Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Triathlon

I got up at 5:45. I'd brought pb&j and some fruit and yogurt with me for breakfast. I ate that, put on my sunscreen and clothes, and got ready to go. The sad thing is that I made a time line- like what I would be doing every 5 minutes to keep me on track. (I'm kinda slow in the morning.)

I drove to the scooter shop and... my back wheel was off my bike! What the heck? I got it back on and tried mightily to get my tires pumped up to their full pressure (it makes a big difference) and failed mightily. So I went down to the transition area and started to set up and eventually got my tires pumped up. I got most of my race numbers on by copying the guy next to me (they go on your bike helmet, your bike, your biking/ running clothes) but there were like temporary-tattoo number you had to put on each arm and I had no idea how to do it. These 2 volunteers came at like 7:30 and said "You have to leave! The race will start!" and they helped me. I quickly cleaned up my oodles of junk and started the 1-km jog/ walk in flip-flops to the start. They'd said you could give your flip-flops and a bag to a volunteer and they'd keep them for you but no dice. So I had to give them up- and I really liked those flip-flops!

There were about 1500 people racing- you are in groups of 200 and each group has a different color swim-cap. They put out a wave every 5-7 minutes. Mine was second. In the US they do it by sex and age group but there was no discernable grouping here- maybe the order we signed up in? That meant that almost immediately I was swimming over the spazzy people from the first group (they call them waves) and almost immediately after that, fast people from the next wave were swimming over me. As we know I'm a terrible swimmer. And you can imagine getting into the water with even just 200 people at once. Here's a picture of the first wave going in last year:

I doggy-paddled with everyone for a little and luckily they had floating platforms and I grabbed onto the first one and gasped for air. Then I tried to freestyle a little but I couldn't see in the water and I gave up and did the back-stroke for the whole thing. This is a very bad idea because, you know, you can't see behind you. But I think no matter how you swim you will constantly run into people. Luckly there was a line with buoys you could swim next to and I would do that for a while- except there were a lot of people who were slower than me- so I would try to swim out further into the lake and not be in people's way- but then I would somehow wind up crossing traffic back to the rope. I was glad my race number wasn't on the swim cap or I'm sure people would've wanted revenge on the bike! Ha! And even doing back-stroke I was swallowing water and gasping for breath. But I just kept going. I knew I'd make it and it would all be OK. I would do a few strokes where I'd focus on breathing and taking long, powerful strokes and then I'd run into someone or the buoys and the gasping would start again.

And then... it was over! I wore my watch and I think it was only like 25 minutes. I thought we would swim to the transition area which was also by the water, but no, we got out right next to where we got in, and there was another 1-km to the transition. And this time the clock was running so I did jog. They did have a "red carpet" of outdoor carpeting the whole way so that was nice.

I made a stop at the port-a-potty (which most people find ridiculous but I figured, no need to add to my discomfort), drank water and sports drink, had this gel thing that has caffeine and I don't know some sporty thing in it, and got on the bike to go.

I felt awesome on the bike. I had been so scared of it falling apart or the brakes rubbing but it felt good. I went as fast as I knew I could. The first couple of km were good but then the hills started but I just climbed and climbed and got it done. Going down hill is my nemesis- I actually can go faster on a slight uphill grade because I can pedal; on the down hills I just brake. But the downhills were curvy and I went around 40 kph (24 mph) down most and broke 50 (30 mph) at one point- and people just flew past me. But that's OK.

The bike was a loop around the lake so there was some beautiful scenery. And I got to enjoy some of it! I kept forcing myself to drink- it was only in the 80s (I can do kms but not celcius!) but of course I was sweating out, um, a lot of fluid. I also ate a 100-calorie bar- I know most people don't need to take in calories on a sprint triathlon but I'm the girl who if she teaches for 4 hours without a snack considers that a fast.

Lots of people passed me but I passed lots of people too. It's nice starting early in the race. And it was nice to pass people in my wave- the whole not being last thing. There were some spectators. They would say "Jia-you!" (Chinese for go!go!go!) and when they saw me, sometimes they would say "Go! go!" in English, and a few said, "Jai-you, waiguoren!" (go,go, foreigner!) Kinda funny.

I got to like 24 km out of 28 and we left the lake and started up the mountain of death. Like 3 km of climbing but with curves so you didn't know if it would be downhill or uphill after the curve- but it was always uphill. But I had done lots of crazy mountains in training (no way to avoid them- it's either flat or mountains here) and I knew that I could go for as long as the mountain went.

So I'm not competitive and I love the friendly and encouraging chats you can have along the race course but I gotta say I climbed the whole thing on my bike and it was awesome to pass really muscular guys with sleek road bikes walking up the hill. jia-you, waigouren!

I finally got back to the transition (my odometer read 30 km but who can quibble)- total bike about 90 minutes. I was happy. The transition was super confusing and there were all these spectators in there trying to shout encouragement but I was like get out of my way! Augh! I finally got there and poured a bottle of water over my head- ahhh- changed shoes, put on my hat (gotta wear a white hat in this sun or I really think my hair would catch fire), sprayed on some sunscreen and left. Oh, and put the tiny bottle of flat coke in my back pocket.

I started my watch right away even though it was a little bit before I went over the thing that measure you start the run ( a time chip mat). Actually I didn't notice myself going over the time chip mat. My goal was to take it easy for 5 minutes and give my legs time to adjust, then go a little fast for 2 minutes then easy for 2 minutes. I tried but man did I feel slow. I passed people and people passed me and I just didn't feel the pep. And there were no km markers on the route so I didn't know at all how I was doing. I really thought we had to do 2 out-and-back-things and I got to the turn around- they gave out water and better yet, ice-cold sponges- shamelessly, I put one under my hat and one in my shirt- they will stare at my anyways, so give them something to look at, right?- and asked the girl, how many km? in Chinese. And she said 1. My watch read 18 min at that point and I'm like, you're kidding me. I thought, maybe it was a 10-min run to start the stupid 5k. Good thing I had the sponges. But I just thought, I'll keep to my plan and try to push it a little, force down some coke (which didn't sit well but gave me some pep) and go as long as I can and if I have to walk, I'll walk. And I got near the finish area and I was sure I'd be turning around and running the whole thing again and the volunteers guided me towards... the finish line! I ran as fast as I could and I looked up and it flashed my time for the run and it was 24 minutes and something and I jumped up in the air and said "Yes!" I could not believe it. If I ran a 5k on its own I'd be thrilled to break 25 minutes. And my watch said under 28 so I know it was true. Boy was I a happy girl.

Here's the pic- I'd taken off my race shirt (kind of a black tank top) and put on the race shirt to cool off, so you don't get the full glory but so it goes.

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