Charleston Sprint Recap

Yesterday I raced the Charleston Sprint Triathlon. 500 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. No big deal…right? This is basically the same distance that I did last month. The difference is this:

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A lake swim.

Luckily last summer I spent a good bit of time swimming in the lake with my friend Cynthia. The open water itself didn’t scare me, but my history in races did. During the Parris Island pool swim I panicked. I couldn’t catch my breath and had to be coached every lap. Katie was there for me every 50 meters telling me it would be ok. Breathe. You can do this.

She was at the lake – in the middle of it. Standing up on her paddle board watching for people in need. She was not there to focus on me. There were other kayaks and lifeguards. I knew I was safe if something happened, but there were no panic rest stops. No walls to hang on to.

Check in was Friday night and I had a chance to look at the lake with Katie and she told me how it was going to go. It was a wave start – I was in wave 10. The 70.3 people would start first – they had to swim two big laps, 1.2 miles. We had to swim a triangle shape from the shore, around two green buoys and back

Run up a hill, strip off the wetsuit, and transition to the bike. Easy enough.

Race morning started early… the alarm went off at 4:20 AM after a night of fitful sleeping and dreaming of swimming in waves. To top it off it was raining. Cold rain.

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After standing in the cold rain for nearly an hour it occurred to me that I had a wetsuit that might help keep me warm. Sadly, my wetsuit is sleeveless and my jacket was saturated. I was shivering like crazy. There was no warming up. The lake was not inviting. People were leaving. It was so tempting to just disappear into the cold, wet darkness.

It was finally time. We had to head down to the lake. I was so nervous I could barely speak for fear I would cry. I really wanted to bail, but I had to face my fears. Every wave has a swim cap color. I was a in the lime green wave…. females 39 and YOUNGER and Athenas. Lovely. I was with a bunch of young, non-wetsuit, tri-bikini wearing girls.

After the last men’s wave took off we were summoned into the water where we waded in and had to tread water for a few minutes. The water was warm and nice. MUCH warmer than the air so I was a bit relieved. I found my place at the back, left of the wave. I just wanted to find my space and do my thing. In the water the buoys looked farther away then they did on land. The horn sounded and we were off.

I stuck my head in the water and went. Not fast but steady. I found my pace and focused on swimming straight. I sighted a few times and stayed on point. Nearing the first buoy I heard the horn again… that meant the next wave started. Within a few minutes they were upon me. WOW – fast. Luckily they just passed by. Nobody bumped into me or had to swim over me.

I rounded the second buoy and I felt home -free. A few more meters and I could finally see this:

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A short run up the hill and I was in transition and on the bike.

I felt so good! I can’t even explain how wonderful I felt getting out of that water. The worst was over.

Until

Hmmmm,, what is that weird feeling? A flat tire at mile 5. I had just passed at least 30 people and I was flying. I pulled over and immediately went to work. I know how to change a tire. I took a class two year ago. Ugh. It took me at least 15 min to get the tire off (since I forgot to notice that the little tire tool wasn’t in my bag). Got that done, got the new tube in…. low and behold… no air.

How could this be? I had a CO2 canister. It was empty. Last week at the Assault on Carolina ride I was a good sport and let a poor stranger with a flat use my air. I forgot about that. Now I had no air.

More time passed. More people passed. I was alone, greasy and airless. I called Katie for some reason, but she was on the lake. Besides, she couldn’t help me anyways. Those are the rules – you cannot take aid from anyone on the course.

The SAG wagon finally appeared and I fully expected to be taken back, but he started pumping up my tired. Another man pulled up and asked for my number… he assumed I was out. The other guy told him that the officials said he could help riders, as long as he helped them equally. the other guy finally decided it was ok and said I could continue. Actually at this point I almost wanted to quit. It was a lonely road ahead. Most people were probably finished with the run already. It was going to be embarrassing rolling in and this point and starting my run. I heard John in my head saying, “suck it up”.

I got to transition and most were packing up their gear. It was horrible getting ready for the run. I felt like a failure. I felt like every spectator I passed while running was thinking “oh, poor fat girl… bless her heart she is so slow…”

I ran a decent run. I kept a good pace, but certainly didn’t “race” like I was planning. I finally finished.

1:59 (my goal time was <1:30)

I was proud for being brave and finishing. Katie was proud. She said, "Part of triathlon is dealing with what is dealt on race day. Every race you learn something new."

I will save what I learned for another post…. there is a lot.

5 Comments

  1. Ted Phelps

    Way to hang in there, Laura. Improvise, persevere and overcome. Great story!

  2. lauraph2009

    Oooh rah! Thanks Dad!

  3. Linda Phelps

    So proud of you that you hung in there!

  4. lauraph2009

    Thank you Mom!!!

  5. What a race! What determination to hang in there!!

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