Monday, July 1, 2013

Birchwood Lakes Sprint Triathlon - Race Recap

This past weekend, I completed my first triathlon.

My lucky number is 8! This was a good omen.

I had so much fun, and it made me feel like all of the early mornings, long bike rides, and tough swims over the last several months were worth it.

I signed up for this triathlon as a test run for the NYC Tri in 2 weeks. I read it was a small, low-key race, which I figured would be a perfect way for me to practice transitioning and open water swimming.

I headed home Friday morning, and decided at the last minute to leave my road bike in Brooklyn. Trying to get my bike on the subway, through Penn Station, and home to NJ seemed like a lot of work. I chanced that I would be able to rent a road bike at home, like I did in Vermont. But unfortunately, I had no such luck.

I drove to a bike shop that rented road bikes, only to find out that they had none available. And neither did another place. They were all already rented, and I remembered that there were several triathlons happening in the area this weekend. Uh oh.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I would have to use one of my family's mountain bikes for the race. I was really bummed and nervous about it. I've been training on a road bike, and they're LOADS faster than mountain bikes. But I had no other choice, and pouted much of Friday evening about it.

My amazing parents agreed to come to the race with me, and we drove down bright and early on Saturday morning. I munched on my english muffin with PB and banana, chatted with my parents, and became super nervous as we got closer to the race.

My race-day nerves were somewhat diminished when we got to there, only to find that it was RIDICULOUSLY low-key. 

The "start" line
I checked in to the race, and putzed around on the beach where the swim started. The atmosphere was so relaxed that there were babies and dogs playing on the beach. It was so cute.

Next, I set up my transition area.

I became a little intimidated at this point, because I was about 1 of 5 people with a mountain bike. I was really wishing I had gone through the hassle of bringing my Raleigh home.

A huge upside to a small race is having access to warm-up in the water before the start. I threw my wetsuit on and went for a little swim out to the first buoy.

The water was a great temperature, and I was happy to get the chance to swim off my nerves a bit. I chatted with my parents for a few more minutes, and then the race began.

The swim was a half mile out and back, with about 8 buoys lining the water. I started out in the middle-back of the pack. Because there were so few racers, I didn't encounter any kicking or punching from other swimmers. I got into my stroke, and started to race.

After a few minutes, I started to feel pretty tired. The lake water felt really thick. It took a lot of effort for me to go a short distance, and I became a little nervous. But I put the thought out of my mind, and told myself to get to the end of the buoys.

At the turnaround, I just kept swimming and told myself I was halfway there. I also started counting down buoys - 5 left, 4 left, 3 left... and then it was finally over.

Me coming out of the water!
I'm second from the left... I think.
I felt REALLY tired at the end of the swim, more tired than I though I would feel. But I made my way to transition, got on my bike, and went.

The bike was a 13-mile out and back. The course was pretty flat, but it felt like everyone was passing me on their fancy road bikes. I pushed myself really hard to try to go as fast as I could, but it wasn't easy.

I just kept telling myself what my parents had said before the race - this is a test run. Don't worry about how long it takes you, just enjoy it. So at about the halfway mark, I got into a groove and stopped worrying about other racers passing me.

Starting the bike race... with a mountain bike.
I made it back to the transition, and saw the majority of the bikes already back in the racks... which meant I was probably in the back of the pack. But I knew my body was ready for my strongest leg, the run.

My legs felt tired after getting off the bike, but after a minute or so I was ready to race.  I didn't know how fast my body would be able to go, so I took the first half mile at an easy pace, but picked it up a bit for the last half... and clocked in my first mile at 8:22.

I started to feel really good, and was finally passing other people for once. I could feel the temperature rising, but just tried to enjoy the last two miles of my FIRST triathlon.

That's me! I swear!

I finished the second mile in 8:15, and was surprised at how fast my legs were going. I had a huge smile on my face, and focused my attention in the last mile on passing one more person. I turned around the final bend and let my legs go, clocking in the last mile at 7:35.

And just like that, I finished my first triathlon!!!

I was so happy that I did it, and that my parents were there to share this experience with me. They were the best cheer squad a gal could ask for.

Shortly after the end of the race, the beer-b-que started, and we enjoyed some well-deserved beers and burgers.

Papa! And keg beer.

I attempted to stretch, because I could feel that my hips were thrown off by the bike-to-run transition. Aside from feeling hot and a little dehydrated, I felt pretty good.

I saw on the website that they would give out overall awards and age group awards after the race. I had a dream last week that I won an award, so I secretly wanted to see if I had some small chance of winning in my age group. 

They announced overall female and male winners, and then worked their way up to the winners in the Female 20-29 bracket. I crossed my fingers when they announced 3rd place... and my name wasn't called. I knew it was silly to hope for, but thought I might have a chance. 

Then I heard the announcer say, "and in 2nd place, from Brooklyn, New York..." My parents and I started yelling, realizing that I had won 2nd place in my age group!!!

The cutest parents anywhere.

I was over the moon, so surprised that I had done well enough to get 2nd place. My parents told me not to sell myself short, that I worked hard for this day, and that I deserved it. That's why they are the absolute best.

And the splits for my second place finish were...

Swim: 15:31
Transition 1: 2:28
Bike: 48:40
Transition 2: 0:55
Run: 24:14
Overall: 1:31:48

Once we got home, I was ready for an afternoon of rest. I took a shower, got into comfy clothes, and turned on a movie. I had the best snuggle buddy to enjoy the afternoon with...

Morgan, the most adorable cat.

Two days later, I am still overjoyed by how fantastic this experience was. I feel really good about the NYC Tri in just TWO WEEKS. But this race, as my first tri ever, will always have a really special place in my heart.


  1. Yes, we are the best! But on Saturday, it was all you! CONGRATS again. Also, Morgie say hi!

  2. I enjoyed reading your account of the Birchwood Lakes Triathlon. I hope you'll return this year and maybe tell a few friends!