Nation’s Triathlon 2012
I know many of my posts this summer have been about training for the Nation’s Triathlon. Well, about two weeks ago I actually did it. For those of you who have been following along and want to know exactly how it went, and how I felt doing it… here is a little recap on my time down in DC:
I went down to DC on Friday September 7th, after work and got into Union Station around 11pm. Everyone who was participating in the triathlon were staying at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Ave (Fact: Reagan was shot there). I needed to rest Friday night because I knew I’d be too anxious to sleep fully on Saturday night so I went straight to bed. Saturday at 11am, the Team in Training NYC group and coaches went down to check out the race site (so we knew what to expect) and set up our bikes which had come down in a truck from New York. We also did a quick 20 minute run to see what finishing the race would look like.
Swim course, under the bridge and back! 1500 meters
Later that day, my friends came in and met me at my hotel. We went to the triathlon expo and then went to their hotel because we were to going to an Italian restaurant (so I could carbo-load!) in Georgetown to celebrate Arvind’s birthday (it was on Saturday). I was fine up until we were at dinner finishing our meal. Then it suddenly hit me that the race was in only a few hours. I suddenly had a lot of nervous energy — especially after seeing the swim course earlier that day. I was panicking because it was finally hitting me what I was going to do. I was reassured by my friends that I would be fine, so I did my best to relax and not think too much. I left dinner by 9pm, and was back at my hotel and asleep by 10:30.
Up bright and early! 4am at the race site!
Sunday, the day of the race, we (the NYC TNT group) all woke up at 4am and were at the race site by 4:45am. We had to get there early to set up our transition area (where we would run to after the swim to grab our bike, water, helmet, etc.). The night before it had been storming so I checked my tires only to realize my front was flat! That’s when I was glad that I had gotten there early because I had the bike mechanic fix it for me. It was the one aspect of the race I was not prepared for. I hadn’t learnt how to fix a flat which was silly, but to me, seemed avoidable since it was only 25 miles. Regardless, the tire was fixed and I got everything set up. I wore tri-shorts (which are like bike shorts but dry faster and have less padding) and a sports bra under my wetsuit. At 5am it was pretty cold, but I knew that once I got in the water, I’d be okay.
Setting up my bike as the sun comes up in DC
Because I’m under 24, I was designated to enter the water in pretty much the last wave. This was stressful, because unlike a marathon, triathlons have cut-offs. I had to bike to mile 7.5 by 10:30am. If I didn’t they would turn me around and I’d only get to bike 15 miles. I also had to make it to mile 22 by 11:30am otherwise they’d pick me up in a van. Since I’m not the fastest swimmer and averaged about 50 minutes in a pool, I was really worried since I knew I’d be entering the water closer to 9am (the race officially started at 7am).
Waiting for our turn to swim! Veronica, me and Erica.
I entered the water at around 8:40. Once I was in, I started swimming but realized how far away the 100m mark was. I kind of panicked and couldn’t get my stride in order. Additionally, the first 600m was swimming against the current. I don’t know how I made it to 600m, but once I did swimming became slightly easier. In my head I kept telling myself to get to the next 100m, and then the next 100 until I was done at 1500m. I came out of the water, pretty sure I must have been the second to last swimmer to come out (I later found out I wasn’t) of the water. I saw all my friends cheering me on and was embarrassed (because I thought I was so slow) but felt so lucky to have such great friends smiling and screaming my name on an early Sunday morning.
Me running to my bike after the swim!
I tore my wetsuit off and ran to my bike. I didn’t have any time to waste so I threw my tank on, grabbed an energy snack and began riding my bike out. My coaches were cheering me on and yelling “you’ve got plenty of time!!” I looked down at my mileage reader on my bike and saw that it was 9:45. I started pedaling as fast as I could thinking biking was my thing and this would be easy, but realized it wasn’t easy. I was going against the wind and struggled to keep my 15 mph constant, especially on the hills. There too, I had to motivate myself to keep going strong. I was constantly drinking Gatorade to keep myself hydrated and energized.
I made mile 7.5 before 10:30, and finally when I hit mile 13, the course turned around so I had a tailwind. Here I was able to go 15-25 mph. I’d biked to Maryland and Virginia at this point. I made mile 22 well before 11:30 and was actually back at transition at around 11:30. I saw Raina and Arvind cheering me on and Arvind running with me as I ran into transition telling me to run faster! I yelled back “my legs feel like jello and I’m so slow!!!” The only reason I felt slow was because so many people had started prior to me and I had seen them biking back as I biked forward which was discouraging. I was told I had caught up quite a bit so I just propped my bike back where it was, guzzled some water down and grabbed some energy snacks (gummies and a Gu (it’s this weird jelly substance you swallow with water to give you carbs and energy) and started running.
Me biking! Photo cred: bff Nisha Patel =)
Once my friends were out of sight I started walking a bit. I was really tired and had to recover from both the bike and the swim. I walked about .25 of the mile and started jogging a bit. Once I hit the first mile and had some more water I was able to jog a little faster. I then hit mile 2.5 and decided to take the Gu because I felt as though I was really struggling for energy and the gummies were not helping. As soon as I swallowed the packet of Gu I felt instantly better (seriously, that stuff is like magic when your body is depleted from all that you’ve put it through). To conserve some energy for the end of the race, I walked from mile 3 to 4 to with a girl I met on the way and then we ran the last two miles together. Honestly, the run was the first time I could relax a little bit. Running 6.2
miles seemed a lot less daunting than a mile swim and a 26 mile bike ride. Also, I saw more people I recognized, so I knew I wasn’t last. I finished the finish line running which was great and all my friends were cheering me on taking pictures.
It was an incredible feeling to finish the race. I literally did not think I was capable of doing something like this. And even when I was swimming, I felt like it was impossible and didn’t know how I’d make it out of the water. I won’t lie in that through the swim, and part of the bike, I kept thinking how hard it was and questioning why anyone would ever do this. However, after finishing it, I now know I can do anything. I feel like I could easily do a 5K and training for a marathon wouldn’t be impossible. I finished in 4 hours and 7 minutes, and while I wish I had made it under 4 hours, I’m so grateful I did it all without any injuries or mishaps. I actually felt great finishing, and was smiling when I was done. I didn’t feel exhausted immediately, and the only slight pain I had was in my calfs and feet (I just wanted to take my shoes off because it was warm outside). I only had a few minor cramps during the swim and bike but was totally fine otherwise. I knew people whom I thought were much better athletes (one was a football player in college!) than me who couldn’t finish the swim or bike. Raina even told me that I didn’t look like I was sweating too much, which I took as a huge compliment.
Finishing the finish line!
Once the race was over, the first thing I ate was McDonalds french fries. I heard your body gets deprived of salt, so that seemed like the best and tastiest way to replenish. I was definitely happy when the race was over, but had such a great time getting to know everyone in Team in Training. I think I’m actually going to do a du-athlon in November in Prospect park with a couple of the girls I met so that I can keep in shape.
I feel like a lot of people do marathons, triathlons, races, etc. so when I signed up for this it didn’t feel like a big deal — however, it definitely was hard and was equally a mental and physical challenge. I had to motivate myself to keep going and pushed my body more than I ever have in the past. It also showed me what great friends I have and how supportive everyone was of this. I am so grateful for the friends, family, and coworkers who supported me and helped me surpass my fundraising goal with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Training with Team in Training was really great. $3,500 was a lot of money to raise, but the organization is amazing. The coaches were so committed, answering every question I had, doing their best to ease my nerves and encouraging me every step of the way.
I would strongly recommend anyone who wants to do a triathlon to definitely do it and to do their first one with Team in Training. I know that if I can do it, any one can do it. Half of it is putting your mind to it and deciding that you can do it.
Veeshal, Arvind and Nisha in matching t-shirts cheering!
Sumedha, Raina, Arvind and Veeshal