Believe in yourself…my ocean Sprint story

One of my proudest moments(photo courtesy of Heather A)

When I first thought about doing a TRI 2 years ago, I didn’t swim very well, I had a fat tire Beach bike, but I knew how to run.  Who would ever thought I would accomplish my first ocean sprint TRI.  Now I know about freestyle vs breaststroke, a road bike and aerobars, and  wearing a TRI suit or kit during all three legs.  I’ve also become a USAT member, so I can do certified races.  My journey began on this crazy ride back in December 2014, when I signed up for My First TRI with Enjoy Fitness.  What made me sign up?  Hmm, that’s a good question, but I don’t know why.  I just did, and then I realized I needed to learn the rudimentary skills of efficient swimming because even though it was a super sprint( in a pool); I still needed to breathe(not hold my breath) , I needed to swim more than 50m, and I needed to learn not to cup my hands when I swim.  We joined the JCA and my swimming nightmare began.  Chris is a great swimmer so he tried teaching me.  Nope.  I read books.  Improvement.  Then injury-no TRI.  However I kept swimming.  Did I get better?  Yes and no, but I kept at it.  I bought a used road bike from a running friend, and began riding and trying out various routes and bike shorts(diaper shorts).  Our running group of ladies created The Cycling Goddesses, a non competitive team who train together.  They are clipping in, I have not gone that route.  And of course I began incorporating bricks into my training routine.  Bricks are bike and then run workouts(your legs do feel like jelly the first…ten times you do it).  I signed up for two super sprints in 2016(The Ultimate Tri sponsored by Stellar and My First TRI sponsored by Enjoy Fitness), and was able to complete them successfully.  I placed in my age group too.  Again the swim was the bane of the whole thing.

I kept training.  I even tried my first attempt at an open water swim, and was told to keep practicing my pool swimming, so I did.  2017.  This was the year I would do my first ocean TRI!  My swim had taken a backseat since Labor Day, so I had to build up again.  I signed up for the Ultimate TRI, and completed it successfully but my damn swim was slower.  Why?!?  I knew why.  My old friend panic was still stalking me when I swam.  I couldn’t relax, which would lead to panic and not being able to breathe.  Then I really went out on a limb in May and I signed up for BFAS , a Sprint & Olympic TRI distance at Mickler’s Landing.   I opted for the Sprint ( 440 m swim, 16 mile bike , & 5k run). Okay,  I had 2 months.  Open water swimming with Buoys and Brews on Sundays or Mondays.  Damn panic, I failed again and again.  I was beginning to worry.  I had had one successful swim but grew so tired, I nearly drowned.  A guardian angel had my back that day and told me to float and then try to swim back to shore.  After that, I couldn’t do it.  Time was ticking…

Another book about swimming, Total Immersion the revolutionary way to swim better, faster, and easier by  Terry Laughlin became my bible.  I did better.  Then another suggestion: run before you swim to relax yourself(thank you Rob C.), that really worked!  Whenever I had swim practice in my training log, that’s exactly what I’d do.  Time grew closer.  

One week away.  Doubt, anxiety attacks, wild nightmares.  It was a horrible countdown.  I tried everything to calm down.  I read blogs from other triathletes, I trolled Facebook TRI groups, I cheered for other successful athletes, and encouraged others all the while freaking out about myself.  This was not taper stress, this was I don’t want to DNF or DNS stress.  904 Fitness had a really good article about becoming a triathlete and how you look at the swim as your own ocean track(400m).  I just ran Wednesday JTC Track, that’s not far! I could do this!

Thursday.

Packet pick up at Bird Legs Bicycles at Jax Beach.  I packed my gear bag.  I set out and then rethought my race kit(bathing suit and my Nuun kit)-nothing new.  I slept very well.  I was at peace.  

Friday.

At least I thought I was at peace.  I had the worst night ever.  My heart was beating out of my chest, I was hot, I was cold, I’m gonna die!  The only way I calmed down was by praying.  I prayed so much, I fell asleep for about 2 hours.  Then 4:15 a m and time for pre race eat and coffee.

Novice wave(photo courtesy of Heather A.)

I loaded everything and set out.  I got to Mickler’s just as the sun was coming up, it was beautiful!  I parked and started my walk towards the transition area.  I needed end caps for my bike handles, but other than that, my bike was good to go.  I had a volunteer help me with my TRI tats, and then set up my gear with my bike.  Potty break, and then headed to the beach.  The waves were calm and the water felt good.  I saw a couple of familiar faces, but decided I needed to do a run to relax.  I ran to the Olympic start flag and back, and made myself get in the water.  It’s not bad.  It’s not bad at all.  I see the buoys and lifeguards, I can do this ocean track!  Then I hear someone calling my name…it’s one of my BRF’s Heather!  Yay!  She is my rock and stays to watch all three legs and report back to my running peeps.  Did I ever tell you how lucky I am?  Now you know.  Novices(in Orange caps) are last-that’s me.  Two minutes…

And it begins…

I felt really calm the whole time.  I swam the breaststroke and even freestyle, but no panic, nothing.  I just swam.  I was well taken care of and watched by 3 lifeguards(Heather told me that after I finished).  I finished in 15:17.  Super slow but I never stopped!

T1.  Time to ride.  I felt good and thanked as many volunteers and police officers as I could.  There was still vehicular traffic, but they gave me ample room.  The Nocatee intercoastal bridge was a bear, but I made it!  Around Nocatee( I did pass people), and up and over and back to Mickler’s for the run.

Off I go ! (Photo courtesy of Heather A.)

The run, usually my favorite part, but today it’s getting late and hot.  I have my Galloway timer and have it set for 1:00/:30.  Sprint and Olympic runners are going down old A1A where there is some shade but not much.  Olympic athletes have it way tougher with a straight shot to Sawgrass and not a tree in sight.  There is gatorade and water and it’s cold!!  There are also icy sponges-very nice!  There’s the turnaround and I’m headed back to the Finish.  2:01:37!  14th/15 female novices.  I did it!

33:37 on the run-not too shabby.(photo courtesy of Heather A.)

Yes, I am already thinking of racing another TRI, and see how I can improve my slow swim and my transitions.  I know, funny isn’t it?    If a TRI is in your future, know that you can do it!  Believe in your heart that you can do it.  Take swimming lessons if the swim is hard for you.  That’s what I plan to do.  Practice transitions(silly mistake on my part).  You can not believe how long it takes to do something that you do regularly(my T1 was 7 ½ minutes-yikes!).  Make bricks part of your workout week.  If you are doing a local race, then practice on the race course.  If you have to travel to it, find out if it’s hilly, elevation levels, etc.  And the most important thing, have fun!  Age group wins are great, but is that the real reason you decided to TRI?   Maybe…maybe not.  I’m here to push my limits and see what my unathletic body can do.  It’s definitely been a wild ride, and the story continues.

Remember it’s about the journey not the destination,

Mercedes

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