Before I move on to my actual race report, I should tell you about someone else. I wasn’t sure whether I should share this, but it significantly affected my race. I didn’t know how I should frame it, so I’m going to take my time, watch my language, reread, and mostly try to withhold judgment.
A person who runs a lot and was training for—and dropped out of—a half marathon last year decided on a whim to register for the sprint triathlon with me, thinking it would be a fun challenge like the 5k Color Run she’d be doing the day before the triathlon.
A week and a half before the race, she asked about transporting her rented bicycle, and I offered her the loan of my trunk-mount bike rack for the race since the event was close enough to my house to walk.
Four days before the race, she started asking me questions about how it would work and if there were changing rooms. I explained: No, there are no changing rooms; yes, you have to complete the whole event in wet clothes; many people wear triathlon suits, but they are expensive; here, for example, I’m going to swim in my sports bra and compression shorts and then put on padded bike shorts, technical fabric t-shirt, and tennis shoes for the bike and run; well, *I* need padded shorts because *I’m* new and still get bruised from riding; yes, you really should get goggles; well, since it’s an indoor pool, we’ll jump in one at a time and swim a snake route, up one lane and back, under the rope, up the next lane and back, and so on; no, this one is 300 meters, it said on the website; hey, there are a whole lot of articles online for novice triathletes that you could check out; here is a link to the swimming technique YouTube videos that have helped me; here is a link to my 30-item race-day prep list on Google Drive; well, you know how to ride a bike, right? so I’m sure you’ll do just fine; make sure you get some practice on your bicycle rental the day before the race, but don’t go very long because you don’t want to be sore for the race; no, they won’t close down streets for us, but it’s a Sunday morning so there won’t be much traffic, and there will be police officers at most major intersections; yeah, I scouted the run trail and it’s really nice with only one hill; and no, I haven’t had a chance yet to check out the bike trail, but it’s supposed to be on some nice country and farm roads with not many hills.
The race organizer was hosting dozens of clinics that week at several locations for new athletes to ask questions and learn more about the race. She did not attend any. I went to the one in my town on Saturday morning the day before the race and am SO glad I did.
There I learned how to rack and re-rack my bike and that there are time penalties for doing it wrongly, where the transition area’s ins and outs were, where the mount/dismount line was, to stay left on the road to avoid blocking, how to navigate the pool, the drafting rules (in a word: don’t), how many other participants would be there (200-300), not to wear earphones at all, and that no one would be allowed to retrieve their things from the transition area after finishing the race until the last bicycle was in, among a dozen other pieces of information. I felt a bad at having to text notes to her non-stop during the presentation because that’s rude to the speaker and I could not otherwise have remembered everything to relay to her. I even sent pictures of the example racked bike.
On the day of the race, she arrived at my place five minutes early and texted “I have a situation.” I was still gathering my things but walked out to see what was up. She’d forgotten her race bag at home 45 minutes away with her bib numbers, hair bands, bandanna, hat, water, sunblock, towel, and fuel. I told her to go ahead to the event to see if she could get a duplicate bib number, and I’d grab extra gear for her.
I rushed to gather my last few things and then fill water bottles and collect the other things for her and stuff them in my backpack and left several minutes later than I had planned for. I’d planned to walk to the event but instead had to ride in the dark for the first time and without yet having acquired appropriate bike lights (I know), but I run that short path all the time and know it well enough. I rolled up to the event and then panicked that I might get in trouble for a safety violation of riding my bike up to the transition area when I couldn’t see the dismount line, stopped quickly, caught my foot in the toe cage, and promptly fell on the ground from a complete stop. Scary.
A dozen or more people saw me and called out to ask if I was okay. “I’m good!” My hands stung from hitting the pavement but hadn’t been scraped. My knee was scraped but not bleeding. I knew it would stiffen up overnight, and I’d hate life tomorrow but would get through today. I was twice as stressed as I ought to have been going into my first outdoor tri, but I told myself that getting the fall out of the way early in the day could be a good thing for my psyche since I’d been scared and anxious and fretting about falling in the days before because I’m not as comfortable on the bike as I’d like to be and suffer anyway from anxiety and several people in my family have had severe road cycling injuries and my best friend was hit from behind by a car pretty badly and the driver didn’t even stop and I am SO scared of pain if nothing else in the world—
I picked myself up and found my rack and began unpacking my bag. I was concerned that I hadn’t yet seen the friend who drove here ahead of me, so I paused frequently to check my phone. She called a few minutes later to ask where I was since she’d just arrived at the transition area. I walked over to meet her and found that she was able to get the bib numbers taken care of but wasn’t ready and wasn’t coming in yet, was getting help from a volunteer in adjusting her bike seat to the correct height and needed to go ride around the parking lot for a few minutes to get some practice in because apparently she hadn’t done so the day before. After a few minutes, I was able to disengage and return to setting up my things. I saw her later walk over to her assigned rack and I showed her how to rack her bike and where to put her things. I gave her the extra sunblock and water bottles, learned then that she also needed a towel and fuel, of which I had fortunately thought to pack and purchase extra and offer to her. She mentioned that she’d not eaten breakfast.
I felt a sharp pain on the left side of my chest, high near my shoulder that spread through the entire muscle under my breast. I wondered if I’d slept badly and what the hell was going on with my body. I figured that if it were a heart attack, I probably wouldn’t feel up to starting the race, and that wasn’t the case. The pain restricted my stretches and hurt like a real motherfucker. I’d brought a tennis ball to work on a knot in my back and applied it to my pec, trying to loosen the weirdly painful cramped muscle. I ended up putting more bruises on the muscle but loosening it up enough to be able to swim.
We finished setting up and went inside the natatorium. She asked about my swim cap and whether it was required. No, I told her, it was only a matter of personal preference. No, I don’t use earplugs either, and so she decided not to try them out for the first time on this swim. I learned that she’d not done any swimming for this event. She knew how to swim, but she’d not gone anywhere to do any swim training and didn’t believe me that it couldn’t possibly/probably wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for us really slow swimmers to swim 300 meters.
Stay tuned! The next post will be my race report about the race itself.