I hadn't done a triathlon in 7 years. After changing jobs, life and laziness got in the way. I always felt like a part of me had died. I didn't intend to become flabby and out-of-shape. It just happened. Then, in May, I started working out regularly again. In July, I noticed my fitness had increased. I decided to get my mojo back. Afterall, I'm turning 40 in October, and it's kind of freaking me out. So I signed up for a couple of races, including the Sandman Sprint Triathlon, August 20th, 2017.
School started on Wednesday, August 17th 2017. I'm a high school biology and chemistry teacher. My head began to spin with the daily onslaught of activities that regularly boggle my mind--part of the job requirement. I began to think racing the first weekend of school was a bad idea. However, I'm also motivated to continue training while teaching this year. Balancing both seems like an essential plan for my long-term health.
Wednesday night, I spent 2 hours gluing on new tubular tires to my race wheels, which had been hanging in my garage for 7 years. I tried them out on Thursday. The brake pads rubbed and the gears slipped. I didn't have time for a tune-up. What had I gotten myself into? I knew my training was solid but familiar race nerves crawled up my throat. Why was I doing this to myself? Waking up early, plunging into a freezing-cold ocean, and pushing myself to the point of almost puking did not seem like a good way to spend a weekend.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:30 am, plenty of time before my 8:05 am start. Eating breakfast was the worst part of my whole day. This activity basically involved staring loathingly at small pieces of a cereal bar for 5 minutes before forcing a small chunk down my throat. It took 30 minutes to eat a banana and half a cereal bar. I simply couldn't get down any more.
Once I got to the race site, I calmed down immensely. Everything felt familiar, and I knew what to do. There was no more stir-crazy downtime. I set up my transition area, got body-marked, made a trip to the bathroom, and slid into my wetsuit. I walked to the beach and tested the water. I had heard people say the temperature was in the 50s but my toes told me low 60s. The surface was glassy and calm. The skies were overcast and the air was cool, but mild. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect. There was nothing more I could do to prepare. I was ready.
Before I knew it, I was lining up with the women. I hopped up and down to warm up. The horn blew, and we took off through the sand and plunged into the ocean. The waves were small and easy to navigate. I found myself, as usual, to the outside of the pack on the 3/4 mile swim. I was surprised at how familiar everything felt. I was calm and enjoying my first ocean swim in over a year. The swim went by quickly; there were several turns and buoys so there was lots to think about. I couldn't believe how relaxed I felt. It was just like riding a bike (pun intended).
When I ran up into T1, I felt hot, out of breath, and disoriented. My heart rate must have been through the roof. I took my time getting onto the bike and then clipped into Torch, my old, steady race steed. We took off into the hills of Aptos. The bike was scenic but hilly. Lots of racers were on road bikes (not to self for future Sandmans). The first few miles, I tried to spin, eat some GU, and get my heart rate down. It took me about 3 miles to warm up and settle into a sustainable pace. I felt more like I was on a fun bike ride then racing. This was fine by me. After all the races I have under my belt, I just want to enjoy myself, get a good workout, have fun, and maybe make some friends when I race this time around. Goal achieved. After many ups and downs through redwood trees, horse stables, and farms, the 13-mile bike ride quickly came to an end.
When I rolled into T2, the person next to me had dropped my bike in my spot. I ended up covered in grease and blood from her rear cassette by the time I had racked her bike, and then mine. Rude! But, soon enough, I had my running shoes and cap on, and I felt surprisingly springy for the run. After all, running has always been my favorite part. Then, I hit the sand. The entire 4-mile run was on the beach (hence the name Sandman). It was a tough beach run! Between the tide coming in, seaweed, uneven sand, and people running this way and that, it was more like an obstacle course. I focused on maintaining a steady, strong pace, as opposed to speedy. I leaped over 3 logs each way. My shoes were soaked. But I loved it. Not once did I feel bored or in pain. With so many things to weave in and around, there was plenty to keep my mind occupied. The miles flew by. Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight. The last stretch before the finish line involved deep sand. I forced myself through it, giving it all I had left. I had no sprint in me, only 1 gear. But I did it--I finished strong and felt great afterwards. I high-fived the woman who had rallied with me to the finish line, and headed over for bananas and water. I'm so excited to be racing again!
As I packed up to leave, I felt calm and at peace. I'm very excited to be back and racing again. Racing ensures that I will maintain my workout/training plan. Right before I started rolling out, I heard a gasp from the spectators. I humpback whale had just breached right off the beach. I watched in amazement as a pod of humpbacks surfaced, spouted, and frolicked peacefully in the exact spot where I had swam only a few hours ago. It felt like a good omen.