My first triathlon event of any kind is in the books as they say. Yesterday I completed the Half Aquabike distance of the 2011 Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City/1.2 mile swim in the low, but lovely Lake Hefner and a 56 mile, mostly flat, bike ride.
The weather was perfect; a light breeze and comfortable temperatures through the morning, it did heat up in the afternoon but I was finished by then.
The weather was very important, particularly the lack of wind, because when the wind blows the water rolls and Susan doesn’t swim as well. On Friday at the practice swim, it was choppy and difficult – cold too. I had been relatively calm, but after that swim my stress level doubled.
Consequently, this aquabiker didn’t sleep much at all Friday night. It was after 1am before I fell asleep and 4:15am when the alarm sounded. I was just too hyped up and stressed to sleep regardless of how much relaxation I tried to do.
My husband/coach/everything Mark, knew I was stressed (if he reads this he will LOL, because I don’t make it very difficult to know when I’m stressed: (quiet and intense) and he quietly supported me – made me coffee, loaded my bike and drove me as close as anyone could get to the start – saved a lot of walking and time.
As I walked toward the lit up transition area, I slowly took it all in. Hundreds of volunteers and athletes were quietly going about getting ready for the event or their personal event. Even with close to 1000 people it wasn’t loud – it was too early to be too loud – but there was a murmur of voices and a buzz of activity.
It was thrilling.
I already knew where my transition spot was, Rocket was there – I had dropped her off the afternoon before when I was there picking up my packet and attending the athletes meeting.
Speaking of meetings and such, let me tell you there is a lot of preparation to doing something like this, and I’m not even referring to the physical part. There is much to learn about triathlon – the lingo, the process, how to train, etc. I had no idea how much it would require of me physically and mentally. It tested me, and that’s good.
Anyway once I got to transition, I set my gear bag down, said hi to the two women on either side of me and set about putting the stuff that I would need for the day out so it would be readily accessible and even visible when I came back from the swim to prepare for the bike. Your transition spot is pretty small and I learned you must not crowd your fellow athletes by having your gear overflow into their T-spot. Lots of etiquette and rules to this triathlon business. So, I made sure that nothing I owned was infringing on anyone else in the neighborhood.
Next, I played tug-of-war with my wetsuit then proceeded to find my goggles, earplugs and tempo trainer (swim metronome).
Mark parked the car and found me – and because of my primo T-spot we could talk while I waited to go to the swim area. Talking to him relaxed me – although relaxed is probably too strong a word, as you can tell by this picture.
I was excited about the bike, but nervous about the swim – like many I suppose. I developed a fear of drowning in January and swimming in open water heightens it.
One cool thing while we were waiting, they announced birthdays and I heard my name called! There were quite a few, since they announced all birthdays around the 24th too.
It was about time to start the fun, once we left the safe confines of transition my nervousness grew. Seeing all the athletes in the various colored caps helped to distract me. Mark was nearby taking lots of pictures to capture the scene.
They had to wait before the first wave could go off because the buoys moved but fairly soon after the theme from “Rocky” (always inspires me) and “Jaws” (made me laugh) had played the white caps moved down the carpet towards the water. Then the green, the yellow, pink…
and lastly, ORANGE! I was orange.
As the pictures show Lake Hefner is in need of water, but it had rained the day before so things were very muddy. Once we were at the shoreline it became real muddy and then slippery as we waded out so we could swim. People were slipping and sliding.
Once it was deep enough I started to swim. It took me a good while to relax into the swim. There were lots of bodies around so I took care, probably too much care, to avoid running into anyone. I also did too much early sighting, having a very difficult time spotting the turn buoys. Normally Redman is a straight out and back for the 1.2 milers (double for 2.4 milers), but due to the very low water levels the swim had to be moved to the middle part of the lake – thus the triangle formation. Being in the last wave, there was a lot of congestion. It seemed people were swimming everywhere – so it was hard to use them for guidance (navigation).
I sighted frequently but I still got off course. If I had a GPS of my swim it would look like a bunch of zigzags. I did much better on my sighting at Tallchief.
Due to my not-so-great right shoulder, I tend to veer to the right (pulling harder with the left arm), combine that with a poorly marked course, low light and bad sighting – you have my swim. Even with all that though, my time wasn’t bad – 52:12 for 1.2 miles.
I always feel so much relief when I near the end of any open water swim that I walk out of the water like I’m either a. drugged, b. demented or c. ecstatic or I guess d. all of the above, but c. is the right answer. Oh, you think I’m exaggerating, check out the second picture.
With another open water swim event under my belt, I think I’ll have more confidence for the next one. I hope so.
Next, it was through the slippery, sinking mud, up the “beach” and into wetsuit stripper row. Yep, you lie down and someone pulls your wetsuit off in one quick move that takes .9 seconds.
Oh, yes, we do have clothes under out wetsuits… don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. Typically under the wetsuit you wear whatever you are going to bike in – in my case a tri top and tri shorts.
I was still so elated from finishing the swim that I forgot I was supposed to get through T-1 (transition 1/swim to bike) sort of quickly. I talked to Mark, had a little gel… smiled a lot and took my sweet time just savoring the fact that this part of the Aquabike I could do well.. and I was looking forward to it.
One quick adjustment and Rocket and I were ready to roll. Fortunately I remembered the rule of walking or running your bike past the mount line, so once that was done I hopped on and took off.
After a couple of minutes I checked my speed and my heart rate, my heart rate was too high (141) for so early so I had to back off a bit. Once we left the lake road and we had a coned off lane to ride in and police officers were at every intersection until we got past Memorial Rd. and volunteers controlled traffic at minor side streets and drives. It was awesome getting to ride without stopping and barely slowing. The bike course was a fast one, a few rolling hills and except for a few well marked rough or potholed sections, a very nice course. The weather was incredible, mid – high 70’s and light winds which just added to the joy.
As is my practice, I kept my heart rate in Zones 2 – 3 until mile 26 where we turned around and headed for home. Once I headed back I stayed in Zones 3-4 and pushed it. I passed many of the people who had passed me and limited my stops to 1 quick one. Once we turned south we picked up a little headwind but it wasn’t strong. Plus with the aero bars the wind had less impact. The only thing that hurt was the part of me in contact with the saddle… I had no issues with cramping, my main fuel, Hammer Perpetuem provided the nutrients I needed and I supplemented with Hammer Gels and Endurolytes. I was very happy with the way it all worked. At the Vendor Expo on Friday I bought a bento box bag for the top tube that was the perfect size. Because Rocket’s top tube is short other bags have interfered when I would climb out of the saddle. This one was the perfect size and allowed me to take on gels and Endurolytes on the fly.
Need to mention the volunteers, they were everything you needed for support on the course. Stopped for a bathroom break, they held my bike. Carefully and respectfully – Rocket was in heaven. Needed gels, they handed out new ones and took the empty packets. Water bottle low – they refilled it. They were awesome! I could definitely get used to this kind of support.
Speaking of great support, did I mention my husband, Mark? He’s awesome too! He came out to the bike course to catch a few shots and I was thrilled to see him.
The bike ride much of the time felt almost effortless. I felt strong and in control. The miles disappeared easily and as I rode I reminded myself to enjoy the ride. I had so many emotions as I rode along – and clarity – maybe something like people experience when they say their life passed before their eyes. Everything I felt was heightened. I was also emotional before the swim (obviously afterwards too) and really my emotions had been near the surface for days. Tears came easily. Happy tears.
I made the decision to not stop again to reload with gel/water. I had picked up 2 gels and water at the aid station just past the turnaround (around mile 30). I finished my Perpetuem about 14 miles from the finish, but still had a gel. I also had Perpetuem solids and Endurolytes so I pushed on.
Other than one small painful area, I felt great. After the turnaround I started to pay attention to how many people I was passing and how few were passing me. As I neared coming into Oklahoma City I was impressed that only two people – both guys – had passed me. It became a game to see if I could hold it to two.
I had another emotional moment when the course took us behind the cemetery where both my mother and father are buried. My mother died at age 50 and my father passed away at age 56, both younger than I now was – 57. In fact I’m emotional remembering how I felt as I pressed on – their memories and knowing they would be proud and cheering me on – propelling me towards the finish.
Once on the Lake Hefner dam road I was cruising along when I heard that unmistakable sound – someone was coming up behind me and moving fast. I was about to get passed for the third time. It was okay though, he was young enough to be my son so I let it go.
Now I was maybe a mile away from finishing something I had been training for for months and I was about to complete it! Up ahead I could see a young and fit female probably in her early 20’s who was cruising along – when I passed her I have to admit I felt a certain pride knowing even at my age I still can compete.
I felt good about my ride, on the bike my moving time was 16.5mph for 56 miles. Once I crossed the timing mat my 2011 Redman Half Aquabike was officially over. I racked my bike, changed into tennis shoes and headed for the finish.
Mark headed to the finish too for a few last pictures. In total he took 146 pictures! So you may think there are a lot here to get through, but really I let you off easy.
My official times:
I finished 2nd in my age group (only 3 total), 33 of 76 total Half AB competitors (all ages, males and females).
Redman was more than I expected and everything I could have hoped for. A great way to spend a birthday.
My Redman experience exceeded my expectations. Until I have more time to tell the story I’ll give you the data and a few pictures of the day.
I completed the Half Aquabike in 4:30:40, swim/52:12, transition 10:53 (I couldn’t stop talking to my husband) and bike 3:27:37.
1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike ride = Fun.
*All photos by the one and only, Mark Lash.
Hard to believe, but it is almost here! Due to a family emergency I haven’t been able to train at all since last Wednesday (most importantly, things are looking good on that front).
I hope to get a short ride in tomorrow and maybe a swim. It’s funny but six days of doing nothing (other than a mile or so walk several days) has made me tired, stiff and achy in my joints and back. Basically it has me feeling my age – 56 – until Saturday that is.
That’s right, I’m spending my birthday swimming 1.2 miles and racing my bike 56 miles – sounds like fun to me!
Hope all my training and fitness prior to last Wednesday will carry me through. It would be a great birthday present to do well!