After months of training, the day of the Pink Cheeks Triathlon dawns dreary and cold, but it isn't a torrential downpour and the wind isn't howling from the north so I take hope. I will be competing with my daughter, Linnea and my grandson, Hunter, who is doing the biking part of a team. I start the day at 7am with a smoothie and relax with some quiet time. Linnea is to swim at 8:40 and my swim is at 9:00. It isn't quite 8am when I leave the house for the pool. I know I am early, but the race excitement is already hounding me. No spectators are allowed in the pool area so Linnea and I planned our swim so we could cheer each other on.
I love to watch Linnea swim as she has such a beautiful easy stroke and looks like a ballerina in the water. I am to swim in lane one which is not to my liking as it is the closest to the wall. Here is where arriving early really pays off as the swimmer in lane two finished early and I am ready to go so they move me over. I do one warm up lap and then start my swim. It has been six months of working up to this moment and starting from ground zero where I couldn't make it from one end of the pool to the other and working my way up to where I was known at the pool as the one that only had one speed, but could swim forever. Now I can finally put it all together. My fastest 900 to this point was 18:57. I am hoping for 18:30, but Linnea has higher standards and says I can do it in 18. I know I'm pushing myself, but is it too much? My stroke feels a bit sloppy and my strokes are a little short.
I'm counting, lap one, lap two, concentrate on stroke, concentrate on breathing to the right. The swimmer next to me runs into me, keep swimming, lap five and six, the swimmer next to me tries to drown me as I pass her and I am grateful when that swimmer finishes and a smother swimmer enters the water. Lap nine and I'm halfway there, I can do this! Keep stroking. My stroke to breath count is off, but I hope that it means I'm swimming faster than normal Lap 15 or is it 16? I've lost count, but know I'm almost finished so will have to look for the red flash. Then I hear Linnea, "100 to go!" I can do this! Down and back and then there is the red flash. I'm on the final lap and pushing it now. Final length, give it all I have and swim hard into the wall. Done! Linnea is smiling huge as are my timers. What is my time? 17:51. Wow! I am stoked now. The adrenalin is pumping and I'm ready to attack the next portion of the tri. Linnea has finished her swim in a very respectable 12:29. My, that girl can swim!
One of the things I like about this tri is that the swimming is timed separate from the run and bike. That means I can take a shower and get dressed in a leisurely manner. I have an hour and a half before the run, but race energy pushes me outside even though it's cold. I get my bike set up in my new stand which also has room for Linnea's Bike. Hunter arrives with his bike as well. The standing around waiting is tough, but I run in place while talking to folks and try to stay warm as it edges closer and closer to race time. I am still stoked from such a great swim. Finally I ditch my coat and find a place in the center of all the runners in hopes that I can stay warm. I have gone with my capri tights, a light long sleeved shirt and very light windbreaker. I've weighed my shoes and picked the lightest ones. I hope to break the 30 minute barrier that so far has eluded me in the 5K.
After multiple instructions the countdown begins and then we are off. It always seems to take forever for the beginning of the race to sort itself out and I feel a bit stifled, but finally I have some running room. The first half mile is downhill and I'm going to let myself go. I am running with Linnea and that is nice. Then Joe comes from behind, arms waving in the air and announcing to the world that he is passing us. He's only good for about 20 feet though and then has to stop and adjust his pants which enables us to pass him, only to have him once again come charging down the hill. After about a half a dozen times of this we leave him to entertain those further back.
We are now up over Dairy Hill. I lean forward and pump the arms more. Linnea is just behind me and worrying about me beating her. I still think she will catch me on the home stretch. At the top of the hill, Mom, Dad and my brother are there to cheer us on. It's a wonderful spot to have a cheering squad. Down the other side of the hill and Linnea pulls ahead a little. Then I pass her and that is the last I see of her. By now the front runners are passing us on their way back. I'm still ahead of schedule and feeling good. I can still communicate in short sentences so I don't feel I am going too fast. Around the turn and I'm on my way home. I am over Dairy Hill again and finally up the long hill to the school. Run, run, one step in front of the other. You can do this. Cheering from the crowds pushes me on. There is the finish line for the run. Keep running, don't stop. I check my watch and get a burst of adrenalin when I see my time of 28:27.
I can't stop now as I run towards my bike.
I have not practiced the transition as I've always had to put my bike together before I could ride, but it goes like clockwork. My helmet slides into place as does the snap. I run with the bike to cross the starting line and I am off on the next leg. A couple of quick strokes and we are headed down a steep decline. I allow myself a couple seconds of rest. At the bottom of the hill is a sharp turn through the school parking lot. I go around the end and back out to the road where a ramp takes us up onto thebike path. I am catching the biker in front. He misses the ramp and runs into the sidewalk instead. Now I'm passing bikes, "On your right! On your left! Coming through the middle!" I am surprised to be passing bikers as I consider this my weakest leg. Then Linnea passes me and I cheer her on.
I am now climbing 2nd Avenue all the way to the top and had planned to peddle standing, but my legs don’t cooperate so I shift to easier gears and peddle faster. I notice that no one else is standing either. Now we are meeting bikes on their way back. Keep peddling, don't shift too soon at the top. NOW! Shift to the hardest gear and fly down the other side of 2nd Ave. A quick brake at the bottom and onto the dirt alley. Let her go and shoot out to Lowell Point road. Now the turn around. I'm a little sloppy there as I'm not great on sharp turns and I have to hop a bit. I get going again and there are a couple cars in front of us. What are they doing there? I realize they are going too slow so I whip out around them and head for the dirt alley going up. This is one of the hardest parts of the race and I grind up the hill reminding myself that it is hard, but short. I crest that hill and must climb two more blocks to the top of 2nd Ave. Now for my favorite part, half a mile of downhill where I can let myself go.
The bike and I are feeling like a team as I soar down the hill with the wind whistling in my ears. Now back up over Dairy Hill with my cheering squad in place. I check my time and realize I have a chance to break an hour for the bike/run section of the race. Then disaster almost strikes. The biker next to me pulls ahead, but when we start to make the turn onto the bike path he stops. I yell at him to keep going and he veers to the right just enough to let me slide past on the inside. Now I'm around the final corner to the last long hill. I see Hunter ahead of me so I yell at him to let him know I'm behind him. I hope that will push him up the hill and it does. He puts everything into it and I don't catch him until the finish chute. He's a much better biker than me, but I have a better bike. We peddle for the finish neck and neck for a nice photo op with my grandson. What an exhilarating feeling to have just finished a triathlon! I look at my watch and it says 56:50. I shake it to see if that is correct.
I try to add my swimming time to my bike run time, but I was coming up with a number that just can't be. Later I find a piece of paper and do the addition and it is the same. I am told the results will not be available until Monday. I have to wait two days to find out how I placed. I cannot believe it. I'm glad I checked my watch. Monday comes and still no results. The suspense is killing me. No matter the outcome though, I have already won. Finally, on Tuesday, the results are in. I placed 38th out of 96 women. I placed 4th out of 18 in the 50 – 60 age group with a time of 1:14:41 which is 6 minutes faster than my highest goal. Linnea was 21st over all with the 4th fastest swim, and Hunter's team came in 2nd. Having completed my first triathlon at the age of 55 I now feel invincible. One year ago, to the day, I started running for the first time in my life. If I can do it, you can too!!