This race was the first time I attempted an olympic/international distance tri (.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run), which is twice the length of some the shorter sprints I've been doing. Not only is it a longer race, Columbia is known for being challenging (read hilly, really hilly), but there I was bright and early around 6am walking into Centennial Park to join this mass of people and set up my transition area.
Even though my swim wave wasn't scheduled to start the race until 7:40, the morning flew by and before I knew it, I was seeing Mike off, squeezing into my wetsuit, and hustling down to wade into the lake. The swim went pretty smoothly. It took me about half the distance to feel warmed up, but I didn't get shoved around too much or kicked in the head--always have to be happy about that.
I was a little disoriented coming out of the water but recovered pretty quickly, got to my bike (easy to spot with my new bright yellow handlebar tape), and was off.
The bike portion of the course is where I was the most nervous. I'm not a strong cyclist, and even though I'd ridden the course several times, it has some tough spots, and I wasn't sure how tired I might feel after the swim. The course was crowded which stressed me out a little here and there, but I felt surprisingly good. Being familiar with the course was a huge help, and I rode it faster than in any of my training rides. As I turned back into the park, my chin quivered for a few seconds, and I almost had to fight back a few tears since I knew with the bike leg behind me I would be crossing the finish line even if I had to walk the entire run.
I had another good transition and was soon jogging along with just six miles between me and finishing my first olympic tri. The run didn't go terribly well but not terribly bad either. The heat started to wear me down, and although I tried to fight up the hills, my legs just didn't have the strength. I ended up walking parts of just about every hill. By the time I hit the top of the last hill, I was too tired even to be relieved.
I trudged on and felt a surge of relief as I heard volunteers shouting "last mile". As I neared the end, I tried as hard as I could to enjoy the experience and my first oly finish, but I was too tired to think anything other than "just keep running".
Mike had started well before me, so he was at the finish line to cheer me on. When I caught sight of him, I threw my arms in the air for a second and powered to the finish with everything I had left.
It was over. I had done it. My first olympic triathlon. My first finish on the daunting Columbia course.
The race took me 3 hours, 12 minutes. Not speedy compared to the superstars that participate in this race, but I was thrilled.
I cooled off in the grass and listened to everyone's stories, then headed home for a shower and a long nap.
If you think it looks like I barely have the strength to hold up that cup, you'd be correct. But it was worth it.