In April, I went in search of an event to help me lose weight and get in shape; I found the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon and I can’t believe it’s already over! Getting ready for my first triathlon has been my focus for the last three and a half months and now it’s finished.
Friday afternoon I went by Columbia Presbyterian Church for packet pick-up. I got my packet, timing chip, T-shirt, and TYR bag with the Iron Girl logo. I browsed some of the booths at the expo and the goggles at the TYR booth caught my eye. Everyone advises not to try anything new on race day but the goggles I had been using weren’t working well and these ones seemed amazing. So I bought them. P.S. They were amazing.
It’s mandatory to rack your bike during specific hours only on Saturday and it was a quick and seamless process. I was in the 2nd row off to the right of transition and only a few bikes in so that was convenient. I took a few minutes to analyze surroundings and test walking up the fairly steep little hill coming out of the transition area.
Sunday – Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon Race Day!
Sunday’s 4:15 wake-up call came quick. I had set out everything the night before. Clothes were ready to go, food was on the counter ready to be made, and all of my things were packed in their bag. My sister didn’t want to wake up to do my french braid so I sat by her bed while she did it with the lights off and her eyes closed. It was 65 degrees and still dark outside when we left the house just before 5. We arrived at the park 10 or so minutes later and figured the park was already full so we drove a couple blocks down the road across from the park for parking. I got my tires pumped up first thing and then I spent a few minutes getting my transition stuff ready before getting body marked and heading for the bathroom line.
I went back to transition just to double check all my stuff. At this point, the sun had started to come out and it was a really beautiful morning. Hubs and I started over towards the start line so I wouldn’t keep staring at my transition stuff. All morning they had been playing pumped up music, doing interviews and making announcements over top of the music; it was sort of like an “Iron Girl Radio Show”. I was really trying to take in the experience and calm my nerves before everything began.
After the national anthem, I went and joined my wave at the start line. We were the second wave to take off and the first group was relatively small so I was in the water within a few minutes of start time. Brady snapchatted my start.
I had just gone around the corner after entering the water when my nerves took over and I had to stop and try to calm down. A volunteer, who was in a kayak close by, came over to let me hold on and chatted with me while I got a hold of myself. I think it all hit me kind of fast and I guess I just needed a moment.
I don’t think I stopped for more than about 30 seconds before I kept going but it could have been longer. The sun wasn’t too far above the horizon and on the first straightaway we were blindly headed directly into the sun. I was swimming at an even, but fairly slow pace so I got passed by almost all the red people (my wave), probably most of the yellows (the next wave) and a handful of silvers (the wave after that). Going around the first turn I bopped some girl in the head so we started a quick conversation about how it was our first time each and then wished each other well before continuing on our individual treks.
After exiting the water, I began the run up towards transition and gave a wave to Brady on the way. While I was putting my shoes on, some girls came in behind me and one of them said to the other, “This is horrible! I am never doing this again!” I just sat there thinking, “Are you kidding me? This is amazing! I can’t wait to do it again!”
Of all the disciplines, I probably enjoyed the swim the most. I love being in the water and it was actually kind of relaxing once I was able to settle into my rhythm. The lake was nowhere near as gross as people expected it to be. The water is murky but I didn’t notice any goose grease or lake weeds trying to eat me.
Swim time: 37:28
I never got a chance to ride the course before the event but I had driven it 3 times. The hills on the 16 mile course that I thought would be the worst… weren’t. I was great at going downhill but horrible at going uphill. It was a pain to watch the people who I had just passed going down one hill, passing me as I went up the next. I had a conversation with this lady from Team Fight as we passed each other on a few of the hills. We decided, in our brief conversation, that if we combined the two of us, we’d be the perfect racer. The worst uphill was around mile 9 or so right after a long downhill. As someone passed me she said, “ALL THE SWEAR WORDS!”
Because of the time trial start, everyone was spaced out over the course and there were never too many people crowded into one area. My back was really killing me the last 2 miles, but I was able to push through and finish the ride in a decent time.
Bike time: 1:15:18
My legs felt a little jelly coming back into transition but they were mostly okay by the time I started running. I had to walk/run intermittently for the first 2 miles because my left calf was feeling really tight. Gatorade hill is no small hill so it was encouraging to have volunteers and spectators lining the trail cheering all the women on. It was great to hear them say, “I see you number 82, you can do it!”
I ran most of the last 1.4 miles except for the backside of Gatorade Hill because I could walk up that hill faster than I could run it. The last half mile I think I was whimpering a little to keep from crying because I couldn’t believe that I was about to finish. The last few months of working up to this and being worried that maybe I wouldn’t be ready. The people cheering us on as we came in to the finish were truly amazing and I was almost overwhelmed by how fulfilling it felt to cross the finish line. I was immediately awarded my finishers medal and then stripped of my timing chip before I could grab a drink and go celebrate with my husband and family.
Run time: 46:26
Overall time: 2:45:49
I’m not excited about my time, I know I can do so much better in that sense, but I am so proud of this accomplishment considering that 4 months ago I had a fitness level of about 0 and my neurosurgeon was telling me I needed surgery to fix my herniated disc. I still have back pain and I still only have partial feeling in part of my right leg… but I did it!
One of the greatest things about doing this event was the response from friends and family members who told me how inspired they felt by what I did and how much they would like to be a part of the experience next year.
I’ve told my husband that I can’t imagine any other event being as perfect as this one. The volunteers and other participants were so encouraging and the location is in my hometown so it’s comfortable and familiar. I wasn’t prepared for how lonely I would feel the next day with no big event to look forward when I’ve been preparing all summer. But for now I’m planning to keep getting healthier, keep getting stronger, and come back even better next year. Until 2016 Iron Girl.