Posted by: Karen | August 11, 2008

Prairie Triathlon – Part 1

Reader’s Digest version: The swim went very well, the bike surpassed all my hopes, and the run surprisingly kicked my butt. The Strathmore Women’s Triathlon was one of the most supportive race environments I have ever experienced. I had a blast!

A threefold warning applies to the long version – three sports to cover, and it was my first triathlon experience, so I learned a lot of new things.

Saturday night before the Sunday race I realized I had never practiced a key part of racing three sports in one event; transitions. Once I assembled my gear I went through all the motions of switching from one sport to the next. I must have looked really funny rushing around in my bathing suit, goggles and swim cap near where my bike leaned against the furniture in the basement. Note to self: Pull shorts on over the swim suit before donning the bike shoes.

I packed two cloth bags; one with warm post-race clothes in case it got chilly, and another bright red one with my transition zone essentials. Hubby pumped up the tires on Stretch (the bike) and I carefully placed it in the trunk of my car.

Sunday morning I woke up at 5:22 without waiting for the alarm. This was a good thing, because I’d inadvertently set the alarm for evening instead of morning. I ate breakfast in the car and stopped at a gas station to feed the car too on the way there. I had a nice quiet drive and didn’t get really nervous until I set up my bike in the transition area.

I totally obsessed over my gear set-up. Should I hang my helmet from the bars? or in the cloth bag? or cradle it in the aerobars? Others had their towels under their stuff. Shouldn’t it be on top? Oh dear, I’d only planned on one towel. Why did they have two? One person had her shoes already clipped into her pedals. No, I hadn’t practiced that – not going there. What the heck would I do with my glasses? Should my stuff be with the back tire? or the front? After trying several different options I tore myself away and went inside to pick up my ankle chip and have my race number written on my legs and arms. You’ll work it out when it’s time.

I chatted with several racers and volunteers I knew from the running community. My buddy Dianne and her family showed up. We exchanged good-race wishes with others we knew. Good things are going to happen today.

After the pre-race meeting out by the transition/finish area, I stripped to my swimsuit (with my running bra underneath), tucked my glasses into my transition gear and headed inside to the pool deck. I adjusted my goggles strap and applied my swim cap to my head. As I had estimated a fairly slow swim time, I’d be in the second wave of swimmers. We all had to ask other swimmers what their estimated times were, to decide where we should be in the cue. Slower swimmers to the front; faster ones to the back. We cheered as the first women entered the pool, four to a lane. The race employs a continuous swim process, so when a lane had emptied of swimmers, four more would get to start together. We cheered even more when Kim Wedgerfield left her lane first and headed out of the pool with her walker.

Dianne and I were both aiming to complete the swim in about 18 minutes, so we ended up in the same lane, #2. We were nervous but fairly confident we’d do just fine. She got in first. I waited a few seconds, crossed the chip mat, gave my number to Richelle and the lap counter, and hopped in feet first. I immediately leaned over into the water and found the rhythm of arm strokes and breaths. It was as if the rhythm was there waiting for me. Thumbs in first. Cup the hands. Exhale. Keep a good cadence.

Our swim lap counter was dreamy. I have no idea what he looked like, but every time I finished a lap he said something encouraging. Somewhere in the second half of the swim I went totally Zen and just surrendered to the momentum. Don’t hold back – you can do this for however long it takes.

I drifted left in my lane and almost ended up in a head on collision – sorry! Before I knew it there was a flutterboard in front of my face at the end and the dreamboat said “One more lap; there and back.” Yay! Once done, I hopped out, high-fived Richelle and ran along the mats out of the building.

Funny, I’m always the one telling the kids not to run at the pool, and there I was, running. I let out a huge holler, slapped Dianne on the back as we exited together, and ran blindly out into transition.



  1. How many laps was it? Did you do a traditional crawl stroke?


%d bloggers like this: