Man, was I thankful that I didn’t have to jump into the water. That’s some gangsta ish. That’s not how I roll. I sat on the dock and slid myself into the water. The girls went ahead of me but I just hung on to the dock. I was determined to go my own pace and I wanted to wait until I heard the horn.
My pace for the swim? 120 BPM.
After the horn, I turned on my mental playlist to John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. March tempo the whole way, baby. I know I can maintain that tempo comfortably. Oh, hey water in my left eye. Wasn’t expecting that. “I’ll be okay! I can see – where’s the first buoy?” I looked under the water and saw some creepy mossy looking business. Note to self – close eyes under the water. Blech. Oh, hi buoy! I settled into my rhythm and started chanting to myself. “Don’t forget to kick. Don’t forget to kick. I’m not scared. I’m not alone. Who’s not scared? Joan’s not scared. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.”
The water felt absolutely wonderful. I must admit – another reason I close my eyes under the water is because as I breathe on my right side and return my face to the water, I see the bubbles caused by my right hand and freak out a little. “What the hell is that?! It’s your hand, Joan. Chill out.” 🙂 The best part about closing my eyes is that my other senses heighten. There are not words that accurately describe how much I delight in the sound of my arm hitting the water. The depth reminds me of a bass drum. You know how a sista can’t get enough of that bass, riiiiiiggght?
The buoys changed color from yellow to orange. Progress! I started to hear people shouting. Tee hee. Maybe one of them is my Mom! I started to listen for “Go Jo!” Nope. Keep swimming. I saw some people standing on a dock and I swam that way. They pointed me around a corner. “Oh good! Not sure how I would get out of there.” Whoa. The first leg is done.
In transition, I threw on my bike shorts over my tri shorts. You know – tryna protect mah girl for the 1% chance I become a mother to more than cats. As I turned onto the main road out of T1, there was a bit of an incline. “First hill! Nailed it!” I giggled.
If you don’t already know, Red Rocket and my relationship is just beginning to become less tenuous. Just to illustrate, in my last training rides before the race, I was excited to be able to signal turns. I can take my hand off the handlebars for more than a split second now! Smashing! What I’m saying here is that hydrating/getting nutrition while still riding is still out of the question for me at this point. I made a plan to stop every 30 minutes to drink and eat and not take more than a minute to do so. My first stop was uneventful. Sweet.
As I kept riding, I was feeling more confident. I took my right hand off of the handlebars and touched the water bottle. “Ermahgerd could this happen today?! Could today be the day that I drink and ride?!” Then I heard the voices of both Coachie and The Mentor in my head. “Nothing new on race day!” Come on. Could that really apply to drinking a little water on mah ride? I touched the water bottle again. I got a grip on it and pulled. It was free! I held it triumphantly – and quickly realized I wasn’t woman enough to try drinking from it now that I had it free. It was almost time for a scheduled stop, anyhow, so I pulled over to put it back. I always clip out with my left first and lean that way to get back on the ground. Aaaaand Red Rocket wanted to go to the right. “Shit. SHIT. SHIT!!!!” But I unclipped righty in time. A passing rider asked if I was okay. “I’m cool!” I replied. Thanks to my p***y like reflexes, anyhow. Moving on as originally planned – stop to hydrate. 🙂
Having those stops planned proved to be very helpful mentally. “I don’t have to ride for four hours. I just have to ride for 30 minutes – 8 times on a row. I can do that.” A couple of those 8 rides were REALLY hard. I was so thankful that my longtime friend had given me a heads up about this big ass downhill. He said that he saw people freak out and break going down and not have the momentum to get back up again. Suddenly, I felt myself going down faster than ever. I didn’t look down at my Garmin because I knew I would see a number that would make me freak. I pedaled through and shifted down like a boss. Then the equally big ass uphill came. I checked the Garmin. 6 mph, it read. If I weren’t breathing so hard I would have laughed. But I made it up the hill! The last aid station was just ahead. A man said that the worst was behind me. “You promise?! Don’t lie to me!” I said. “I promise!” He smiled.
I talked to God a lot on this ride. I sang myself songs. I said my personal chant to myself. “Pedal pretty! Pedal pretty!” I remembered to push and pull and listened to the sounds of the revolutions. Revolutionary, indeed. I found myself glad I was clipped in. Red Rocket and I bonded a lot. I’m not going to say I wasn’t glad to see the “Welcome to Georgia” sign indicating my ride was almost over but I wasn’t dead. Good thing – my run awaits.
After grabbing my CamelBak and changing shoes, I started to run. 5/1. Let’s do this. I felt good – at first. I was on the same 30 minute plan I had been on as I rode – nutritionally, anyhow. I can walk and drink like a freaking BEAST. Tee hee. After a mile or so I started to feel super drained. Then I looked down and realized I hadn’t taken off my cycling shorts in transition. Whoops! “That’s okay,” I thought to myself. “That’s not enough to stop me from finishing.”
I had seen some of the amazing group cheering for me as I ran. I smiled and exchanged some high fives. After I passed them, I thought, “Hmm. I’ll probably see them again. Maybe I could give them my shorts. Nah. I can finish with the shorts on.”
My pace got slower. And slower. Aaaaand slower. I passed the 3 mile mark and started thinking. “You know what? 60.2 is nothing to be ashamed of.” The two lap half-marathon was a bit of a tease, in that you see people headed toward the finish as you are on lap one. Some dude passed me and was like, “We can totally do this for twenty more minutes. Let’s go!” I grinned and said nothing – not because I was ashamed of being on lap one but I didn’t feel like hearing what was sure to be a patronizing response.
I saw the group again and stopped. “I left on my cycling shorts! Take them please!” I heard some dude shout, “Put your clothes back on!” Some chick passing said, “I’ve never seen anything like that. That. Is. Awesome.” I grinned and continued. I felt 20 pounds lighter and my pace picked up again. Rock on.
After about mile 4, some chick rolled up next to me. “How fast are we going?” My Garmin read about a 12 minute mile. We ran together for a bit and she asked if I minded if she stayed with me. “Nope!” I told her my 5/1 plan and she said that’s what she had been doing as well.
As we ran, I learned that this was also her first 70.3. Moreover, she also normally trains alone like Lady J and is a teacher like Lady J – an art teacher, even! Specialist triathletes unite! God sent me a kindred spirit for the last 10.1 – and man, did she help me. Yes, I still had to control what was going on in my own head. The rhythm of my chants helped for reals. Lady J can’t lie though, y’all. There isn’t anything in the world like leaning on someone and allowing her to lean on you. Some of those 5 minute intervals became more like 4/2. 3/3. It was getting done, nonetheless. After mile 12, we started strategizing our finish line pose. I would jump left, she would jump right. Amazing.
7 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds. I ain’t mad. And you know what? I could do that again. With the same help, of course. Thanks again, Lord!