Friday, April 28th- I woke up late and the car service call woke me up! In the midst of gathering all my luggage together, I forgot my pedals AND my helmet! Geez... what bad luck I had that day. In addition, I accidentally left my cell phone in the security section of Newark International Airport (this is the 3rd time I lost my cell phone in the past 12 months!) I didn't realize any of these until I was on the plane to Tampa, FL.
Upon arrival at the Hilton St. Petersburg in Florida, I unpacked my things and GUESS WHAT?!? I found my cell phone!!! I bought everything else that I needed at the race expo. Great deals! $1 gels, $25 camelbak, $20 tri-shorts... etc! With Team in Training, we also had our first open water swim. At this point, the word through the grapevine was "NO WETSUITS!!!" I swam in Tampa Bay twice (with and without a wetsuit.) During my first open-water swim, my first realization was --- I CANNOT SEE ANYTHING EXCEPT THE COLOR GREEN! Visibility within the water was quite low. Water tasted salty. I was buoyant and felt more comfortable without the wetsuit.
Traveling with the Team was advantageous in the fact that they did everything for you. They arranged the plane tickets, the bike transportation, the hotel arrangements, food, etc. during the entire stay. On the day before the race, we had a big pasta party where we met other TNT members from across the county (FL, TX, OH, IL, PA, GA, were states that were represented.)
My roommate and I woke up at 5:30AM. We walked to transition area to get body marked. They put 3848 on my right arm and on my right ankle (front part.) They then put the number "24" (my age as of Dec 31st) on my left ankle and "TNT" on the back of my right ankle. Transition area was chaotic. I forgot a towel to put my accessories on, so I just used my long-sleeve Philly Marathon shirt. Worked well. I wasn't too organized, but the person next to me was! Jeff from North Texas TNT let me borrow his floor pump. By 6:45AM, the transition area closed and that was when I left. By meaning of "closed" --- I mean it was "closed"! This was quite an organized race especially for 3500 registrants! A few of us opted to stay by the swim finish to see the Pros do the swim and go through transition area.! The swim portion was a point-to-point swim, meaning that that the swim start was a good mile away from the swim finish (which means it took me around 20 minutes to walk to the starting line.) It was definitely exciting to see the Pros. I didn't have my glasses handy, so I wore my prescription-based goggles. Boy, did I try to set a fashion statement to the spectators or what?!? I was in the last swim wave, which starts at 9:05AM (race started at 7AM). Seeing the pros through the transition area was simply amazing. This olympic distance race attracted several Ironman champions and Olympic-distance winners. I noticed how the Pros just left their shoes on their bike and would walk/run through transition area barefoot. They did not wear bike gloves either.
Again, I was in the last swim wave due to start at 9:05AM. I meditated. I talked to my mentor Tara and to my other friends in the area. I cheered for other swim waves. I stretched. (Yes, I was deadly nervous!) I can't believe this is THE day. I was about to start my triathlon journey. Different things were going through my head, but at 9:03AM, the race announcer stated (to everyone) that our swim wave may be delayed due to the large number of swimmers in need of help and the fact that there aren't enough rescue boats in the water to rescue them!!! Mind you this was my FIRST triathlon and that is definitely something I did not need to hear. Geez... however it can always be worse! I remained positive. The horn sounded and I was off! Swim was very choppy. The course was U-shaped; beginning at Spa Beach, then going straight out to open-water along the pier for 0.3 miles, then we tur! n 90 degrees to the left for another 0.3 miles, then a slight left for the last 0.3 miles. Sounds easy? During the swim, I just kept telling myself "I can swim... I can swim... I can glide... I can glide..." focusing on each of the buoys and making sure I can adequately breathe. At one point, this one guy TUGGED my ankle. He thought I was his friend "Eddie" but once he noticed I didn't look like Eddie, he apologized and I went on. I saw a group of 3-4 swimmers just hanging out and resting. I swallowed 2 mouthfuls of who-knows-what but I kept going. Usually these "accidental swallowings" always mess me up mentally, but this time it didn't. I tasted some gasoline. On the last turn, I felt a few cold currents (I wasn't wearing a wetsuit). Also, I hit someone during this leg! He was swimming the WRONG way and he literally swam right in front of me (90 degrees). A canoe gladly stopped him and put him in the right direction. Hmmm... Of all the legs, the last 1/3 of the swim was the hardest. I saw the balloons of the SWIM FINISH... but it seemed FOREVER to get there! Once at the swim finish, there were volunteers helping people go to the stairs. My volunteer grabbed my hand and just pulled me to the stairs. A bit wobbly, I climbed and finished the SWIM!!! Finished in 38 minutes. Not bad ---- considering I swam around 1.2 miles in length! (I kept my distance from the swim to avoid human collisions.) One of my friends thought that in a few years, these Championchip timing devices will have a GPS device so we can see the route we took during the swim! Interesting happenings during the swim: 55 people did not finish the swim; One girl felt so uncomfortable with her wetsuit that she literally took it off in the open water and left it in the ocean; the boats made extra waves...
Transition was ok. I tried to run but sadly could not. I walked briskly. My bike was at the 2nd to last row from the exit. Boy, did that long straightaway feel soo soo long!
As all of you know, this is the sport that I felt I did not train enough in since I never completed a 25-mile continuous bike ride. The most I had ever done was 18 miles.... but luckily enough, I finished in 1 hour 20 minutes. Quite fast. I was shooting for 1 hour 30 minutes. I passed a lot of racers during this leg. I LOVE my bike! I also wore a camelbak just in case. Not many people wear camelbaks on the race course. Everyone called me MARIE because I had put the word "Marie" on my right thigh (this was because I had "sold" body parts to help me reach my fundraising goal). I felt great. I ate 1 gel and drank 3/4 of my remaining gatorade bottle. There was this one small teeny weeny hill (train tracks). Other than that, the course was mainly flat. I was lucky and I did! not have a flat tire. From talking to my friend Jackie, I think I'll put $20 in my bento box and pay one of the racers $20 to help me with my flat tire --- that is, if I get a flat tire in the future! I also am glad to use my cycling shoes. Helped me get faster. My cyclocomputer was not working properly (showing that I was going 4 mph... which was not true). I felt great. Race support was AMAZING!!! Everywhere I heard MARIE or TNT or GO TEAM! No, my name is not Marie.. but that was the most visible word on me during the bike. Oh -- and I didn't get any penalties! Yay! Bike course itself was mostly flat, but the areas we visited were not that appealing/interesting. Oh, and I had an issue with the mile markers!!! I only saw three --- 10, 15, 20! I was hoping to see a marker for every mile, but they only had three markers.
My trick in overtaking people was changing gears. Thanks to Charlie Crawford's advice during the mandatory novice triathlete meeting, I'd bike close to the rear of the cyclist in front of me (1 bike length) and then overtake him/her.
Transition was slow. Took forever to tie my running shoes. I need to get race laces next time.
I started running but both my quads ached and cramped. Not good. I walked through the aid stations and saw a large amount of people pass by me. This disappointed me the most since I felt I had trained hard in the run. At the last NYRR race, I finished a 10K in 47 minutes. During mile 1 of the race, I noticed how I can finish the race in less than 1hour if I just keep a steady 9-minute pace. Sadly, I coudln't due to cramps. At the turnaround at mile 3, I literally ran/jogged every 3 palm trees and then walked to the next palm tree and then started running again for the next 3 palm trees, etc. This strategy seemed to work. I did my best and am happy with my 61 minutes of running! It was BRUTAL. So brutal that I knew which Gatorade volunteer gave out the really ice-cold ones. It also ma! de me realize I should have eaten more gel during the bike. People around me were admiring the large mansions of St. Pete... but I just concentrated on my run. My friend Stephanie was definitely cheering me on and she provided me a lot of encouragement... but once my quads hurt SO MUCH, I started to run lighter/slower. I also recalled my friend Joan's advice on how it's all about presentation. Many runners like people to cheer on them b/c it helps push them to run with good form! :o) ON the last 200m, I was able to sprint to the finish --- uninjured! Some friends came up to me afterwards telling me I had great running form at the end ---- so again, I rest my case and admit that it's all about presentation!
I finished in 3 hours 6 minutes. I am very proud of this finish and am more proud to have done it with TNT! I will forever remember my first triathlon and certainly look forward to doing this race again sometime in the future. Note that I also fulfilled my fundraising goal by raising $5,001 for Leukemia & Lymphoma society!
St. Anthony's was FUN!!! Yes, it's official! I'm a TRIATHLETE!!! Overall, it was hard, but a lot of fun!
Swim - waves were choppy. I was in the last swim wave... and race director announced to everyone in my swim wave how our start may be delayed due to a large number of people needing help in the water (and not having enough rescue boats to accommodate them.) Geez--- for a first-timer, that's not what I needed to hear! Overall, 55 people did not complete the swim.
Bike - Surprisingly nice. Didn't get any penalties for drafting!!!
Run - This killed me. Cramps on my right/left quads and one blister on one of my toes. I can't believe I still finished! Lots of crowd support.
Overall Experience- Florida was AMAZING! Great weather and astonishingly CHEAPER than New York City! $1 gels and the big Gatorade bottles costing $1.95! Expo was pretty good too. There were some good deals.
Thanks to everyone's support and advice. I truly appreciate them and am glad to be part of NY Tritons.
I did this triathlon with TEAM IN TRAINING and I'm glad to report that I also successfully fundraised $5,001 for cancer research while training for this tri!