunately didn't get to ride it since.  Bad idea.  Since I had tried out my dad's road bike, I assumed mine shifted the same way.  It didn't.  So like an idiot, I couldn't figure out how to shift the entire race, and it was a hilly course.  It was a disaster.  Every time we had to cross the bridge I wanted to cry, but dad stayed with me the whole time, despite the fact that he can easily go on 40-60 mile bike rides, so this was a joke for him. 

 Finishing up the bike section (thank goodness)
Finally, we finished the bike, quickly changed out our helmet, put on our number bib, and I didn't have to change shoes since I wore running shoes for the biking section (a lot of people have bike shoes that clip into the pedals, but I was way too scared for that).
Final chute!
We were off!  Running was going to be the easiest part for me and tougher for my dad, since he can't run a lot because of an old knee injury.  We took off, and took walk breaks whenever we wanted.  We ended up finishing the 5k at 9:03 pace which was awesome, for a total time of about 1 hour and 37 minute.  My goal was an hour and 45 minutes, so I was thrilled!
OVERALL THOUGHTS on the triathlon...

I finished top ten for beginner females in my age group (much further back when you consider all females in my age group), and my dad was first for beginners in his age group.  Awesome, right?  Overall, there were a lot of glitches I need to work on before I do another one, but the key word being "before", not "if."  As long as I can find an Olympic distance either around here before August or in Chicago at the start of August, I'll go for it!  This was such a great experience, and I am so glad I did it.  Sure, more training would have been great.  I had been swimming about once a week leading up to it, I'd only biked once, and running has been minimal (though I've done more elliptical lately). The race itself was run very well.  I wish there had been chocolate milk at the finish because it's my favorite for refueling after my workouts (check out if you want to learn more about how awesome it is), but other than that I can't complain.

OVERALL THOUGHTS on the weekend...
After that, we headed back to Arlington where Adam's parents joined us so that our parents could meet for the first time.  It was great fun and I think everyone enjoyed the company.  Then Sunday was Mother's Day, so we went to brunch the next day to celebrate our incredible moms, and overall it was one of those weekends you just hope will never end.  If you've read this blog, you should know how much family means to  me, and Adam's family is very similar.  We are both so incredibly lucky to have our parents as role models, and getting to share time with them together and celebrate (there are a lot of wonderful things going on in our lives right now) was a great experience.  I'm not sure I've ever felt closer to my family than I have lately, and I know the Challenge and all of your support has been a huge part of it.

I am so lucky to have a dad as physically healthy and adventures as mine is, and I'm beyond blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive, inspiring mom.  My parents are very different, and yet I couldn't imagine either one being more awesome.  With your continued support, we hope to keep raising awareness about psoriatic arthritis, and my mom will keep fighting the disease.  If we could make her better, we'd do anything to make it happen.  Until then, we're gonna keep doing the best we can and hope for a better tomorrow (or decade from now or whatever it takes)! 

My mom is incredibly strong.  Before leaving her job to raise my sister and me (and pursuing a different  part-time career to make that possible), my mom was an oncology nurse.  This means she helped cancer patients.  That's not an easy job for sure.  It's one I can't imagine doing because of the sadness.  But she always said she loved it because she could make a difference.  People were in such tough situations and needed a nurse who could help them, emotionally and physically.  That was my mom.  She was active in American Cancer Society as well.  When she left that job to become a mom, she was always incredibly active in my life.  Despite having neck surgery when my sister was in first grade and her first back operation when I was in first grade, she she still came to all my track meets (which involve a LOT of boring downtime, as I'm sure you can imagine), she was often room mom, and she was always incredible.  She is the rock for our family whenever we need her.  And despite what she goes through, she is always still there for me.  She was having a bad day when I called panicked about my concussion, and yet she was in the car within a half hour to help me.  She is the reason you're reading this blog, and the reason I will work my best to stay healthy and to make the most of every chance I get in life.  Thanks Mom, for being you.

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