How to Have a Triumphant Triathlon

The alarm was set for 4:44am, but it’s hard to sleep before such an event. Mind toiling over the ins and outs of the course, what not to forget, fretting about waking up on time, on top of an inner battle between self-  confidence vs. doubt… It’s tough to settle down! Feeling prepared, I climbed into bed by 9 o’clock and read the paper until I was able to force myself to sleep.

Popped out of bed, ready to begin the race, only to discover it was 12:40am. Back to bed.

By 4:43, I was waaaaaiting for my alarm to go off. Laid there with eyes closed for an entire minute, till the rooster cock-a-doodle-dood. Go-time.

Breakfast was one yam, sliced and pan-cooked in a little butter, with some white onion, and four fried egg-whites, on a plate next to half an avocado (in chunks) and a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese. Enjoy as it is (in neat, distinct piles) or mix it up like I do and mow the entire mound. Also, coffee.  With vanilla protein drink instead of cream. Recipe for success, I tell ya!

At 6:20 I was out the door, car already loaded from the night before. Blue Lake Park is only 20 minutes from my place – I was there in 15. (Winning!) The feeling of elation I experienced on the way, is something I never want to forget. My stomach felt like it was crawling up into my neck, like I was going to throw up that wonderful breakfast and cry at the same time.  Goosebumps. Pure joy. (Once in a while some fear too.) It was going to be my first triathlon!

Right away I ran into one of my best buddies – he’s the one who convinced me to sign up for this event in the first place. He made fun of my rickety old Schwinn. That’s when I noticed that it was the only bike like it… Some of those tri-athletes had such fancy looking bicycles.

Next we ran into a gal-pal from my PSU fitness classes. She’s the other person who inspired me to sign up for the race. The three of us parked our bikes, set up our transition stations, and squeezed our butts into our wetsuits and scull caps. We looked fabulous.

When it was time to start, we went in waves. Most of it was categorized by age, but there was a special category for women over 150 pounds: Athena. That was me.

Having trained for less than three weeks for this event, I knew swimming was going to be the toughest challenge. From “never swam laps in a pool” to “swimming half a mile in one fell swoop” there is no simple path. And I’m going to have to do some more practice at it. According to the results, by the end of the swim, I was competing for 5th-to-last place.

I’m not surprised though. At one point, after spending a few too many minutes doing the back stroke, staring at the clouds, a guy in a boat came over to get my attention. I had veered WAY off course. Grrrr.

Eventually, I made it around the last buoy. That’s when the fastest swimmers of the next wave caught up with and went past me, including my good buddy, who completely clobbered me in the process. Ugh. This portion of the race could not be done soon enough.

Once I was out of the water, I felt much more at ease. Peeling off my wetsuit, I made a speedy transition, grabbed my bike and got on my way.

The ride was flat, and not especially fast. This is the squeaky 5-speed Schwinn from the 70’s we are talking about. Perhaps I’ll get an upgrade, one of these days… Could be a fun experiment! (Anybody know a race-bike sponsor?!) It wasn’t especially long either, a scenic 12 miles along Marine Drive. Easy peasy.

At last, it was time for the 5k run. My specialty! With legs, feeling like mushed sacks of potato, I parked my bike and hit the trail. Zooming, I picked off the competition, one at a time. Rocking a steady 7:10 pace, I finished the run in 22 minutes. Faster than most…

Averaging out struggle and success, the total time it took me to finish the sprint-triathlon was 1:40:58.  In the Athena division, I won 2nd place!

We hung around for the awards ceremony (and beer), then began to make our way back to our cars. It was far. But not beyond earshot of the loudspeakers… That’s when I heard the announcer say something that caught my attention.

“We have something special to give away to one lucky person, a gift-certificate for a new sleeveless wet suit!” The crowd cheered, he continued, “Who here has a paperclip?”

“Dang!” I said to my friend, “I could use a wet suit. And I seriously have a bunch of paperclips in my car.” (My wet suit rental fee for this event was $40, a new suit costs upwards of $200.)

“Too bad we are so far away,” I said, head hanging low, pouting a little. Humbug.

The man’s voice over the loudspeaker went on, “Nobody has a paperclip? Nobody?! Okay then, how about a stick of chap stick?”

Suddenly, something inside told me, “Audrey, you aren’t Audrey if you don’t at least try to get that wet suit. You know no one else has a paperclip!” That got me moving. Parked the bike, grabbed a paper clip and told my friend I’d be right back. On stiffening legs, I was running.

Overheard the man on the loudspeaker, still far away, getting exasperated, “No chap stick. How about nail clippers? Does anyone have some nail clippers?”

Alright, now I was booking it.

“Those aren’t nail clippers,” said the man, to someone I still couldn’t see in the distance, “Those are pliers!”

That’s when I began shouting, “PAPERCLIIIIIIP! I’VE GOT A PAPERCLIP!!!” Still running, waving my paper clip in the air – the crowd parted in awe – I arrived at the table in the nick of time.

“You really have a paperclip?” Said the guy with the microphone. I showed him.

And with that, the wetsuit was mine. How divine.

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