So, after a
good non-existent night’s sleep, it was time to wake up at the unGodly hour of 3:45. We had to be in the lobby of the hotel before 5:00 am to make the three-quarter of a mile walk down to the race area. And we had to double check our bags and eat something.
The first thing I did when I got up was check the weather. 10-12 mile an hour winds. 72 degrees. There was hope. Then I looked out the window. I don’t know who gave the weathermen their information, but 10 to 12 mph winds? Hah! The trees were whipping. They at least got the winds blowing from the east part right.
As we passed Tampa Bay by the pier where we would be swimming in a couple of hours, pure dread crept in. Not only were we looking at the lovely 3-, 4-foot swells again, this time they were blowing right into the pier, fueled by what had to be 25-, 30-mph winds. At least on Saturday, the winds were blowing toward the shore.
Deep breaths. I had decided Saturday afternoon that whatever the race course dealt me, I’d deal with it and get through. I wasn’t trying to win anything. I just had to finish.
As we entered transition, the race announcer was blaring above the crowd. The swim start had been moved to the North Beach from Spa Beach (funny, Spa beach was far from relaxing), where the waters were more protected. The swim had also been shortened to 1,000 meters. Of course, this comes with a stipulation. North Beach was about a half mile from transition, so after the swim, we had to run barefoot on concrete a half mile back to the bike transition. FUN!
We got to the swim start and I have to say, it was much less intimidating. The water was still choppy, but manageable, and the course didn’t look so scary. The lifeguards on hand made it feel much safer as well. I went into the water in wave 11 (out of 32 waves) around 8:00. My favorite part of the race (other than crossing the finish line) was waiting to start. Music was playing, the announcer was funny, the ladies I was waiting with were awesome and funny. Once in the water, it was every woman for herself. I’ve never done an open-water swim like this before and it was an experience. I was kicked in the chin, took an elbow to the head, got swam over, got stuck in a crush that I couldn’t get out of and at one point started to veer off course. Sounds like fun so far, no? But I made it back to the finish line no worse for wear and headed up the 1/2 mile trek to transition. Swim time for 1,000 meters was about 24 minutes. I was happy with that.
T1 – I don’t know what I was doing in T1 (well I know part of what I was doing) but it took me 13 minutes. Wet, sandy feet are not easy to put socks and shoes on. And the woman next to me had cut her heel badly, so I kind of waited around for the medic with her for a few minutes. Took some vitamin water, hammered back some sports beans, helmet, glasses, race belt, and off to the bike.
Ah, the bike. For the first time since I started training for this race, I was grateful for Hecksher State Park where we bike trained every weekend in the freezing cold WIND. I hated that training. But in St. Petersburg, on the bike, we faced, warm, sunny WIND. Still blowing at 25 mph or so, the entire 24.8 miles of the race course, even with all of its twists and turns, seemed to be against the wind. I’m not very fast on the bike. And my wave went out early, so I’m guessing I was passed by about 2,000 of the 3,000+ competitors on the bike course. I just kept thinking to myself, they’re younger than me, they’re younger than me…. that kept me going. The bike took me about 1:45, which was about what I’d figured if there was going to be wind.
So far, so good.
I’d noticed at about mile 20 that I was getting hungry. I didn’t drink nearly enough on the bike course because it was hard to maneuver the water bottle while maneuvering the windy course. This, I would come to realize on the run, was a big mistake.
T2: I scarfed a banana, more sports beans, as much water as I could guzzle… threw on my visor and headed out for the run. Or should I say run/walk. Or should I say walk/walk/run a little. When I got off the bike, I could barely get my legs to move forward. 25 miles in the wind is a long way for me. Eventually though, I got them working again (T2 was about 6 minutes) and headed out.
Did I mention there were porta-potties on the run course? Yay for smart race planning. The potties in transition were just too far away, so remembering all the way back to Saturday, which by now felt like a week ago, I just
ran limped on out to the last leg of the race. It took about a quarter mile to get anything back from my legs so I moved kinda slow, but then I started running just a little bit, and a little bit more. I’m a slow runner anyway, but the sun was brutal, and at this point, the wind had more or less stopped. Figures. When you can use it….
At mile one, I took some water and hit the porta-potty. That was better, and on mile 2 I started to run a little more and walk a little less. About a quarter mile in to mile 2, my legs started to come back and I started to get into a bit of a rhythm. This went well for about a half mile and then….. CRAMPS IN MY CALVES. OW. Not just one, both of them. I stretched along the curb, tried to run again, but the cramps kept me walking for a while.
I went the rest of the 6.2 miles walking, running, cramping, stretching, drinking as much as I could, walking, running again… you get the idea. Every time I pushed it up to a run, I’d get about a quarter of a mile and the muscles in my calves would start to seize up again. Shoulda drank more on the bike course.
I met some very lovely people when I was walking, including Larry, the 81-year-old St. Petersburg native, who told me he’d done this race for the last 12 years, and this was the worst shape he’d ever been in. Seriously? He’s doing a friggin’ Olympic distance triathlon at 81 years old…. and as much as I hate to admit it, he beat me to the finish line, all while in the worst shape of his life. Kudos to Larry!
The run was through a beautiful neighborhood where residents stood out front to cheer us on and hose us down as we ran by. That was awesome. Thank you to the St. Petersburg people who really embrace this event, even though 4,000+ people descend on their sleepy little town, and kept us going!
With a half mile to go, I did suck it up and run the rest of the way in, cramps and all, and I finished my run in 1:30, about 10 minutes slower than planned. But I finished.
I have to say, crossing the finish line was amazing, in part because I didn’t have to move anymore and because they gave us towels that had been soaking in ice water. Heaven!!
Total finish time was 4 hours, 38 seconds. My goal was to finish in 4 hours, so I was more than ok with this, although I’d hoped to run the whole run. Live and learn. Next time drink more on the bike.
From there, we went home eventually, showered, and rested some with feet up on pillows. My legs were very, very achy for a little while.
A couple of hours and Aleve later though, we headed to the Team in Training after-party. We were promised this was the best part of the weekend, and Team in Training didn’t disappoint! So much fun. Drinking, dancing (seriously… dancing after a 4-hour race!) and just so much camaraderie and fun.
This was a tough race for me. But it was something I really wanted to do. And I did it. I’m proud of that. And I’ll probably do it again, or at least another one like it.
I have to say thank you to all of the folks who supported me with donations, kind words and good thoughts. In fact, thank you doesn’t seem enough. I couldn’t have done it without you.
And thank you to the Team in Training Coaches, Mentors, people who set everything up, and my teammates. I met some of the coolest people along this journey. And this was a journey that has changed me for the better.
Really tough, but more than that, really worth it.