Due to all my injuries, my triathlon season’s start was grossly delayed. I was really excited to begin with the Beaver Lake Triathlon in Sammamish, Washington.
I last did this race in 2008 as my third triathlon ever. A lot has changed since then. My Raleigh Grand Sport bike and my tennis shoe cages are gone. I now own a wesuit. I have learned so much. But what hasn’t changed are the pre-race butterflies.
Up at 4:30 am, Kevin and I packed up the car, grabbed some coffee and headed to the race. I was there early enough to snag the end spot on the elite rack—the best spot in the entire transition area.
Because I was fearful of injury to my shoulder from a breaststroke kick, I strategically signed up to begin the elite wave. There were 20 of us and only 3 women. I had to keep reminding myself that this is where I belonged.
The race announcer counted down and we were off! After so many setbacks, I was racing triathlon again!
Swim: 1/4 mile in 6:14
I chose the outside line to avoid the sun glare on the horizon. Since there were only 20 of us, it was pretty low-key and I was able to get into a nice relaxed rhythm. For some reason, I have a lot of shoulder pain in the pool that completely disappears when I’m in my wetsuit and open water. This was no exception and I completed a comfortable middle-of-the-pack swim. But, the 2 other elite women finished before me.
I ran through the transition area, wiggled my wetsuit off and went to put my helment on. My helmet would not go onto my head. Then, I dropped my sunglasses. No! I was sure my race had ended right there. I could hear people cheering for me, but in their minds, I thought they must be wondering what the hell was going on. I finally got my helmet on and headed out of transition. I have been practicing putting my shoes on while riding so I thought this was a perfect race to give it a try. They went on smoothly. My only complaint is that the rubber band (they hold the shoes on the bike) was touching my ankle for the rest of the bike ride.
Bike: 13.8 miles in 43:08
Now that I was on my best discipline, it was time to hammer. Yet, I just couldn’t get into a good rhythm. From my experience, I’ve learned that I thrive off of the competitive situation. One of my favorite phrases is, “On your left!” I love picking off other riders, one by one. But, when you start in a wave of 20, and mostly men, it was a lonely ride. I had one or two men pass me—one from a relay team and one super obnoxious guy playing leap frog with me. As we approached the stair climb-like hill, he passed me and said, ‘Now the real fun begins.’ I didn’t say a word and thought, ‘Yep. Because this is where I leave you behind, never to see you again!’ And despite having a rubbing back wheel, thats exactly what I did.
Lesson learned: my new 808 wheel is too wide for my bike brakes. I had to have my brake pads shaved down later that day for future use.
I passed both the other women by mile 10 and started to look forward to the run. In 2008, when I did this race, I tried to do a fancy dismount off my bike and my tennis shoe got caught in the cage and I fell into some bushes. To avoid an encore perfrmance, I took my feet out of my shoes early—waay too early. I did the whole last mile of a 13.8 mile leg without my shoes on. But! My dismount was flawless. Lesson learned: It does not take very long to remove shoes!
Much improved over T1, but still a bit of a disaster. The racer next to me parked his bike on my running shoes and I accidentally knocked his bike over trying to get my shoes. Shoes went on, grabbed my shot bloks, visor and race belt and ran out on to the run.
Run: 4.3 miles in 32:44
The racers are still few and far between so I was a bit surprised to hear huffing and puffing right behind me. A relay runner passed me and left me in his dust. I tried to match his effort, but I just didn’t have it. Too afraid to see if I had a runner on my heels as I almost always do, I took the ignorance-is-bliss route and never looked back. This course has a lot of rolling hills and my legs ached, but I remained steady, steady enough that I caught the relay guy from earlier and another relay runner as well. I think for the first time ever, no runner passed me. As I ran it in, I broke into a sprint. I was the first non-relay woman across the line.
Because I started in the 1st wave and the rest of the women’s waves didn’t start until after all the relay and men’s waves, I was going to have to wait a long time to know how I did. At this race, you can place overall regardless of when you start. So, I cheered in all the other Cycle U racers, ate some post-race snacks, laid in the grass next to the lake, and packed up the car with all my stuff. For such a short race, it was a long wait. It was a beautiful day with lots of great company so I didn’t really mind.
Once the results were posted, finishers huddled around. Once it was my turn, I quickly scanned the list to see my finishing time and then scanned—yep, there she was, a lady named Nancy had a time faster than me. I was second overall. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited to have finally earned a triathlon podium, a first for me. I had also won my age group which was nice too, but knowing I didn’t put together the race I know am capable of bugged. It may have made the difference for an overall win.
The award ceremony started and they started with the guy overall winner. Then, they announced the overall female winner.
‘She’s 29 years old from Seattle, WA … Carly Tu!’
What? I sheepishly walked forward to accept the award, fully convinced they had made a mistake. I stood there, embarrased, as the crowd applauded. I told Kevin that if Nancy accepts her age-group award, I’d present the prize plaque to her then.
But, her name was never called. It was the preliminary results page that was wrong. Had I bothered to look at her swim time, I would have known something was up.
So, as soon as I realized I had legitmately won, I got really happy. It became a lot easier to forgive my mistakes and just be jubilant.
I finally did it! I won a race! Now, I know it was just a little sprint with 300 total people, but it is a challenging course and I’m proud that I had the fastest female bike spit and had top-10 swim and run times. I wish I had known I had won when I walked up to receive my plaque so I could soak it in, but hey, I’m counting that this won’t be my last podium or win. And, it only took 4 years!
Now, I’m excited to knock down another goal that I couldn’t get done last season, run a sub 2-hour falf marathon. Training for Ironman is a little intense right now so I hope I’m not too tired, but I’m running the nice and flat (read: fast) Eugene Women’s Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend. Wish me luck!