Mountain Lakes Triathlon: Check!

This morning I completed the Mountain Lakes Triathlon in Guntersville, AL. This was the first of four endurance events I’ll do over a 10 or 11 week period. It was hot and it was fun. You could say it was hot fun.

I traveled and roomed with Lynn. She’s one of those “together and always prepared” people, so she was the perfect companion. She patiently answered all of my questions. Thanks to her I never felt pre-race jitters.

While my overall time has been posted, the triathlon coordinators haven’t posted the official split times, so I’ll update this post once I know my times for the swim, bike, run and transition components. I turned on my watch’s stop watch feature as soon as a race official cleared me to enter the water. My final time was right in sync with the official time, so I’m going to assume the casual glances at my watch gave me a pretty accurate picture of how I was doing.

When I registered for the triathlon I had to estimate my overall finishing time, plus my times for each component. Participants are given a race number based on estimated swim time and we enter the water one at a time at three second intervals. My estimated swim time of 20 minutes landed me at race number 865. Yep, there were 864 people ahead of me. I estimated my over all finish time at 2:40. This is a VERY slow time for a sprint triathlon, but it was my first sanctioned event and I’m new at biking. I felt the conservative approach would be best.

My strategy was to do my best without over-taxing myself. I plan to do this event next year and beat this year’s time.  So here’s how it went.

Swim: Again, I expected to do the 600-meter swim in 20 minutes. During my final practice swim (in a pool) on Wednesday, I swam the 600 in 19:15. Today’s swim was in a lake. There were a few panicked swimmers near me. Lake swimming is different from swimming laps in a pool. There’s no pool-side to grab when rest breaks are needed. I wasn’t nervous or panicked, but I could tell I was getting caught up in the race vibe I was picking up from people around me. I was one of the last swimmers out of the lake yet the 20 minutes seemed to go by quickly. A glance at my watch told me why. When I walked across the timing mat at the lake’s edge, my stopwatch read 13 minutes and a few seconds! I looked at my heart rate reading and it was 150 beats per minute. My heart rate when swimming is normally between 118 and 125. I was grateful for the faster-than-anticipated swim time, but I needed to calm down. I jogged up a hill to the transition area to put on socks, shoes, helmet and gloves. I walked my bike to the mounting area, and off I rode.

Bike: First things first. I’m going to need to buy a new seat for my bike. The bike ride was 16.2 miles and it only took about 6 miles before I became VERY saddle sore. A friend gave me a bike computer so I would know how fast I was peddling. It didn’t work. I had no idea how fast, or more important, how slow I was riding. I incredulously passed a few people and others passed me. My bike glove covered my watch so I had no idea how long I’d been on the course. When I mercifully finished the bike ride I checked my stop watch. One hour and thirty minutes had passed since I’d begun the event. I don’t know how long I was in transition, therefor I don’t know how long I spent on the bike course. But I was pleased. I knew it wouldn’t take me 1:10 to run three miles, so barring a sprain, I was going to beat my estimated time of 2:40. I stayed in the transition area to remove bike gear and put on a hydration belt. Then I was off for the run.

Run: I need to use that term loosely. My legs were like Jello due to the bike ride. I could not get a decent leg turnover going. I decided to just put one foot in front of the other, put a smile on my face, and finish the event with a little dignity. It was an out and back course and as runners and walkers were coming towards me many were complaining about the heat and grimacing. They were clearly miserable. I was a little warm myself, but I concentrated on relaxing my facial muscles and appearing nonplussed as I slowly trotted the course.

I saw Lynn running towards me. She was with a man I didn’t know. Lynn called my name and her running partner SCREAMED my name, adding several “you go, girl” and “you’ve got this” comments. He was great and he gave me much needed encouragement. Lynn met him on the course and they decided to finish the 5K together. It turns out he was former Alabama Crimson Tide football player Siran Stacy. Lynn had never heard of him. I’m a Vandy fan, therefore I follow Southeastern Conference football and I remember Siran. He’s now an evangelist and a motivational speaker, so this afternoon I hopped on his website and sent him a message thanking him for the shout-out. I also informed several of my Tide-faithful friends.

As I was finishing the 5K, my friend Mike came out to run me in. He finished the event earlier and wanted to help me out. I told him that when I started the run it appeared I would break 2:30. By the time he got to me, I was trying to break 2:25. I wanted to hear all about how he had done in the tri. He showed me how close I was to the finishing shoot. He then told me to stop talking and focus. So I picked up my pace…a little bit.

I checked my stopwatch after I crossed the finish mat. It read 2:22, 18 minutes ahead of my estimated time. I was beyond excited.

Since this was my first sanctioned tri, I’m looking at it as a learning experience. I want to spend more time working on my cycling (after buying a new bike seat). But before I look too far forward I want to spend some time feeling excited about what I accomplished today. Eighty-one pounds ago this would not have been possible. Can I do better in the future? With training and continued weight loss, of course I can. But today my performance felt…


I’m going to enjoy it for a while.

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