Swim, Bike, Run: My Story

On July 5, 2015, I competed in the Quaboag Plantation Triathlon in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. This event consists of a ¼ mile swim in a beautiful lake, followed by a 12 mile bike ride through scenic rural back roads and rolling hills, followed by a 3.1 mile run on some of the same roads as the bike route.

I’m sharing my story of this day because it was full of exhilaration, challenge and empowerment, and afterwards I felt very accomplished. I believe this is within reach of many recreational athletes who are willing to plan ahead, train and commit. If you’ve ever flirted with the idea of doing a multi-sport event, this article is for you!

Living an active lifestyle is an important part of the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle. For me, regular exercise contributes to a positive outlook on life, an overall feeling of physical health and wellness, and increased energy levels that I rely on to get my work done. I work for Mediterranean Living as the Wellness Coordinator, and for the past several years, I have been learning and incorporating the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle into my own life.

Another part of the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle is practicing moderation. Training for a triathlon has helped me to have a more balanced approach to my fitness, through cross-training. Cross-training keeps my exercise schedule fun and minimizes injury caused by overuse. Another important part of my training is to keep my core strong through regular strength training classes that I go to 1-2 times per week in addition to biking, hiking and staying generally active. This really works for me.

I’ll admit, the triathlon snuck up on me. I didn’t train as much as I would have liked because my work schedule has been pretty hectic lately. I kept to my running schedule of three times per week, and increased my weekly mileage a bit on my bike. However, I only had time to swim three times leading up to the triathlon. June was a cold month and the water was freezing!

A few nights before the event, I began preparing myself mentally by reading blogs about triathlons and trying to figure out what to wear. I decided on spandex tri-shorts, which have a small amount of padding but not the kind that soaks up water. This is important for the cycling portion. I wore these with a tight fitting tank top made of a wicking material. You wear the same thing for all three events, and having the right gear can really make a difference in the success of a triathlon. I considered renting or borrowing a wetsuit, but at the last minute I decided to brave it and go without, which turned out to be a good choice.

The night before the race, I ate an early dinner, grass-fed ground beef, salad and my favorite Mediterranean dish- horta (cooked greens) with potatoes. I drank a lot of water and went to bed early, knowing that I would have to get up at 5 am and be on the road by 5:45. My husband Bill was coming along for the adventure, to cheer me on. I packed my bag, and loaded the car the night before: With everything prepared ahead of time, I was able to sleep better, knowing I wouldn’t forget anything in my foggy early morning rush. I woke up to my alarm and excitedly got dressed and ready. I ate my regular breakfast of granola with almond milk and coffee about 3 hours before the race to allow time for digestion.

I arrived feeling nervous, as if I had forgotten something, despite my careful preparation. I checked in and headed to the transition area, which was crowded. I scanned the crowd and picked out someone who looked friendly. I introduced myself to a woman named Lisa and she happily made room for me. We chatted and went through our gear, reassuring ourselves that we were prepared. I was grateful for her confidence that rubbed off on me.

The race director described the route and the rules, and wished us a fun time. I entered the water, up to my knees, along with the other women in my heat (age 39 and under). We all chatted, and wished each other well, positioning ourselves strategically and getting ready for the gun. Up until this moment, the event felt very social and I was enjoying the energy of being with so many people who were so easy to talk to.

Then the gun went off and I was in my own world from then on- no chatting, just splashing, navigating the water, trying to synchronize my kick, stroke and breath. After a few minutes of all out fast swimming, I slowed down to catch my breath. I got a bit disoriented in the water, and decided to just follow the splashing in front of me. On the way back, I thought I was farther from the shore than I actually was, so when my feet touched ground, I was shocked. I ran out of the water, pulling off my goggles and cap.

As I ran to the transition area, I felt slightly dizzy and disoriented from the change to being on land once again. But I kept going as fast as I could. I ran to my bike, which I had memorized as being on the 4th rack on the left. I did a little switching out of gear and jogged with the bike to exit the transition area and then got on and started riding. A few minutes into the ride, I realized that I had forgotten to put on my riding gloves, but decided to just leave them in my trusty bike bag that carries all the essential little things you need on a bike ride (including spare tube and the equipment you need in case of a flat tire) I got this bag from Delta Cycle and it is perfect. It fits right under my seat and never gets in my way or slows me down. It holds just the right amount of gear.

Once I pedaled away from the busy transition area with the cheering spectators and officials, I realized it was only me again. Being alone for most of the ride, except for the people who passed me, I needed some way of keeping myself focused. I used an app on my phone called Nike Running to help me keep track of the miles, check my pace and motivate me to stay on track. I have a great gadget mounting my phone onto my handlebars, also made by Delta Cycle. The app announces the completion of each mile. It’s just the right amount of connection to reality for me, yet allows me to enjoy the ride without constant noise. Overall, the ride went pretty well for me. I was able to drink some water and re-hydrate myself. It was during this time that the competitive side of me came out. I decided to try and win an age group award. My age group was 30-39 and I had no idea where my cohorts were at that moment, but I thought I might have a chance and that was enough to motivate me.

As I began the run, my legs felt wobbly and tired, but I knew this would go away after a few minutes. When I was about ½ mile from the finish, I saw a woman running up ahead of me with a “39” on her leg, meaning she was in my age group (everyone has their age written in sharpie marker on the back of their leg, and their bib number written on their arm). I passed her, but she stayed close behind me and I knew that she probably wanted to beat me as well. In situations like these, my experience is that it comes down to who wants it more. And I decided that I wanted it more than her. I pushed on and finished about 25 seconds ahead of her, which ended up putting me in 3rd place in my age group, thus achieving my goal!

They only give awards to the top three, so if I hadn’t outrun her, I would not have gotten a medal. I felt proud of myself for pushing to that small victory. My overall time was 1 hour 15 minutes, 20 seconds. That was about one minute faster than my time last year!

Crossing the finish line, I felt a huge surge of happiness and relief. It was a physical, emotional, biochemical high and Bill was there with camera in hand to capture the moment and congratulate me. I walked around for a few minutes before jumping in the lake to cool off and float around for a few minutes. What a wonderful, weightless feeling!

Then I realized how hungry I was and grabbed as many slices of watermelon as my hands could hold and tried to eat them all at once. Then orange slices, then trail mix. Then more watermelon. And lots of water. Then we sat in the shade and just took in the scene- people everywhere feeling the same happiness and satisfaction as me, everyone congratulating each other and enjoying the euphoria. I’d say it’s worth all the effort for that feeling of accomplishment right there! The feeling stayed with me on the way home and for the rest of the day. I’m looking forward to next year!

Here are some available internet resources:

Find a Triathlon near you through trifind.com! 

Here is Quaboag Plantation Triathlon’s page on Facebook. 

Check out the awesome gear at Delta Cycle.

And, here is Joe’s Garage for bike maintenance and coaching. 

 

 

 

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