Monday, May 20, 2013

The Schwartz's vs Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon 2013

The weekend finally arrived for my big race!  I've been training 6 days a week for 10 weeks to get ready for this thing.  I can't tell you how many miles I've swam, biked, and ran as I prepped for this day.  But it was a lot!  Saturday we packed up the kids and headed down to the Expo.  I wanted to get there in time to listen to the pro panel, and course preview.  I'm so glad I did!  They had tons of helpful information in those.  And I also wanted to get there in time to do the open water swim practice as well as get my bike checked in while the racks weren't full.  I knew the morning of the race would be crazy! My very supportive and generous in-laws cashed in some of Vickie's Harrah's rewards points and actually got Chris and I a room the night before the race at the host hotel so that we wouldn't have to drive down Sunday morning.  They're so awesome.  They met us down there, checked us in, and then took our kids home.  So after that I ran up to the room and then hit that gross nasty lake!  Ick.

I'm glad I did the open swim practice.  I've never swam in a lake before.  And so I got all the "this is gross", "what's that jumping out of the water", "oh man it's cold", and "the bottom is slimy and mushy" out of my system the day before the race.  I also was able to get use to the idea of sighting.  It's so different swimming without the black line on the bottom of the pool to follow.  And I was surprised by the wind; it wasn't very windy but not being use to ANY wind it did make it harder and the slightest breeze blew me around.  So for me it was a huge advantage to be able to do the open swim practice.  I'm so glad my in laws made that possible.  After that I showered off the nasty grit real quick and then headed over to the course preview talk at the expo.  Kevin who was doing it gave great points about what to sight for in the swim, and land marks to look for on the bike.  He also really stressed the importance of hydrating on the bike because the run is completely shadeless and HOT.  He said if you don't hydrate on the bike you're dead on the run.  This gave me a lot to stress think about.  

After the race preview we headed to the dinner then had on site.  It was yummy; some salad, creamy pesto pasta, sauteed veggies, chicken, and cakes.  Then we checked on my bike and covered the seat with a plastic bag, a tip I picked up from other bikes that were already there, and headed back to the room.  I had lights out at 9, but I never sleep well before a race.  

My hair is still wet from the open swim, but this is after dinner, checking on the bike before heading to bed.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 5:30.  I got up and started doing my pre-race routine.  I totally forgot to pack some breakfast food (I usually eat pb toast and a banana) so Chris picked me up some pb crackers from the gift shop the night before.  We left the room about 6:15 to head down and get me marked.
Body marking, also please notice the convict tracking unit on my left leg.  I'll be talking about it later.

Can I just say one of my favorite things was the body marking.  It made me feel really tough and awesome.  They wrote my number down both arms, both legs, and then my age on my calves.  I also learned some important things.  1) They don't have to mark you, so bring your own sharpie.  2) Not all sharpies are created equal, I had to get marked 3 times before I found one that stayed on.  It was a giant fat sharpie, the biggest one I'd ever seen.  3) Sunscreen removes sharpie.  I was told to put it on after I got marked because if you put sun screen on first, the sharpie won't mark on you.  But they didn't warn me to be careful when putting in on otherwise I'll just rub the sharpie right off.  And 4) spray sunscreen is better than rub on sunscreen.

All marked and ready to set up my transition area.

 I'm really glad I went to a transition clinic the Thursday before the race.  He gave some good tips, and told us a lot of stuff I just wouldn't have known like how to load your bike properly, bring a towel to kind of set up your stuff on.  What order to lay your stuff out in.  Put your helmet on your bike with your glasses in it.  All that good stuff.  Because I went to that I was pretty calm and got my station set up really quickly.  This of course meant that I had plenty of time to get nervous about the race and visit the porta-potty 4 or 5 times before the race started.  Awesome.

So we headed over to the start area since it had more, and nicer porta-potties and hung out for 30 minutes.  I watched while people got their warm up swim in.  I decided against it.  I'm not really a fan of warming up.  I'm not good enough or competitive enough to worry about it.  And that water is gross so I really didn't want to get in before I had to.  Chris and I talked about our plan.  He'd watch me start, take pictures, then go get some breakfast and head to the canal about 20 minutes after I started to look for me there, then go to transition to talk to me/cheer for me while I put my shoes on.

All clean and pretty pre-race.
So I just read the whole recap and realized I forgot to tell y'all about the convict tracker.  It's the timing chip.  It didn't bug me walking around but for the first quarter mile of the swim I was acutely aware of it.  I was terrified that it would fall off.  I didn't know what to do if it did.  I was so scared of it falling off that for the first part I was doing the tiniest little flutter kicks with my legs so that it wouldn't.  I thought, if it falls off how will they time me? Has anyone's ever fallen off before?  If it falls off do I have to stop in the swim and dig in the muck for it, or do I just tell the people in the canoe?  If it falls off and I leave it behind do you think they are going to make me pay for it?  I'm a nut.  Then during the run I became aware of it again and really felt like it was a convict tracker and people were looking for me.  That just gave me the giggles.

They do a time trial start for the age group (not relay people) so since I was #645, I had a while and got to watch lots of other people start before I needed to find my place in line.  It was neat.  Some people dove straight in, other's walked slowly into the water.  It's up to you.  They have a guy there saying, "go", and as soon as he tells you go then your time has started.  It doesn't matter how long you take to get into the water, the clock is ticking.  I really like that system.  The relay people had to do a wave start so they all waded into the water and then the guy said, "go!" and they all had to start at once.  I think that'd be a lot harder.
In line to jump in.
So let's talk for a minute about my wonderful husband.  He had one job at the beginning, take a picture of my entrance into the water.  Well, he went to snap and realized he didn't have the camera on so he missed my awesome entrance, but he got the second after it.  I'm the person to the left of the photographer.  I'm looking forward to seeing the picture she got they said they'd be up in a week.  Anyway, I had an awesome entrance I feel since I can't see myself, ha!  You have 3 seconds before the next person gets released on top of you so I figured, go and go fast.  So I ran down the plank and dove in like a champ.  The day before during open swim I slowly inched down the plank.  It probably took me 5 minutes to coax myself all the way in.  Not race day.  The man said "go" and I hauled off and jumped.  My goggle got a little water in it so after a few breath strokes when I thought I was safe from anyone approaching I treaded for a second to empty it.

I feel really good about my swim.  And I felt good while I was doing it.  The water was murky.  You can't see your hands let alone the people around you.  The water is actually so murky I couldn't see my breath bubbles.  But I just got in the zone and counted like I usually do.  I counted every 10 breaths and then looked up to sight where I was.  I swam pretty wide heading toward the first turn, so as I got closer I sighted every 5.  Once I got into the line with the other swimmers I started encountering more of them.  I'd been warned I'd be touched so it didn't bother me.  For the most part you don't want to touch others so if someone touches you from behind they move.  So you get touched once and that's it.  No biggie.  On this race though you have to swim through a 25 ft channel.  That's where I got the crud beat out of me.  I swam up on 2 guys and since I was behind them I got kicked in the face.  Oh, man, I got kicked so hard in the nose I treaded for a second to make sure it wasn't broke or bleeding and then I continued on when I hit the other guy and got kicked in the face again.  But it didn't bother me because here's the thing about getting touched.  If you get touched on the legs, someone has caught up to you and is passing you.  If you get kicked in the face, or you touch someone else's legs, you've caught up to them and you're passing them.  One of the guys that I was passing was wearing a blue cap, he was a relay team guy.  They started first.  I was passing someone who had been in the water 20 minutes before I even started.  That made me feel pretty good.  

My swim time ended up being 37:21, only one minute longer than my pool best.  And I feel great about that!  In a pool you can't swim as far off course as I kept doing, and every 25 yards you get a huge kick off the wall and can coast for a bit.  Plus in the pool there aren't people kicking you in the face.  So I'm really proud of my swim time.  And again, just like in training, I'm surprised but it was my favorite event of the day, icky water and all. 

Coming into the exit for the swim I didn't know when I could stand up so I swam until I hit the plank.  The assistant there held his hand out and pulled me up and yelled, "start running the time is ticking!"  So I ran into my first transition.  Chris wasn't there and that threw me a bit.  After the race he told me how bad he felt for somehow missing me.  It was ok.  I made some bad choices in transition.  I went off plan and decided not to wear my water belt.  I just grabbed some sport beans from it and shoved them in with my bottle.  At the pro talk the stressed the importance of fueling and hydrating on the bike.  So I don't know what made me not take my belt.  Before I was even out of transition I'd dropped my fuel, but kept going cause I didn't want to go back and pick it up. 

Coming in to the bike exit

So the first 2 miles I was already stressed on the bike.  I dropped my fuel and I was hungry.  Swimming always makes me hungry and thirsty and I was already down one.  Plus I only had a regular 16 Ozarka water bottle with me.  So I was worried about what they said about the importance of hydrating.  At 2.57 miles I reached down to take a sip.  I was still grimy and slippery from the lake, and the bottle was slippery from condensation and it slipped out of my hands.  I was crossing the street at the time and didn't know if I should stop and get it or press on so I freaked out and kept going.  By mile 3 I was having a panic attack and was hyperventilating and trying to talk myself down.  By 3.5 miles I was crying and trying not to let the other riders know as the rode past me saying, "on your left, you're doing good".  Finally by mile 5 I had myself back together.  I knew there would be a bottle exchange at mile 15 and they would be giving out Gatorade.  I hate Gatorade.  I think it's gross and I never train with it.  And one big thing they tell you is don't try anything new on race day.  But I had no other option.  So I spent the next 10 miles telling myself that I just had to make it to the bottle exchange and reminding myself how great I had done on the swim.  I can't tell you how many people passed me.  I knew they would so it didn't bug me.  And everyone was so nice.  I'd say 75% of the people who passed me said something encouraging to me.  It's easy to tell I was a newbie since I wasn't on a road bike.  But me and my fat tires kept churning along.  At the course preview they told us we'd have two long straights a 5 mile and a 9 mile stretch.  One of those would have a head wind, the other a tail wind.  Thank goodness the head wind was on the 5 mile part.  It was nice to have the help on the back 9.  I actually got the bike up to 17 mph with the tail wind.  I usually struggle to keep the bike at an 11 mph pace.  

Anyway, after getting the Gatorade, and the tail wind, my spirits were much better.  So I started entertaining myself by singing.  I found the Imperial Death March from Star Wars had a nice cadence to it.  Ha!  I also started chatting with the people passing me (if they said something to me first, I didn't want to bother the serious people).  I even asked one guy if he had seen my butt on the ground as he passed because I thought it fell off since I couldn't feel it anymore.  It was a nice sight to see Chris as I came into the dismount area, I hollered up at him, "I can't wait to get off this devil machine!"  

Dismount and run to Transition 2

Definitely taking my fuel belt this time!

Grabbing a quick swig of water.  So thirsty!

And I'm off!

As I was leaving transition I told Chris, "I'll see you in 1 hour and 15 minutes" to which he replied with the greatest thing I could hear, "Great! You'll get back in time to shower before we have to check out!"

They weren't kidding about that run.  There was no shade and it was hot!  I never practiced bricking (biking then running) so my legs felt like I was running through jello.  It was hilarious.  At the pro panel they said, you'll actually come off faster than you feel like you're going because you're legs are use to a faster cadence.  FIGHT THE URGE TO WALK.  So I did for the first mile.  I pushed through and passed about 10 people in the first mile who were already walking.  And my watch did show a 10 min/mile pace for that first mile.  But I was so dehydrated I couldn't maintain it.  And I didn't expect to. I knew coming into this race my goal was just to average 12 min/mile pace.  And I was fine with walking through each water stop.  What I loved was because of where I fell in on the run, I was among my people.  There were so many folks out there walking it was hilarious to me!  In the 2 halfs and handful of 5Ks I'm usually in with people who are there to run the whole thing.  They may walk a few steps to drink at the stations but then they pick it right back up.  I passed some people out there on the 10K course who I could tell were planning on walking the whole way.  One of them even had a bib number in the 200s which means they started before me.  If I was competitive minded in running I'd feel good about that.  But instead I tried to repay people's kindness and told them they were doing good and to keep it up.  I also must have still looked like death cause about 10 people cheered for me on the other side of the out and back.  I must stay triathletes are very friendly folks!

Coming in the home stretch

So I'm going to give you a vanity secret.  Coming into the hotel parking lot some chick caught up to me and I thought for a second about battling it out.  Then I realized, eh, she's got a much higher number than me so her time is way better.  Why have an extra person in my picture.  It's not like there are a ton of us around right now this is my chance to finally not look like death in my home stretch picture.  So when she kicked it up another notch at the 6 mile mark I didn't push forward to catch her.  Ha!  I'm so not competitive in these events. 

 Smile for the camera for once

I also made it a point to smile.  Seriously, every time someone takes a picture of me in the home stretch I just look miserable.  I'm tired of looking miserable.  I'm about to complete a triathlon, let's smile dadgumit! (I look like death here, and here.)

 Victory is Mine!

As you crossed the finish line they handed you a ice cold wet towel and your medal.  Normally I want my medal on right away but this time I definitely only wanted the cold towel on me.  It felt so good!

After that we did have time for me to go shower in the room before heading to the post race food tent.  As we were eating the Elite/Pro division was coming in and the food tent was right at mile 6.  It was neat to see them and fun to cheer for them.  Someone would spot them and the whole tent would stop eating and hollar and clap for the pros.  Pretty cool.  

So then we went to pick up my bike and go home.  And look what we found when we went to get it out of transition.  It was completely flat!  The rubber guard that protected the tube from the screws broke!  I don't know when but the leak was slow enough that I never felt it and it didn't affect me on the ride.  Heavenly Father answers prayers!  If I had gotten that flat on the ride I would have been toast.  I could have changed the tube, but without that guard it would only have been a matter of time until it went flat again and I would have gotten a big fat, DNF.  (The other weekend when I got a flat it was because the guards weren't on the bike yet.)

At the Schwartz's picking up the kids and showing off my bling!

Swag: poster, fitted t-shirt, glass, and finisher's medal.

Bling, glorious bling.  I also like how the ribbon gives you the distances for each event.

I was accused of "refusing to tell people my time" so here's the final results.  I honestly just didn't know them.  I got the print out but I didn't look very closely and I didn't bother to look up my rank until today because I honestly didn't care.
Print out of the results we picked up at the finisher's tent. 
I finished #608 out of 734 finishers, and 872 participants (over 1,000 people registered).

I'm really proud of my performance.  I know compared to others it's not spectacular.  But compared to me, it is great.  I only added 1 minute to my best swim time despite facing new challenges like swimming off course, and getting kicked in the face.  I kept my transition under 2:30 each which was what I figured it would take me to do them.  I shaved almost 30 minutes off that devil bike time!  My best time before had been 2 hours and 17 minutes and I got it down to 1:48.  That's just amazing to me. And I was dead on with my run goal.  11:44 is slow for me, for 5Ks I push for 10 min/miles and for long runs I try to hold 11 min/miles.  But I knew my legs would be tired so I'm proud that I kept it under my 12/min goal.  All in all this was a great experience for me.  I do feel like I enjoy triathlons more than half marathons.  They are more taxing and more difficult but the variety is fun.  Right as I thought I couldn't take any more of one event it was time for the next.  The fact that I could actually smile as I approached the finish line speaks volumes to the point that I was having fun.  It was hard, and I was having fun.  I'm glad I pushed myself to do this.  I'd love to do more triathlons in the future, but we have other plans that come first (hello upstairs), and I need a real bike (those are expensive) before I do one again so I can have a better relationship with the devil machine.  But look for me to enter more in a couple of years!


  1. This post is FABULOUS and you are AMAZING! I knew you would do well but you did GREAT! So so proud of you.

  2. I love your race recap; how you share the good, the bad, and the ugly. So glad they offered help at the expo with some event changing tips! How cool that your in- laws comped a room for y'all?!! Everything was perfect. I would've died had I seen the bike tire afterwards.

  3. Continuing..
    Man, talk about tender mercies! I do love how buff and hard core you are and look with your body markings. Seriously, amazing job! It's quite an accomplishment!

  4. Sorry to hog your comment section; I'm having problems posting.
    Anywho, I feel it an honor to know a true triathlete!! You rocked it. Awesome swim, incredible bike, and speedy little run. You drooled over the medal and now, it's yours!

  5. Great Blog Post Natalie - and awesome awesome adventure!!!

  6. wow. i mean really big wow. great post and great big accomplishment.

  7. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. You are amazing!! I smiled thought the whole post -- I could feel your success and enthusiasm. Way to go!!