If you’ve been following my journey this summer, you know that my first attempt at a triathlon was unsuccessful (due to weather the swim portion was cancelled-read more about MingoMan Triathlon here)! So, I decided to give it another “tri” and headed to Indianapolis for TRI Indy. I signed up for the sprint distance again as this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew! Turns out, I surprised myself in a few ways…
My husband I arrived in Indianapolis and headed straight to packet pick-up, which was a breeze. We snuck into the 101 course for newbies and listened to race organizers give last minute tips and tricks and tell us about the course. I recommend if you are new to the sport or aren’t familiar to the course to attend a clinic if they offer it at your race. You will learn at least one thing that is helpful for your race day! After the beginner’s clinic, we headed to find my training partner and her husband and walked the course to get familiar with the swim portion and the transition area. The swim is in the canal through downtown and both Transition 1 (T1) and Transition 2 (T2) are in the same grassy area of the park. The course is actually quite beautiful! After walking the course, my training partner and I were a little sad we didn’t sign up for the Olympic option as my husband did. After walking the course, we went back to our hotel to get some rest.
Race day morning was uneventful in terms of logistics–parking was a breeze and getting our bikes racked only took minutes. We had read that the swim start was a walk so we made it there early and took our time. I walked my husband to the Olympic swim start, said good luck, and headed back to find my training partner as we did not start for another hour. We were able to watch the Olympic racers swim by, which was exciting!
The weekend had been cool and the water temp for that morning was around 72 degrees at 7:30 am, making it wet suit legal. For the swim portion, you corral yourself in a line and then every 2 seconds, someone jumps from the platform into the canal, so it took us a good 20 minutes to get into the water. As you are in the line waiting, you were given the option to get in the water to warm up. Neither my training partner nor I had on a wet suit, so we declined the warm-up as people were in the water with teeth chattering. Looking back, this could have been my first mistake! Finally, it was our turn to take to the platform and jump in-my friend went first and I quickly followed suit behind her. As my body hit the water, I immediately realized I was not prepared for how cold the water actually was and it immediately took my breath away. For the next 250-300 meters I struggled to find my breath and swim correctly – it was HORRIBLE. My friend’s husband was walking along the canal and could see that I was not happy and came back to walk along beside me and talk to me. I was so grateful for his support and his encouragement to keep going forward. I stopped twice to flip over onto my back and catch my breath: once I even stood up in the canal to try to calm my heart rate down! Finally after what seemed like 40 minutes, I got it together and swam correctly the remainder of the way, but it was still slower than I wanted. I am not a fast swimmer, but was hoping to do my swim in less than 15 minutes. Instead I got out of the water in a little over 19 minutes! Regardless, I was done with the swim and ecstatic to move on to the bike and warm up.
My T1 time was at two minutes and then I was off on the bike! I loved this bike course, mainly because after my last race my friend helped me make a minor adjustment to my gears, which made a huge difference this time! The bike course is a 12 mile loop and it is quite rough. They do warn you about this, so mentally, I was prepared and just hoped I didn’t pop a tire. I smiled most of the bike, knowing that the swim was behind me and I was one leg away from finishing my first tri! I said hello to people on the course, thanked the volunteers and police officers (they had a great presence on the course) as I rode by, and cheered on the runners as I came back into the transition area. My bike time was at 39 minutes, totally smashing my average pace and speed from my last race!
In transition, I jumped off of the bike and threw my visor on and went for it! I did not take any nutrition during the race up to this point, so I did take advantage of the aid stations during the run portion (one each mile with lots of smiling faces). It was hot and I wanted to make sure my strongest event stayed that way! The 3.1 mile loop was beautiful, although a little tight in the beginning. After the first mile, I got through some of the Olympic racers on their second loop and felt more comfortable. The run was not my PR for a 5K, but it was certainly right where I wanted it to be for race day, thanks to my brick work-outs. A respectable 26 minutes and smiling the whole time due to the exhilaration of knowing I was finishing my first triathlon-it was an amazing feeling for sure. My friend and her husband were waiting for me at the finish line. We had done it and we couldn’t stop grinning!
Lessons learned from this race: I think I should have taken the option of warm-up prior to swim start. Looking back, if I did get in for warm-up, I might have given my body time to adjust to the water and it would not have shocked my body so badly when I jumped in to swim. I need to think about investing in a wet suit if I am going to do other races with open water swim. I also need more practice in OWS, which I already knew, but this race was a good reminder to get out there during training and put myself in conditions similar to race day. I might also consider taking some nutrition on the bike portion of the race so that I don’t need to worry about that during the run portion of the race, especially if it is a hot day.
Most importantly, I have learned that triathlons are really about the individual athlete. It is different than a single event race! I had women in front of me that dusted me on the swim, but I passed them on the run. I had men behind me on the swim that passed me on the bike. You cannot compare yourself to another athlete in these cases; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but one thing is for sure, we are all there to improve in the ways that we can during race day. Overall, I placed 5th in my age group with a time of 1:42:46.9 and I am happy with the outcome. Moreover, I am ready to take on more races like this with hopes to take what I’ve learned and apply it for an even better finish.