Topping the hill on CA-104 about a mile from the left turn to re-enter Rancho Seco Park, I reached back into the pouch of my bike shirt for my water bottle.
I had stashed several small bottles in my shirt pockets because I am too wobbly a rider to reach down to the lower bar of my bike for the big water bottle in its cage.
I took a fortifying sip, pleased not to be as pooped as I was the day I practiced this ride with my back brake dragging, and pleased that all I had left was a four-mile stumble to the end of my FIRST TRIATHLON EVER.
I did it! And it was, in fact, good exercise! And I had the best race number to boot.
When I first got my race bib I thought they had my age group wrong. Oh, no, I’m not in the 35-39 group, I told myself. Those ladies are almost 40, I’m not almost 40. Oh, wait.
The first leg was a half mile swim in warm, murky Rancho Seco Lake, also called the Glo Pond because it was a nuclear cooling pond. The six-foot-tall white pyramidal buoys buoyed my confidence. I wouldn’t get lost on this course! Back in July I had done a group practice swim in Folsom Lake where we had to swim to these tiny red buoys. Through my fogged goggles (I’d forgotten the spit technique) I kept losing sight of them and got so lost the safety kayaker had to flag me down.
Swim time: 20:15, in the top third of my age group. Not too shabby. Didn’t get lost.
Bike leg finish (20 miles): 1:34:35
Not bad considering I used a mountain bike for what was really a road bike race. More on that later.
Run finish (4 miles): Please bless my heart before you read this. 58 minutes. I basically walked it. My kids joined me for the finish and followed me through the balloon arch and tried on my race belt and medal while I went to find where they were giving the free massages.
A HUGE hug of thanks to my husband for entertaining the kiddos while I exercised for nearly three hours.
Also, I’m really glad I met cyclist Ron Burzese. I didn’t train with a group or even a buddy getting ready for this race, so I hadn’t fulfilled the part of my fitness goal that was to make new friends. But when I posted on Freecycle in hopes of scoring a road bike, Ron responded. Not with the offer of a free bike but with a nonetheless helpful idea: “why not just put slicks on your mountain bike? That ought to work OK for your goal of finishing the race.” So, after exchanging a few more emails for details on buying road slicks that would fit my bike, he offered to meet me for a bike tune up and pep talk.
Ron is blind and rides tandem bikes. He rides competitively and has ridden across the United States, in the back, or stoker, position with a sighted pilot in the front position. He likes a relaxing day out as well as a race but has had to find some pretty radical accommodations for that passion. To satisfy the need for speed when no riding partner is available, he’ll put his racing bike up on a stationary trainer and spin solo in his apartment.
He was right on the money about just finishing the race and enjoying it. Prior to February 2012, it had been 20 years since I’d been on a bike. So I donned my shirt with skulls on it and imagined I was out for a gorgeous day on the American River Bike Trail. Aside from the occasional 18-wheeler nicking my left knee, it was a gorgeous ride in the northern Central Valley, all grape vines and red-winged blackbirds. (Actually the drivers were patient and gave us plenty of space.)
Ron helped me sort out my goals for the Women’s Triathlon Festival and, in the two months since, I’ve had a few further thoughts as well:
One, I need to keep racing. Without a goal I’m not motivated to step out my door and exercise at all.
Two, road bike racing is not for me at this moment. A decent starter bike costs $700 or more. Can’t afford the extra childcare I’d have to find in order to go out and enjoy it. If I’m going to add any activities at this point it needs to be stuff I can do with my kids. So for now that means pretty simple things: neighborhood bike commuting, like to and from school and daycare. We’re almost ready for beginner bike trails. Kids would dig it. So, I’ll start looking for MTB races and maybe get one on my calendar for 2013. As soon as I finish my 25K that is.