When my alarm clock went off at 3:30AM Sunday morning, a few things crossed my mind: 1) Why didn’t I go to bed earlier the night before? 2) Just five more minutes… I’ll even take two! 3) Really? I SIGNED UP for this? Willingly?
I’m talking, of course, about the Amica Ironman 70.3 Providence triathlon that, by now, you’re undoubtedly tired of hearing about.
But I endured nearly 6 hours of working out in the hot sun yesterday, SO YOU WILL ENDURE READING THIS!
Brian and I had gone to a wedding on Saturday – the beautiful wedding of one of our wonderful running friends who is moving across the country with her new husband (sniff, sniff).
We were so sad to have to leave the wedding early, as it was clear the party was only getting started at 6:00PM. Luckily we were able to make it to the afternoon ceremony and the start of the festivities… but the fact that I would be waking up in a little over 9 hours for a 70.3 mile race kind of sealed the deal for our early departure.
We stayed over at my parents’ house, since it’s not too far from Narragansett, RI, where the race started. My friend MaryBeth, whom I had met when living in NYC, was here to do the race, too, so she stayed over. She slept in my bedroom and Brian and I each had our own twin air mattress on the floor of another room, which we chose because it’s the only room in the house with an air conditioning unit!
I didn’t have a great sleep, which is odd for me. Usually, once I’m sleeping, I’m out until the the alarm goes off. But I was restless, thinking about the race ahead, and I kept waking up every so often. At one point, I was woken up by Brian, who told me to scoot over so that he could share my bed because I had let the air out of his mattress. That’s right… I had somehow, in my non-REM sleep mode, found a way to deflate his air mattress. Mmmhmm.
Anyway… back to that 3:30AM wake-up.
Everyone else in the house was already up, getting the last-minute gear together and making sure nothing was missing from our bags. I was tired, I was hungry, I was nervous, I was hoping I could make it through the day ahead… and, a little bit, I was wondering why I do this to myself.
But there was no turning back. We took one last photo before we left…
… and then it was off to the races. Er… race.
It was still pitch black as we left my parents’ house, but the sky started to lighten up as we reached Narragansett. Mom’s swim wave was set to go off at 6:05AM, and we were on target to get to the beach before 5:00AM. Unfortunately, there was a huge line of traffic on the beach access road. We were about 1/4 mile from the beach’s parking lot, but we were stuck in the unmoving traffic line.
We just sat in the car, still not moving, for 5 minutes. Which turned to 10 minutes. We started to feel like we were cutting it too close. Finally, Mom, MaryBeth, Brian and I followed the people getting out of the cars around us and just started walking towards the beach with all our gear while Dad stayed in the car.
There is always lot of excitement around the start of any race, but I have found it to be amplified times a thousand before triathlons.
For running races, you basically have to show up with your running shoes.
For tris, there is much more on the agenda. You have to get your body marked. You have to make sure you’re all set up in Transition (with your bike helmet, shoes, towel, sunglasses, etc.) so you can go quickly from one discipline to the next. You have to put on your wet suit, cap and goggles for the swim. You have to put on your timing chip. And there are tons of other people all trying to do the same thing. It’s semi-organized chaos.
Basically, you’re exhausted before the gun even goes off.
The announcer came over the loudspeaker while I was doing a quick once-over of my T1 gear with Mom.
The gist was that we should get our butts over to the beach pronto. I was counting on borrowing a bike pump from someone to do a last-minute check of my tire pressure, but in the rush, I wasn’t able to. (And as such, I was pretty convinced throughout the entire bike ride that I was going to get a flat… but let’s get the swim first.) So off we went to the beach.
Mom braided my hair so I wouldn’t have to be fussing with it while racing.
And speaking of racing… oh, my heart.
I hate open water swimming. Just looking at this picture, I can tell exactly what was going through my mind. The 1.2-mile swim was an out-and-back course, and I was staring out at the water, at all the buoys lined up. The buoys that we would have to swim around. The buoys that seemed to go on forever and ever.
I could tell Mom was nervous, too. I could see it in her face. It was getting closer and closer to 6:05AM. My wave went off at 6:25AM, so I had an additional 20 minutes to be scared. As Mom’s swim wave time started to approach, I could see her starting to get a little choked up.
I gave her a big hug and reminded her of all the people, those still on this earth with us and those who aren’t, who would be behind her, carrying her through this entire race.
I was really just keeping a brave face for her sake, though, because as she walked away towards the other ladies in her swim wave, I lost it. The truth was, I was probably more scared than she was. Even though I had done this exact race last year, and swam the course in much choppier water, and even though I have done a lot of open water swimming, I was just simply terrified yesterday.
Brian was calming as I cried to him, of course, but in a firm-yet-gentle way told me that this wasn’t the Jane he knew. And that I would have to rally and get out there and do this thing because I could.
I watched Mom’s wave go off feeling so much pride for her…
… and then I did my best to hold it together for the next 20 minutes. I chatted with my friend Kelly, I hugged my sister-in-law Nicole and our friends Jill, Tracy and Megan, all of whom were in the same swim wave as me. I posed for a few photos for the paparazzi – I mean, Dad.
Finally, it was time for me to start. Right up until the gun went off, I was a nervous wreck inside, but once I got in the water, I felt OK. I started kind of in the middle of the pack, which held me up a few times as I tried to swim ahead. It was a clear day, so it was pretty easy to sight the buoys. I didn’t try to go too fast… I just wanted to get a good, solid swim in and save enough for the rest of the race.
Last year, the swim portion seemed to fly by, but this year it just seemed to go on and on. It felt like it took a long time to get to the furthest buoy out before we got to turn around and swim back in. I started seeing different color caps in the water, which meant I was passing a few people from earlier swim waves. Every time I’d see a purple cap I looked to see if the person had Mom’s swim stroke (I would be able to spot it).
I never saw her during the swim, but once I finished swimming and started running out of the water towards T1, I looked to my right and saw Mom getting out of the water, too! I was so psyched to see her, and it really made me happy to know she made it through the swim and was still smiling!
We even had a photo-op:
I know I’ve talked about my transition times before, and while I do want to keep getting faster in my transitions, since this wasn’t a sprint triathlon, I gave myself a little leeway in the speed department while I got ready for the bike. I wanted to get some fluid in me, take a bite of my energy bar, and basically make sure I had everything I needed for the 56 miles ahead.
As I left the T1 area, I saw Mom out of the corner of my eye getting ready also, and I knew she was making sure she had everything she needed, too.. And then, it was off to Providence on my bike!
I was not looking forward to the bike because when my brother-in-law Matt and I rode the race route a few weeks ago, it was torture. It took so much out of me and seriously tired me out for the rest of the day. I remember thinking, “How am I going to run a half marathon afterward if I feel this awful on race day?”
Luckily, I actually had a great experience on the bike yesterday. It seemed to go by quickly (I liked that there were distance markers every 5 miles), and the hills, while they were difficult, thankfully did not beat me up like they had few weeks prior. And I didn’t get a flat, so that was a huge relief.
And Dad was a champ during the bike portion. He managed to get to three different spots along the route to take photographs… this was quite a feat because not only was he trying to photograph me, Mom, my brother Keith and sister-in-law Nicole, but he was trying to catch at least 9 of our friends, too – and he did! He was pretty easy to spot, too, in his bright red and green Portugal shirt!
Here’s me going by Dad on the bike:
And Brian, Audrey and Matt, their 4 kids, my other brother, Adam, his wife Aimee, and their 3 kids were out there on the course cheering us on, too. It was so awesome having a special, enthusiastic cheering section!
I finished the ride and headed into Transition 2 (T2) in Providence. T2 is set up right near the State House, which is where the race ends, so I looked over and thought, “Just 13.1 miles to go and you’ll be finishing right there!” (The whole “just 13.1 miles!” part may not have been as enthusiastic in my head as it seems when typed out.)
Right from the start of the run, my legs felt tired, especially my quads. I made it through the first mile and then saw the first big hill. I knew from talking to other people that the best thing to do when your legs are already exhausted is to just walk up a big hill instead of tiring yourself and your legs out more by trying to run it. So I walked and by the time I got to the top of the hill, I was ready to run again.
I never felt completely smooth and energized on the run, but I never felt awful, either. I just felt tired and a little sore, so I ran as hard as I could without pushing to the point of utter exhaustion. At one point when I ran by Brian he told me I wasn’t working hard enough because I wasn’t pissed off at him when he shouted words of encouragement (I tend to get a little crabby when I’m pushing myself hard during a run). And we do all remember Boston, right? But I can assure you, I was definitely working hard.
The run was a 2-loop course, so I had to get teased by seeing the finish line so close to me halfway through, knowing I still had another 6.5 miles to go. But the run was nice because I got to see so many of my family and friends, and we cheered each other on.
And the volunteers were awesome handing out the water, sports drinks, food, gel packets, cold sponges and ice.
The sun was really beating down on us during the run, so I tried to always have ice with me to cool me off, as well as water to keep hydrated, as evidenced by this photo Audrey took of me being a total hoarder:
Overall, the run went well. I walked the big hills but ran otherwise. I added a few minutes to last year’s run time, but I know I was in better shape then, and it just gives me extra motivation to get back to that pace.
A special thanks here to all the Rhode Island Road Runners who came out to show their support – Curt, Kristi, Kevin, Christy, Shoes, Andrew, Chuck and Sue – and Serge for manning one of the first-aid stations on the bike course. It is always such a great feeling to see people you know, and to hear familiar voices cheering for you.
And, of course, my amazing family – Dad, who continued his Where’s Waldo?-like action on the run course, popping up everywhere to take photographs…
Audrey and Matt and their kids, who had a prime spot for viewing…
… and Adam and Aimee and kids, whom I heard while racing to the finish line.
Speaking of the finish line… I just remember running up the final hill, seeing the State Capital, hearing the crowds cheering, hearing the announcer say my name, and then sprinting over the finish line. Happy to be finished and feeling accomplished, I took my medal, my finisher’s hat and a bottle of water and got my finisher’s picture taken.
Soon I saw Audrey and her family…
and then my brother Keith came in, too:
I just loved watching my family and friends come in with the biggest smiles on their faces, like Nicole and Tracy here:
And Mom… well, how can you not be inspired by her? She ran her first 5K just last year. She did her first (and, so far only) sprint triathlon last summer. She ran her first half marathon this year.
And then she goes out and comes wins her division in her first Half Ironman, qualifying for the Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, FL in November!
That’s right – road trip to Clearwater!
And guess what? I get to compete in the Championships, too! No, no, not because I actually qualified – but I’ll take it… I got a spot because I was there cheering for Mom at the award ceremony and there were two unclaimed spots available in my age group. They went down the list of 30-34 females to see if anyone wanted to take the spots and another girl and I did. I can’t wait to train and compete with my mom again!
Congrats to all the athletes who worked so hard yesterday, especially my wonderful family and friends!
And I can’t possibly forget to post a photo of the most supportive Dad/Husband/Father-in-Law/Man in the world, sporting his bright, easy-to-spot, red and green Portugal shirt! Thanks for EVERYTHING, Dad!!
My final stats:
Swim: 36:32:00 (26th place in Women’s 30-34 division)
Bike: 3:13:37 (17.4 mph pace, 35th place in Women’s 30-34 division)
Run: 1:57:32 (8:59 min/mile pace, 24th place in Women’s 30-34 division)
Overall Time: 5:57:42 (27th place in Women’s 30-34 division, 480th place overall)