It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

May 22, 2012

Not What I Expected - KC Triathlon Race Report

Well, my day started off with a bang – literally.  I backed into my neighbor’s car.  Not the way you want to start your race day.
The race didn’t start until 7:30 am, but transition opened at 5am.  I like to get to the race early and be there as soon as transition opens, so I was leaving the house at 4:30 am to have time to pick  up Michelle and get to the race at 5am.  It was pitch black and my car was full, with my bike and Michelle’s bike, my tri bag, my wetsuit, etc.  My neighbor’s car was parked in the street right behind my driveway.  So as I’m backing out of the garage….bang.  I got out and looked at the damage.  I broke my tail light and had some scratches, nothing major.  Unfortunately I hit his car in the quarter panel, and it was completely dented in.  Crap.  Not wanting to disturb my neighbors at 4:30 am, I called Jim and asked him to let them know later in the day.  Definitely didn’t do anything to help calm the nerves.
I try to shake it off and head over to pick up Michelle.  My stomach is already in knots.  This is a big race.  It’s a 5150 Qualifier race and brings out a slew of competitive athletes including 10 pros.  These people mean business.  I am Slowly Tri-ing – I am not in the same league as these people.  I am so nervous.  It’s a 1 mile swim.  I have never swam that far in a race before.  Seeing the buoys the day before I panicked.  It is soooo long.  I was afraid my shoulder would not hold out.  I had told myself over and over, just go slow and get the swim done, but I wasn’t sure if it could be done.
As we pull up to the race my stomach is flipping and flopping.  I haven’t been this nervous before a race since my first triathlon.  I want these nerves to go away.  I set up my transition area and try to focus.  Talking to myself.  Remember this is not a race.  It’s a training event.  Just get through it and finish.    Slowly my friends start showing  up.  It helps calm the nerves to hang out and chat some.
My transition area all set up
We get our timing chips and head to the bathroom.  While in the porta potty I hear someone yelling beside me in the next toilet over “F..k, F, F, You’ve Got this, You’ve Got this, You’ve Got this!!”  Apparently someone was giving themselves a little pep talk in the john.  It was hilarious and makes me realize I’m certainly not the only one who is nervous.
Before I know it the announcer is saying, “Transition closes in 10 minutes!”  Holy!!  It’s almost time.  Well sort of.  Transition closes at 7:00 and my swim wave doesn’t start until 8:01, but it’s almost time to get out of transition anyway.  I had waited til the last minute to put on my wetsuit, not wanting to stand around in it too long since it’s so hot.  So I hastily go to put it on.  I bend over to pull up the legs and ouch…..there goes my back.  I knew it the instant it happened.  I threw out my back.  I have struggled with my back for the last 6 years, but have been relatively healthy for quite some time now.  CRAP.  It’s not my day.  First the car, then my back.  I had already taken an aleve to help combat the inflammation in my shoulder.  Now it would have to do double duty.
During the next hour while waiting to start our swim wave (wave 10 of 13), I stretch, and stretch and stretch out my back.  It hurts, but I feel ok.  I am hopeful the swim will actually stretch it out and the adrenaline will keep the pain out of my head and back.  It does help focus my energy on that and not on my nerves.  By the time I started the swim, I feel calm.  I’m really not too nervous at all.

The Swim
Finally it’s our turn to go.  I jump in the water and start swimming.  I settle into a decently slow pace pretty quickly and feel pretty good.  I focus on sighting and keeping an eye on the farthest buoy.  I reach the far buoy which is approximately 1/3 of the way.  I feel ok.  My shoulder feels ok.  I continue swimming for what seems forever.  Somewhere past the halfway point I swallow a large amount of lake water.  This turns out to be an issue for most of the race as I apparently managed to get it down in my lungs.  I'm trying to cough it up while in the water which seems almost impossible to do.  I just stay focused and keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  Finally, my hand touches the sand and I stand up to start the very long run to transition.  For weeks, all I had focused on was getting through the swim no matter how long it took and then just biking and running like that was going to be the easy part.

I did NOT anticipate how exhausted I would be when I got out of the swim.  I had been in the water 43 minutes.  When I reached the beach my legs were quivering.  Had I kicked too hard??  Too much??  I tried to run, my calves started cramping.  I decided to take it easy.  I walked up the hill from the beach and once I finally reached pavement I tried a slow jog through transition.  I was exhausted.  How and the heck was I going to bike 25 miles and run 6.2?  I finally reached my bike - which was .2 miles from the beach.  It was a LONG transition.  I was still shaking.  I ate part of a cliff bar and drank some gatorade.  I had to sit down to take off my wetsuit.  I wasn't going to risk hurting my back even more.  I finally head out to bike - 5 minutes and 22 seconds later.  Due to the distance of the beach to transition most people had long transition times - around 2-3 minutes...but I had taken a really long time.

The Bike
Because I was in such a late swim wave, and because I'm such a slow swimmer, almost all of the bikes were gone from the racks when I started.  This was a bummer, as I already knew I was very behind most people.  I didn't have alot for the bike.  It's a pretty hilly course and my legs just felt dead.  I think I heard "On Your Left" about 300 times.  I was seriously beginning to think it was my name or something.  Yes, yes I know you are on my left.  You are passing me.  So is everyone else.  Congratulations.  By the time I started loop number 2 there was almost no one left on the bike course.  At least I wasn't hearing on your left anymore, but it was a weird feeling.  Even though I'm used to be in the bottom 25% at most races, I've not really experienced racing when no one is around.  I was starting to panic a little bit.  There was pretty much no one behind or in front of me.  I knew I was going to be running alone too and this was a very deflating feeling.  I finally finished the bike.  I wouldn't know my mph until later, but I knew I had been pretty slow.  When I got my results I averaged 15.1 mph, which was much slower than any of my training rides had been.  I was on the bike 1 hour and 38 minutes.

My second transition was a bit faster at only 2 minutes and 25 seconds, but it still could have been quicker, but I was really feeling tired by this point.  I threw on my running shoes, race belt, and visor and headed off.

The Run
I always struggle with the first mile of the run after the bike, and today was certainly no exception.  My calves were cramping almost immediately and I was just exhausted.  I was coughing like crazy.  That water I had swallowed during the swim was still in my lungs.  I couldn't seem to get it out and it felt like a weight on my chest.  I dealt with that until about mile 4 when it finally seemed to clear out of my lungs.  Mile 1 (and Mile 4) have a pretty steep hill to climb.  I stopped to walk several times and when I finally hit mile 1, I had an amazing 12:42 pace.  Yes, after months of improvement on the run and times in the 10s and 11s, I had just ran an almost 13 minute pace. I was feeling pretty discouraged.  I felt a little better during mile 2 and actually managed an 11:30 pace.  I ended up walk/running most of the 6.2 miles - much more running than walking, but still walking a little in each mile.  The run course is 2 loops.  Several times I would pass people during the first loop and they would say "you are almost there, stay strong"....they didn't realize I still had one more lap to go.  They saw how far behind I was from everyone else and assumed I must be almost done right??  Wrong.  I finally reached the 5K point and 3 of my friends come running out to tell me I'm doing a great job.  2 of them had done the sprint so they were already finished, and one was actually working for the race.  It was a nice little boost to help me get through those next 3 miles.  Those last 3 miles were tough.  So many people were heading home.  Part of the run course was the path to people's cars.  So at this point in the race I had to dodge in and out of pedestrians, which was very frustrating.  There was some of this during the first lap, but it was awful during lap 2.  At about mile 5, there is a girl dancing all by herself with a sign that just say Hooray.  When I run by I said "I need some of your energy".  She said well here you go and gives me a high five, and then proceeds to smack me on the butt!  It was hilarious.  I just had a totally stranger smack my ass.  This gives me a little jolt of injury - at least for a few minutes.  I finally see the finish line in sight.  And I see my friend Michelle cheering for me.  Then I look over and see my husband Jim!!  I hadn't expected to see him and that was so awesome.  He had decided to incorporate the race into his morning run and "swing" by and see me finish.  The run took me an 1 hour and 14 minutes.  It was a 12:01 pace.  It was my slowest run in months.  But..........I had FINISHED my first Olympic Distance Tri.  The race took me 3 hours, 43 minutes and 52 seconds!!

Post Race
It was a weird feeling.  I was "Happy" because I had just finished my first Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I had also come in right around my predicted time.  But I was also extremely disappointed.  I know I shouldn't have been, but I was.  I had not expected to feel so exhausted on the bike and run.  I had expected a much stronger race.  I thought I would be an hour on the swim, and I was only 43 minutes, so I thought I would end up finishing a little faster than anticipated, but it just didn't turn out that way.  I had my slowest bike and run times I've had during any of my training.  And, to top it all off I finished dead last in my age group - 41/41.  I have never finished last.  Towards the bottom - yes.  Last, no.  I was also 638 out of 650 overall.  My results were so disheartening.  I have learned to accept my slowness and realize it's just where I'm at, but for some reason this particular race was really difficult.  I have just never been that low on the totem pole.

I thought about things, and tried to shift my perspective. Yes there were 650 people in this race, but only 205 females.  Only 205 females even attempted to do this and I was one of them.  This was a major race bringing in some major talent.  I just did something so many people could never do, or ever even be brave enough to try.  There are 5 of us training for Racine and all 5 of us had planned to do the Olympic Distance.  Of those 5, only myself and Michelle finished the Olympic Distance for various reasons.  I had met my goal time, and I had finished the race.  End of story.  It was meant to be a training race.  I now know what I have to work on.  I could keep beating myself up or I could be proud of myself for what I had accomplished. 

After the race, I met up with my friends.  They were all super encouraging and telling me what a great job I did.  I began asking people how they did and several people I know did well enough to qualify for the 5150 Championship race in September, including my friend Michelle who was awesome and came in 10th in her age group!!!  Michelle is an amazing athlete!

I think I learned alot about myself during this race.  I was disappointed with the race, but I finished.  I never gave up.  I won't lie - when I came by the finish line and knew I had one more 3 mile lap to go on the run, I considered turning in and being done....but I could never do that.  I may be a slow triathlete.  But, I am  TRIATHLETE!!


  1. Girl! Your race recap seems just like my Olympic tri recap. I was 2nd to last out of the water. I was last in off the bike. I finished 2nd to last. But I did more in those several hours than most people did all week. I did something that scared the hell out of me and so did you. You fought through some challenges and didn't give up. CONGRATS!!! So proud of you. And the person yelling in the port-a-potty....hysterical!!! Getting your ass slapped by a stranger....hysterical!!!! I bet the elites don't have stories like that. ;)

  2. You are an amazing triathlete!! And I would love to average over 15mph on the bike!

    Congrats, you OLYMPIAN :D

    Loved your report. I just wish you hadn't hurt your back, but girl - the rest of it!!...what a stellar way to hang in there during a really tough race.

    Maybe you should use the the mantra of porta potty guy next time ;-) What a hoot!

  3. Yes, you are a triathlete! You've done something I will definitely never do. Congrats!

  4. You should be proud to have finished this distance. I don't have the guts to even try a TRI!

  5. Congrats!!! YOu did awesome and you better believe it! That first oly is hard. My first oly experience was very similar. I think the small race makes it a little harder becuase you are out there on your own. You rocked it and you will only get stronger from here! Hope your back is doing ok.

  6. CONGRATS!!! You have now done the distance that all the olypians do, now that is pretty darn cool if you think about it. Forgive me if I am wrong, but your report seems like your a little down, I do not agree at all with this statement "I am not in the same league as these people", yes you are in the same league as these people, you trained, you raced, you finished, think of how many people that will never have to courage to attempt to do a race like this??? We are the 0.02%, ONLY 0.02% of the worlds population has EVER done a triathlon, your are part of this elite group, you earned your spot in that group, YOU do it!! One of my new favorite quotes is "The miracle isnt that I finished, the miracle is that I had the COURAGE TO START!!"

  7. You are basically incredible! That whole tri thing sounds so intimidating. I really admire your bravery.

    Side note: I park my car in the driveway, and my wife has backed her car into mine THREE TIMES! Note to self: don't park in the driveway.

  8. Congrats on completing the Olympic distance!

    That is a real bummer about hitting your neighbors car, what was he doing parking right behind your driveway?

    And while you may be disheartened by your finishing time, Big Daddy Diesel is dead on. To me your placing doesn't matter. What matters is that you did something that you had never done before. I've said it before that I'll never be Ryan Hall or Meb, but that is okay - I try as hard as I can on races and that is all you can do. Time really only matters to me personally, your personal time doesn't matter to others. I just strive for personal improvement. Race times are relative, not absolute.

    And most likely I'll never attempt a triathlon in my life, so you are faster than I ever will be.

    As for Bay to Breakers, the race has gotten somewhat boring the past couple of years. A lot of the fun has been sucked from it due to the new regulations. The closest race to it is probably the Flying Pig, and since you did that race, you sort of experienced the Bay to Breakers experience already. I'm not sure it is worth it to come out to B2B.

  9. Congrats on completing the Olympic distance!

    It was hard but you did it. You did it all. that is something to be proud of. You got up. You started. You finished. Not many people can say they did a triathlon Olympic CAN. Congrats!

  10. I thinky you're an amazing triathlete!!! I use you for inspirationa and motivation...and honesty! You should feel so proud to have finished an olympic tri...and look at your busy weekend and how your morning started!

    Kuddos to you Michael...and I am sure many, many more to co me. Hope your back feels ok today!

  11. Congratulations!

    From a less than great race, find the positives, identify your issues and figure out how you can improve on them before your next race.

    This is your measure. Now it's just going to get faster and faster!!!!!

  12. Wow! I just started reading this. One mile swim! You are my hero. Man what a bummer swallowing that race water. And BTW - you don't know what SLOW swimming is believe me.
    Question - what do you do inbetween legs for a spring tri for nutrition?'
    LOL at the "on your left" was my name thought.
    Isn't that a long swim for an Olympic? You did great. I am worried about being alone in my sprint as I will be way behind. You are inspiring. You stuck to it and did it all!
    Pay attention to that paragraph where you say "I thought about things." You have some great truths in there. I am sorry you were disappointed but look look look at what you did! Now you have a time to beat the next time you do this distance. I hope as time goes on you feel better about this race because in my eyes you were great in so many ways.

  13. Congrats! Well done!

    For the rest of your life you'll have done this. It is a big deal. Celebrate.

  14. Congratulations Triathlete!! Who cares where you finished, the fact is that you swam a mile, biked 25, and ran 6.2 one after another, pretty cool stuff. Way to go Michael,welcome to the club!

  15. Well done Michael. It was a really tough event but you triumphed! I laughed out loud about the man in the loo giving himself a pep talk. I wonder if it was about the race or about what he was trying to achieve in there.

  16. Hey, great job out there! Like BDD said, not many people even have the courage to toe the line.

    BTW, if it makes you feel better, after a race I backed into a friend's mother-in-laws car and damaged her car badly, my car, and both of our bikes. I was so made at myself it wasn't funny.

  17. Congratulations! You certainly did what most will never even attempt. I'm also slow and I've been dead last in a race. They gave me a stone with the words "stone last" written on it. You met your goal and that is fantastic! Enjoy some good rest!

  18. I have a confession to make. In my first Olympic, I was DFL in my age group as well. I didn't realize it until the next day, but I was completely crushed when I saw the results online. Like, crying hysterically crushed.

    So. Take another deep breath and keep thinking those positive thoughts. It was just a hard training day. If you look at it that way, you were a complete success! You accomplished what you wanted to and did something that less than 1% of the entire population of the world has done.

    And I'm sure you looked cute doing it! :)

  19. Congratulations! You had a great race and don't let the speed get you down. You are a triathlete!

    I hope your back feels better!

  20. Chin up! If it wasn't for you being so brave and making these things seem possible, I might never have gotten in the water or even now consider still doing Muncie. If you love it, then do it! You're my bestest tri friend and hero!

  21. Michael you are amazing! I would never attempt what you just accomplished. Seriously I am so incredibly proud of you. And in my opinion running a slow race is about 5,000 times harder than running a fast race. You are strong, you are tough, and you are an amazing women that I feel very grateful to know.

  22. You should be proud! Some of us aren't even willing to try a tri.

    Great job finishing what sounds like a hard race.

  23. Great job. I'm so proud of what you have accomplished in such a short time. Way to go

  24. Sounds like you have a pretty good perspective. I too have been disappointed in myself even after a respectable race. Congrats on furthering you race distance and getting the job done.

    Keep in mind, I'm not a tri guy, but just getting ready for a foot race seems like enough stress for me. For now I don't have the courage to spread myself out to try a tri. You have a lot to think about on race morning.

    That was a good story about the girl giving you some energy.

  25. Great job, Michael! Don't worry about where you placed, just focus on your own times. (i know it is hard not to look at that but... with triathlons especially some of the races draw mostly super fast people - especially qualifiers - so don't judge yourself) NICE JOB!!! Love that Jim just "swung by" to see you finish. :)

  26. GREAT JOB!!! I can't even imagine putting myself through an olympic triathalon and you did it! I get feeling down a bit, but it can only last for a short time :) Congrats!!

  27. Congrats Michael!!!!! Sorry about your (and your neighbors) car, but great job on your race!!

  28. Congratulations on finishing your first Olympic Distance Tri! You should not worry about where you place, next year do the race again and try to beat your time - that's what I have learned over the past couple of years.

  29. You are an awesome triathlete! And, you're right. You did this race when many people don't even try. Sure, you were one of the slower ones, but what's the saying? You lapped everyone sitting on the couch.

    First time doing a distance is about the experience as much as anything. Congratulations!