I slept restlessly on Saturday night, and after waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom, I never really fell back asleep. When the alarm went off at 5:30, I was already awake. I rolled out of bed and the butterflies began immediately. I haven’t been that nervous about something in a long, long time. I’m not sure I was that nervous even before the marathon! I ate two bowls of cereal and a bite of a bagel. I knew I needed food but I was so nervous that I couldn’t stomach much.
I did a final check to make sure I had all my equipment and that was when I realized. “Oh NO,” I said. My cycling gloves were not in my biking shoes, like I’d thought. I immediately knew where they were — at home, in the dryer, after being washed on Thursday.
For the first of many times that morning, Jose calmed me down. And he was right — of all the things to forget, cycling gloves was probably the best item. I can’t bike without, say, a helmet…but I can bike without gloves. Crisis averted.
Just before 6:30, Jose and I left the hotel room and headed to the race site at Moody Gardens, about a half mile walk away. It was still dark, but the transition area was bustling. After getting body marked (#334 baby!), I set up my transition area between some very, um, spread out people on either side of me. Triathletes are generally pretty polite, but there is definitely a tendency to take up too much space in transition!
From there, it was time to grab my cap, goggles, and wetsuit and head to the start.
The nerves hit hard once I got to the little man-made beach where we’d be entering the water. I would sit quietly, and then Jose would ask how I felt. That would make me start to tear up, and then he’d get to calm me down by telling me how awesome I was going to do. Could I ask for a better guy? After the race, he told me that he’d been really nervous too, but at the time I didn’t see it at all. He was great. I was so, so glad that he was there.
Just as I’d teared up again, I looked down the beach and saw Gavin walking towards me. I was very confused for a minute, and I didn’t even know what to do besides tug on Jose arm and point. “There’s Gavin,” I said, as he walked up with his camera. I didn’t know that he was coming, and even though I couldn’t really react, it was nice to see him and know I had another fan.
Being happy to see my “fans” was a theme that would reoccur throughout the day. Triathlon is a hard sport for spectators to watch, since the course covers so much area. I never expect people to come because I realize that for most of the day they won’t have anything to do. But when I see people I know, even for just a moment, it really, really gives me a lift. Big thanks to Jose, Gavin, Becca, Melissa, Laurie, Heather, and Nick for making the trek to Galveston just to give me a boost.
I was in the fourth wave, starting at 7:55. As the wave before us started, we headed into the water. My wave was all women under 40, highlighted by our fluorescent pink swim caps. I swear the race directors had picked up the rocks or something — there were absolutely no rocks, despite the fact that I was walking into the water in the same place as the practice swim last weekend when I sliced my foot on multiple rocks. The water was chilly at first, but I knew it’d be fine once we got going.
It was a deep water start, so I walked out as far as I could and then slowly swam the rest of the way to the end of the dock where we had a couple minutes to go before the start. I looked over and saw that Gavin and Jose had moved to the end of the dock. I was sure that they wouldn’t be able to pick me out in the water, but I popped up and waved and Jose immediately waved back. He said he could see my bobbing head the whole time until we actually started swimming.
I floated in my wetsuit, trying to get my thoughts in order. My nerves had finally calmed down once I got in the water, and I floated in my wetsuit trying to get my goggles cleared. They were weirdly cloudy, and I worried that the anti-fog stuff I’d put on them the night before wasn’t going to work. I’d been in an area where I had a little space, but suddenly I found myself in a gaggle of other girls. I tried to get some more space, but failed.
And then, we were off!
Triathlon starts are always a mess of thrashing arms and legs, and this one was no different. It took me a while to get into a rhythm. When I did, things went pretty well. The swim course was trapezoidal — out away from the beach, then a long leg parallel to the shore, then straight back in to the big paddlewheel. I passed the first buoy, however, and thought that was where we were turning. It wasn’t! I still had a long way to go on the first leg.
I swam and swam for what felt like ages. My goggles cleared up once I got going — the anti-fog worked after all, like a charm. On the long leg parallel to shore, the water was usually fairly calm, but every so often a series of small swells would come along. This was a new experience; all the open water swims I’ve done before have been in small lakes. No swells there. Finally I reached the final buoy and made the turn back to the paddlewheel. I was relieved that I finally had a big target to go for again, and the yellow flags marking the bottom of the ramp out of the water were very visible.
It was in the middle of this last leg that I finally looked at my watch. It read 36:00. I was shocked — it really felt like I had been in the water for hours, not because of time but simply because it felt like I’d covered so much distance. I was certain that my swim was going to come in closer to an hour, instead of my targeted 40-45 minutes. I was pumped! I swam the rest of the way with a smile on my face.
I hit the ramp and mentally thanked the race organizers for not making us walk over rocks and oysters on the way out. As I moved up the ramp, one volunteer unzipped my wetsuit for me and I continued along the carpet to transition. At the end of the path was the most fun part — wetsuit stripping! Jose, Gavin and Becca all cheered and laughed from behind the fence as I pulled my wetsuit below my butt, sat on the ground, and ZOOM — the volunteers grabbed the suit and WHOOSH — pulled it off my legs in one swoop. Before I knew what was happening, the wetsuit had been shoved back in my face and I was on my way into transition.
My final swim time was 42:42 — right on schedule! As it turned out, I was right on schedule all day. I’d written down all my estimated arrival times (swim, bike loops, and run loops) for Jose, and he said he could have set his watch by my predicted times. I was always at the start of my predicted window.
I took my time in transition, careful to get myself dried off, socks on comfortably, shoes, shirt, helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen. My shirt got stuck as I put it on, the fabric all rolled up inside itself since I was still wet. I had to laugh as I got myself unstuck. Finally ready, I walked out of transition to begin…