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This blog is out of use and out of date. I am now posting on mercedesorten.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Carte blanche: My First Triathlon

The tri went AMAZING!!!!! I am recovering really well I was super sore yesterday in my arms, calves and quads but today I'm back to (almost) 100%! I think what really helped with the soreness today was that I got a massage afterward. The post-race beer definitely helped with the soreness, too. I must say, the entire triathlon was one of the most incredible and empowering experiences of my life. I may be a born triathlete. I would like to say first that the main thing that made this experience special were the people that encouraged me from near and far along the way. I was overjoyed to see my first marathon coach, Cindy Burton, as we were setting up before the race. Even more priceless was she was the first person I saw after I crossed the finish line. Tears and sweat were streaming down my face as finished, I was extremely spent. I looked up after someone gave me a cold iced towel and I saw Cindy. I started crying more. I’ll never forget Cindy hugging me and telling me “You are a triathlete now, Mercedes!” It makes me tear up right now just writing about it. That was so powerful and made every stroke, every pedal and every stride worth it.

The night before the race I started to get really nervous, I kept double checking and triple checking my gear over and over again. One thing I’m proud of is I never doubted myself and my capability of finishing. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t know it was going to be THAT hard. There were times during each of the events where I had to dig very deep, but I just looked inside myself, to my inner strength and to the ones that care about me most and I found it and that gave me the extra push to go on. I did not sleep well at all the night before the race, I kept having dreams about the swim-bike-run and I kept waking up constantly, which is different for me. Usually before running races I sleep like a baby. Triathlon is a different animal, though. I know that now. I encountered so many different, interesting and fun challenges in my first triathlon. I woke up at 4:30 AM for an 8:04 AM start. I was glad I got there, early, though. I packed my bike up and checked my gear one last time, I filled up my water bottles and made my accelerade and I was off to the outskirts of Austin. I got to the transition area extremely early. I wanted to be less stressed and I knew I would need time to pump up my tires (they were at 40 psi and they are supposed to be at 110 psi). An older veteran triathlete that was racking up next to me politely recognized that I was a newbie and taught me how to air up my tires. Later, after the race, I happily paid back the favor to her by holding up my towel while she changed into dry clothes. Once I set out all my stuff, I went to get body-marked. Getting body marked was fun, I felt really hard-core when they were marking a big black “96” on my quads and biceps. I strapped my chip around my ankle and headed down to the lake with my running crew to warm up and stretch before the swim start.

I was extremely pumped before the swim because one of the athletes that I coach showed up for the race unexpectedly. He just walked up to the swim start 10 minutes before the race with a delicious looking cup of Starbucks and said “hey I’m here to support you,” which was really nice. It was also nice to have a lot of people from my running group around me and supporting me throughout the race. The water was a warm 80 degrees as we walked in to it and started floating around. I was jumping around in the water I was so ready to go. Off we went a mess of pink swim caps and legs and arms and bodies everywhere. I did not panic; I simply swam to the outskirts of the crowd and barreled forward. My swim ended up being slower than I expected but I think with improved sighting and more open water experience (I was zigzagging through the water and I went out WAY too far past the buoys to avoid the people) I could be faster. When I saw the swim finish ahead of me I pushed hard to the water’s edge. I got out, ripped my cap off and ran barefoot up the hill to the transition area. “Ran” might be a bit of a stretch...I wasn’t expecting my legs to feel so much like sea legs. An interesting slew of adrenaline inspired cuss words slipped out of my mouth as I made my way up the hill. Something to the effect of “holy sh*t this is crazy f*cking sh*t, this is intense madness...I LOVE IT!” All joking aside, I was still pumped up for the bike. My bike performance was probably the biggest surprise. I averaged 21 mph over a 12 mile VERY hilly course. I was not expecting that at all. Lots of people were passing me but I managed to hold on to a few folks and catch them on the uphills. I didn’t know that you were supposed to shift into a harder gear on the down hills and that is when a lot of people passed me. The bike to run transition was easy and exciting for me. I dismounted from my bike and my noodle legs only lasted a few seconds as I ran my bike to my racking area. I LOVED the transitions...they made me feel powerful and fast and they pumped me up for the next event.

I was excited for the run, lots of people from my running group were cheering for me. I finally felt like I was moving into my element, my event. I have done so many 5Ks before. This one was different, though. I started out too fast, I think I was excited to be running and doing my thing. I ran a 7:08 minute/mile like I would if I was JUST doing a 5K by itself. I cooled the pace a bit for the next mile and I navigated the rocky, sandy trail as it wound around the lake. I still felt good, I felt strong. My legs did not feel tired, or my mind was telling me my legs did not feel tired. I finished my goo and took water at a few of the water stops. I passed the mile 2 marker and looked up ahead. My mind saw the huge, mile-long hill in front of me and it started to go. Mile three was the hardest mile because of that hill. I felt myself slowing down. I wanted to hold on, though, so I dug deep into my reserves. I saw Oscar Lanier, one of the guys that I coached a 10K training with back in March; he was volunteering and screaming at me as I passed up the hill. His unexpected support really helped. “GOOD PACE MERCEDES! YOU GO GIRL!” he screamed at my back. I passed a lot of guys throughout the run and especially on that hill. I finally saw the finish line and I worked my way in as hard as I could. My run took me about 25 min. Those are 8:30 minute/miles which are not too shabby.

Everyone that has told me triathlon is the best. Everyone has always asked me why had I not done one before. Everyone told me I would love it. Everyone was right, it IS the best and I should have been doing these years ago! It is a huge challenge with an even huger reward afterward. I would say it was almost as difficult mentally as the marathon. I loved it so much, despite the sea legs running up the hill after the swim, despite the noodle legs as I hopped off my bike after 12 miles of hills, despite the final charge that I had to look for deep inside on the run. It was amazing. I loved it. In other words, I am sure that I am a born triathlete! After I get my Boston Qualifying marathon and my Boston Marathon under my belt I think I am going to retire into full time triathlon training. Half Ironman here I come! I can’t believe I’m saying this only after a sprint but I’m sure I’ll be doing an Olympic sometime soon! I’ll keep ya’ll posted. Love to all who have supported and cheered me on during these weeks of training and thanks to all who were thinking about me during the race. I felt it and it helped immensely. Hearing my past marathon coach tell me “you are a triathlete” at the end was icing on my first triathlon’s cake. A coach, Percy Cerutty once said: "You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone." In triathlon, that would be putting it mildly.

Current book I'm reading: Eiger Dreams and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


  • At 8:40 AM, July 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congrats on the tri! Did you see where the wave crested, and then rolled back?.. you've got to have the right eyes....


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I am a marathoner. That means I have a tummy that could sieze a spider.