A year ago (July 2007), I witnessed my first triathlon. I was inspired when I saw a five-year-old compete in the children's one. She ran through the water with her dad by her side for the 50 yard "swim." She had been off her training wheels for two weeks, and rode three miles on her bike with her dad running next to her (right after doing his Olympic Tri). She came in dead last on the bike and was escorted by two police cars. She had a smile from ear to ear and I couldn't have been more proud. Then she transitioned to the one-mile run with both her mom and dad with her. She was nearing the finish line and stopped to grab a cup of water (too cute!). Ella was definitely the beginning of my inspiration. I was also there for the awards ceremony and saw lots of people of all ages and abilities. When I saw someone in their 70's getting an award, I said, "Next year, I'm doing this!" I didn't really know what I was saying when that little phrase came out. I've never run a day in my life. I never learned how to swim. The technique I had was a glorified doggy paddle with my body practically sinking vertically. I haven't had a bike since high school. I also have Fibromyalgia and deal with constant pain. I had LOTS of challenges to make my way through. First was running, which I started doing last August. I was able to barely run a block at a time without gasping for air. I started learning to swim in January and had a friend tell me "Wow, you have a long way to go."
In February, I was given a very special gift: a gift certificate to buy a nice road bike. That's when I realized there was no turning back. I WAS doing this. I started going to triathlon clinics which were extremely helpful. Then in May I started my open water swimming. When it neared the last week to my tri, which was July 20, 2008, I became really nervous and scared. I really didn't feel ready. My last swim before the tri was a few days prior, I did a half mile in open water and it clicked and felt great. That's when I started trying to mentally prepare myself since I was as ready as I would ever be. I was starting to become at peace with possibly coming in dead last, like Ella, and it was my goal to be totally fine with that. It was also my goal to come in under three hours.
Race dayThe alarm clock went off at 3:30 a.m. There I was. I was doing this! My sister was by my side helping me get ready for my big day. I loaded my bike on my bike rack and out the door we went at 5 a.m. I was surprised to see all the hustle and bustle once we got there. I arrive to my transition area and told the guy setting up next to me that this was my first time and I wasn't really sure how to do this and that I was nervous. He said, "That just means you're ready." He also showed me how much space I needed and was really nice. With transition set up, I started mentally envisioning the day, what the course looked like, and where I needed to go after each event. Then it was 7 a.m. and almost time for my wave to begin in the water. I put my wetsuit on and headed down to the mobs of people in the water. I started wetting my face and the back of my neck and moving around as much as possible, all while breathing deeply.
The airhorn blew and we were off! Dodging feet, elbows and bodies the best that I could, I made my way through and before I knew it, I was all alone. I was still within the rescue boats, but I felt way off course. I made my way back to the crowd and saw the shore getting closer, which is when I realized I hadn’t needed to go to my recovery stroke (breaststroke). I was surprised that I did the crawl stroke the entire way. As I was nearing the end of the swim, I was thinking that I needed to swim as far as I could before getting out of the water. Then I needed to undo my wetsuit and take off my goggles and swim cap. My arms were floppy so I fiddled with the zipper on my wetsuit a bit before I could take it off. I couldn't believe that I did a 20 minute swim! I ran to transition, and less than three minutes later I was on my bike. I averaged 16 mph, and 44 minutes later I was back at transition.
My sister was there cheering me on with a big poster that said "Sarah Rocks" at each check point. After a little over a minute in transition, I was on my run, which was definitely the hardest part for me. I was running very slowly and making all sorts of noises. Several people kept asking if I was all right, and one girl even offered me her water bottle. I was running on a flat course until the end where there was a hill that inclined for about a half mile. After that, I was pretty close to the finish line. I kept thinking, “I can't believe I'm almost done with this. I'm going to make it through the finish line.” One of the first people I saw was my sister and her poster. At that point, I sprinted as fast as I could through the finish. Threw my arms up in the air and was SO proud of myself!The next day I saw the results and was in awe that I did my first triathlon in an hour and 46 seconds! It’s now three days later and I'm still on my high. If I can do this, so can you! I look forward to my next race.