Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swim, Bike, Run, Swim, Bike, Run

Yesterday, I took part in a mini triathlon. The Tri the Illini is a 300 meter swim, 11-mile bike ride followed by running a 5k. It's my first triathlon event and it was a lot of work. I had terrible nerves all week, particularly since my most recent runs had been kind of slow and pokey. I was also nervous about the biking part, which is new to me. I know when something is wrong with me. I don't know when something is wrong with a bike -- until it's probably too late. I also decided it was silly to drive 3 miles to the event and take my bike out of the car, so I got up a little early and road to the race.

Thankfully, the storms that were supposed to ruin the morning waited until the afternoon to show up. I was dead set against trying to ride a road bike with no tread and skinny tires on country roads with giant potholes in a strong downpour and high winds. (Call me crazy!) So, I didn't say much about participating in this race to very many people, because I just wasn't sure I was going to end up going. But when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and the weather was cloudy, but humid I was overjoyed to feel comfortable participating. It also didn't hurt that Friday's run on the track was awesome, especially after two days of not being able to do much on Wednesday and doing no exercise on Friday.

Since we swam at the ARC 50 meter pool at the University of Illinois, we had to submit swim times for the 300 m and then we were assigned race numbers depending on when we would be called. There were over 300 people in the race, and I was in the middle for swimming -- 150. I stood in line after my warm up. The swim was over in a flash. It took some concentration because we were all so close to each other in time that there wasn't a lot of space to flip at the walls. Instead, you touched and ducked under a lane rope and kept going as fast as you could. I tried to stay to the far right, so anyone who was flying could pass me. But the problem was, I was catching as many people as were catching me, even with the 5-10 second break between swimmers.

When I was done, I ran up the stairs and to the transition area and got on my shoes and socks, shirt and bike helmet and walked my bike to the mounting line and got on. Then I biked. I'm not an aggressive biker. I'm more of a -- oooh, isn't it a lovely day for a tour around town -- kind of biker. So I road my bike and was proud that when people passed, they all were like super cyclists. Thighs that could crack walnuts -- riding on machines that cost THOUSANDS of dollars. Seriously. They looked pretty. But I was okay just peddling along. I passed the people on mountain bikes and a few people, who like myself, had older or more inferior road bikes. But I road, and besides the fact that the streets in our towns are really pretty piss poor, I was happy.

My least favorite part of the triathlon is the running. Funny, since I do it all the time, right? But my problem is that no matter how many times I practice the first 5-10 minutes moving from the bike to the run is hard. It gets in my head -- and confuses my lower back on the right-hand side.. I ended up having to take two walk breaks one during the first mile and one during the second mile because of my back knotting up. By the time I got to the mile 2 mark, it had worked itself into a place where I could run the entire last mile to the finish line without any pain.

I crossed the finish line smiling, took a few steps before bending over to give the woman the chip on my ankle and then walked back to my bike, collected my items and biked home (okay, I stopped at First St. and St. Mary's to open a protein bar because I was hungry).

I still have the permanent marker they used to put my race numbers on my arms and my left calf on. I swear I scrubbed, but it's gonna take a few days.

I have two more beginner triathlons this summer. One with the Champaign Park District and one in Toronto, the distances are a little different, mostly shorter than this one. But I'll have to see if at the end of three, I like it enough to try for a longer one next year.

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