This weekend in Mexico Beach, FL, I raced in my first triathlon of the season. Last year was my first time to EVER participate in a triathlon and I chose the one race with an ocean swim. For a person who loves scuba diving (over 150 dives), I sure do struggle with open water swims. So all year I have worked on my swim and visualized killing this course, especially the swim & despite the uncomfortably small wetsuit I have to wear.
Of course though, two weeks before the race, I start attending CrossFit classes because a studio wants a yoga teacher…who understands and participates in CrossFit. Being the stubborn, “I can do it myself” person that I am, I jumped right in and by the second class, I couldn’t put weight on my left shoulder. Uh oh! The day after my longest swim ever (1.2 miles), I screw up my already unpredictable shoulder. Way to go Lyndsey!
As would be imagined, over the next 2 weeks my attitude was less than pleasant, complicated by a major allergic episode to the 1″ of pollen that covered everything in Alabama. I could barely breathe, talk, or move. I began to doubt whether Beach Blast was going to be a blast or a blow-up for me. The one good thing though was at least I was going to the beach with people I loved.
Fast forward to Friday, the day before the race, where I decided to downgrade to the Sprint vs. Olympic distance because I hadn’t not swam in 2.5 weeks. At almost sunset, in a flurry of anxiety and panic, I demanded we do a practice swim in the wetsuit to the buoy about 100yds off shore. Great way to begin your practice swim when you’re already frazzled. I had my usually swim panic and frozen breath as I tried to lower my head in the cool Gulf waters for the first 50yds. Then suddenly with more determination than I’ve ever mustered when it came to fear and panic, I looked at my partner and said, “I’m GOING to the buoy!” Lowering my head I took off calmly and with focus, slapping the yellow buoy once I reached it then turned and swam steadily back to shore until I could grab sand with hands. I WAS READY!
I was a bit testy race day as usual but my stomach and mind felt more settled than usual. We had friends coming to cheer us and take photos so I focused on how happy I’d be to see them throughout the course. I took a quick spin on my bike, racked it, then went down to the water to practice until race time. The water was about 70-72 degrees and perfect with a wetsuit…..if it fit properly. Some early race humor helped further calm me as the second buoy began to drift away during the Olympic distance swim. Granted if I’d been the one chasing a moving buoy, it would NOT have been funny, but for us Sprint racers it was comic relief.
By the time they called Sprint Triathlon under 40 to the water’s edge, I was a little nervous but a deeper calm and determination. I would walk into the water behind the faster swimmers and swim MY race at MY pace. And I did. My breath stayed calm, my body stayed relaxed and I exited the water in ~11 minutes (about 2 min. faster than last year). Leaving the water I was laughing and almost crying at how calmly I executed the swim and overcame my fears. Unfortunately, transition was a quarter of a mile from the swim exit, uphill and across Hwy 98. My heart rate became my focus from them on out, climbing from 75% to 90% by the end of race.
My new TT bike helped me shave 7 minutes off last year’s time, placing in 4th place after T2, but by then, my heart race was around 85% and the temperature was climbing. A few minutes into the run, I realized I hadn’t fueled enough during the bike so I grabbed a chocolate fit chew (Thanks Arbonne!) and let it slowly dissolve as I padded away on the windy but not windy road through a neighborhood. The run is usually my strong point, but as soon as I left T2, I knew this run wasn’t going to be easy. I was already thirsty, slightly hungry, hot as hell, and felt like I was dragging sandbags behind me. Thank God for fuel belts! Usually 5k races are short enough not to need water, but with only one water stop at the halfway point and the overheating I experienced last year during the run, I decided not to chance it. It was like an oasis in the desert to have those two tiny bottles. About .75 miles from the finish line, I timed a sprinkler pass perfectly and got showered head to toe in delight. Despite my body’s nagging for me to walk, I kept my focus on my breath and my cadence. Inhale 3 steps, exhale 2 steps, inhale 3 steps, exhale 2 steps.
As the final turn into the park & finish line approached, I knew I had one short steep hill to climb before the 25-50 yd sprint finish. I took a deep breath and quickened my step. A woman began yelling, “You can do. Get up this hill. Come on baby!” While she was clearly not talking to me, I pretended she was and began pumping my arms and pulling myself uphill. As I hit the turn, my heart was pounding and I was gasping, but I could see the finish line. I began to sprint as best I could, chick-ing an age grouper down the chute to yells of “Strong Finish! Good Job!” While that might not be the kindest thing to do unless it’ll change your placement, I had to prove to myself that I was prepared and capable of not only starting strong and steady but finishing strong by giving it all. And I did. I left everything on the course. All the worries and fears and doubts about not only my participation in triathlon but in many aspects of my life. I had arrived uncertain and afraid, but I left centered and complete. I finished 5th in my age group with 1st & 2nd also finishing 2nd & 3rd overall in the female division. Despite having a secret goal of finishing in 1hr 30min, I shaved over 14 minutes off last year’s finish time and was only 4 minutes short of my 1:30 goal.
What’s your next goal? How can you break it into small manageable steps to ensure it’s success?
My next goal is an Olympic distance. Race unknown…maybe Chattanooga on July 14th.