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My First Tri - Danskin 2003, Austin

Posted Feb 05 2010 8:05am
I don't think I've ever shared this race report hereas it was from back in 2003my frist triathlon experience.  It was pre-weight loss surgery and pre any notion I would want to continue with triathlons and one day complete a full Ironman.

The Birth of Team "Tri Divas"
CourtneyAlana and I met through Weight Watchers. I suppose by nowit’s almost 10 years ago. Each of us have weight-loss goals we have been working towards obtainingbut since losing weight was not our only goalwe wanted to be fit as wellwe all started doing different types of physically demanding athletics. Our level of activity was something that we all had in common.

I decidedwhen my weight loss seemed to slow down tremendously at 260 lbs. with a long way yet to goI needed a new challenge to focus on. I decided on the Danskin Triathlon. This was something even a beginnerwho could dedicate at least 6 weeks of training timecould complete – or so the write-up implied.

I mentioned the event to Courtney. She thought it was a terrific idea. She and her best friend Alana both decided to dedicate themselves to doing it. Wellas things would turnoutlife got in the way. Since training obviously was not a priority for all of usJanuary became Februaryand February became March. Time was escaping usand tensions were high. None of us wanted to say that we couldn’t do it.

Courtney came up with the idea for the relay team. I didn’t even know you could do it as a relay team. This would be the perfect answer for us. It would give us a great first-time experienceand allow us to see what it was all about.

So it was decided. The next dayCourtney created and registeredofficiallyteam Tri-Divas. There was no getting out of it now. We were committed.

The Day We’d Been Waiting For...
After getting to bed later than we hoped on Saturday nightwe woke at 4:30 am to set-off on our challenge. I was really nervousas was Courtney and Alana.

We nibbled on some protein barsjust to get something in our stomachsand headed towards the course. By the time we parkedshuttledand got to the transition areathere was already a flurry of activity. The sun was just coming up over the lakeand the waters looked calm. It was beautiful at 72 degrees with a slight breeze. We dropped our bags in the transition area and checked out the scene.

I really thought I would stick out like a sore thumbgiven my size. Not the case at all. There were women who are largersmallerfit and less fit; all kinds were there. Reallythe only really "triathlete" looking women were the Elite classwho compete in these things for a living. Sosuffice it to sayI became more comfortable with my bodyin less time than I thought I would.

Eventually the waves of participants were being launched. We were the second to last wave to go (out of 25 wavesI think). Each wave had 100 women in itso the water filled with swimmers quickly. The first swimmer exited the watercompleting her .75k in about 17 minutes. The support shown by the spectators was so amazing. As mothers finished the swim legan exited the laketheir children were rooting them on and their husbands were professing their loverunning along side them up the hill to the transition area. When the team Teen Survivors (teenagers surviving breast cancer) started exiting the water I got the chills. Here I was taking on this challenge. Knowing what it meant to meI couldn’t begin to fathom how they were feeling that moment.

I couldn't watch Alana start the swimas I had to go get my bike setup. I had yet to pump my tires and get my gear together at the bike rack. My nerves were really bad by this time. They had blocked entry to the transition area (where my bike was) until 8:15so I couldn't get back in. With Alana launching at 8:25I was concerned I wasn't going to be ready to make the transition.

Alana completed the swim in less than 40 minutes. A totally amazing featas the winds had picked up tremendously and made the water choppyto the point that it was white-capping. Couple that with the fact she had never swam in open waterlet alone in this type of event! As I saw her come into the transition areamy adrenaline was pumping. I was so motivated by her accomplishment.

We exchanged the chipand I was on my way. I was so worried I was going to do something stupidlike not being able to get clicked into my pedalswhile hundreds of people were watching. Thankfully nothing like that happened. Although after I made the first turn from the start linemy athletic bra (a full body tank) rolled up over my stomach and took my jersey with it. An awful site for the spectatorsoh well! Needless to sayI noticed the breeze and fixed it. Just my luck to the most loathed part of my body hanging out for the world to see. Ugh!

This ride was the biggest challenge of all my rides. If the high winds weren't coming right at methey were moving across me. It was difficult to keep a slowsteady pace when folks were passing me right and left. I knew that in order to finishthat was what I was going to have to douse my energy wisely and conservatively.

While huffing and puffing up a hillI kept my sense of humor. A volunteerriding a mountain bike with a fully-loaded backpack of repair gearseemed to pass me effortlessly. I yelled to himbetween breaths“Do you think you make that look a little more difficult? Just look like you’re strugglingfor me? Okay?” He laughed and said while he pointed to the backpack“but I have all this!” I just shook my head and laughed. It actually helped to get my mind off the current incline I was challenging.

After about 4 or 5 miles into the courseI started passing folks who had previously passed me. Conserving my energy was now paying offand that started to build my confidence. I had a few moments where I just knew I had used the gears precisely as I should have. It was as iffor a momentI was an expert rider. I was able to make excellent use of the downhill momentum. It felt so good to get it right. I really felt like an athlete.

At the half-way pointthe watering station was asking"Drink itor wear it!?" I chose to wear it. The volunteer drenched my chest with a cup filled with cold water. It was so refreshing. I felt amazingly reenergized. I knew at this point I had two large hills ahead of mebefore I got to the lastand largest hill of them all. These next two hills had me going speeds of over 30 mph on my practice rides. I knew I would need to maneuver them conservatively in order to have anything left for the big one.

Going down the side of the second of the twoI was now staring at the largestand lasthill in front of me. I heard the cheers of the 5Kr'srunning along the perimeter of the parkrooting me on. I wanted to root for them in returnbut I couldn't yell back as I was out of breathso I left them with a thumbs-up. I was stroking as hard as I couldwishing I could keep my breathing as steady as I was managing to keep cadence. The hill was so steep; I could feel my quads quivering with every stroke. A volunteer began rooting me on"You're almost there... keep that angry rhythm going!" I was angry and it was obvious. This hill beat me each time in practice runs. I didn't want to get off the bike and walk it. I was grunting and cursing the wind with every pump my legs made. 15 to 20 feet from the top of the hill I had to get off and walk. I was madbut not nearly as defeated I had felt during my practice ridesbecause this was the furthest up the hill I had ever made itand I realized that immediately. Even though I felt that given the challenge the wind presentedthis would be my worst time. I was okay with it -- I knew it was the hardest of my previous runs there.

While walking up the hill there was another woman walking feeling about as bad as I was. I yelled to her“Come onlet’s ride!” We both got on and got back to the business of riding. We made the second-to-last turn into the park togetherand were now on what starts out as a flat road. My legs recovered a bit and I was on my waypicking up speed. I felt bad leaving her behindbut knew we helped each other get going again. I made the final turnand could see the finish line on the top of what is the most deceiving hill of them all. It doesn't look like muchbut after doing rest of the coursethis hill may as well be as large as the tallest and steepest hill of the course.

I was determined to not get off my bikeas I had in all my practice runs when I’d walk back to my car. Not todaydamn it! I was riding right to the dismount line. I grit my teeth and starting grunting again. I came in like I meant it! I got to the dismount line and crossed the finish linecompleting the 20k in 1:09. I was cryingtrying to drink water and gasping for breath all at the same time. Later I would find out that 1:09 was my best time on the course ever – improving my time by over 20 minutes from my last ride!

Courtney and Alana came running up to me to see if I was okay and to make the transition – good thing toobecause I wasn’t even thinking about the chip at that point! I couldn't even talk. I raised my leg and motioned to them to take the timing chip. I told them"Gogogo!!!" After they made sure I was okaythey were on their way. As I walked to my bike back to the rackpeople were rooting for me"Good job!" "Great finish!" It felt so good.

Still crying because I couldn’t believe that I finishedI got back my spotracked my bike and started to recover. Next to my rack sat this seventy-something year old woman. She asked me if I was okay. I told her I was finejust that I was so happy to have done it. She told me that she had just completed the 5K portion of the tri with her two daughters who were about my age. To top it offshe was a breast cancer survivor. She told me her story. I told hershe was my hero. They had just finished in 2:12. I shared with her our team’s storyhow we methow much weight we lostand she said“Now don’t make me cry!” We settled on being each other’s hero for the day.

The sun was getting hotter and hotter and the storm was getting closer to the lake. I drank some waterate and appleand recovered. Then I went to find Courtney and Alana on the 5K course. They were moving fastbecause I went to one of the checkpointswhere I thought for sure they’d turn upand they were no where to be found. I knew that Courtney was feeling like she had less of a challenge than Alana and I hadsimply because she had done 5K’s before. But the windwhich had picked up even more by nowand the terrain presented just as much of a challenge for her as it did for us. I knew she would take on the challengein the exact way she takes on everything! I walked the course backwards from the finish to find themand I did. They were just coming up the last big hill. We walked the last 1/4 mile together. The closer we got to the finish linethe more cheers were heard from the spectators. They announced our team nameand our individual namesand awarded us medals around our neck. Never did a piece of metal mean so much.

On the back of the medal is an inscription"The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race."better and truer words could not have been inscribed in its place.

I am not the same woman I was before. I believe fullywe are stronger than we feeland braver than we ever could imagine we would be. Do not ever underestimate the power of belief.
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