We did it! Barracuda and I finished our very first triathlon!
On Sunday, August 5, 2007, we participated in the Tri for the Cure Triathlon at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, Colorado. It was an AMAZING event, more than I could have ever imagined. There was certainly the physical intensity involved in the training and the actual event itself, but the emotional part was something I was totally unprepared for. People at this triathlon (all women, all in support of women with breast cancer) were so welcoming, encouraging, and delightful. While there were a lot of nervous people (myself included) the overall atmosphere was one of delight mixed with anticipation. When we first got to the park in the wee hours of the morning, the air felt charged with energy. It was a very cool feeling. It was so hard to part ways with my sister Barracuda as she went to her wave’s transition area and I went to mine. We met up again a little while later at the swim start where we could test the water out and go for a pre-swim.
I was in the second wave (the first wave was for elites) which was the survivor wave. We got to wear the pink swim caps! All the women around me were also breast cancer survivors. I know it sounds goofy, but it was very empowering. I felt proud of who I am, and I hadn’t even begun the tri yet. I was fortunate to park my bike next to Elisa who had done the triathlon 3 times before. She gave me some very helpful tips and assuaged my concerns about how to get from swim to bike to run. Once I unpacked my gear, I had a gear malfunction. The strap for the timing chip broke. Fortunately there was a tent in the transition area dedicated to such things and I was on my way again. There really wasn’t much time from when we got there, got settled, checked out the water, and hit the port-o-potty. It seemed like all of a sudden the national anthem was being played. I surprised myself as I welled up with tears (so unlike me). This is really happening, I thought. The singing of the national anthem was like this thing that united all of us triathletes together with all other athletes that had heard their national anthem played at their events.
After the national anthem, the elites and survivors were called to the swim start. A coach was at the start area and pepped everyone up, congratulating us on all that we had and were about to accomplish. Then the elites entered the water. We counted them down and off they went at 7 a.m. sharp. Then us survivors were called up and allowed to enter the water. The coach was there encouraging people and reminding us to fully immerse ourselves in the water. It was really nice having someone to tell you what to do because I was clueless and still a bit awestruck by the whole event. The announcer then began the countdown along with the waves behind us and the spectators. Then we were off! I stayed to the outside and tried to settle into my rhythm. There were swim angels all along the way — volunteers in wetsuits and flippers who had floaties for people who needed a rest. If they weren’t actively helping someone, they were cheering us on. Very cool. I swam my slow but steady swim for the whole 1/2 mile, never once stopping or resting. This is what I had trained for and this is what I did. The swim was personally my best event because I had focused so much on it (you may recall that I did not know how to swim as of the beginning of this year). As I was swimming, I tried to relax and remind myself to enjoy the moment, to be filled with gratitude for the women around me and for the swim angels, to take in the beauty of the rising sun and the tree-lined shore. Much of the swim was like this for me. I got ran over one time — I was out on the far edge and a couple waves after me had caught up with me. There was all kinds of space around me. I’m guessing that the woman hadn’t been sighting and she just swam over me. I stopped for a few seconds to tread water and let her get beyond me because she just didn’t stop. Then I kicked my legs up and kept going. It kind of made me laugh and I figured she was just as eager as I was to get to the swim finish! My stroke felt effortless as I hit the third leg of the swim which was directed toward the finish line. I kept my eye on the finish line and tried to be as fish-like as possible. Then all of a sudden it was there. Some guys were in the water helping us out because we were on the cement boat launch which was slimy with algea or seaweed or something. Once out of the water I headed for the transition area. My legs felt like cement and I was tired. I think with all the adrenaline and energy I had swam way faster than I ever had which meant I didn’t really pace myself. I was also so relieved to have done the swim that I might have unconsciously signalled to my body that it could relax into recovery mode. Regardless, I got to the transition area and switched over to my biking gear.
Stay tuned for the biking and running legs, the finish, and pictures!