Monday, August 11, 2014

Iron Girl: Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon (My 1st Tri EVER!)

I started out Saturday morning feeling like CB..
I wanted to go cycle outside and do one last OWS before the Triathlon Sunday, but wasn't feeling it. After hitting SNOOZE a few too many times I got out of bed and rode to Lake Michigan. By then it was too late for a decent cycling trip due to the marathon training groups/crowds, so I tried to cycle hard to the Lake to compensate for it.
It was a beautiful morning and I was slightly more excited to swim after seeing the sunrise.
I went without wetsuit because the water was a "warm" 72 deg, and because I wanted to practice swimming without it since I wasn't going to be using it for the race.
The water was choppy, like crazy chaos choppy with 2-4' waves, and I just wasn't into it, so I swam for 11 minutes and then went home to pack before taking the train to go meet KIM.
My trusty knobby tired, 15 year old Hybrid looking nice on the rack.

Packet pickup was a breeze and I found a decent place to rack my bike. I also tried to ignore the bikes on my rack and look for other distinguishing landmarks so I would be able to find my bike easily during the race the next morning.
Luckily I was in the middle row, about halfway back in front of a large light pole. SCORE! Super easy to remember where my bike was.
"You mean I have to swim from THAT shore to THIS shore??"

We got up early to head over to Pleasant Prairie. I was a bit nervous by this point because I wasn't just running, or going to the pool, but I was now about to swim, bike, and run consecutively and had to ensure I was on point with setting up my transition area + remembering all my essential items for each discipline.

It was overwhelming. I really didn't know what to expect.
Sunrise over the Rec Plex, Pleasant Prairie.

I set up my transition area and went over it 20 times. I envisioned what I would need for each part of the race, and tried to keep it simple. I stuffed my snacks, gloves, sunglasses and chapstick inside my helmet and stuffed my socks inside my shoes so I wouldnt forget anything.
My sweet Specialized hybrid ready for its 1st triathlon and 2nd race ever + my transition area.

Once transition was closed we began the LONG walk to the other side of the lake for the swim start. I was getting more and more nervous at this point. I really had no idea what to expect for the swim. And the thought of getting kicked, caught up in the crowd, running out of breath IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING LAKE was super intimidating.

I tried to remain as calm as possible because worrying and thinking of "what ifs" is just a big waste of energy and takes up valuable mental space. I thought about why I was participating in this race and how I wanted this day to go.
Completing a triathlon has been a goal of mine for a very long time. I used to watch my daad participate in Tri's back in the day, and was always inspired. I get teary eyed every single time I watch an Ironman on TV. (Half and Full Ironman races are on my bucket list too).

When I got peroneal tendinosis/itis for the 2nd time and decided to give PT a try, I promised myself that I would remain active and try to keep my fitness up as high as possible while rehabbing the cankle. I started cycling a ton, and eventually added in swimming. Soon after I got the brilliant idea to put all this cross training to good use and scratch "complete a triathlon"off of my list. Since I was usually training for a fall marathon, I never felt it was a good idea to compete in a triathlon for risk of possible injury.

So funny that once I was injured, I decided to give Triathlons a try.
3+ months ago I had a decision to make: either be depressed I couldn't train for another marathon in my favorite time of the year to run, or make the best out of a bummer of a situation. I chose the latter. I cycled my ass off most weeks, and forced myself to swim and didn't run for a while to let my cankle heal. This triathlon was going to be a celebration of being patient and smart.  Plus I was really needing to do something competitive even if I wasn't going to "race", since I miss running and the electric atmosphere of a race so much!

My only goal for this race was to have fun.
I have to swim to the other side of this lake?!?! 

I chatted with Kim and Bobbi pre race and  got a little silly waiting around for my wave to start.
Awkward pose a la "Style" bloggers.

15 minutes before my wave I went into the water to warm up a bit. I swam a little and hung out in the water visualizing the swim. I knew the 1/2 mile swim was going to be a huge challenge for me and knew i needed to stay focused and calm for it to be a success.
Having a blast with Kim and Bobbi pre race.

I lined up for the swim on the far right (slower traffic on the right...)but near the front. The horn sounded and a myriad of purple caps ran into the water. I felt ok at first but within a quarter mile I was starting to feel like I was suffocating so I started my hybrid doggie paddle/breast stroke to calm myself. It was in the middle of the lake I had a "come to Jesus meeting." I was starting to panic. I was in the middle of a F*cking lake, couldnt touch bottom, and was fatigued. I wanted out. NOW. But I used my special jedi mind tricks to calm myself, HTFU and carry on.

By the half way point or a little later, I regained composure and was able to get into a nice rhythm of 10 strokes, 5-10 breaths while doggie paddling. I started passing purple caps, and some folks from the wave in front of me, and the wave that started 10 minutes ahead of me! CRAZY.
It was ridiculously encouraging to start hearing the cheering of the spectators- which signaled I was starting to get close to being done. I turned around and saw the shore I had come from was getting further away. When I finally touched bottom with my hands I stood up to walk out of the water and head into T1. When first stepped onto the sand I started crying.

I had just accomplished something that 8 weeks ago scared the shit out of me.

1/2 mile Swim: 18:57
-32/112 AG
-333/1049 OA
The whole run to transition I was full of emotion- elation that I just completed the swim!

Transition 1 went as well as I expected. I took my cycling gloves and tried to brush the sand off of my feet with them before putting on my shoes/socks. I stuffed my snacks into my pockets. Put my helmet and sunglasses on, and put some body glide on my legs/tailbone and bike seat (just in case my leg would chafe again).  I grabbed my bike and ran to the transition exit.

T1: 2:28
-37/112 AG
-328/1049 OA
The bike also went as expected. I tried to keep my distance and ride 4 lengths behind the person in front of me if I wasnt passing them. It was a little strange to be passing people, and being passed at the same time. The course was full of rolling hills but nothing too crazy. There was also some wind, but I dont think it impeded me at all. Around mile 3 I realized I had left my cycling gloves in transition.. Oh well.

At mile 4 I ate my chia squeeze pouch. Around mile 8 I ate a fruit bar. I drank half of my bottle of Osmo. I was pushing hard because I had very low expectations for the run due to the cankle and wanted to give a good effort and wreck my legs.

Before the race I had anticipated I would hold a 15-16 mph pace for the 12 mile ride.*

12 Mile Bike: 42:22, 17mph*
-55/112 AG
-472/1049 OA

*Later on I was shocked to see I averaged 17mph. I thought 16mph would have been a stretch on my knobby tire hybrid. Kim and I were speaking later on about this and her Garmin read 11 miles. My cyclometer which was spot on at mile 5 had registered 10.95 miles. So averaging 15.5 for 11 miles sounds a lot more plausible than 17mph. I know in years past people have questioned the distance of the bike course in this race. Clearly it was short of the advertised 12+ miles. But I don't care all that much... 
I dismounted my bike and ran it straight to my transition spot. took off my helmet and threw on my race belt and ran out of T2.  This was super easy especially since I didn't have to change shoes.

T2: 55 seconds
-3/112 AG
-21/1049 OA
I started running and my legs felt like jello. My original plan was to walk/run the 5K. After a few minutes I looked at my timex (yup, going old school here since my Garmin is useless on the bike/swim) and saw 3:00. I debated starting to walk, but I was feeling good and my ankle was feeling fabulous. So I continued running not having any idea what pace I was going, but kept it relatively easy.
Photos by Bobbi

The course went around the lake and had a small out and back portion on gravel. I took water at the aid station and also on the way back. It's probably the first time in a while I've actually taken water during a 5k. But I was SOOOOO thirsty and hot. The first mile was 7:45! I forget what the subsequent miles were but I was constantly reminding myself to keep it easy and not over do it. 
I was fully prepared to stop and walk if my ankle started escalating. Miraculously it felt normal. Like pre injury normal. At mile 1, I realized if I kept around an 8:00 pace I could potentially break 1:30 so I kept chugging along.   For the 5k it seemed like 97% of the participants were walking which was mind boggling to me. And that was awesome because I must have passed 200+ people during those 3 miles many of them being the 30-34 age groupers! Yep, the competitive side of me started coming out... lol.
I LOVE this photo that Steven took (Kim's Husband). 

I kicked it in to the finish and saw Bobbi, Steven and Kim spectating, and felt like I was gonna hurl, luckily I didn't. I received a medal, turned down chocolate milk, took a water and headed back to where they were spectating.

5k run: 25:08 
-5/112 AG 
-53/1049 OA
Kim and I post race, She KILLED it on the bike portion of her relay!!

I felt super foggy once I finished.  I was actually more excited that I had completed the 1/2 mile swim than the entire race because I knew that the bike/run would be a piece of cake and that the swim would give me the biggest challenge. (It didn't disappoint!)  Completing a triathlon has been on my radar for years- and to finally accomplish that goal felt so satisfying. At the same time the competitive side of me was all "but if I learn how to swim much better, had a road bike, and could actually run..."  Eh, I'll save that for when I am 100% healthy and for when I buy a road bike. Im not overly enthusiastic on signing up for another triathlon right now.
Some things I would improve on should I ever TRI again...

I think my fueling overall was ok. I ate a fruit bar brand: "that's it" and a chia squeeze 45 minutes pre swim. I ate another "That's it" bar and another chia squeeze pouch on the bike. I also drank half my Osmo during the bike portion. I realize now I should have drank a lot more, because I felt pretty depleted and dry like a toast for the run. I also should have taken some salt tabs because I got a raging headache a few hours later that took entirely too long to go away after taking 2 aleve.  I should have known better than to not take salt if I was working out in the heat. I will remember for next time...
While we were waiting to get let back into transition (they don't let you in until all the bikes have returned) the final lady arrived on the bike. The crowd erupted into applause and encouraging cheers for this lady as she got ready to start the run. When she left for the run everyone started cheering again for her. It made me tear up seeing the camaraderie for our fellow triathlete. I later saw on the IG Pleasant Prairie facebook page that she had finished- it was her first triathlon.

What I found really interesting about this race was that it was full of all body types, all fitness levels, all ages-  everyone going for the same goal. People you wouldn't expect to be fast (solely based on appearance) were kicking major ass and flying by more "fit" looking people. It was incredible and humbling. Everyone was so encouraging to each other-  I lost track of how many high 5's I gave out on the 5k during the out and back portions.

I really feel like I couldn't have picked a better first triathlon to participate in.
This weekend I'll remember forever. I got to spend time with good friends and got to challenge and show myself that I can do anything, even things that scare the shit out of me!


  1. Awesome job! Congratulations on finishing your first tri and having a great time doing it.

  2. Great job!!! So glad to hear the cankle didn't give you any trouble! Also, you may have inspired me a little bit to consider a tri :) And I love your top - is it a tri top?

    1. Thank you :) you should try a TRI! It was fun and challenging in the best way possible. Yes- the top is a TRI top by Zoot, the shorts are TRI shorts by De Soto.

    2. If I had been in town (and had no knee issues), I would have strongly considered doing the Divvy wave at the Chicago TRI this month. Maybe next year! Or I guess I could use my actual bike, which is ... well, I really don't know what kind of bike it is. My BMX brother made it for me out of various parts he had. It's a full-size bike though, not BMX. It would be awesome if I could do a relay TRI with him on his BMX ... ha.

    3. The Divvy wave would have been fun! I was bummed to find it sold out too :)

      Haha that hybrid bmx bike sounds super fly! There were all sorts of bikes at this TRI- the fancy expensive rides to some cruisers and super thick wheeled mountain bikes. It was awesome. I think for your first, just use whatever bike you have or can borrow :)

  3. Wow great job! So impressed, I would have been terrified of the open water swim too, way too talk yourself through the hard spot in the middle, and way to kick some booty on that run! That top is super cute.

    1. Thank you :) it really helped practicing in Lake Michigan before going to this much smaller lake- I would have freaked out even worse if I only stayed in the pool. I think triathlons (just like tough running races) involve a large percentage of mental preparedness to get through the tough spots. Especially for the part that is your "worst" - like the swim for me.

  4. awesome job, I am so proud of you! I am not going to lie this entry chocked me up

  5. Congrats! And I'm not surprised your ankle didn't hurt... the hubs & I have both had fewer injuries when doing triathlon training than pure running!

    1. Thank you :) wonderful to hear you and your husband have had less injuries while training for tri's. I'm definitely going to keep swimming and cycling when I begin to run more seriously again.

  6. Congrats girl! This is probably the first tri report I've ever read every word of. I am a swim o phobe (think needed to be fished out of a Disney water park by a lifeguard) who just started swimming this year. Who knows if I'll ever muster the courage for a tri? But reading this gives me a glimmer of hope that I can....maybe....really slow....gosh you swam all the way across that lake?? Awesome!

    1. Haha you can do it! I'm a terrible swimmer and made a ton of progress over the 8 weeks swimming 1-2 times a week and forcing myself to keep going just a little further while getting uncomfortably out of breath. :) there's usually a series of indoor triathlons in the early spring which could be a good way to try it out in a safe atmosphere :)

  7. CONGRATS!!!!!! You just keep on inspiring everyone with your awesomeness!!!!!! Way to go lady!!!!

  8. Nicely done! I am training for my first tri (Chicago in two weeks! Eee!) and this is really encouraging to read!

    1. Thanks! I was almost considering doing that one too.. Ok still am :) good luck to you!

  9. Whoa, you placed 13th in your AG in your first tri? That's seriously impressive, lady! I loved reading this entire post, it's especially awesome to hear how excited you were to get through the swim. I'm not a strong swimmer at all, so the idea of swimming half a mile in an actual lake is definitely intimidating. But you did it!!!! Congrats!

    1. Thank you :) i was surprised at the 13th AG placing too! (And being 33/112 for the swim because I'm not a strong swimmer) not to "downplay" the result but I know this race isn't as competitive as other ones and generally cater to the newbies :) yeah. 1/2 mile is nothing on land but the first time I swam 1/2 mile in Lake Michigan I was freaking out at how far it was. Doesn't help that swimming is so freaking slow compared to running so it feels like you're in the water for eternity!

  10. Wow, this is so inspiring! It actually makes me want to go and try a tri! I was so glad to read about how you overcame the mental hurdle during the swim. It was great that you had a backup plan with the doggie paddle (and jedi mind tricks) that helped get you to the other side safely. I was excited to read about your run, because I can relate to running better than the other two disciplines. You kicked some major ass in the run! 5 out of 112?!! You almost placed top 3 in your age group and that with being out with the cankle stuff for so long. Fantastic! Congrats again!

    1. Thank you :) you should try a TRI! I'm convinced the swimming/breathing is helping my almost nonexistent running tremendously. I'm excited to see more gains as I reduce the walking and increase the running over the next few weeks. I was surprised at how well I felt during the run- it's the furthest I've run in like 3 months!

  11. Woo hoo for doing things that scare you! I am so proud of you and so happy you enjoyed it! This is a great tri to do for your first, cause like you said, everyone is so encouraging, and it's purposefully beginner friendly (maybe that is why they take the mile out of the bike? ha ha). I am so happy I got to be there for your first and that we got to hang out!

    You nailed this. Your prep was great, and your training was too. I mean, of course there are always things to improve on and room for improvement, but you absolutely kicked butt! Now, go get a road bike so we can ride. Ha ha, JUST kidding... maybe ;)

  12. Awesome job on your first tri!!!! I loved this race last year and knew you would love it too! I wish I did this one instead of Steelhead!!!! You ready to sign up for another one????

    1. Thanks lady! :) it was such a fun race/environment. I want to hear more about your Steelhead journey!! So inspired by you to do that distance :) the swim would kill me at this point.

      I'm going back and forth on the Chicago TRI...

  13. You are awesome!!! You give me hope that I can do the swim portion of a tri. Considering I'm in the same boat as you were 8 weeks ago and the doggie paddle and I are good friends :-)

    Great job!

    1. Thank you! :) you could totally finish a TRI! I couldn't swim more than 25 yards 8 weeks ago- Sunday I could go 1/4 mile without having to stop to catch my breath. It's all just about staying calm :)

  14. Awesome job! Love that medal!

  15. Congrats on a super first tri! That first one is definitely intimidating. :) You did awesome, and your placing is fantastic. Way to go Charlyn, you gotta be so happy and proud of that!

  16. Late congratulations to you for your first and very sucessful Tri and to Kim and her team for placing 2nd !! Once I can swim 1/2 mile again, maybe I'll rent a Divvy bike and join you in Chicago for a sprint Tri and we'll have a little competition ! ;)

  17. Congratulations and great job! I am much too scared to do one of these.

  18. Finally commenting even though I read this post back when you first published it. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am SO happy for you! You set out to achieve a goal on something that was terrifying to you such a short time ago. You didn't just achieve your goal, you NAILED it. (Are you hooked on tris now?!?!?)

    WE MUST CELEBRATE!!! Brunch!!! =D

  19. Congratulations! I hope you do more triathlons! They are so fun!