Four years ago a friend of mine announced she was training to do a triathlon. Weeks later, she banned together with three other women and they started an all-female tri club that quickly grew from about 90 women to over 800. This simple Tri Club turned into phenomenon... a new religion... a revolution clad in pink Underarmor.
Four years ago that friend tried to gently recruit me to join the ever growing ranks of the tri club. But I was out of shape, exhausted, stressed and emotionally drained.
My exact words, I believe, were "I will never do a triathlon."
And to those words I stayed true, for several years. Then I started running and joined the tri club for social reasons. I still stayed firm - "I will NEVER do a triathlon." I could see myself running and biking, but swimming? Never, ever EVER swimming. No swimming.
Obviously, I ate those words.
Stranger things DID happened, pigs HAVE flown, and some little corner of Hell hath frozen over. Sure, it took years for me to change my mind but my mind did change and my body did train. I humbled myself, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, faced a few deep-rooted fears, and I finally lived the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, the words I love so much but seldom follow:
"You must do the things you think you cannot."
If you are a newbie to the world of triathlon, this is the race you want to do - The Queen of the Hill. All female, all support, all together. It's a love fest, I tell you. Very newbie friendly, very supportive, very fun. A massage tent and a hair braiding station, "Swim Angels" along the swim course to help anyone who is panicking, a Queen's brunch with mimosas at the finish, luxury pink port-a-potties stocked with toilet paper, finisher medals and cool tech t-shirts for everyone and tiaras for the winners in all age groups. Speaking of age groups, the youngest competitor was 14 and the oldest was 75. Most women were between the ages of 35 and 50. These ladies rock. So inspiring!
So, the night before my race I think I slept a total of 3 broken hours. I couldn't sleep from nerves, I suppose. I arrived with a friend at the lake at 6:45 am. The final buoy on the turn-a-round looked so far away... further than in the practice swim.
The swim still made me nervous - I'm not gonna lie. I'm not a swimmer. I just taught myself freestyle about 10 weeks ago and I was still very uncomfortable in open waters.
But I filled my head with only good things and told myself I'd be okay.
I was also a little stressed about being in the last "wave." You are assigned a colored swim cap based on your age group and go out in groups into the water. My group, the white caps, were the 45-49 year olds and somehow we got to be the very last wave. Now, from a "timing" perspective, none of that matters. You wear a devise around your ankle and it tracks your individual time so it doesn't matter when you start. But, from my perspective, I just didn't want to be going out last and then coming across the finish line so late in the race. Maybe everyone would have gone home by the time I finished!!
But I had bigger fish to fry that morning. The fear of the swim sat in my throat like a knot. But, when us white caps were called down to the shore and lined up single file to jump off the dock, I didn't have time to think or hesitate. I walked to the end of the pier, and when it was my turn, I just jumped in and swam. I kept my head focused on swimming and sighting the course and allowed myself to think of nothing else - not how cold I was, not how many people were in front of me or behind me, not how dark the water was, not how much my arms were starting to burn.
Steady, slow, calm... steady, slow, calm.
I'm "The Little Mommy Who Could."
Yup, there I am steady slow and calm. Or, as my husband likes to joke - looking like a 90 year old woman. I told him he's welcome to jump HIS ass in there and start swimming 1/4 mile with me and we'll see who comes out alive.
That would be me, by the way. He can't swim.
I freestyled it the whole way, which was my goal. I never panicked, never had to rest on my back, never let myself get mentally derailed. For those three things, I felt like I just became my own hero.
Getting out of that lake was the proudest moment for me. I knew I'd be fine on the bike and I was actually looking forward to the run. The swim... oh, the swim... that was my Achilles heel.
Wow, the problem with these photos is that unflattering white swim cap. Good Lord!
The bike was cool. Twelve miles, but it was pretty darn hilly. Plus, I was on a hybrid bike not a road bike so I knew my bike time would suck... and it did. It was actually my worse event of the three, but who cares? Just tryin' to finish with a smile on my face.
By the time I got to the run I was all like "I GOT this!" Going from a bike to running is a really difficult transition. Your legs feel like lead and it takes a little while to adjust. Plus your muscles are all burnt out from everything and you're beginning to feel tired. Despite all that, I ran my best 5K time ever which was surprising because I felt like I was going really slow.
Remember my goal of just wanting to finish with a smile on my face?
Yeah, I nailed that.
I was smiling the whole final quarter mile. The street was lined with people cheering and it brought tears of joy to my eyes.
You know, doing a triathlon was never on my bucket list. But, I'll jot it on there and put a big, fat check next to it. I didn't want to do it because I didn't think I could. The funny thing is that whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.
The after-party brunch was cool... awards, mimosas, food, music. Photos taken on the pier.
These are most of the newbies...
And these are most of the 302 competitors.
And here is happy, proud, post-race ME.
I had to boogie out of there to get to Tink and Rella's swim meet, most of which I missed. I smelled bad, I was clad in unflattering spandex and embarrassingly still "body marked" from the race with my age in black sharpee marker still boldly written on my calf. But a shower would have made me miss their relay, so there you go.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at a birthday party, had four beers, ate 20 pounds of food and fell asleep by 8:30 pm. I was EXHAUSTED.
Exhausted but prouder of myself than I've ever been.
It was a good day.
Want to Tri something new? Visit the Mullica Hill Women's Tri Club webpage or Like them on Facebook. You can get info on training plans, link up with other female triathletes and get inspired. It doesn't matter if you live local or not - We have members from all over!