I’m delighted to report that I can now add “triathlete” to my list of descriptors. I have been running a long time and always think of myself as a runner. But, in the past few years I have been thinking triathlon. It all started with my coach and friend. I saw him finish his first triathlon and have been hearing about his triathlon experiences for years. There was something oddly appealing about the combination of misery and accomplishment. I think it’s a sickness that runners have – that desire to push harder, do more, be faster, go longer.
In June I bought my very first grown up bike. His name is Bert and he’s a Trek commuting road bike. He’s not the fastest bike ever, but I love him. He and I have been going on rides here and there, trying to get comfortable with riding faster and farther. I started thinking that maybe I could do a triathlon. There was the tiny problem of swimming. I can swim and am a strong swimmer, just a pathetically slow swimmer. I had very good intentions of practicing swimming, but got an infection near my eye and had to stay out of the water. Undeterred, I signed up for a sprint triathlon.
Sandy Beach Triathlon
Before I knew it, Triathlon Day was upon me. I finished the Sandy Beach Triathlon in Morris, CT. It had a special “first timers” division, so it seemed like a good place to start. It was a sprint tri, with a .5 mile swim, 10 mile bike (advertised as “hilly”), and a 5k run. It was 90 degrees, sunny, and humid at race start. It cooled off to a balmy 84 by race end. The Sandy Beach area is gorgeous. The lake is a neat figure eight shape and has soft, brown sand.The seaweed was minimal and the water was very warm. I got all set up with my little transition area and didn’t even forget anything.
The race was well organized for a low budget operation. Everyone got their chip and got marked and were directed to select any spot in the transition area. The transition area was a free for all with a combination of very experienced folks with professional looking set ups, and a large group of first timers with our things off to the side. It was easy to get set up and helpful volunteers pointed the way.
Things got a little scary as soon as I saw the swim. A half mile is a super, crazy distance to swim. Add a bit of drifting of buoys and it may as well have been 10 miles to me. My arms were shot about a third of the way in. I have never been so happy as when I kicked the sand and could run into the transition. T1 didn’t go so well. I was dripping, sandy, and exhausted. I found my way easily through the transition area and there were volunteers there to point the way. Three minutes later I emerged on to the bike course. The bike course can only be described as a roller coaster. It was gorgeous, wrapping around the lake and past adorable marinas, lake homes, and forests. The roads were smooth and, although they were not closed to traffic, seemed safe. The course was very well marked and cheering volunteers were at every turn. Riding around the lake and through small communities was made for a pleasant ride. Had I not been racing I might have liked to stop at some of the lovely public piers. My bike segment went quite well. I was 144th place in just the swim alone, 59th place in the bike alone. I was pleased with my bike performance and even passed a few people. Coming into T2, I felt strong. That ended when I stepped off the bike. My legs were stiff, my arms were sore, and I was exhausted. I really felt like I had nothing left. But I had an uphill 5k in front of me, so I pulled myself together and, after a few minutes of walking, ran along. The running course was pretty much uphill. Luckily, there were friendly volunteers at a water stop halfway. It was a challenging run but an attractive road course through a forest.
This is what an exhausted triathlon finisher looks like. Notice that everyone else has left. Time to work on the swim!
I’m pleased to say that I finished. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but I did it. Now I know what I need to work on and how I can improve for next time. Because there will be a next time.
Results from the Sandy Beach Triathlon are here.