Here’s a list of things to remember for next time:
1. Don’t try to hold it. Do you see the bladder as half-full or half-empty? In this instance, it really doesn’t matter how you look at it… you’d just better go.
Prior to the race, I was in the transition area thinking:
- Should I wear flip-flops over to the start area? I kind-of have to go to the bathroom.
- I don’t want to cut my foot on the way. Those lines are pretty long.
- How will I find my flip-flops after the race? I don’t have to go that bad.
- Are my feet going to burn on the blacktop after I get out of the water? I can just hold it till the race is over.
Somehow the flip-flops took care of themselves, but the issue of the bathroom…that was something that needed addressing.
There were 4,500 athletes racing with me, and judging by the lines for the port-a-potty, they all agreed.
2. Not everyone knows where they’re going. A show of hands would tell you that about half of the athletes racing in my event were new to the sport of triathlon. On the one hand, it was comforting to know that I was not alone. But on the other hand, if you followed half of the people there… you could end up in the wrong place.
Be careful of who you follow… it could be someone like me.
3. Not everyone knows what they’re doing. Before the race, I was walking with a girl in my age group, and she asked me a question about the transition. “I don’t know,” I said, “this is my first race.” Then she asked the girl next to me. She didn’t know either. So, then she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Does anybody here know what they’re doing?!”
Apparently, we were swimming in sea of clueless people, because no one said a thing.
4. Transitions aren’t for changing costumes. I should have incorporated a lot more “transition” into my workouts. I spent a solid-year training for the swim… training for the bike… training for the run. And then, what do I do on race day? Seven minutes of changing into the “right” tank top! Who knew? Next time, I’ll try not to get stuck in my garments… or better yet (and this is a novel idea), wear the same thing for all three events!
5. Take candy from strangers. My husband caught me passing out Altoids to the girls around me during T2. I couldn’t help myself… they were there… and candy is for sharing! Besides, someone told me that they help keep your nose clear while you run. I didn’t want to selfishly hoard that priceless information.
I told the girl next to me that it would make her go faster. She took one.
6. Make use of the people who plan ahead. Despite the number of newbies at the race, there were still a couple thousand people who knew what they were doing. Among them were people with balloons, whirly-gigs, brightly colored duct tape and sidewalk chalk.
The day before the race, I parked my bike next to a girl with a whirly-gig. I followed her because I knew that I did not have a whirly-gig.
I paid her back in Altoids during transition.
7. When setting up your transition area, take note of things that won’t blow away. There was a lady making giant arrows with duct tape, so I asked her if I could use some of her tape. Not wanting to be greedy, I took five inches of tape, thinking surely I’ll see this piece of duct tape when I finish the swim.
Needless to say, I got lost amidst the thousands of bikes parked in the conglomerate bike rack. I stood frozen, surveying the scene for a small whirly-gig and five inches of duct tape. One helpful lady said, “Did you lose your spot? How many racks in are you?”
“Um… I’m near a pinwheel-thing, some duct tape and two other blue bikes.”
I should have used more tape.
8. Nobody’s hitting on you… they’re just swimming. There were about two hundred people in my wave of swimmers. That seemed like a large number for one lane, but what did I know? I guess I was expecting a smooth sail across the lake, but I couldn’t help but tread and glare every time I got kicked.
My apologies to anyone I hit, kicked or swam over… I didn’t know what I was doing… I just didn’t want to die.
9. Gasping for air is not a crime. Sometimes, when you’ve been riding your bike for what feels like forever…and it’s a windy, 95-degree day, breathing can be difficult.
There’s no shame in doing whatever it takes to get oxygen to the lungs. The last mile of my ride was really hard. It was mostly uphill, and I couldn’t inhale. Exhaling wasn’t a problem at all.
I am particularly proud of the moment that I rode into the crowd of people, forcing a smile so that I looked like I could breathe. I exhaled slowly while grinning at the cameraman, and then, unable to manage any longer, I inhaled and a deep-throated, gasp came forth from my face. All the beluga whales present understood.
The Doppler Effect carried my groan past the crowd, making it impossible to blend in.
10. The human spirit is stronger than iron. There were so many people who conquered so much just to be there. A wave of two hundred cancer survivors started our race. And my husband saw a woman who had a crowd cheering her on everywhere she went. She was blind.
After the race, I met a lady on my way to use the restroom (yes…again). We exchanged congratulations and began sharing war stories from the race. We both agreed that it was really hard, and I was feeling proud of the accomplishment.
Then she turned, congratulated me again, and walked away. That’s when I noticed her prosthetic arm.
Clearly, this is a sport for everyone.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (July 2007)