STAR Triathlon: Check

I’m now three fifths of the way through my 2010 endurance events goal (three half marathons and two sprint triathlons). I completed the STAR Triathlon on Saturday. My goal was to complete the 200-meter swim, 14-mile bike ride, and 5k run in two hours. I finished in 2:03. I’ll take it.

As my friend Lynn and I made the hour drive from Nashville to the event in Manchester I began experiencing my usual mild anxiety about being the last to finish. I don’t know why I do that. Finishing last is no big deal. But any time I participate in an endurance event, I morph back into the kid who was one of the last picked for the kickball team during gym class. Lynn wants me to stop thinking about how poorly I might do and concentrate on how well I can do. I once had a softball coach tell me I swing in order to not miss rather than swing in order to hit the ball. Both Lynn and the coach are correct and I want to work on that.

We in arrived in Manchester to very chilly temperatures. Thankfully, the swim portion was in an indoor pool. Participants are given a start number based on their anticipated swim time. Lynn was about 50 people ahead of me. When it was time to line up in numerical order I noticed she didn’t move to her spot. It was then she told me she was going to stay with me during the entire event. Sweet Lynn! I asked her why she didn’t tell me sooner. “You would have argued with me during the entire car ride,” she responded. She knows me well. As much as I wanted her company, if I’d had time to think about it, I would have felt guilty about her sacrificing a good finishing time in order to keep me company.

While waiting in line for the swim, someone called my name. To my horror, it was a guy I used to work with. There I was in a triathlon suit, running into someone I know whom I didn’t expect to see. We hugged and he was so sweet, pretending not to notice the globs of fat hanging off me. Note to self: keep working on getting in shape before next year’s tri season.

Finally, it was my turn to get into the pool. We did a “snake swim,” meaning swim down one lane, go under the rope, and swim up the next lane, and so on. I was about three lanes into the eight-lane swim when someone tapped my foot, signaling he was going to pass me. No problem. When he got to the end of the lane he stood up, needing to catch his breath. I passed him and kept swimming. I swam two more lanes when I noticed he was still standing in place trying to collect himself. Seeing his struggle made me grateful I’d been taught to swim a steady pace that doesn’t overly tax myself. Steady=finishing.

Lynn and I finished the swim and jogged to the transition area. Burr, it was chilly. We dried our feet, but on shoes, socks, helmet and bike gloves. And off we went. I’m still a very inexperienced cyclist. Lynn rode ahead of me and pointed out debris I needed to be mindful of, stuff like tree branches and broken glass. There was even a TV casing. I think I would have seen that without assistance.

As we began the 5k, solidly in the back of the field, a spectator yelled, “Think about all the people sitting on the couch!” He wanted us to remember that being in the back of the pack is better than doing nothing. Of course, I agreed.

The 5k had a few more hills than I anticipated. Just like last month’s triathlon, I had a lot of trouble “getting my legs under me” for the first mile. I’m told this is normal, but hopefully with good conditioning and continued weight loss during the off-season, I’ll do better next year.

While someone posted a slower completion time, Lynn and I were the last two people to cross the finish line. The crowd screamed for us as if we’d won the Boston Marathon. It was precious.

My day ended with me feeling incredibly grateful. I was grateful I am in good enough shape to complete a triathlon, regardless of the amount of time it took. Eighty-one pounds ago that would have been impossible. I was grateful for the crowd support and the other participants who were so encouraging. And I was grateful for a friend who cared enough about me to forgo her own time in order to keep me company.

I have two endurance events ahead of me: a half marathon on September 25 and another on October 23. This morning I ran 10 miles in preparation. I can’t remember any time before when I had the stamina to complete a triathlon on a Saturday and run 10 miles 48-hours later.

I feel very blessed.

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