14 years ago, Barbara Schmidt Millar died of breast cancer. She was 42. A few of her friends decided to put together a little triathlon in her honor. Within a few years it had grown so they opened it up to the public. Now, 14 years later, about 400 women participate in this Celebration of Life Triathlon. Some do it to compete against themselves or others, others do it to honor a loved one lost to cancer.
My set-up, minus the running shoes because I was wearing them
I arrived early to Scott's Flat Lake in order to get a good spot in the transition which also let my family get a little more sleep then join me just before the start. There were already a few people there so I set up my stuff and made my way down to the lake. I'd never seen it so low but it wouldn't affect the swim. The water was calm and the sun was just hitting it making a beautiful sight. As I looked out at the buoys that we would swim around I thought "wow, they don't look too far away". I took that as a good sign because in years past my thoughts have always been "oh my god, are you kidding? We're going to swim that far?".
Beautiful morning for a race
Readying the support boats
I guess this is where I tell you what my goals for the race were and how I was feeling going into it. Last year I finished in 1:24:09 in 10th place over-all. This year I was just hoping to finish in the top 20. I felt over-weight, under-trained, and injured. Ideally, I wanted to do better than last year but I was realistic and knew I just hadn't done the training. I have been concentrating on my swimming (my weakest leg) so I knew my time would be faster there. The run would definitely be slower due to my legs hurting and I had no idea how I would fare on the bike.
The course is 1/2 mile swim, 11 mile bike, and 3 mile run. The kicker is the huge hill coming out of the lake. It's a couple hundred yards long and is STEEP. A lot of people are resigned to walking their bikes up it. It's important when you hit it that you don't let your heart rate red line but it's tough.
It was fun seeing familiar faces before the race. The race is great in how it brings so many women of the community together. Even my girls' pediatrician was there. I ran into 3 ladies from my "Mom's Group" who were competing as a team. It was their first time in a triathlon and welcomed any advice I could give them. After they got body marked I helped them pick out a good transition spot and offered a few words of advice but most important, just have fun.
Fellow "Moms" Erin, Kim, and Crystal
Pat and the girls showed up and we got to visit for a bit before I had to get in the water and "warm up". Actually, the weather was perfect, warmest it's been in the last 4 years. 2005 I competed as the bicyclist as part of a team. 2006 I did the whole thing 8 weeks after giving birth to Sara so I was just happy to finish.
My support crew
I lined up in the front of Wave 3. I don't remember if there was a horn or if they just said go but soon we were all splashing through the water. I tried to go out fast but not too fast so my heart rate would stay in control. I also tried to concentrate on my stroke, keeping it smooth and doing everything I had been practicing these last few months. Gradually I made it around the first buoy but the right turn had us facing directly into the sun for the next long leg. I didn't have many problems with others swimmers, occasionally someone would swim right in front of me heading sideways and I hoped they would look up pretty soon before they got too far off course. Towards the end I know my technique took a back seat to just trying to get back to the boat ramp. I concentrated on really kicking my legs, trying to get them warmed up for what was coming up next.
Does anyone look good coming out of the water? At least I'm smiling
I don't wear a wetsuit so the transition went fairly quickly and I was on the bike heading up the big hill. The bike is my strong suit so it wasn't long before I was passing people. A lot of people. I get a few "wows", "damn", "you go girl". But I also think I freak a few people out when they're not paying attention and aren't expecting me to come by. It's an out and back course with a few rollers. I tried to power up the hills and on the flats but my legs were screaming. I kept thinking I was going so slow compared to last year. Oh well, just do the best you can I kept telling myself.
Coming in from the bike
I got off the bike entering the transition area and tried not to fall on my butt with my shoe cleats. As I switched shoes I heard Pat and the girls cheering me on behind me. 29 seconds later I was headed back out but I forgot to turn around and wave to my family. Dummy.
Headed out for the run, forgot to wave
I started jogging up the hill (did I mention that it's STEEP?). I was quickly passed by 3 women and I had to slow to a walk. Depressing. Once I reached the top I started running again and boy, did my lower legs hurt. They were just so tight, especially my shins making it difficult to lift my toes and not fall flat on my face. I passed the 1 mile mark in 10:50, not good. I was suffering and it wasn't the good kind of suffering from pushing the pace. It was the suffering you experience when you haven't run a 5K in 5 months.
Somehow I managed to slog my way through the next couple miles. My friend Rose caught me and I tried to stay with her. She pulled away a little then another lady passed me. I checked her right calf and it said 38. 38 years old. My age group. Competition. My first thought was "Oh well, there goes another placing". And that pissed me off. Sorry, but it did. What kind of attitude is that? So I started to sprint. I figured if I could pass her quickly I would catch her by surprise and be able to stay in front of her. I did pass her and set my sights on Rose who was just a bit ahead. I caught her and we both cheered each other on. I felt my pace slow and I just knew "38" was right behind me. I dug deep, found another gear and gave it one final push to the finish line, ahead of Rose and "38". I was happy. Then I found out "38" was part of a team so she wasn't my competition. But I was still really happy she came by me because it forced me to dig deep within myself and remember what it's like to race and have the desire to win.
Sprinting in to the finish with my friend Rose
After the race, it was all about cheering each other on and comparing stories. The results were up quickly and to my utter shock, I finished in 1:24:36, 17 seconds slower than last year. Good enough for 11th place over-all, 1st in my age group. Wow. Considering how I felt during the race, I was really surprised. If anyone is interested, here are my splits.
Swim 1/2 mi: 20:38
Bike 11 mi: 35:44
Run 5k: 25:39
Getting my hug from race founder and director, Cathy Anderson-Meyers
Studying the numbers from last year to this year, I was over a minute faster in the swim but a minute slower in the run. This year's bike was 4 seconds slower. My transitions were about the same. Pretty consistent. Now all I can say is, I can't wait til next year. With a little luck I'll be healthy and get in some consistent training and maybe I can break the top 5. After all, if you're going to dream, dream big.