The alarm goes off. I’m up like a shot, the adrenaline already flowing. What time is it? 3:30 am? 4? I can’t remember. I’m out of bed and going over my packing list for the day a 7th or 8th time while I get dressed.
Tri shorts and jersey. Almost skin tight. One thing you give up quick when training and competing in triathlons is any sense of vanity. It quickly becomes function over form. Who cares what you look like if you can shave 5 minutes off of your over all time and a full minute off of each transition???
Orange juice, a bagel, half with peanut butter and half cream cheese; and a banana round out breakfast. Then it’s time to fill the water bottles. How many scoops of Carbo Pro per bottle? How many Nuun? I think I double checked my ingredients about 4 times before feeling confident I got it right.
Back to my tri bag for a 9th check of gear. Put on some pants over my shorts, grab my jacket, and it’s off to meet the team downstairs.
Walking out of the elevator, you can immediately tell who slept well last night and who didn’t. Some people are bright eyed and excited. Others can barely keep their eyes open. We stand around and wait for the stragglers to show up so we can board the bus to the transition/start/finish area. I’m feeling pretty good. I think I slept well, though it’s hard to tell from the adrenalin…
After boarding the bus, it starts heading up the highway to Elk Lake. It’s funny how different people deal with stress. Many people are chatty and can’t sit still. I’m quite. Looking out the window. Still.
And then we round a corner and Elk Lake is in view. That’s when the first butterflies hit my stomach. I take a few deep breaths and a sip from the water bottle. My stomach settles and I continue to enjoy the ride.
We get off the bus and head towards a group of people with markers. They put our numbers on our bodies and send us off to transition. I’m still feeling good. Somewhat in a daze.
I get to our bikes and some jerk has put his bike on the rack backwards. A woman near us asks him to fix his bike. He refuses and says it’s too late. Eventually a race marshal comes over and he fixes his bike. I understand he’s nervous and worried about his race, but putting your bike on the rack backwards affects everyone else on the rack. It’s not fair to the other races to be inconvenienced by one person being a jerk!
I set my bag down and start setting up my transition area. Often a problem for new racers, a properly set up area can shave minutes off a transition time. I put down one of my two towels and pull my run gear out of my bag. Shoes, water belt, and a change of socks. I set these at the back of the towel, under my bike. In front of that goes anything I need during transition. An extra water bottle to rinse lake water out of my mouth after the swim. Two extra Gu gels, if needed. In front I put my bike gear. I plan to dress from the bottom up, so I put down my shoes in front with a sock in each, rolled back and ready to slide on my feet. I’ll already have my try shorts on and won’t put anything else on my legs. Next, my race belt with my race number. I double check it is filled with salt tablets. A bike jacket goes down next, in case it doesn’t warm up much by the time my swim is over. Then my helmet with my bike gloves, Garmin watch (already turned on), and sun glasses inside. On top of it all I place my second towel.
I put the water bottles on my bike and check my spare tire and tire changing kit. Then I go searching for the team tire pump. Wandering around the transition area is quite the education. Victoria Tri is small enough that I see many elite athletes talking to brand new racers, giving them tips and suggestions on the transition area and all three legs of the race. I wonder how much of that info is sinking in with all the nerves running high. I manage to find the bike pump and get it back to my area. After filling up my tires, I help Amy fill up hers. It’s about this time that I hear several people had flat tires over night, one of which is my teammate Melinda. After passing on the tire pump, I see Melinda walking by and ask her how her bike is. Everything is fine. She not only had a spare to use, but also has already gotten a second spare to take on the ride.
There’s a line starting to form at the nearest portapoty, so I head over and stand in line. By the time I get through the line, it’s about 5 times longer then when I started. Good timing!
My legs are starting to feel cold, so I decide it’s time to suit up and head down to the water. Using a trick I learned online the day before, I put on my socks and quickly get my legs in my wetsuit. The rest doesn’t go on so easy. After much prodding and pulling, I manage to get the suit on, but not zipped up. I’ve never managed to zip it up myself. Fortunately, once you’re in a Tri, your part of a new family. There are plenty of hands offering to help me zip up.
A group of people are forming around the start line. About half of them are in suits. The rest have cameras. By this point, I no longer feel self conscious about wearing skin tight rubber. It’s just part of the job.
The water is cool, but not cold. I swim about half way out to the first bouie. I always have trouble warming up during the swim. It takes me awhile to get my breathing rhythm down. I’ve been working on a technique of fast breathing at the beginning of swimming and then slowing it down once I’m warmed up. I think it’s working, as I’m feeling pretty good in the water.
The crowd, both on the beach and in the water is growing. It must be getting close to start time. I head for the beach and decide to start in the middle of the pack. I don’t expect to be anywhere near the fastest swimmers, but I also know there are many people on my team not quite as fast as I am. I pass Amy and give her a quick kiss. Then I shoo her up towards the front of the group. She IS one of the fastest swimmers.
The race marshals are waving people out in the water back towards the shore. We can’t start more than waist deep. I’m in water near my knees with a group of people on my team that I know are about my race pace. Some one shouts “get ready!” and the crowd of racers tense. A gun goes off and, for a moment, I’m disappointed that it’s a gun going off and not a howitzer cannon like they had when I watched last years race.
Then my legs are pumping through the water and I dive in to swim.