It feels funny writing a race report, but I think it’s important, because each event teaches you something, and it may also help someone out in the future as well. This report actually covers 2 events... so it’s kind of long.
I signed up for the SheROX on Jan 8th, after a trip to Utah, where I was visiting my friend Holly. Holly is an accomplished athlete... with many marathons and an IronMan under her belt! I’ve wanted to do a triathlon since the summer of 2007, and I’ve been keeping it in my mind ever since. Seeing Holly’s WALL OF FAME - rather her basement of fame - inspired me to just freaking do it... sign up... train... take lessons for swimming... just freaking do it! So I signed up.
As time got closer, I realized that I’d benefit mentally from doing a triathlon prior to SheROX, with a pool swim, so that I could get the feel of the event without having to “worry” about the swim. So in June, I completed the York PA Y-Tri, an all-women’s sprint distance triathlon. I learned that the run after the ride was much harder than going from a spin bike to a treadmill... an important lesson I think I could really only have learned during a race. So, I spent more time walking and running in preparation for SheROX, but didn’t have the goal of running all of the event... I just wanted to run “some of it”.
My pre-race jitter-brain started on Friday... where I packed for a picnic, forgetting to bring... plates! It was very funny. But I think I did that because my focus Friday night was to do one last open water swim before the event, with my training partner Mary, so that we could both feel as confident as possible.
Saturday. Packet pick-up and mental preparation. Last minute race-day packing. Where are my new white bike gloves? Seriously! And my trisuit? Oh, there it is. It was one of those days. But the day was fun with a lunch in Manayunk, a trip to the bike store, a bike-cleaning session, and a quick ride to ensure all was well with my beautiful bicycle. I made my coffee for the next morning, and tucked it nicely into my Starbucks thermos. I took a hot shower, and went to bed early. I slept well, despite some a pulled muscle in my neck. All said and done, it went well.
Sunday. 4 am. Up and at ‘em. The entire household was up, and ready, on time! Not too much stress. Racked the bike. Off to Philly at 5 am. Got a good parking spot. Met up with my training partner Mary. Set up transition smoothly. A few nerves, but not too much. We were all relieved to hear we were going to be swimming, in spite of the rain and storms that went through the area in the days leading to the event.
Corralled into the start area, we chatted with beautiful women of all ages, shapes and sizes. We encouraged each other. It was sweet. 7 am... start horns sounded over the Schuylkill River. We were off! Every 4 minutes, another group of strong babes started their swim. Women were cheering for those who were on their bikes before we were even in the water! Such camaraderie! 7:28 am, it was my turn. GO!
The swim course looked longer than I thought it would be. I surprised myself at the start, however, by not “hanging back” and letting the others go. I felt like there was plenty of room to swim, so I started in the middle of the pack. I wasn’t nervous. Rather, I just didn’t feel sufficiently warmed up, so I started slowly. At one point, I felt like I needed to catch my breath a little, so I sighted for a few extra seconds, and told myself, “Ruth, you can do this! You are trained. You have done several open water swims, and you did fine. You’re safe. Just enjoy it!” And that’s what I did. Sooner than I thought, I was around the first buoy, then the second, then the third, then across the river to the exit, where volunteers helped me out of the river. I slipped on the sand on the way up, surprised that my own personal cheerleading squad was right there on the bank of the river cheering me on.
Sandy & wobbly legs brought me to transition. I was glad to have my Nalgene bottle full of “washing water” - a great tip I read somewhere! Powdered socks on. Bike shoes on. Sunglasses & helmet on. Gloves on. Bike off the rack, and there I was, exiting T1, feeling great. Except I forgot to grab a bite to eat. Oh well, I had 2 full water bottles with 350 calories total loaded in them... I’ll be fine.
Mary was right with me as we got to the bike-mount area. Her chain slipped, but a really awesome spectator helped her get it back on. She zoomed past, I wished her a great tri, and that was the last I saw of Mary until the finish!
The bike ride was beautiful, and I felt pretty strong most of the time. The “hills” were not as steep as I’d heard, but they were still hills to be climbed. Nevertheless, I was steady, not overdoing it, trying to pace myself, and boom, 1 loop done. One water bottle gone. Next loop. Now I know the course. I can plan a little better. Second loop done. Second water bottle gone. Off the bike. Into T2. And my friend Paul was volunteering at that point, with a huge smile! I was SO happy to see him!
The toughest question I faced was, “Do I pee, or do I not pee, during T2?” My answer was, “Eh, I’ll hold it.”
HUGE MISTAKE! Ladies... we don’t have the opportunity that men do to easily take care of business out in nature... take the hit during transition... pee, ladies, pee!
I was uncomfortable during the entire run portion of the race, and too bashful to jump into the woody areas for a natural break. It slowed me down. Live and learn.
I eventually looked at my watch and was surprised at the time. I’d actually done pretty well up until then! And as I continued to walk/jog, I told myself, you planned to jog some... you can... ignore the uncomfortable situation... jog from mile 2 to the end. So I did. Not fast, but I didn’t take a walk break in the final 1.1 miles. During this time, my friend Julie was on the jogging path and found me to cheer me on! How awesome was that? I also got to talk to some other women who were around me. Another Team in Training Half-Marathon Walk Coach - super awesome. Team in Training folks are some of the best people around!
And before I knew it, I finished strong!
My family and friends were waiting for me, which is an amazing feeling. And now I REALLY considered myself a triathlete. The first one wasn’t a fluke. I really can do this. I did it. Twice.
So here are my times:
Swim (0.6K in Schuylkill River) 26:00
T1 = 3:47
Bike (25K) 1:13:01
T2 = 2:49
Run (5K) 50:49
No penalties. And, while it’s hard to compare one race to another, overall, I did “better” in the overall rankings in SheROX than I did in Y-Tri, compared to “all finishers” and “all finishers in my age group”.
Looking at the 304+ pictures my hubby took, I saw some unflattering shots. I began to get discouraged about how much weight I still have to lose. I wondered if I’d ever look like some of the other women out there. And I was REALLY annoyed by the disgusted look on the face of one volunteer as I was nearing the finish line. It was as if he was thinking, “What are YOU doing out here?” Or maybe, “If you were faster, I’d be home already!” Who knows what he was thinking.
But then I remembered... that person probably never had to battle being overweight... he probably never knew the day in and day out struggles of someone who has been fighting obesity since elementary school or earlier... who knows what experiences he’s had... But I am NOT going to let the reaction of one person affect me anymore. I’ve let that happen in the past, and it’s always derailed me from positive efforts. No more! I’m done with that.
I have come to the conclusion that even the most “horrible” race day photos show something spectacular... I am a swimmer, regardless of technique... I am a cyclist, regardless of challenging hills, and I am a runner, regardless of how much I need walk breaks... I am a TRIATHLETE, regardless of my size! I am GRATEFUL for all that I’ve been given, for all I’ve earned, and for all of the things I strive for, including my strive for better health and fitness. Many people have much bigger challenges, and I remember that when I’m out there training and raising money for organizations who can help them.
So, thank you to all who have encouraged and coached me along the way, for you far outnumber those who haven’t been so nice. Thank you to all the volunteers for your service! Thank you to the York PA Y-Tri and SheROX for organizing events that make ALL women feel welcome, strong, fit, and able!