Sunday, May 2

Tri-ing is Fun!

Last Saturday my alarm was set for 4:30 a.m., and I stand by that being the most extreme part of doing a mini-triathlon. 4:30 a.m! Saturday! Way nuttier than any amount of human-powered travel.

When I heard my city was having a race-filled weekend, I was intrigued. When I learned the swimming was replaced with kayaking, I was hitting send on my application.* This was February I think. I hit send knowing full well it could be snowing on April 24. I also made a deal with myself to call it money well wasted to be safe and warm inside instead of risking a dunk in the icy Genesee.

April 24th brought a frigid morning that would warm to the sixties. I couldn’t wait to start running! The 3.1 mile route was absolutely gorgeous on footpaths along the Genesee River near the U of R campus as we crisscrossed over the water on arched pedestrian bridges. I run hills mostly never, but these little bridges offered short little oh-hello-theres to my calves. 28 minutes (and change) later I was on my bike into 20 miles of countryside. This is the event I am least trained for, it’s my third bike ride of the year and the farthest I’ve been on my bike...ever. But to me, this is the spirit of events like this - to see if I can. I don’t visit the course when I do races. Not for half marathons, not for full marathons, not for the one duathlon I did and not for 5Ks. I glance at map for location, usually make sure the course is flat** and just decide I can do it.

Me and a friend of my husband’s*** wish each other well as we head out, him mentioning there are some nice hills on the one road. Hills? Oh, I did not prepare for this, but I am having fun. Glasses and helmet donned, I throw a leg over my mountain bike**** and away I go. I ride like the witch from Wizard of Oz (cue song.) Much less fit looking people with snacks hanging out of their pockets are passing me. The bottom line - mountain bike tires are slooooooooow on the road plus I am not an excellent cyclist, though a road bike would have helped immensely. I suck so much in this section of the race that I don’t get back to the staging area for one hour and thirty-eight minutes. Gah! It was an absolutely gorgeous ride with everything in bloom and entertaining as well as I was being passed by a guy grumbling, “I am never doing this again.” I told him, “Wait until you finish.” That is a fine, fine flavor to have a taste of.

With the bike stowed back on the rack and pulling my long-sleeve Under Armor top off over my head as I run (feels like giving birth to yourself), I complete the 100 yard dash to my kayak. It appears to be the only boat left. I am undeterred. I am thrilled to have finished the biking and be on to my favorite event. The awesome folks who I rented my race boat from put my paddle together and boat in the water as I pull on my new short-sleeve neoprene top and pants. It’s not snowing, but it is guaranteed that the Genesee is freezing. I race downstream and hit my rhythm. Yes, this is the best part. I start actually eyeing people downstream to pick off and power past. This is the first time I’ve been in a kayak this year, but my summer racing makes it feel like yesterday. Thoughts like, 'Sure you can bike better, but you can’t paddle for...' go through my mind as I pass another racer. Hey, it’s motivating and it’s true. I suck at biking, but I don’t suck at this. One guy exclaims to his girl, “Look, she’s got a motor on that boat!” Yes, this part is really fun. I cruise to finish the three miles in 38 minutes.

But it’s not over yet.

Two men warn me that they are going to pull me out of my boat and lift me like they do this every day. One grabs my paddle, they deposit me on my feet and tell me to run for the finish. With my bright yellow PFD flapping, I cross the line about 200 yards away, arms up and exuberant as if I have just won. I always do this; it’s spontaneous and I have won something: the right to stop. This is the most dangerous part because I want and need to keep walking. They make me stop to take off my ankle chip. Has anyone every grabbed your inner thigh just above the knee and squeezed? Have they ever done both at the same time? Holy crap, I can hardly walk and my dear husband asks me where my paddle is. So he can get it. Because he is kind. And I couldn’t care less if it has gone down river and over the falls. This is saying something because I love my paddle. I am anxiously searching out a banana where containers of carrots and cookies sit. Carrots?! I walk aimlessly, mumbling a bit incoherently until mercifully those muscles relax instantly and in unison about three minutes later. And that was the most intense part of the race, but getting up at 4:30 a.m. was still the worst of it.

When the race began at 7:30 a.m., I had three goals:
1. Finish
2. Finish in 3 hours or less
3. Do not got for a swim

I sat in the grass eating my free veggie burger, salt-n-vinegar chips and water, happy to have accomplished all three. I can’t wait to tri again.

*I can and love to swim, but how long I can do it remains to be seen. Actual training would be required here to feel confident in an open water swim. It’s not out of the question one day.

**Uh, usually,...but not this time.

***He has been spinning all winter and this will be a cake walk for him.

****I’m really comfortable on my mountain bike and spring roads are pretty much like off-road - that was my logic in leaving Old Red, my 23-year-old Schwinn with rabbit-ear gear shifting, home.