I am officially a triathlete! I competed in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Lake Davidson Sprint Tri on Sunday and don’t think I could have asked for a better race.
Race Packet Pick-Up
I was feeling really nervous on Saturday and a little overwhelmed with where I was at with my athletic ability. I essentially did the “Couch to Triathlon” training program and missed out on a bunch of training after my bike accident. I was definitely having a “wtf am I doing?” type day as I was driving to the running store to pick up my race packet.
But once I got there and heard some of the conversations of people in line, I realized that I really should lighten up about the entire experience. There were plenty of people in line who said this was their first triathlon, they weren’t sure they trained well enough, etc. and it just made me see that I was being really hard on myself.
I did the triathlon with my roommate, Micah, and we had formulated a game plan the day before for getting out the door on time. We both woke up at 5am, had our breakfast, got our bikes loaded and hit the road. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and drank a cup of coffee for breakfast. I normally have peanut butter toast prior to my workouts, but I decided to go with a sandwich to add in some more carbs. I made sure I stayed nice and hydrated all week and did drink some water prior to leaving.
It was a 30-minute ride from our apartment to the triathlon site. We listened to music and questioned our sanity the entire way
The triathlon was held on the Ingersoll Rand campus in Davidson. I had driven by there after packet pick-up the day before so I was comfortable with where I was going. The race entrance opened at 6am and we pulled up around 6:15; we couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing. Some people were there but it wasn’t crowded yet. Micah still had to pick up his race packet, which he was able to do before a huge line started to form. I met up with him and picked up my timing chip, and then we headed out to the transition area.
Setting Up My Transition Area
Soooo I wasn’t 100% confident with what I was supposed to be doing in the transition area, but I had a somewhat good idea thanks to pinterest and the advice of other triathlon bloggers! The racks were organized by bib numbers, and I picked a spot on the end of a rack so that I could maybe have a little more space. I set out everything I would need for the bike and run in the order in which I thought I would pick it up. A triathlete pro in my area explained that there were supposed to be 6 bikes per rack and you alternate directions of the bikes. I appreciated his expertise.
Funny story: A guy walked by me that looked like a hardcore triathlete. He had a REALLY nice bike and I was practically drooling over it. Then Micah came over and told me that the guy was Jimmie Johnson! He raced in the tri, which I thought was really cool
They closed the transition area ay 7:45 and we made our way to the lake for a pre-race meeting. The race organizers hit a few highlights of race day logistics and gave us some instructions for the swim.
Then we had a moment of silence in remembrance of September 11th. One of the triathlon participants sang The National Anthem and she had a really beautiful voice. Jimmie Johnson spoke a little bit about his foundation and told us that he has raised over $8.8 million dollars through events like the triathlon. Part of his funding goes to schools which was really cool since Micah and I have both worked for the NC school system. I think the moment of silence and hearing about the foundation really calmed my nerves because they were just reminders about the important things in life. I had a nice few minutes thinking about how thankful I was to be happy and healthy and to be able to race that day and contribute a little bit to the JJ foundation.
After the meeting, it was time for the race to start! The elite group took off at 8am, followed by the under 40 men and the 40+ men. I was patiently waiting for my group to start when I saw my sister, who had just made her way to the course. Some of these photos are from her Snapchat… so you get to see her narrate some parts of the race
As far as my attire, I decided to buy a pair of tri shorts but just ended up swimming in my sports bra. I tried on several tri tops but realized I was going to have to wear a sports bra anyway, and then decided I didn’t want the expense of another top that I may never wear.
My group was scheduled to swim at 8:15 and they called us into the water about 5 minutes beforehand. We all got into the lake to wait for the start time and that is when I realized $h!t was about to get real. The bottom of the lake was SO slippery that it was hard to walk. I slipped when I got in and then somehow ended up right in the front of my group. I tried to move back but couldn’t because of how slippery it was, and I started telling the girl beside me that I really didn’t want to be in the front. She was SO sweet to me and we talked about how it was my first tri. I told her about my bike accident and how I was so worried about the swim because I couldn’t train with my cast. She told me to wait a few seconds after the start to let some people get out in front of me, and to just take my time and go at my own pace. I took her advice and kind of stood there for a second when the buzzer went off.
I realized once I started swimming that I was worried about the swim for nothing. There were plenty of people swimming on their backs and doing breast stroke. I did think it was exhausting but I thought I hung in there pretty well.
The only hard part about the swim was that there were so many people around me that I felt like I was kind of stuck in a group of people. I tried to pass the people around me several times but kept getting kicked. I finally accepted that I wasn’t going anywhere and just kind of swam at their pace.
There was a pretty good distance between the swim area and the transition area. That time was counted in the swim, so I’m not exactly sure how long I was in the water vs. running to transition.
Swim: 500 yd // 12:18.5 // pace 2:25/yd
Thankfully there was no one near my rack so the transition area was pretty open where I was. I briefly toweled off and put on my shirt, socks, helmet, gloves and shoes.
We couldn’t get on our bikes until we were past a certain point of the transition area, and it was REALLY hard to run in my cycling shoes to the bike start line! My sister recorded a video of this on her snapchat and it’s really funny.
Transition 1 time = 2:21.4
We had a 13 mile ride through Davidson and this is the part of the race that I thought I was going to completely kill. I took about 2 minutes on my bike to realize how wrong I was!
I felt completely exhausted from the swim and it took a few miles for me to kind of catch my breath and relax. I had put my Garmin on my bike so I could see that I had settled into a good 14-15 mph pace. I thought I would be more around 18 mph but my legs just wouldn’t go faster. I had done almost all of my bike training on a trainer and a stationary bike, and I realized riding through Davidson that the slow and steady inclines were a lot different than most of my training.
Despite going slower than I had intended, the cycle was the part of the race that I enjoyed the most. I just love being on my bike! Everyone was very encouraging as they passed one another and it felt good to feel the breeze in my face! I really love the Davidson area and it was fun riding my bike through areas that I normally have enjoyed by car. I also had several “wow, this is kind of awesome!” moments.
My only complaint about the bike course were the cars. There were state troopers at all of the intersections stopping traffic, so the riders never had to slow down or wait for cars… but cars were riding with us along the race course and some of them were passing very closely. It just made me feel a little nervous, although it didn’t affect my speed or anything.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the race course. It felt like heaven when I made the turn back into the IR campus and knew I was heading to the transition area. That part of the ride was entire downhill and my mom, John, my sister and B were all cheering for me along the course.
As far as nutrition is concerned, I sipped on ~ 12 oz. of Gatorade during the ride. I would say it took me about the entire ride to drink the whole thing. I had stuck the bottle on my bike earlier just in case I thought I would need it and I’m really glad that I did. It was really hot and I was sweating a lot, so I wanted to stay on top of my electrolyte replacement before the run without upsetting my stomach.
Cycle = 53:46.4 // 14.51 mph pace
Transition 2 felt a little rough, honestly. I tried to take my shoes off standing up but ended up having to sit down. I wish I would have just sat down initially to save time. I had a hard time racking up my bike and then my Garmin got stuck on my bike. I actually broke the strap trying to get it off I also felt really thirsty and took a few seconds to drink some ice cold water (which tasted amazing, by the way!). I also redid my hair, lol. If I ever do a triathlon again then please remind me to wear it in a french braid or something.
Anyway, I swapped out all of my bike gear from my running stuff and was on my way to the last leg of the race!
Transition 2 = 2:10.7
My sister and B had come up to transition area and gave me some words of encouragement as I set out on my run. I have been pretty open about how much I have struggled with running, so this was just the perfect way to begin the last leg of the race.
So at this point, especially after the cycle, I felt really tired. Tired in a way that I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep going. I had done brick workouts almost every week of my training but nothing prepared me for how worn out my legs felt. My only goal I had for the entire triathlon was to not walk during the run but at that point, I was really wondering how I was going to keep my body moving for 3.1 more miles.
The first 1.5 miles of the run were really hard. The course basically had us looping around some of the IR parking lots and it was super boring (and was in direct sunlight). There was a water/gatorade station at mile 1, and we looped around and passed it again at mile 2. The water and the Gatorade were hot and it wasn’t refreshing at all, and it really took a lot of mental encouragement to keep myself moving.
Technically, my only goal was to not walk during the run. But deep down inside, my “reach” goal for the run was to finish it in less than 40 minutes. I started tri training struggling with a 15 min pace, but had worked really hard to get down to ~12 min mile in the weeks beforehand. I saw on my Garmin at this point that I had run the first 2 miles in 26 minutes and I realized that maybe I would be able to keep things under 40 minutes if I kept my pace up. But at that point, my legs were feeling dead and I felt like I was on the cusp of taking a walking break the entire time.
After I went through the mile 2 water station, I veered onto a shaded path and it felt amazing to be out of the sunlight. I knew the path would eventually take me along the lake to the finish line in about a mile, and I just tried to think about that to keep my legs moving. I ran for a little bit and then passed my entire family + B + Micah along the course. They were cheering so loud and it really gave me the boost I needed to keep going.
I looped around the paved path and ran along the lake until I passed the starting area where the race began. That is when I could see the finish line.
It was in that moment that I thought about all of the obstacles I have faced over the past few years with my knee and my foot. All of the times I wondered if I would ever be able to enjoy physical activity again, and all of the hours of physical therapy and strength training I’ve done to get me to this point. I also thought about all of the people who loved and supported me through all of that, and kept encouraging me when I needed it the most. That is when I started to feel all of the feelings.
And before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line.
My run time was 38:42.5, a 12:27/mile pace.
Crossing the finish line felt even more amazing than I thought it would be. Everyone was waiting for me at the end and it was just a really fun and happy moment. If you follow me on Instagram, I posted my sister’s Snapchat video of it.
My overall race time was 1: 49:19.7.
In case you are wondering about Micah, this was his first triathlon as well and he completely killed it. He finished the tri in 1:17:48 and finished 6th in his age group… and his running pace was 6:55/mile!
Not only did he complete kill it, but his bike was stolen 2 weeks before the tri and he raced on a bike that he ordered from Walmart. It seriously came in a few days before the race and we assembled it in our living room! Please just call us the comeback kids.
I have wanted to do a triathlon for SO long and it felt really good to accomplish a goal that I truly worked hard for. I thought I would be embarrassed about how slow I was (I finished 264th overall ) but in the end, crossing the finish line was all that really mattered. And above all else, I really appreciated the good sportsmanship and positivity amongst all of the seasoned triathletes. So many ladies gave me words of encouragement before and throughout the race, and it just added to the experience.
I also need to tell you about an amazing moment after the tri. I had helped a lady rack up her bike before the race and she came over afterwards and thanked me. She told me this was her first triathlon, and she finished 1st in her age group because she was the only person. Her age? 72 years old! Just another reminder that it is never too late in life to do what you want to do… or to be a total badass.
So will I ever do another triathlon?! I was thinking “hell no” to myself during the race but now that I’ve had time to recover a little bit, I think it would be fun to at least do another sprint. I would imagine the race would be completely different after having one under your belt, especially the transitions. We’ll see!