After a night of dreaming about nothing but swimming, biking, and running, I woke up at around 6:45am with the aspirations and excitement of finishing my first triathlon. Today was the day. With the noon start time, it allowed me to get plenty of sleep and take my time getting everything together in the morning. I have never participated in a race that starts so late in the day, so it was interesting to have all that additional time to prepare and get ready.
*Note about the start time: I personally was not a fan of the noon start time. It was hot, the bike leg took place during the windiest part of the day, and by the time people were finishing it was late. It would have been nice to have finished early in the afternoon and had the rest of the day to celebrate. I felt a little rushed after the race and didn’t even sit down for dinner until 9:30pm. I would also recommend training during those later hours of the day. I do most of my workouts in the morning and it was the first time I have run a half marathon early in the evening.
Justin and I met up with my mom and step-dad, who drove over for the race and arrived early that morning. We walked down the street from the hotel to the T2 area and dropped off my run bag. There was a lot of energy in the air and I enjoyed watching all of the athletes roaming nervously about. So much time, energy, dedication, and fitness crammed into one little area. As a newbie, I was humbled and inspired.
It was then time to jump on one of the shuttles that were transporting athletes to the swim start. I parted ways with my family and reconnected with them later at the T1 area. I spent some time getting my bike ready to go and then hung out with everyone until it was go time.
There was very little shade (okay, there was no shade) and it was warming up quickly. Many people were hiding out under trucks and in the shade of porta potties while they waited for their swim wave to be called. Some people were hunkered under umbrellas, which seemed like a good idea. I put on sunscreen every so often and tried to stay hydrated.
After standing around in the sun for an hour, it was finally time to put on my wetsuit and swim cap. Knots in my stomach started tightening. After one last pep talk from coach and a few positive words from Justin, my mom, and Billy, it was time to head down to the water. One last hug from a proud mom.
I exchanged a few words with the girls around me, which helped ease the nerves as we marched our way into the water. The floating start was great as we were able to acclimate and move around a little. The water temperature was perfect and felt refreshing after sweating in the hot sun. My friend Kalie and I exchanged a few words of encouragement and then the horn blew. Off we went, a little school of white caps creating chaos in the calm water.
I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I was with all the swimmers around me. I was bumped and clawed at a few times here and there, but nothing like what I had been worried about. The length to the first turn buoy was the longest but went by really fast.
As soon as I turned and started toward the next buoy, the water became a little choppier and the next wave of swimmers started catching me, creating more stir and confusion. I was all over the place and could not swim straight to save my life. The second buoy came and I was onto the home stretch. This is where things went downhill and my left calf started cramping to the point where I could not kick at all. Swimming with a Charlie horse is about as fun as standing on an ant pile. I relied on my upper body to get me to the exit and as I stood I could feel my cramping leg give way and tighten up in pain.
I hobbled my way up the long ramp of carpet and plopped down to have my wetsuit stripped. Man, those guys are good! You would think they travel around doing this for a living. I was feeling a bit woozy and disoriented after coming out of the water and was scared to get on the bike. My leg was still cramped and all I could think was that if I’m cramping already, it’s going to be a very long, painful race.
I pulled myself together in transition and took the time I needed to relax and breathe. You can probably sense the worry on my face, even though I was trying hard to smile and stay positive.
Swim Time: 49:51
T1 Time: 3:41
Things I learned about the swim:
My sighting and ability to swim straight in big crowds of people could use major improvement. I was pretty much all over the place creating a zig-zagging mess. My Garmin indicated that I had completed the 1.2 mile course by swimming 1.6 miles. Ugh. That hurt. I could have saved minutes if I could have just gone straighter. I think all of the people around me, combined with my own level of adrenaline, threw me for a loop. But, since this was my first time swimming in an open water race environment, I actually learned a lot and will go into future races a little differently.
Another thing I would add to my training schedule is a few swim-bike bricks. The feeling of going immediately from the swim to the bike was completely foreign to me and I was not prepared. This is actually where I struggled the most during the race and it hurt my performance on the bike. I feel that practicing and doing a number of OWS-bike transitions is just as important as practicing bike-run bricks. I will be doing this from now on in my training for future races.
The Boise swim course was pretty awesome. I loved the reservoir and the clear water. I’m sure there are times when the water is rough (as I’ve read from previous years) but even with the strong winds, the water was pretty mellow and accommodated a bunch of crazy triathletes quite well. Even though it’s not the easiest place for spectators to get to, there were still hundreds of people there cheering and supporting the athletes.
The swim leg of a triathlon is NOT that bad. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have been terrified of the swim from the get go. Mentally, I think I built it up to be much bigger and scarier than it ever needed to be, somewhat like a monster under a bed that doesn’t exist. It was all in my head. As soon as I got into the water, I was fine. If you are considering a triathlon and are afraid of the swim, trust me, you can do it. If I can do, you can do it. I am so thankful I did not let my fear of the water hold me back from accomplishing something remarkable.
The bike and run are up next…. click here!