By Rachel Leigh email
"Rachel, we're leaving in five minutes," said my friend, Kellie.
What?! I slept in. The last thing I want to do before my first triathlon.
My body, screaming for caffeine, had to run off adrenaline this morning.
While, some of my friends were just turning in for the night, I was driving to Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek to compete in the Ameriprise Financial Race the Troops Triathlon.
Now, this triathlon is a sprint: swim 400 meters, bike 10 miles and run 2.5 miles. If you're an athlete, you're probably thinking the same thing as me. "I can run long distances, bike for hours, and swim, well, there's always the faithful doggie paddle stroke. Seriously, how hard can this be?" Time for a reality check!
It's now 5:30 a.m. I can see just enough to find my spot in the transition area to place my things. Once my bike is racked and my shoes and clothes all together, it's time to be marked with my number and age. A volunteer draws an 80 and a 23 on me. I quickly find myself looking at every girl's leg to see if they were in my division - I'm really competitive.
So, as 7 a.m. neared, 561 people grab their swim caps and head to the start line. As I watch the heats begin before mine, my toes became numb. I needed to start moving before anything else did! When my turn finally came, I walk in the water not having a clue what to do. 'Do I jump or just start swimming?' My friend, Kellie, makes a big plunge, so I decide to do the same.
Everyone warned me Florida lakes are gross. Me, growing up swimming in the Ohio River, I thought, 'How much worse could it be?' Oh, much worse! I couldn't even see my hands in front of me!
Even though the race is divided into several different heats, I am kicked and hit quite a few times. I start out doing freestyle, but, halfway through the swim, I freeze and realize I'm in the middle of a deep murky lake. I think: "Rachel, what are you doing to do? The other side of the lake is so far away. You'll never make it."
I've witness people experiencing mental blocks like this, but never one myself. I flip over on my back and pray. After a few strokes, I go into a freestyle stroke keeping my head above water and keep my eyes on the banner reading ‘finish'.
By the grace of God, I make it to the other side of the lake, and jog to the transition area, don my bike shoes and shorts and grab my bike. It's time to play catch up.
I quickly learn the course is pretty curvy with numerous sharp turns. I must bike smart; it's so easy to wipe out on a curve. I get through the bike leg pretty easy passing a lot of people - it's my favorite part of the race - but, I knew what wait for me: the run.
It's easy to go from running to biking, but the other way around is more difficult for me. I feel like I'm in one of those dreams where someone is chasing you, but you can't run away.
Sure enough, after racking my bike, my legs were like lead. I estimated I was running 10 minute miles, but couldn't find the motivation to push harder. I just want it to be over, so I can breathe normally again. Every time, I ran around a turn, another loop stretched before my eyes. I trick myself: The end is just at the tree - no, that tree another 50 feet away. This gets me to the finish line. I'm like a kid seeing the golden arches of McDonald's! Alright, just a few more steps and you're there. Three, two, one and congratulations, I did it!
My goal was to finish in less than an hour. I missed it by 2 minutes and 37 seconds, but there's always next time.
I drive home and flip open my laptop. To my surprise I have an e-mail from MultiRace. "Congratulations, you won an award!" I won the bike and run leg in my division; however, my swim and transitions time placed me second overall.
Now, that I have reached one of my personal goals, it's time to go for my next: complete a half marathon!