An Over 40 Soccer Mom's Guide to the First Triathlon

author : She-Ra
comments : 12

I never imagined that 350 yards broken down into 7 REALLY long lanes would be so big! I gasped out loud and told Grady that maybe I had underestimated the swim.

My husband, Grady, must have some weird fantasy about having a Tri Trophy Wife because he nagged me and challenged me until I agreed to do one. Or maybe he just wanted to drag me into his exercise abyss, since he's already done several triathlons.

I chose the shortest, closest-to-home sprint triathlon I could find, The Colony Take the Heat Triathlon. Swim 350 yards, bike 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I trained with the intensity of an over-40, Merlot and margarita guzzling, sour cream enchilada eating, soccer mom. Yep, like a well oiled machine…or manual handmixer…take your pick!

I trained for about two months. Grady says, realistically, I trained for four weeks if you take out the whining, procrastinating, excuses and half-baked attempts at running three miles straight through.

Grady had agreed to race with me...under an assumed name.  On race day, we pawned the kids off on our good friends so we could get a good night's sleep, wake up early, get ready, and get to the race with enough time to get our bikes racked in the transition area and get our stuff all set up for each portion of the race.

We walked over and looked at the pool. OH MY GOSH! Okay, I'll admit, I haven't even seen an Olympic-size pool since my childhood days at Brookhaven Country Club! I never imagined that 350 yards broken down into 7 REALLY long lanes would be so big! I gasped out loud and told Grady that maybe I had underestimated the swim. He could have disagreed, but instead said with complete assurance, "I told you so!"

Spending my whole training in the backyard pool wasn't such a great idea after all. But it had been so easy to run my three miles and then jump in and swim my little 38-foot laps! Note: practice swimming in a really big pool with no wall to push off to force continuous swimming!

Needless to say, the swim was awful. When my seven-second interval turn came to jump in and start my race, I did. After the first lap up and back I knew I had completely fooled myself into thinking I could really do this race. I kept reassuring myself that I could do it- I had to- I had told all these people I was GOING to do it! I would never be able to face my family, neighbors, the bingo girls, church friends, soccer moms again.

I ended up stopping at the end of each lap and resting for a few seconds until I had completed all the laps. I finally finished the swim portion, and was surprised that I could climb the ladder out of the pool under my own power. I ran out of the building toward the transition area where my bike and other gear were stored. I was just thrilled not to have climbed out of the pool midway.

I was more confident on the bike, as I had trained for this a little more. However, I had never even left my neighborhood during my training rides. How sad is that?! We had driven the bike course earlier in the week, so I had a few more days to panic about this than I did about the pool. It was a two-loop six-mile course. There were two really daunting hills that I was worried about.

I was also worried that it might be raining the morning of the race (as predicted) and I'd have to ride my bike 12 miles in the rain on wet pavement. I kept remembering what the guy at the bike shop said about road bike tires having the surface area of a postage stamp. I'll smack him next time I see him. That morning, we woke up to about a 15 mph gale (but no rain) to contend with on the bike. Grady assured me that it was only going to be in our faces for a couple of miles...It blew the entire race.

As I came out of the transition area on my bike, there was Grady on his, waiting for me. He made some crack about me having my blow dryer and make up mirror in the transition area. We took off and rode together for about 100 yards... and then he was a tiny dot within minutes. He was so far ahead of me! As I rode another mile, a guy told me my race number was coming off. I had to stop and re-attach the race number- Ugh! More time ticking! When I got to the hills, I knew I had to try to go as fast as possible so I could get up the other side. I prayed to God out loud to keep me safe as I achieved 32 mph on those downhills! I know people could hear me as I chanted my prayer.

As I rode past the crowds I saw my son Tanner's big numbers on his football jersey in the middle of this big field on the side of the road. I whistled to get his attention that I was coming. Just as he saw me, so did all our friends who had come to cheer us on. It felt great and reassuring to have them there for me! I finished the bike and jumped back off at the transition area one last time to get ready for the run. I have attended most of Grady's races and was thrilled not to be one of those people I've seen hung up on their pedal clips, falling down trying to get off of their bike. I'll save that for another race.

As I ran out of the transition area and started on the run portion, I saw my friends again along the side of the road. They all high-fived me and told me Grady was just a few minutes ahead of me. I was walking, though, and knew he could easily run the 5k. I walked and ran, chatting and joked with the volunteers I saw along the way, and other runners that I leap-frogged with who were walking and jogging too. About half a mile from the finish, I ran into Grady. He had finished and then doubled back to make sure I wasn't lying on the side of the road! It was great to see him. He seemed pleased not to find me being attended to by medics. I was still walking and jogging. I did feel good enough to sprint the last 50 yards or so to the finish line.

I was greeted at the finish line by my friends and family. My 7 year old was eating one of those 10am race tent hotdogs covered in catsup. She held it up and asked if I wanted a bite. This was very entertaining to the firefighters who were standing around as beneficiaries of the race. I turned her down and opted for water and one of those comfort food celebratory breakfasts. After all, the reason for being a triathlete is to be able to eat like that, right?!

All in all, it was really a great adventure. I did it and lived. I'm already plotting how to train better for the next race. I'm sure merlot, margaritas, and sour cream enchiladas will remain a part of my training regimen. Grady is thrilled that I liked it and have plans to do another. He thinks this might give him an unlimited approval on triathlon gear purchases...NOT!

Thanks for reading about my triathlon. Stay tuned for more on my quest to become She-Ra, Princess of Power! (My kids are rolling their eyes...)


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date: October 9, 2007