It took months before I felt ready to write about last year's triathlon (my first), but it only took one day before I felt ready to write about this year's (my second)...
I drove over to Bend by myself.
Josh and I just decided that I needed a good nights sleep on my own and that he'd drive over with the kids in the morning.
So I made the 3 1/2-drive, checked into my hotel around 2:30, picked up my race packet at Fleet Feet and went to buy a smoothie before meeting up with my mom, who had driven over the day before with Rudy.
Then we decided to drive the 25-mile bike route just to see what it looked like.
It looked hard.
And then we took a peek at the transition station before heading out for a quick dinner.
I was back in my hotel by 6:30, packing my race-day bag and trying to settle my nerves.
I turned out the lights at 9:00.
I was still awake at 12:00.
And then I woke up every 30 minutes or so until my alarm went off at 6:00.
And so I drug myself out of bed, washed my face, chugged a bottle of water, threw my bag over my shoulder and rode my bike down to the Les Schwab Amphitheater, where the race was taking place.
And then I set up my transition station, shoveled a peanut butter protein bar and a green machine smoothie in my face, met a student of mine in person for the first time (Hi Coreen!) whose husband and son were also doing the triathlon and then I debated on whether to wait at the transition station in hopes that Josh Downs and my kids would arrive so I could see them before the race started or to go hunting for a porta-potty so I didn't pee my pants.
I opted for the latter and as luck would have it, I ran into Josh Downs and the kids on the way (and he just happened to have my camera with him too.)
And then we said our hello's and our good-bye's before I jumped on a shuttle to get to the starting point for the swim.
And then I stood there, amongst a couple hundred people, all in wetsuits and yellow Deschuttes Dash swim caps, nervously awaiting my heat to be called.
And once they called the third heat, I waded chest-deep into the 62-degree Deschuttes River, making sure I was in the back of the pack. (Fewer people to swim over the top of me.)
And then they blew the horn and I started swimming.
It wasn't pretty, but it was better than last year's swim and that's all that counts in my book. Honestly, my main objective for the swim was not to panic like I did last year, and though I had a few moments that verged on panic, I never panicked.
I was even able to freestyle swim about 95% of it (though my face was above water most of the time.)
All that said, I have to admit that I chose this particular triathlon solely because the swim route is a downstream route that a dead body can float in 28 minutes.
So I figured if 28 minutes was the worst-case-dead-body scenario, I was up for it.
And who cares if some of the leaders from the fourth heat (that started five minutes after mine) passed me - I was just excited to pass one guy in my own heat.
Actually, on those rare occasions when I've passed someone, I always feel bad and stall next to them for a few seconds, trying to think of something encouraging to say.
But in this case, I was too busy trying not to drown to offer words of encouragement.
That's me in the middle.
And that's me too.
The sun was in my eyes and there was fog in my goggles so every time I passed a bridge (There were three.) I would holler, "Annie and Cole, I love you!" in the hopes I would spot my family. (Courtney Lee was with her mom and Ross couldn't make it.)
It was as I passed the last bridge that I heard them holler back and could see their silhouettes waving at me.
And then Josh raced down to see me get out of the water and to take a few shots of me transitioning.
I wish I could say that was me on the left with the glasses, and the red & black suit, and the sinewy triathlete body, but alas, that is me on the right, with the swim cap and the wetsuit and the big ole' butt, that doesn't resemble a triathlete (literally) in any way, shape or form.
And then I was off for the bike-portion of the race.
And yes, my initial assessment of the course was correct. It was indeed, very hard.
There was only about a 300-foot elevation gain during the first six miles, but then a 1200-foot elevation gain on the next 6.5 miles.
But I just kept on peddling and praying and every time I passed someone, I talked to them for a bit - usually telling them how many uphill miles my odometer said we had left and reminding them how good the downhill was going to feel.
And every time someone passed me, I forced myself to say, "Good job.", and remembered the broken promise I made to myself during last year's triathlon to get a better bike. (I've got kind of a hybrid bike - it's not a mountain bike and it's not a racing bike - it's something in between - but I'm trying really hard to be the kind of person who is happy and content with what they have, so I opted to keep my bike, even though it's not made for speed.)
And after I turned around and started the downhill decent, I continued trying to encourage the people still biking uphill on the opposite side of the road by hollering, "Not much longer, you've got this!", until I caught on to the strange looks and realized that I was cheering for random bikers who weren't even signed up for the triathlon.
And that's me (25 miles later) coming back from the bike.
And no, the guy that's smiling in front of me with a kid in tow wasn't doing the triathlon - apparently he was just there taking a leisurely bike ride with his son to make me look bad in my photos.
And then I transitioned for the run and took a few extra minutes to love on my kiddos and to get a photo with them.
A few minutes out of the transition station, the guy ahead of me turned around and asked, "Do you think we're even going the right way?", to which I replied, "I think I had a nightmare just like this last night."
Thankfully, we spotted a red arrow (and a porta-potty) just a few yards ahead that told us we were indeed going the right way though.
And then he and I passed each other a few times before I finally pulled ahead.
And at about mile three, I passed a triathlete in his 80's and when I jokingly said, "I think the finish line is waiting just around the corner for us!", he asked, "What have you been smoking young lady?"
And at mile 4.75 when I passed another girl about my age, I looked at my Garmin watch and said, "Only 1.25 miles left to go!" which caused her to express her undying love for me.
And at mile 5.5, I spotted my husband, who was there to run alongside me (in a pair of flip-flops) for the last half-mile.
And as we neared the finish line, he said, "Finish strong." and walked over to the sidelines so I could run it in on my own.
And then I saw my mom with my kids and my camera.
And I crossed the finish line, happy to see that (unlike last year's triathlon) there was still a crowd.
But the only crowd I cared about was the one that circled around me with hugs and flowers and chocolate milk.
And the final stats, with some comparisons from last year...
It's an olympic triathlon, so it's a 1-mile swim, a 25-mile bike and a 6-mile run.
The swim: 22:59 this year, compared with 46:48 last year. (Again, I had the downstream current working for me this year, which made a huge difference.)
Transition One: 5:07 this year, compared with 6:50 last year. (I can blame my long transition time last year on the fact that I was crying and called Josh Downs - who was in El Paso getting ready to deploy - during the transition. I have no excuses this year though. I was just slow.)
The bike: 1:45:49 this year, compared to 1:58:10 last year. (I don't remember how much of an elevation climb there was last year. I just remember that there were a few miles that were insanely steep and I had to repeat the loop three times which stunk. This year was just an out and back loop, but 12.5 uphill miles is hard on the legs and the spirit, even if you know there's 12.5 downhill miles coming up after it.)
Transition Two: 3:43 this year, compared with 4:01 last year.
The run: 1:07:37 this year compared with 1:19:18 last year. (I probably walked about a mile of last year's run and stopped to drink water and cry in that lady's bosom at one point during the race, which inevitably added to my time. This year, I ran the whole course though, with the exclusion of three short but steep hills where I decided that my energy would be best-used by walking briskly and a few quick stops for water because running while drinking water always makes me choke.)
The tears: 0 tears this year, compared with lots of tears last year.
Overall time: 3:25:16 this year, compared with 4:15:10 last year.
Placement: 188 out of 208 this year, compared with 180 out of 183 last year.
And yes, that means that 187 people finished before me and only 20 finished after me, but somehow, it still feels like success.
And did you notice that I didn't even wear long pants to cover up my sausage-legs???