Monday, July 28, 2008

Not the Same Woman...

Beware, this is a really long post. I broke it up with headings so you can just read the parts that you want. Results are at the bottom, so scroll down for that.

"The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race." That's the motto of the Danskin Triathlon. It is an event that is so supportive of women being fit and healthy and confident in whatever stage of life or state of health they're in right now. It is very inspirational and everyone there supports everyone else and cheers them on. Sally Edwards, the spokeswoman for the race, is just an amazing speaker and woman. If you are a woman, any woman, I encourage you to do this race!! (In fact, most of the woman that participate are first-timers!)

So, in case you haven't already figured it out, I did this race. Yesterday. (I actually did a Danskin Tri in Sacremento, CA, seven years ago, but that seems a lifetime ago -- I'm a very different woman now.) Here's a recap:

Getting to the race
On Saturday morning, my friends Sara and Denise and I piled our bikes and gear in my minivan (minus all the child seats) and drove to Worcester, MA. We needed to eat lunch, so we went to St. Vincent's Hospital for sandwiches. (Sounds weird, I know! But Sara's mother-in-law recommended it, and it turns out there's a great little cafe in there with awesome sandwiches and a beautiful atrium to eat in!) While in there, we saw that the gift shop was a great place to buy balloons. We wanted some big unique balloons to attach to our transition areas so that we could easily find our spots during the race. (There were 3000 people registered in this race -- that's rows and rows of bicycles to search through!)

The Expo
Then we went to the race expo where we listened to the course review and race day overview. This is where my friends figured out about the whole "RA RA, you go, girlfriend" spirit of this event. Almost everyone at the presentations were first-time triathletes. And when Sally Edwards spoke, she had everyone standing, chanting, double-high-fiving, and promising to help one another during the race. Then we got our numbers, race chips, swim caps, and all the race schwag. When we left the expo, we went back over the the hospital gift shop and each bought the biggest, most crazy looking balloons that they had:

Seriously, we did. Three of them. 30" each. Really.

The Hotel
Then we tried to follow the directions over to the Marriott Courtyard we were staying. Even though it was only really a few blocks down the road, none of us seemed to know where we were going, and we toured the area around the DCU for a while. But we found it, and while we were checking in and being told by the desk staff that we should be sure to take any GPS units out of the car because there were a rash of thefts from cars, a woman, who was also there to do the race, came in and announced that someone had just smashed her car window and stolen her GPS unit. It was broad daylight and she was away from the car for 20 minutes! SO, given the sketchy parking lot, we removed pretty much everything from the car. The hotel itself was mediocre, but Sara got us an awesome rate and it was sufficient.

Pre-Race Dinner
What is there to say? We went to a nice Italian place and ate pasta! We also shared a bottle of wine and a piece of chocolate cake.

The Night Before the Race
The three of us must have unpacked, packed, sorted, and resorted all our race stuff for about 2 hours. We were thinking of watching a movie, but we couldn't stop obsessing about the race. So eventually, we went to bed, way too late, and tried to sleep. Denise slept about an hour and was awake the rest of the night. I tossed and turned, but slept some. Sara had to get up to pump milk at about 2:30. (Yes, amazing, she did this race when she's a nursing mom of a 7 month old!) At 4:30, I heard the rain and thunder and muttered, "Oh, crap." And Denise said, "Yeah, it's been raining for hours."

Race Morning
At 5am, when the alarm sounded, it was pouring and thundering and lightning. Oh, boy! We got up and got ready, hoping for the storm to let up. We watched a weather report, but it wasn't too helpful. We were running later than planned, but thinking about the weather slowed us down and we figured that the race would have to be postponed some, at least. In the lobby, we ran into one group that had decided the race was going to be cancelled, so they were going home. We weren't going home until we heard from race officials that the race would be cancelled. But we were worrying about lightning on the lake (not that they would allow us to swim if there was a chance of lightning) and slick roads. We didn't want to be going down the big hill in the rain, unable to stop! However, we loaded up the car and started driving to Webster, site of the race. Before we reached the exit, we got stopped in a long line of traffic also trying to get to the race. Well, turns out, lots and lots of people came late because of the thunderstorms. But we parked the car, and although it was still cloudy and we had seen lightning on the way over, it had stopped raining.

Next we put the wheels on the bikes, grabbed all our gear, and rode over to the transition area. The parking was about a mile away from the transition area. We were quite a site with each of us holding those giant smiley face balloons! However, part way there, suddenly my balloon ribbon was hanging limp! I turned around and looked up to see a little spec that was my balloon rapidly flying away. So sad. :-( But we made it to the transition area (only 15 minutes before my scheduled start time!) and agreed on a place to meet at the end, if we didn't see each other before the end. (We were each in a different starting heat, and therefore, in a different row of the transition area.)

We were actually pretty late arriving, so it was hard to find a spot for my bike, but I did. By this point I was pretty nervous, and I tried to stay calm as I tried to set out all my stuff to make my transitions fast. Then I heard the announcement that because of the storm, they were delaying the start for 30 minutes. Ok, I had more time, but not a lot. I needed to make sure my things were set, get my body marked with my number, figure out the layout of the transition area (where to go for the start, where I'd be coming back up from the water, where was the bike start, where was the run start, etc.) The weather was starting to clear, and I could tell the sun was really trying to come out. I sprayed on my sunscreen -- even without the sun, I was likely to burn. By this point, I really, really had to pee, but, UGH, lines for the porta-potties! So I decided I didn't have time for that, I needed to go down to the water and figure out how the whole starting area worked.

This is what the transition area looked like:

I could see where my friends were because of their balloons. (They didn't know where I was because, of course, my balloon deserted me. :-(

This is me before the race:

I was almost to the lake when I realized everyone around me had their numbers marked on their bodies. BODY MARKING! I forgot! I was supposed to get my body marked. So I ran back toward the transition area and found someone writing numbers on arms and legs with permanent markers. The guy was having trouble because I had just sprayed Bull Frog sunscreen all over my body. It was just as well, because the guy wrote his 2 like a 9! You wouldn't think that was possible, but I swear, I asked someone later, what number do you think this is, and they said 9. I gave the guy a hard time about it, and his buddies laughed and said he wrote weird because he was Brazillian. This is kind of what it looked like -- what do you think?

Then I went back down to the water, checked its temp (balmy!) and chatted with some folks. I found some people who were in my heat (we were colored-coded by swim caps, so I just had to look for hot pink heads of people that looked about my age.) They made me feel confident that I wasn't running behind or in the wrong place. I got to watch the first couple of waves start while standing with my feet in the water. So this is when I realized that they were starting 1 hour late, not 30 minutes. I should have waited in line for the porta-potty. (Maybe I'd be able to go in the water, if I found myself without people around me in some portion of the swim...)

The Start
After 3 heats, I started to work my way over to to the start area. A crowd was formed and I tried to place myself in the crowd near other people in hot pink caps trying to make their way down to the water. I realized I was the only one still wearing flip flops, so I took them off and tossed them to the side. (I guess other people had placed theirs along the return route with the hopes of putting them back on after getting out of the water.) My heat, #10 finally was allowed down to the start area. I hung out at the back of the pack (knowing I'd be one of the slowest and not wanting people swimming over me.) Everyone waded into the water where Sally Edwards was giving the pep talk. She had everyone give double high fives (I think this may actually be my starting heat -- I got this photo from webshots -- I would be out of the photo on the left:
Then she told us the motivational word for our color group, "Super!" (Of course I didn't actually remember this during the swim when I was supposed to repeat the mantra in my head, one word per stroke, "I... am... a... SUPER... swimmer!" Then they counted down from 10, I hit the start button on my watch, and we were off!

The Swim
I was at the back of the pack, so I found that it was hard to really go my own pace because it was hard to get into a groove with lots of people around. (It would have been worse for me in the middle of the pack.) Early on I heard a woman calling for help. She actually looked ok, and told us she was ok, but we called over a lifeguard who rushed over immediately and pulled her arm onto the surfboard. I was pleased at the response time. I didn't do a crawl stroke the whole way, but I did alternate crawl stroke and side stroke. I didn't want to wear myself out before the bike ride. The next wave started passing me exactly at the first turn. But I just kept on moving and made decent time. I still had to pee (remember, I never went before the race started.) I thought about going in the water, because that certainly would save me a lot of time, but with all the people around, I just couldn't will my body to do it. Oh, well. As I was getting out of the water, my watch said it only took me 15 1/2 minutes! (It couldn't possibly have been a full 1/2 mile, because that took me 30 minutes in the pool!) My friend Sara spotted me from the shore -- she was about to start her wave -- and I yelled out my time to her.

Transition 1
Ouch, ooch, ouch, ooch, .... That was me running back to the transition area in bare feet. I threw my goggles and swim cap down at my spot and then headed over to the porta-potties. I hated to do it, but I really had to pee! The potties were gross, but I went as fast as I could and adjusted my wet shorts on the way back to my bike. This probably lost me about 3 minutes. I was slower at the transition than I should have been. I put on my helmet, then realized I needed to change my top. I probably should have practiced drying my feet and getting socks and shoes on. I stopped for a sip of water, paused for a moment to be sure I wasn't forgetting anything and was off.

The Bike Ride
I could not get moving on that bike. I felt tired! the whole ride was like a broken record, "On your left! On your left! On your left! ...." (If you don't know, that means someone's passing you.) At one point, a woman passed me saying, "On your left!" and then she said, "That's the first time I've said that!" To which I responded, "Thanks for making me feel good...!" Anyway, I was doing the best I could on my mountain bike. I kept thinking that it sounded like something was rubbing, but I ignored it for a while.

Then I hit the hill at mile 4. Ugh! I had to walk my bike up. This is the first time on the route that I passed anyone. I was walking faster than the other walkers. I got to the top of the first big hill. There were spectators yelling, "You just finished the worst hill of the race!" Woo, hoo! Then a tiny bit of downhill. Then... wait... another big hill to walk up! At the top of that hill, "You made it to the top of the worst hill!" Hey, that sounded familiar. Another little downhill, then ANOTHER big hill. (Ok, not quite as big as the others.) "You finished the big hills!" Then me to the spectators, "I've heard that at the top of every hill!" "Yes, but this really is the last big hill!" Sure enough, that was the last big hill and then there was a mile of downhill, at the bottom of which you had to slow down to make a turn.

(I was going to put a graph here showing the elevation of the bike ride, but the copyright on the graphic made me pause. Try looking HERE and click the Show Elevation check box in the upper right corner.)

At this point, I stopped ignoring the rubbing and realized that, indeed, my front brake had gotten out of adjustment and was rubbing. Should I keep going, or fix it? I decided it was worth stopping to see what I could do. This being the Danskin, everyone that passed asked if I was ok. I got really lucky and right after I stopped a roving repair truck came by and stopped. The guy brought my bike over to the back of his truck, took out a tool, made an adjustment (and a comment about my old brakes) and I was on my way. At that point I realized that the first half of my ride was a bit more difficult than it needed to be because after the fix, the bike felt much smoother. Live and learn.

I was almost to the end of the bike ride and I hear, "Hey, Jill!" My friend Sara was passing me. (Keep in mind she started like 30 minutes behind me!) I could see her in front of me going into the transition area.

Transition 2
Transition 2 was quick. Jog in with the bike, rack it, remove helmet and gloves, take off to the run start. It was under 2 minutes.

The Run
I grabbed a bag of Jelly Belly Sport Beans from the woman who was handing them out at the run start. I ripped it open, put a couple in my mouth, then realized that I really didn't want them. There I was running with a handful of jelly beans and feeling awkward about dropping them. But I did.

My legs were so tired from the bike ride, I really had a hard time getting going on the run. I walked a lot of the first part. I thought that Sara must have made it out of the transition area before me because after a couple of minutes, she still hadn't passed me. But then I heard, "Run, Jill!" Turns out she used the porta-potty on the 2nd transition, so she took quite a bit longer than me. She went flying by. (How annoying, she passed me twice!) I eventually got into a groove and did "run" most of it. It was an out and back run, so I high-fived Sara on her way back from the turn-around. Once I was past the turn-around, it was a good feeling to know that I was getting closer to the end, and once I got to the transition area I could stop!

The Finish
When I was almost there, I heard Sara and Denise cheering me on from the side. I took off my hat and sunglasses so you could see my face in the celebration pictures. Sally Edwards was there high-fiving the finishers. I made it! I'm a triathlete (again)! Once I stopped I wanted to collapse, but that didn't last too long. My friends met me at the finish, we got some food, stood in line to have our picture taken together, and then headed back to get our bikes. Here's a photo after the race. From left to right, it's Denise, me, and Sara.

Here's my results with my own comments added:
ATKINS, JILL Bib #1211 F 40-44 WESTFORD , MA 01886
Overall Rank - 2319 of 2468 (I beat 149 people)
Class Rank - 437 of 451 (but I only beat 14 people my own age)
Swim -00:16:06 (No way it was 1/2 mi. -- I don't swim that fast!)
Swim Rank -2104 (Hey look, I beat 364 people on the swim!)
Trans1 - 00:09:10 (Ugh! That's what a bathroom break does for you!)
Bike - 01:11:31 (Pretty awful...)
Bike Rank -2359 (but still in ahead of over 100 people...)
MPH - 10.0 (A lot of people could have run it faster than this!)
Trans2 - 00:01:53 (The only time during the race I was actually fast!)
Run - 00:37:27 (I couldn't have expected to do better than this.)
Run Rank - 2144 (That' ahead of 324 people...).
Pace - 00:12:04 (Believe it or not, this is my usual pace.)
Final - 02:16:09 (Pretty darn close to my goal of 2:10!)

Sara's final time was 01:47:35.
Denise's final time was 01:27:16.
Pretty awesome, huh?

You can look up results for me and all the other competitors by going to the Danskin Race Results web site, click the link, and select 2008 NEW ENGLAND RESULTS at the bottom. (Race numbers: Me 1211, Sara 2099, Denise 1724)

Added 7/30:
You can now go to and look up our race numbers to see photos. (Also look up photo # 36769-320-010 to see me coming out of the water. My number washed off because of the sunscreen so my photo was in the lost-and-found.)


Ann in NJ said...

Jill, that is so awesome! I was just reading in the paper this weekend (I read about triathalons, you run them!) about the bike/run transition being really painful. Biking shortens up your quads, and running lengthens them. Ouch.

On the safety/swimming note, I wasn't hugely worried about you, mostly it was because of the guy that drowned down here on Saturday. They had sensors on the swimmers for when they went in the water and when they came out, and he was never tracked as coming out. It did cross my mind that swimming in a mob could be hazardous. I'm glad to hear they had such responsive safety measures, especially with the large number of first-timers.

So excellent that you came so close to your goal. That's only, like, 4% difference. Like, say, one potty break. :)

Ruth in NJ said...

I'm so glad you shared your story.
My friend Ann "in NJ" passed your blog on to me. I'm doing my first Danskin Triathlon this coming Sunday and your blog was so helpful. I loved all your pictures and funny stories. It's helping me to prepare. Congratulations!
Ruth in NJ