"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Monday, October 03, 2005

How it Went

The split times for the individual segments haven't been posted yet, but I achieved my goal of finishing in less than 2 hours and finished in the top half of the pack, around 133rd out of about 300.

Unfortunately the hoped-for photo documentation of my participation didn't happen. I should have left my camera with Celia and our friends Liza and Jen who came to watch rather than leaving it my truck. I have a photo I took of the Rancho Seco cooling towers on the way to the event, but that's not really an action shot. So I'll try to describe it:

Arrived about 45 minutes before the start and had to get signed in, get bib numbers and safety pins and so forth, find a spot to set up in the transition area (rows of bike racks and towels on the ground with bike and running shoes laid out). Was given a color-coded latex swimcap for my wave (swimmers took off in age groups 5 minutes apart). Donned my tri suit and had myself marked with my bib number and age (a guy with a black magic marker wrote the number on both shoulders, above both knees, and on the back of both hands, and wrote my age on the back of my left calf. On the right calf he drew a little smiley face just for symmetry and to spread cheer, I guess). Then I really felt like a triathlete.

About ten minutes before the start, I headed to the water to get adjusted. Some people had wetsuits and I think they must have been steam cooked by the time they finished the swim, because the water felt like it was at least 72 degrees. Buoys were set out in the lake to mark the swim course. They appeared to be far, far away both from the shore and from each other.

My wave was the second to take off. Turns out that it wasn't horribly crowded and no one kicked me in the head, but it was really hard to relax and swim freestyle. My goggles leaked continuously. The water was solid green when I looked down so I felt like I was making no progress. After about ten minutes the wave after mine caught up with and mostly passed me. The safety crew in their kayaks seemed to be following me and occasionally shouted words of encouragement. I don't think I looked like I was drowing or anything; they probably just tried to encourage anyone who appeared to be doing breaststroke for 3/4 of the swim and stopping to adjust her goggles every two minutes.

Much to my surprise, when I reached shallow water and began to run for the shore, only 22 minutes had passed. About the same amount of time it takes me to swim freestyle for half a mile, calmly, in a pool.

I guess it's no big surprise, but the swim is definitely my weak link and (other than the goggle problem) it's a mental training issue as much or more than a physical one.

Once I got on my bike I felt great and started catching up. I passed other riders throughout the bike leg and was only passed a couple times by some women who looked like they had a few of these events under their proverbial belts (and they were both 40-something, so they've had more time to train). The bike course was a series of rolling hills, just enough to be interesting but not too hard. I lost a bolt on my rear touring rack (should have taken it off before the race, but didn't) and the strut rattled like crazy against my chainstay the whole time but fortunately caused no problems other than self-consciousness. When I finished the bike leg, Celia, Liza and Jen were there cheering! As I told them yesterday, having the cheering section is better than a packet of caffeinated Gu for giving one's spirits a boost. Though having both is probably ideal.

The run felt pretty good too. My legs were tired but they've been through worse. Running course was out and back on a dirt road with a few more little rolling hills and some treacherous star thistle, but three miles didn't seem very far. I had enough juice to pick up the pace and finish in a sprint for the last 200 yards or so.

Then I was done, in an hour and fifty minutes! Except for the swim, I felt like it was more fun than it was difficult. I won't be ready to graduate to olympic distance triathlons until I'm more secure with the swimming thing.

One of the best parts of this event was the physical diversity of the women participating. All shapes and sizes. Seeing them hit home how completely wrong is society's / the media's concept of what a strong, healthy woman looks like. When you look in the mirror, it is so hard to get that kind of BS out of your head once it's in there, even if you are (as I fancy myself) an otherwise mostly rational person.

Anyway, the event inspired me to want to make feeling good the sole motivating factor for my exercise and nutrition. It's the only goal that seems really attainable. That is not to say that it wouldn't "feel good" to improve my time a bit in the next triathlon, or navigate the overland bike route. I foresee some occasions when "feeling good" might be less than pleasant. OK, maybe there will always be multiple motivating factors. I just don't want worrying about how I look to be one of them.

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