In February I called my friend Erin and begged her to do the Danskin triathlon with me. It didn't take much arm twisting, but she agreed to train and do it with me. So now I was on the hook to complete it. I had a few injuries throughout the summer and after a couple months of reluctant training, I completed the Danskin 2009 Triathlon.
The day before the race it is required that you pick up your timing chip, swim cap, and goodies from the race sponsors. Erin and I arrived at the Expo center promptly at 10:00, along with 80% of the race participants. The line was longer than any I've seen, including disneyland. Thankfully it moved relatively quickly and we were able to make our way all the way around the block within 1:30 minutes. We then waited in lines up the stairs and around the corner to the packet pickup area. A quick ID check and we were almost free to to. Downstairs we "got to" draw our race number in permanent pen on both arms and our age on the back of our calf. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind the age, other that it makes the older women smile when they pass people. We picked up our free t-shirts (yet another line) and then listened to the inspirational speaker talk about how great it is to see all these women participating in sports...
On the the bike drop off. We drove down to Genesee Park in south seattle and secured our bikes. We walked around the HUGE transition area and got a feel for what it would be like the day of the race; then headed back to her parents house to watch a movie and get some rest before the early morning race. The Pre-pre-race lasted 7 hours!
The alarm went off at 5:05. We were going to leave the house at 5:30 and Erin's husband Ben agreed to drive us to park the car and save us a 45 minute shuttle shuffle. We arrived at the Race area at 6:15. The nerves were already setting in. Before we knew it they were asking everyone to leave the transition area and head down to the water so that when the elite races came out of the water they would have an empty transition area to navigate. We walked down to the water in time to hear the national anthem and see the first wave o "Elite" racers take to the water. 6:45, only 76 minutes until it was our turn. 38 waves of 100 swimmers. over 5500 women were participating the event, some on relay teams. There were a lot of people milling around. We had enough time on the shore that we saw the "Elite's" finish their bike ride and start on their run before we even went over to the swim warm-up area. I'm sure that the first racers were finished with their race before our race had even begun.
Erin and I waded into the water and got a feel for it. Only 3 minutes until it was our turn. The butterflies were definitely there. I reminded Erin that she could use the lifeguards on their surfboards and the kayaks to rest if she needed them and that she would be just fine. The goal was just to survive the swim, and the bike and run would take care of themselves. The MC started to count down from ten and I set my watch so that I could keep track of my time during the race. And we were off, 100 women all with flailing arms and legs. The water became choppy very fast. Water that looked smooth was anything but that when I would bring my face up to take a breath there would be water that would splash into my mouth, the trick was just to keep it out of my throat. I was expecting that the swim would be my strongest discipline in the race. In my training I had enjoyed swimming the most, so I had done a lot of swimming in the lakes near our house this summer. I made it to the first buoy, and turned the first corner. The pack had thinned out a little bit and I saw a few caps from the wave in front of us so I was gaining on the previous wave. now it was time to find a rhythm. A few strokes to breast stroke to position myself and I got into somewhat of a grove, passing a few people here and there and trying to keep other peoples feet and hands out of my face. Soon I had made it to the second buoy and I looked at my watch 9:30, why was I swimming so fast, I was going to burn out my lungs before I got to shore. I made a conscious decision to slow it down and pace myself into the finish. The third leg was the longest and hardest. With the finish in sight everyone was trying to push through and didn't seem to care it I was in their way, they would swim over the top of me if that is what it took. I reached the finish of the swim in 19:00, and started the 400m barefoot run up to where my bike was racked.
The bike ride was a nice way to catch my breath and get my legs underneath me. We rode north along Lake Washington up a short steep hill and onto the I-90 Express lanes. Down the hill and across the water. Probably the only flat area in Seattle is riding across the water on the bridge. I wasn't feeling strong by any means, but I was passing some people and other were passing me. At this point the competitive person inside me was wavering and becoming more about surviving than about winning and being competitive. I geared down and took it easy on my legs even though that meant that I was riding slower. I reached the turn around point and felt really good, riding harder on the way back was easier. My overall pace for the bike ride was 15.5 MPH. Maybe it is due to lack of oxygen, but most of the bike ride was a blur. The hills seemed a little harder and longer than I had remembered. I finished the bike ride in about 45 minutes.
I was dreading the run, I didn't feel like I had trained enough. Even the though of running right now is making my stomach turn. On the bike if you get tired or winded, you can simply slow down and you are still moving. Not the case when it come to running. My lungs burned the entire 3.1 miles, my legs felt weak. I stopped and walked for 25 yards or so ever time there was an opportunity for water, at the beginning mile 1 and mile 2. The run couse was pretty flat with one large hill at mile 2.5. Mostly an out and back course. I was "running" in some sense of the word, but the only people I was passing were walking, and some of the people passing me looked as if they were barely running. My competitive nature was wanting to run harder and push through, but every time I would speed up at all my lungs would get smaller and my legs would get heavy again, so I jogged all the way up the hill and into the finish chute. Tons of people standing around all looking for the one person that they came to watch. As I stepped across the finish line as the clock read 3:07:00 meaning i finished 3 hours after the first "elite" wave started their swim. 1:51:00 after I had begun.
A little bit later Erin came running in and had a somewhat smile on her face. The whole experience was fun. Every time I race I remember why I do this. Fitness is fun, but going beyond your capabilities, and pushing myself into places that are uncomfortable are what makes me grow as a person. I find my strength in places of my mind that I never knew existed.
There was a quote on the back of the shirts of a large triathlon team that was there, "the miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I began".