(Not really. Just sounded a bit more dramatic.)
Nose wiped, I bolted out of T2 like my feet were on fire. I had no idea how many people were in front of me or what time it even was. My dreams of running an 18 minute 5K were dashed only because….I’ve never run an 18 minute 5K, lol. I’ve never even come close to breaking 20. I wonder some days if my enthusiasm for running makes me appear to be better runner than what I actually am. Proud mid-packer here, occasional age-group placer. That’s it. No land-speed records were going to be broken today; I was simply excited to start the run.
In a race, 6:50-7:00 min/miles would be my 5K speed. I had already made peace those numbers would not be present today. Tempo is around 7:30; but even that seemed a bit rough, considering how much my lower back hurt. So I adjusted my goals and decided to shoot for marathon pace: 8:30s. My happy pace.
Friends warned me the first mile after the bike is tough, very tough. You have to “find” your legs again. I had no problems finding mine – there they are! Hi, legs! – but that nasty lower back ache literally had me gasping in pain. That along with a dull ache in my uh, under carriage. I had been wedged on RB for well over an hour, and I don’t think I once changed or shifted positions. Again, my inexperience was showing.
It took a solid half mile to work out the kinks, especially in the left glute. I used this time to look around the course and see who was still out there. A ton of folks had already finished (buzzkill) but there were Olympic distance folks were still grinding it out. This time, in this sport, I wasn’t afraid to pass them.
As my back settled, so did my mind. Running is so visceral. I turned my head to glance backward. I felt the ground beneath my feet, listened to my competitors’ breathing, even smelled how hard they were working. I never realized how much I rely on my senses during a run, but you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
I felt back in my element.
But I wasn’t feeling 100%. I had clearly ingested buckets of water during the swim, which now splashed angrily in my gut with every foot strike. Ugh. Here was I was so thirsty, yet running with a sloshy tummy. The irony. Plus, it was Lake Mead water. Gross. Where was Johnny to hold my ponytail?
Thankfully, experience kicked in and that inner voice began extinguishing the flames of negative thought. First, It was only 3 miles. Second, I will not be running for four hours. Third, my discomfort was moderate at best. And when my watch clicked an 8:36 for mile one, I forceably exhaled with relief. Only two more to go and I’m moving easily. Everything was going to be just fine.
And it was. Miles 2 and 3 were also in the 8:30s. Before I knew it, my little leggies powered up the hill to the finish line. I caught sight of my cheer squad right before the end and raised two hands in victory. They screamed. I screamed. Done!
This time? Not so much. Two hours and fifteen minutes worth of work. Not quite as taxing as a long run. Just…wetter. And more booty pain.
What did I learn?
- This experience was humbling. Starting in the very last wave, I feared I was one of the last to exit the water. This is something I had never experienced before. It makes me think about those back—of-the-pack runners trying to get in before the mile cut-offs. That’s a different kind of stress than meeting a time goal. It gives me a renewed appreciation for those folks.
- Open water swimming is no joke. The experts were right: you need to practice, practice, practice. No wonder during my training swims in the pool, everyone else seemed to be swimming so much harder. I leisurely floated by while they are churned like diesel-fueled paddle boats. Clearly they knew open water brings a completely new dynamic to forward movement. I was just having fun staring at the green line and practicing flip turns. Lesson learned.
- It’s possible to “race” without becoming a puddle of stress. I put very little pressure on myself to go fast (hi! Beginner blue cap over here!) and that made a huge difference. There were a few hairy moments during training and on Friday night, but overall, I felt pretty chill about the whole experience. I called it more of an experiment than a race. Obviously, I can’t use this for every situation (…goal-setting is good…) but I’m slowly learning there is a way to aim high without melting down.
- I’m a minimalist. I don’t like gear. Cycling and swimming are extremely challenging and require an enormous amount of training and practice, along with being very technique-heavy and gear-dominant. There are far more things that can go wrong on a bike than on two feet. Like halfway through the ride and I looked down and realized I should have added air to my tires. Whoops. I don’t like having more variables to contend with. Maybe it gets easier with time, but it is a lot to juggle. A very experienced tri told me, “You get used to doing nothing well.” That does not settle well with me. Kind of like my triplet analogy; I don’t like feeling like I’m constantly working yet still deficient. Give me one thing and let me do it well.
- We are who we are. And I am a runner. What I lack in talent, I make up for in effort and exuberance. I’m never going to run elite, win a marathon, or do anything truly noteworthy for the sport. And that is totally okay. If 2017 has taught me anything — from being injured for 8 weeks to skipping runs because my other other babies were crying — it is that I value running and need it in my life. It’s less of a sport and more like a relationship. Running, thanks for being you. To many more happy miles together.
The most common question I’ve gotten since Saturday is “…will you do another triathlon?”
I have no idea. At least I have the gear now - including my wet suit, which has been lying in our bathtub since Saturday night.
However, I definitely am interested.
But do I have to wear an ankle monitor?
P.S - Indy Monumental Marathon in 8 days!