Monday, August 19, 2013

My First Open Water Swim Triathlon

Iron Girl Columbia Race Report
0.62 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 3.4 mile run
August 18, 2013
By Marsha O’Mara

“My First Open Water Swim Triathlon”

I’ve been called an “over achiever.”  And I will have to agree.  I get these ideas that I want to do the next big thing.  And then I go ahead and do it.  I wanted to do a marathon before I turned 30.  So without being a regular runner and not running a single race before, I trained for a marathon.  I wanted to go skydiving.  So I did it.  And a few years ago, after a friend of mine did her first triathlon, I decided that I wanted to do one too.  Now, I know how to swim…in the shallow end of a pool…with walls to hang on to.  I had no idea that I was afraid of deep water until I took a cruise in 2005 and we decided to go snorkeling.  They gave us life jackets, but even with that security, I frantically had to swim back to the boat after swimming away from it for about 10 seconds.  Flash forward to 2013 and I have completed my first open water triathlon!

I had done a practice triathlon a month before the Iron Girl race.  It was a pool swim and 300 meters as opposed to the 1,000 meters for the Iron Girl Columbia race.  But it was good practice for me to figure out how to lay out my items in transition and what to expect during the race.  I would highly recommend anyone planning on doing an open water triathlon to do a smaller race ahead of time to get used to racing triathlons.  So I was at ease with setting up my transition area. 

I was also more comfortable because I was in the last swim wave.  I heard the stories about how people would swim over you when the next wave would come and I was not mentally ready for that.  So when I found out that I was in the last wave, it was a huge relief for me.  But it may not have been that great because I had about an hour and a half wait until my wave came around for me to think about quitting.  I think I mentally quit about 4 or 5 times during my wait.  But in the end, I decided that I put all this time and effort into this and I was going to at least attempt it before giving up.

0.62 mile swim
When my wave came around, I headed into the water.  We were allowed to be in the water about 6 minutes before we were to start.  I used that time to get adjusted to the feel of the water and blow bubbles in the water as my open-water swim coach had taught me to do.  Side note:  I needed a little extra help getting used to open water swims and was fortunate to go out swimming with a coach who specialized in open water swimming.  It was worth every penny spent.  I definitely used his coaching tips during this race.  When the gun went off, I let everybody go ahead of me.  When I felt like I wouldn’t run into anyone, I started.  I was taught by my triathlon training coach, Lloyd Henry with OnPoint Fitness, to roll onto my back every now and then when I felt tired or when I felt like I was uncomfortable so after a few strokes I decided to do that to calm my heart rate down.  I did that periodically during the swim and that really helped with my anxiety.  They have kayakers along the way in case an athlete needs assistance.  I was always thinking during the swim that I would stop at the next kayak just to take a break, but every time I got to the next kayaker, I said, “No, I’m good.  I’ll stop at the next one.”  I ended up never having to hold on to a kayak.  I was very happy about that.  I realized that I would only be using the kayak as a crutch.  I had the endurance to swim the distance without the help.  But I felt very comfortable knowing they were there. 

Near the end of the swim, I ran into a lot of seaweed or some sort of vegetation in the water.  I was definitely not used to swimming in that type of environment.  I had to keep my stroke going while trying to get the seaweed out of my way.  But since I could see the swim exit, it didn’t bother me.  I just moved it out of my way and kept it going.  My picture coming out of the swim shows how excited and shocked I was to finish the swim.  After finishing the swim, I knew I was about to finish the triathlon.  That is unless I got a flat tire.  Did I mention that I don’t know how to change my bike tire?  Oops.

16 mile bike
Now the bike.  Well, I haven’t ridden a bike in about 20 years.  So when I first went out training on the bike, it took a lot to get used to.  After riding it a few times, I got more comfortable on it.  Also, it was raining the day of the triathlon.  We had gone out on a training ride in pouring down rain so on the day of the triathlon, I was at least used to riding on wet ground.  I was thankful that I had that training ride because it seemed other people were not as comfortable on the ride.  When I started the bike ride, there was another athlete in front of me who was riding a little slower.  I announced, “On your left!” so I could pass her.  But it seemed she didn’t hear me.  I announced a little louder and I was sure she heard me the second time, but she actually kept moving toward the left side.  I was coming up on her and was about to crash into her so I shouted, “ON YOUR LEFT!!!!!!”  I guess she finally got the hint and moved over and said, “Sorry.”  After that incident, the ride was pretty uneventful.  I did ride over a pot hole and it was so rough a bump that my water bottle flew out of the holder.  I had my other bottle filled with Gatorade so I was fine.  I was just happy that it didn’t cause my tire to go flat because once again, I still have no idea how to change a tire.  I missed that session in our triathlon training group ride and never bothered to ask about it.  I don’t recommend doing that and I think I should hit up YouTube before I go riding again. 
3.4 mile run

After the ride, it was time for the run which is my favorite event of the triathlon.  I knew at that time, this race was over.  Since it was raining that day, it wasn’t as hot as it could be in August so I had one of the best runs.  It was a hilly run, but very scenic and there were tons of spectators out there cheering us on.  When I knew I was a ½ mile away from the finish line, I took off into a fast pace.  I was so happy to have finished my first triathlon.

I will say that this is the first race where I cried after finishing.  There was so much that I put into training for this triathlon that I just can’t have room for in this race report.  But I have to say this was my greatest physical achievement to date...mainly because I overcame my fear of swimming in deep water.  For the future, I plan to work on my speed and efficiency in swimming so I don’t need to roll over too often on my back and so I can sight better.  There were a few times that I looked up from my swim stroke only to find out I was going sideways instead of forward.  Definitely not a good thing.  But I still feel as though my performance was good for this race and it will go down in my record book as one of my life highlights.
Iron Girl Finisher 2013!

Swim – 40:31
T1 – 5:50
Bike – 1:11:12
T2 – 3:42
Run – 35:15
Total – 2:36:29