Training for a triathlon ranks with learning to play the bass clarinet and moving to New Bedford on the list of most impulsive decisions I have made. I knew this past summer I would be laying low in Boston, and I also knew that I had a nice bike I didn't use enough and a good friend who would remind me how to swim, so I went for it.
On Sunday I took the plunge, literally, into a beautiful lake in the middle of CT wearing a race-issued pink swim cap. The water was colder than I expected, and it took four solid minutes for my heart to stop racing enough that I could put my face in the water. Once I was able to, though, the swimming leg felt great. I had trained hard this summer for endurance (not giving much thought to speed) and was rewarded with a great swim in the race.
Something funny happened while I was swimming that hasn't happened in the dozen or so road races I have done since I started running again: I passed people. I distinctly remember thinking to myself "this is what it feels like to pass people in a race". Racing is usually an exercise in humility for me; that feeling was unfamiliar.
I got over it quickly. As I ran into transition I realized that I had made a mistake that I knew I would make: My sneakers were still tied from the last time I had worn them. That juvenile habit fills me with shame every time I kick my shoes off without untying them, and on Sunday I finally paid the price.
As it turns out some cyclists take riding very seriously. Thus, a lot of people passed me on the second leg of the race. I had spent more time on the bike this summer and greatly improved over the course of my training, but since most of my riding was through Lower Roxbury, I never really had a chance to train for speed. As I cruised back into the race site at the end of my race, some guy screamed at me "smile!" I really could have ran him over. I don't go to women's races so that I can still have men boss me around, thank you very much.
The run was miserable, as is to be expected. Apparently the definition of "flat" for a trail run is different from a road race, because the trail was not nearly as flat as had been promised. I also was not prepared for the aerobic fatigue I felt by the final stretch. Even though I run road races that take longer than the tri took, I don't think I had ever maintained such a high level of activity for as long as I had around mile 1 of the run when I really started to feel worn out.
I was happy to see my mom waiting for me when I crossed the finish line, and was not surprised at all that she teared up during our sweaty hug. After a free bagel and sandwich we got on the road (with a stop at Dunkin). I took the shower of a lifetime at my parents house and drove back to Boston, where I had to conduct at the 9 pm mass. By the offertory I could barely lift my arms.