Tri U Mah (Timed Triathlon)
Swim, Bike, Run - 30 minutes per leg
Distance Covered, Indoors: 1225 yard swim, 15 mile bike, 2.42 mile run
Ever since I went to spectate the Wisconsin Ironman last year, I knew I was in trouble.
Why? Well, first of all, running is obviously something I already enjoyed, and biking wasn't far behind that. Second, I've done duathlons in the past, and I knew they were fun. Third, I have been working on my swimming for about a year now.
So, 1+2+3 = time to start doing triathlons.
Or, more accurately, time to start researching possible triathlon courses to race.
Knowing that I've never done a race that included a swim portion, when I started researching possible "first tri" courses, the idea of an indoor course really appealed to me. Not only could I control the swim aspect by being in a pool (thus no funky lake water, choppy conditions, and only sharing a lane with likely one other swimmer), I also felt like mentally this would be easier on me (since everything is in an indoor / controlled environment, the most tedious equipment to haul around - a bike - would already provided by the event hosts so logistics would be less stressful, etc).
A few options crossed my radar, but when my friend from the Ironman race recommended I check out Tri U Mah, I was decided immediately. Not only was this a smaller race (as opposed to a beast like the LifeTime indoor tris), even better was the fact that this race would fall right at the end of my Lazyman Ironman training cycle. So, I'd be in the best possible "condition" by race day ... not that I'm exactly conditioned right now, but whatever. Plus, my friend would be doing it as well, so at least I would know someone at the event.
But ... whoops. I kind of waited too long to pony up my race fee, so when I went to sign up only the late day slots were open, and my Ironman friend was already registered for an AM slot.
Not to worry. My other friend from the Bacon Chase and 24 Hour Relay race events was free, and down to do it. Before we could over think it, we were both registered and were ready to go! BOOM!
Plus, we had a "costume" theme idea for the race, thanks to InkNBurn - MAN VERSUS MACHINE.
On to race day.
I over sleep.
I miss the group shuttle from my gym.
I arrive late and end up not being able to submit a swim time.
To make matters even worse, I forgot to pack my run outfit.
Despite having no nerves leading up to the race, these are all the nightmares I have the night before race day. And most are absolutely ludicrous because (1) there is no shuttle to miss since I'm driving myself and (2) there is no way in hell I could over sleep for a race that starts at 5pm.
Needless to say, thanks to my nightmares, I woke up at 8am on race day with a start. Good thing I had all day to unwind from the bad dreams, and also ample time to learn from the prophesies - I spent a good hour ruminating on my gear bag to make sure I forgot NOTHING.
Eventually, around 3ish, I threw on my swim suit along with a pair of old drawstring lounge pants and a zip up hoodie. As I grabbed my bag and headed to the car, I wondered how this would all shake out.
I picked up my partner in crime, then drove to the UofM campus and parked in the ramp right next door to the aquatics center. As we checked in, we both wondered if we'd enjoy the challenge or come to regret our registration. Regardless of the possible end result, as we unpacked our gear into our lockers we both agreed - at least the facility was nice, and the pumped in music over the audio system was an added bonus.
Being my first tri, this was the part I was most nervous about. Especially since I found out the pool was 7' deep ... after I registered. Seriously. I think I peed a little when I found that out, since I only train in a 4'-ish pool.
My heat was scheduled to start at 5:00pm, so at 4:55 I sat on the edge of my lane and contemplated life. Before I could over-think my possible drowning death upon entry to the pool, I pushed myself off the edge and was in. Yep, I definitely wasn't touchin' bottom. Plus, the water was colder than I anticipated ... but I knew it would feel good once I started swimming hard. I held on to the edge of the pool, rested my feet on the built in ledge that was about 4' down from the pool's edge, and waited.
4:59 and ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... BUZZ!
And I was off.
For the first few laps, my nervous energy screwed me and all I could do was full steam. Three laps in, I glanced up at the time clock and realized I was swimming 50's in 0:55 ... one may have even been sub 0:50. I'm not a fast swimmer, and my current PR in a 50 is about 0:55. I was NOT keeping a maintainable pace and forced myself to SLOW DOWN.
I lost track of laps about 10 minutes in. Thankfully, time was cruising by, and I knew my goal of just continuously swimming without a break would be attainable.
Some time around 5:26pm or so, I realized I might have enough time to get in 3 more laps before the clock ran out. When I hit the turn around for lap 3 of that goal, I saw I had 30 seconds before the buzzer would sound. I hauled ass, and thought: "with one more pull, I'll nail it - yes!". But before I could touch - BUZZ! I missed the credit for my last 25 by less than 1 second. Dammit, all that push for nothing, and now I had the puke factor going.
"Oh well," I thought, "nothing I can do about it now. Besides, no time to waste," and I hustled to get out of the pool. At least I was in a lane near a ladder, so that made life a little sunnier.
There were 10 minutes scheduled for the transition from swim to bike. While this seems like a long time ... just think about how hard it is to get dressed in loose fitting clothing when your skin is still damp from swimming.
I spent all but 2 of my transition minutes fighting my wet skin against a sports bra and fitted compression tights. It's a good thing my buddy and I have no qualms about being up close and personal - we both ended up assisting each other with sports bra adjustments.
I ran out of transition, up the steps and into the bike station as the volunteers in that area were screaming "3 ... 2 ... 1 ... GO!!". Yikes!! I cut my transition time WAY too close to my liking.
And this is where I cannot say enough kind things about the staff at the event. First, an extremely helpful volunteer rushed over to help me set up my bike quickly and I was off. I lost maybe 1 minute max. Second, I didn't have time to fill my water bottle, so another volunteer ran off with my empty bottle and brought it back before I even hit a quarter mile. Third, yet another staffer was grabbing my friend and my phones to take pictures... which I may or may not have immediately posted to Facebook with a caption announcing "Machine is in the lead" as I furiously pedaled at a 30mph pace:
And imagine how much faster I would have been had I not been a turtle in transition and a goofball on the bike?!
Anyway, between the pumped in music, the high energy staff members and the jubilation of the fellow racers, I was having the time of my life. To make things even more fun, now that we were out of our swimsuits and fully geared up, my buddy and I finally let the competition of Man vs. Machine begin. Every so often we'd yell at each other to see what our mileages were reading, and each time I'd kick up my pedaling a notch and while trying to calculate if I had our "mini-race" in the bag or not.
I realized somewhere around mile 12 that I had a real chance to clear 15 miles during this 30 minute interval, so in the last 5-10 minutes of the bike portion I kicked it as hard as I could. Before I knew it, the volunteers were counting down the clock again, but I had 0.3 miles to go to my goal. 3 ... 2 ... I was literally pedaling my ass of ... 1!
YES!! I made it to 15! But, I didn't realize how good 15 really was until the volunteer who was tracking my performance came over. "And how did you do" she said, glancing down.
Then, with a big eyebrow raise she said "15?! Wow! Impressive!"
I may have fist pumped and hooted to my buddy that I got a 15. Ok, take the "may" out of that sentence. With 5 more minutes for transition from bike to run, and the treadmills just feet away, what else would I do to pass the time? I mean, besides slide out of my cleats, of course.
It was about this time that I realized this tri stuff was a lot of work. I got on the treadmill, but I was TIRED. And mentally, I was not 100% committed to the run segment, since I was worried about my feet.
And, as you can tell in the photo above - my buddy is hanging herself on the treadmill behind me. She wasn't feeling it at this point either.
We were both fatiguing and just wanting to be done. It felt pretty much like this:
Thankfully, the music was still pumping, and the guys on either side of me on the treadmill were swooning over my 15 mile bike performance. The attention may have gone to my head a little, but my ego needed it that late in the game because I was definitely running out of steam.
The only thing that kept me running at this point was that Machine only had a small margin of lead on Man, so I needed to hold on to the run as long as I could. At about the 10 minute mark, I knew there was no way I'd clear a 5K (what I was secretly hoping to do), so I lowered my goal to 2.5 miles of running without any walk breaks and hoped that would be enough to clinch the win.
Unfortunately, as the final clock ticked down, I ended just shy of my mileage goal, but succeeded in zero walking. I suppose 1 outta 2 that late in the game ain't bad. I crossed my fingers and hoped my 15 bike miles were enough to keep Machine in the lead.
Since we were the last heat of the day, the only people left competing at this point were all in the treadmill room. As such, the staff was pretty eager to get to cleaning and stowing away the equipment (which isn't normally stationed in the areas where we competed). To help clear the way, as soon as the buzzer sounded for our run segment, we were herded out of the treadmill area and into the refreshments & results area.
Not that I minded, since I wanted to grab a snack... but... bagels with nothing to put on them and 2 oranges left for a group of 20+ people ... really? Drag. The down side of being in the last group I suppose.
Never mind. We still had enough cheer to pose for an after photo.
Since results were still being tabulated for our heat, we headed down to the locker room to shower and decompress. After which, I took my favorite photo of the night:
The above photo, by the way, features swag from 2015 and 2014 - all of which is amazing in case you're wondering. I opted to buy the 2014 shirt for $10 since it said TRIATHLETE on the back and was not dated on the shirt. All 2015 contestants received the above knit hat, a choice of a sweat towel or water bottle, some other various goodies in a nylon cinch sack, and a shirt that looks like this:
*Modeled by the woman who inspired me to race!
After our photo shoot in the locker room, we learned we took a little TOO long to shower and decompress, because when we came back upstairs the results station was torn down. In fact, we may have been the last folks out of the locker rooms period. Oops.
Rather than worry too much about missing results and determining who was victorious - Man or Machine - we went off to find dinner. Which ended up looking something like this:
Eventually, in between starters and the main course (because eating was #1 priority), we got around to tabulating our results. When I saw them, I was pretty ecstatic!
Man vs. Machine
Machine - 18.116 miles
Man - 17.678 miles
Machine beats man!!
But even better yet was this:
Natalie, F, 30-39
70th out of 183 competitors (38%)
32nd out of 107 females (30%)
9th in age group (32%)
When I saw I placed 9th in my age group, I couldn't help but be a little giddy. I didn't even really train for this race!! So I decided to do some additional analysis:
119 / 65%
65 / 61%
18 / 64%
40 / 22%
16 / 15%
6 / 21%
153 / 84%
83 / 78%
24 / 86%
70 / 38%
32 / 30%
9 / 32%
Yeah, not too shabby. I mean, my run wasn't great, but I knew that would be the case going into this. And considering I placed in the upper 40% overall and 9th in my age group - with minimal training - I'll take it!!
My buddy and I celebrated our performance over dessert, and then I drowsily drove us both home, where I immediately collapsed into bed. The perfect way to end a busy day!
And that, folks, is the story of my first ever tri! I think I'm hooked, and am already looking for a "real" one to do late summer. Suggestions?
Here's to another race soon!!