…So, as you can imagine, after the swim I was exhausted. I dizzily made my way up the hill to my gear, and I collapsed onto the ground. Once everything stopped spinning, I looked around to see that I hadn’t been the last one to get out of the water. There were even a few women who had finished the swim ahead of me who still hadn’t taken off on their bikes.
At that point I just laid there. All of the sudden, I heard a friendly voice saying, “Would you like help taking off your wet suit?” (And here began my “special” VIP treatment – the first of many reasons why you should always come in last, or close to last, in a triathlon.) Of course, I accepted the offer. I laid there chewing on my Clif bar while my wetsuit was peeled off by race volunteers.
Even with the wetsuit off, I still hadn’t gotten myself into the right mindset. I couldn’t fathom how I was going to get on a bike. I took my sweet time getting dressed. I went to the bathroom. I even got on my bike, but then realized that I forgot my bike gloves. Were these necessary? Nope. But I went back and got them anyway. I think I had the longest transition time of anyone in the race. The average was probably around 2-5 minutes. I took a full 10 minutes between the swim and bike, long enough to secure my place (last place). Everyone was gone and it was just me feeling embarrassed, disheartened, and a whole slew of other discouraging emotions. But most of all, I was just plain grumpy.
I took off on my bike and sure enough, I couldn’t see another biker anywhere. And since I was officially in last, I earned my very own motorcycle escort. Yep, they have a motorcyclist follow behind the last person in the race. It wasn’t long before I realized the situation: I had a personal chauffer to see me through the bike ride (reason two why you should always come in last place.) I was nervous going into the race that I would blow a tire and then have no idea what to do. Aaron had tried to teach me how to change one, but I couldn’t remember. Now, I felt comfortable and safe facing the 20 miles ahead.
I was still grumpy. I knew someone always comes in last, but why me? At one point along the course, I knew we would pass my brother and sister-in-law’s house. If it wasn’t for that motorcycle on my tail, I may have just pulled in to their house and called it a day.
After several minutes of grumbling, I snapped out of it - what the heck was I doing? I love biking! And in that instance my attitude changed. I thought, “I am going to be on this bike for a while, and I want to enjoy it.” So that is exactly what I did. For the next two hours, you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I had a blast. I waved to everyone along the route cheering me on. I took in the scenery. We were on a gorgeous island right on the ocean – there couldn’t have been a more beautiful place to be riding a bike. And just like that, the idea of a race vanished. In my mind, I was just taking a leisurely Saturday afternoon bike ride surrounded by the beautiful trees of Whidbey Island, Washington. There were reminders of reality, like the times I was going so slow that the motorcyclist would have to pull over, stop, and wait for me to get ahead before he could keep riding. Haha! And in the back of my mind I knew that I only had four hours to finish this thing. At the four hour mark they would sweep you in and you’d be done. That would help me pick up the pace again, but only until I would get distracted by my thoughts of Twilight (yes, the vampire movie!). I mean, we were in the dark woods of the Northwest. How was I not going to be thinking Twilight? Half the time I expected a giant werewolf to leap across the road or a sparkly vampire to come speeding by at 100 miles an hour. I am still a little bummed that I never got to see either of those ;) Needless to say, it was a challenge to keep my mind focused on the race during the two hour bike ride.
By the time that I approached the second transition, almost everyone in my family had completed the race. Aaron and 5 of his siblings plus spouses (12 of us in total) participated. I think all but maybe 2 or 3 had finished the race by the time I arrived on my bike. Aaron was super worried, he told me afterwards… he thought that something had happened to me or that I would be so exhausted that he would need to run with me to keep me going. I, on the other hand, was worried that I might need to give this motorcyclist a hug for having to put up with me for this long. Ha.
I rolled into the transition feeling great. Obviously, I hadn’t pushed myself too hard but now there was a new challenge: a 3.8 mile run. To be clear, running is my worst enemy. I can run and run and run and still be terrible. I just don’t think my body was built to run. Fortunately, I was still on a high from my 20 mile joyride and I decided not to let the worry of the run get to me. My main concern was time: I worried my leisurely pace on the bike had taken up my time.
Aaron was surprised to seeing me smiling away when I pulled in. He asked if I needed him to run with me. I said no, I was feeling great. He was a little shocked and confused, but said ok and sent me on my way with some encouragement. Coming into the race, I had been sure that the run would be more of a walk for me, but minus the ridiculous hill at the beginning of the run, I ran the entire 3.8 miles no problem, and I actually enjoyed it! What a surprise! And another surprise, I actually passed another runner about half way through the run. “What?” I thought. “I am not going to come in last place. Awesome!”
I made it across the finish line doing my awkward “yay I made it!” dance. I am sure I had some of the crowd cheering for me… well, at least 11 people excited that they would finally get to go home. I don’t entirely remember the finish as my mind was racing, trying to comprehend what I had just done. But I do remember 10 minutes later the final runner (that I had passed) ran across the finish line. Everyone, the racers and families, the volunteers, the race workers, everyone cheered for her like she had just won the gold medal in the Olympics. (reason three why you should always come in last place). Oh man, if only I had come in last ;) Maybe next time ;)
Ok seriously, will there be a next time? I think so! I enjoyed myself after the swim. Now that I have the hang of it, I wouldn’t mind doing it again and pushing myself a little harder. I finished the race and said, “hey, lets do that again.” And I meant it. I felt great, and even afterwards, I never got sore or super tired. (A final bonus of coming in last, going so slow that you don’t have to deal with the sore muscle/body hating you consequences afterwards.)
It was fun. I still wish that I had seen a vampire or two along the way, but hey I finished! In the end I swam .5 miles, biked 19.5 miles, ran 3.8 miles and I survived. Goal accomplished!