After the Jitters

author : 2x4nomore
comments : 1

My first Sprint triathlon, after a very nervous pre-race morning.

Helen Zubaly Race Log 6/10/07

Race: Manassas Mini-Tri, specializing in first-time tri-athletes, but lots of experienced (fast) people signed up too.
Distance: 250 meter pool swim – 4 mile bike ride – 1.4 mile run

I awoke at 5:00, a bit early. I showered, dressed in my bathing suit and shorts, and pulled my hair back. I tried not to think too much as I ate some Cheerios. Then I started to get panicky and teary. I talked myself down and wrote about it some.

I headed to the GMU Freedom Aquatic Center at 6:15. Feeling much better, I psyched myself up mentally. “Be in the moment,” I told myself. I listened to Bobby McFerrin’s “Medicine Music” all the way out there.

I arrived and took my bike out of the car. I recognized several people as I had been checking in racers and distributing their race packs on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I hooked my bike seat over the rack space for #602. The first race number was 310, so there were some 300 people seeded ahead of me. Other “600s,” as we began calling ourselves, arrived. We were all nervous, but relaxed by the fact that we were all new and had no hope of winning, so lots of pressure was removed. One racer joked that she would be brushing her hair during transitions. Her companion was puzzled – brush…her hair? During a triathlon?. “It’s a whole different mentality back here in the 600s,” I joked.

I wandered around, got my body marked, and stretched a bit. It was chilly for June, in the low 60s. We lined up for the pre-race meeting, and the Race Director reminded us of the rules: “NO flip turns! Stay to the right – WAY TO THE RIGHT – when biking! Stay to the left on the sidewalk when running!”

We headed into the pool area to line up by number. I wet my goggles and secured my cap. “The Star-Spangled Banner” played over the loudspeakers. Everyone cheered, and the first racer (a 16-year-old-girl, I think) entered the water. Five seconds later, the next racer went in, and so on.

My turn: “Just swim the 10 laps,” I said to myself. “Just swim them if you have to do the Esther Williams sidestroke to do it.” I did 25 meters freestyle, then for the rest of the race, switched to breast stroke. Every now and then I peered up through my goggles to see if I could see my family in the stands. No dice. So I kept swimming. After 100 meters, I rested a moment. After the fifth pool length, I told myself: “You are halfway there. You are going to do this swim. You are doing it.” I rested again after 150 meters.


The rest of the swim seems a blur. I vaguely remember telling myself, “Stay in THIS moment in THIS swim,” and getting to 200 meters, then saying, “Just two more,” then climbing out of the pool and mumbling my race number to the officials. I took advantage of the slippery pool deck to walk less-than-briskly to the transition area. But outside, I did jog to my bike. Appearances, you know.

I got my socks on, my shorts, my jersey with my official race number, then the shoes. I sucked down some nasty sports gel, miraculously without puking – though I did gag! I followed with some huge swigs of water. I clipped on my bike helmet and trotted over to the mount/dismount line. I couldn’t get my shoe in the @&%# pedal. I switched feet, and I was off! Just as I was about to round the first curve, I spotted Phil and the boys arriving. “HEY!” I shouted, just as my sons spotted me. “HEY!” Phil shouted back. That felt great. The boys waved and began running toward me, but I was outta there.

I wasn’t a bad course – mostly extremely flat. My quads were burning, though, and sometimes I had to coast. Biker after biker passed me. But I didn’t care. I saw some of my fellow “600s” and we waved and exchanged greetings.

My wind was great. I had no trouble breathing. My muscles? Not so much. But I kept pedaling. Even when the 10-year-olds passed me, I kept pedaling. On the home stretch, there were Phil and the boys again, and I posed for a photo as I rode past them.

The interminable bike ride was nothing compared to the “run,” and I use that term loosely! My CALVES were killing me. The lungs were breathing, the heart was pounding, and the calves were balking. So I just walked. And walked, and walked, and walked, sometimes breaking into a jog for as much as thirty seconds at a time! Woo-hoo! I took minor comfort in the two or three people who were behind me, and great solace in the big 26-year-old guy in front of me who walked most of the course too.

Approaching the finish, though, I ran. Slowly. Everyone was cheering loudly because I was near the end of the pack. I think there were only three racers after me. I saw Phil and the boys after the finish line and stopped to hug Phil. “I did it!” I cried. “I DID IT!” I started crying a little, and walked to the officials to tear off the bottom of my race number. An extremely handsome and kind man with the gorgeous smile said warmly, “Great job. Congratulations!” and I took his words to heart. (I refrained from launching into a fantasy about him on the spot. I saved that for later.)

The boys immediately began clamoring for the ice-cold bottle of water the race officials handed me. “That’s for Mom,” Phil admonished. I drank it gratefully.

Biggest Fear: That I would not finish the swim

Biggest Surprise: That my wind was so great throughout.

Biggest Disappointment: My muscles – I thought they were stronger.

Biggest Thrill: During the pre-race meeting, when the Race Director admonished the spectators to stay out of the transition area. “That’s for the athletes ONLY!” she shouted. Hey, that’s ME, I thought. I’m an ATHLETE!

Biggest Moment of Abject Humiliation: Puffing along on my bike, hearing the mother behind me coaxing her very young daughter: “Pass him! Pass that guy! No…you HAVE to pass! Pass him! Pass that guy!” … and I was “that guy.” Extra bonus humiliation: I am a woman.

Dirty Little Secret: Since my triathlon clinic in February, I had been in the water once and on my bike once -- when I rode it last night, for the first time in two years. If I hadn’t started some consistent strength training and walking four weeks ago, I would never have made this tri. I am (was) shamelessly lazy, and only halfheartedly did some cardio training between the clinic and when I started my new regimen.

Biggest Revelation: That if I actually bother to TRAIN in a systematic, methodical, consistent fashion, I may just be able to pull off a Sprint Tri some day – and go beyond that!


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date: December 17, 2007


Reading, writing, hiking, camping, biking, learning to "tri"!


Reading, writing, hiking, camping, biking, learning to "tri"!

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