Well ULAs I did it. One week ago I completed my first triathlon. I want to share a piece of this ridiculously exciting and at times stressful journey with you. We all have fitness goals and one of mine has become to do something that challenges me physically and mentally every year. At first my goals were running related --I wanted to BQ and sign up for a Ragnar Road Relay. Then last year, my hubbae and I summited Mt. Rainier for our one year wedding anniversary (that's a post for a different day). Today I want to highlight Lavaman. I bet some of you are sitting on the other side of this screen thinking... there is NO WAY I would ever want to do a triathlon. Believe me, I never thought I would want to do one either.
It all started a year ago. My sister-in-law, who is one of the most BA single mama's out there was competing in her second Lavaman and my in-laws were there to cheer her on. They were so psyched on the triathlon that they decided they wanted to celebrate their retirement in Kona and all do the triathlon. Alright, let's PAUSE right there. My in-laws are the definition of "fit fam". My family, on the other hand, vacations lounging seaside or poolside so this was a whole new outlook on vacation. I was convinced to sign up and then I put off training for ooooh you know 9 months. Oops. Disclaimer: I am a runner and just ran the California International Marathon in December with Christy (one of the best run-cations of my life). But I am by no means a swimmer or a cyclist. I didn't own a road bike until this Fall when I bought my mountaineering guides girlfriend's used 2005 Cannondale.
My idea of cycling involved sports bras and skin tight leggings on a stationary bike in a dark room with music blaring out of the speakers and a stunning instructor motivating me to tap it back (insert Flywheel, Soul Cycle, Burn Cycle class).
Okay, so I basically gave myself 3 months to get my act together. Also, the worst three months to train in Seattle, because IT. RAINS. EVERY. DAY. But with the help of friends and family I stayed motivated. I used the local UW campus gym and YMCA pools and would swim 30-45 minutes. I went a total of 8 times to the pool. Nowhere near enough training, but I knew I would likely not drown (my goal for this portion of the triathlon). To be honest, I couldn't get myself motivated to bike in the Seattle rain. I had a paralyzing and irrational fear of biking in Seattle. Mainly because I work at the hospital and have seen too many bad bike accidents come through the ER. I refused to use clip-ins, so my father-in-law purchased basket pedal (he's a saint). The first time Andy took me for a spin in the neighborhood it ended in tears. No chill. We then decided it may be better to try to take the relationship emotions out of the equation and I went for a 15 mile bike ride with a friend on nice paved path. Got my groove & some confidence back. Went on a third and final bike ride with my husband. The rest of my training was all indoors with spin classes about 1-2 x per week. I am fortunate enough to know an amazing group of ladies who take 60 minute Flywheel classes on Saturdays and then run a 10K around Lake Union and I joined them a few times.
Still with me? Are you wondering where the excitement and fun comes in?!?!? Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. We arrive in Kona on the Big Island and my sister-in-law is the best support system. She knows I am terrified and plans for us to spend one day focusing on each event: the 10 KM run, the 1500 meter swim, and the 40 KM bike. We rented bikes for the week and... IT WAS SO FREAKING FUN. I don't know if it was the sunshine, the wide bike lane, or the stunning ocean views --but I felt so much relief after that practice ride. The following day we went out early to practice the swim. Since I was the least prepared triathlete in the family, I also needed to test out swimming in a sports bra and Oiselle running shorts. Surrounded by legit swimmers in wetsuits, I again felt intimidated. I grew up spending summers at my grandparents place on the Adriatic Sea, but this was open water. Add in a healthy fear for sea critters and let's just say the nerves WERE REAL. But we did it. I remembered what Christy told me, when you get nervous just find your breath and focus on it. Use your breath to center you. Those words helped me so much.
Race day: March 25th 2018. It rained for 24 hours before the event and there were flash flood warnings on the Big Island. Cool. I tried to remain calm and confident. My goal was to try my best, to have fun, to finish the whole triathlon and if I am being honest... I wanted to finish in 3 hours or less. The night before, I was looking at the course map and results and was shocked at how few women were in the top 100 finishers --only 15. This got me more excited to go out there and prove myself because GIRL POWER. The day was actually perfect. It was slightly overcast and the roads had dried from the rain. At 7:44 AM I entered the water and it was GAME ON. The swim was hard. I followed my sister-in-law's lead and positioned myself in the middle-back of the pack at the outer edge. I knew I wouldn't be the fastest swimmer in our age group and I wanted to minimize getting swam over or kicked in the face. We fought a current and waves heading out to the midpoint, but we had that same current helping us back to the beach. I wasn't able to swim freestyle the whole time, but would do so for 10-20 strokes and then alternate freestyle. All I can say is, I need to work on my breathing pattern. Then it was a scramble to rinse off the sand and run to the bike transition. I took my time drinking water and fueling up with cliff blocks and a Go Macro Protein Bar and then I was off. The adrenaline rush I felt on that road was like none other. The part of the race I dreaded most, ended up being my favorite. I got such a kick off charging hills and feeling that quad and glute burn and would embrace and pedal faster on the downhills. The best part was that all the women were encouraging each other.
If I was passed or I passed another female, she'd shout "you go girl" or "you got this girl".
ALL THE FEELS. This gave me even more fire to work it. When I got back to the bike to run transition, I wasted no time chugging water and chewing two blocks before hitting the lava rock. Perk of not clipping in: wearing my Brooks Levitate shoes the whole time. I felt SO SLOW. I realized after the fact that going so fast biking, running felt like I was in quicksand or barely jogging. I chose to not wear a watch for the event so that I wouldn't get in my own head about time. I am usually good at knowing my pace without a watch and I felt like I was going 9-9:30 min/miles. I just kept thinking of each of you, of family and friends, of everyone who had wished me luck and churned my legs and arms faster. My one goal during the run: do not get passed. Yes, I am competitive. Of all three events, this was my thing. I succeeded. Mile 5-6 was lava rock and beach and the last 0.2 miles was sand. But I saw that finish line and heard my fam cheering me on and I sprinted across. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't talk. I didn't know my finish time. It didn't matter. My time was 2:42:36 (33:21 swim; 1:20:48 bike; 43:17 run). I was not the fastest. I was not the slowest. I had conquered my ultimate summit for 2018. I would do it all over again, because there is nothing quite like the feeling you have after your first race finish.
Next year the event is March 31st 2019. Verdict is still out on whether I will repeat Lavaman or be convinced to do an Ironman 70.3 by my sister-in-law. Regardless, I AM HOOKED and signed up for a sprint triathlon this summer and cannot wait to work on these new skills.