It’s been 2 days but I’m still riding high on the post-race victory wave! Now that things have settled down (and I’ve caught up on my sleep, hello 9PM bedtime two nights in a row!), I can finally give you guys a good race recap. So here we go!
Before a big race, I always say I’m going to get a good night’s sleep and end up hitting the pillow close to 3 hours late after rushing around packing my race bag, figuring out my outfit, and obsessively checking/re-checking everything. This time, I was determined to NOT let that happen, so I spent all day Saturday taming my nerves by creating order around the house (while also packing my things and taking my bike out for a test spin around the neighborhood). I did laundry, dusted, cleaned the kitchen, and it felt awesome. As a former OCD sufferer, I find happiness in order, so I dealt with my pre-race jitters in a constructive way, and as a result, woke up at 3:30 Sunday morning with a smile and a sense of calm!
The gorgeous sunrise didn’t hurt either.
We arrived at Pier Village at about 5:30AM and found a parking spot easy peasy lemon squeezy. This also made my anxiety-prone mind happy! After a simple walk along the boards, I was marked with my bib number, entered the transition area, and staked out my little spot.
Transition slowly started to fill with people, and after only about 5 minutes of putzing around and setting up my space, my cousin arrived and parked next to me – hooray for someone to race with!
There was some more milling around as we used the bathroom one last time, hung out with my husband on the boardwalk, then shed our flip flops before transition closed at 6:30. The first wave of swimmers was due to go out at 6:50, so we hung around and watched them, and made our way down the beach once they set off.
After hanging out for a while and running into our new friend Amanda before she set out in her wave, Mike came down on the sand with us and kept us company while we nervously waited for our wave – the LAST wave – to go out at 7:29.
Once we were herded into our pen, an amazing volunteer stood at the front and gave us probably the sweetest pep talk I’ve ever heard. “Here we go, Wave 14! You guys are last but that just means you trained the hardest!” Accompanied by our coach (who was wearing his trademarked tiny gold speedo, as you’ll see in the photo below), we were assured repeatedly that the swim would be awesome.
I didn’t doubt it! The swells were nowhere near as large as they’d been in the past 2 swims I did with the group, and the course seemed MUCH shorter. They even spotted some dolphins out there! Finally, the countdown was up and we were released into the water.
The water was so warm!! I was thrilled and couldn’t help running right into the waves, laughing. I could hear Heather right next to me chatting with our coach, and I knew she was going to do great. I put my head down and paddled through the breakers, and within a minute or two I was already at the first buoy! The energetic volunteers in kayaks and on surfboards kept yelling out encouragement (“The hard part is over, guys!”) and once I rounded the first corner I settled into a rhythm. Stroke, stroke, stroke, look up, breathe, repeat.
After a few minutes I took a moment to soak everything in – it was really happening! I was competing in my first triathlon. The sun sparkled over the horizon in a cloudless sky, the women around me were all cheering each other on, the water danced calmly all around us. It was a moment I’ll never forget – it’s amazing where your life takes you sometimes, isn’t it?
Once I made it to the second buoy to turn back to the water, I kicked and paddled for a bit and let the ocean do some of the work to get me back to shore. I touched my toes to the sand and saw about a dozen people in the shallows helping swimmers out of the water. Just as I was about waist deep, I made eye contact with one of these volunteers – just in time to see his eyes go wide and hear him say, “Duck.” Without a second thought, I ducked straight down and felt a big wave crash right over my head. I was safe! When I popped back up I saw him making his way behind me for another swimmer and yelled out to him, “Thank you!!”
Well, I spoke too soon. I made it 2 steps before the water surged backwards around my shins and glued me in place for the next wave to smash right into my back, knocking me chest-first into the sand. I put my arms out so I didn’t tumble around, but I felt the sand rush into my top and bra, and down my shorts. Thankfully, two volunteers rushed for me as I got to my feet a second time, each one taking an arm and asking me if I was OK – these volunteers were ON POINT! I said I was fine and shook some sand out of my top when I spotted Mike on the water line. I called his name and smiled: how fun to see him right there!
I honestly don’t remember what I said to him, but he kept me company as I got my feet under me, and then I was off, running up the beach to T1.
Swim Time: 9:04 (.17 miles)
The volunteers at the stairs, standing with hoses, and offering water before transition were all so kind. I can’t overstate this part: the volunteers throughout the entire event were AMAZING. I’ve done a lot of races, but the people that worked this one were the best I’ve ever seen. Every one had a smile and a kind word, and not one of them was being paid. Seriously fantastic!
Once I got into transition I sat down at my towel and washed my feet off, got my socks & sneakers on, and realized that Heather was nowhere to be found. I got my helmet on, drank some Nuun, and putzed around for another minute or two when she came running in and we were able to go out on the bike together – and Mike was even able to get a pic of me as I was running out!
T1 Time: 7:47
We hopped on our bikes and made our way onto the course, and despite the sand wedged into my bra, top, and shorts, I powered through and fell right into a groove. The first flat mile clicked by under 5 minutes, and I was happy. Heather and I chatted a bit for miles 2-4, and once I took a nice long drink from my bike bottle I took off ahead and went for it. The course was almost entirely empty at this point – damn Wave 14 being the last – and I made a mental note to register for an earlier wave in my next tri.
Even though it was empty at the back of the pack, I just kept pedaling and smiling and singing along to myself – I’m sure I looked quite mad, but I was having a freakin’ blast! The course was nearly completely flat, all through Long Branch, Deal, and into Asbury. I laughed to myself when I biked over the same streets I ran just a few months ago during the Asbury Park Half Marathon, and turned around at mile 6-ish to head back the way we came. There were a few other people now along the course – some were just recreational bikers and others were a part of the race – so I got the satisfaction of picking a few off as I passed. I was certainly not breaking any speed records, but I wanted to avoid that strange cramping I experienced on my last brick workout.
Once I got to mile 9-ish though, I panicked briefly & slowed: the signs and road cones were all gone. Did I make a wrong turn? If all else fails, I thought, I can just bike to where we came out of. Finally, at mile 10.75, I approached a corner and saw a few people standing between cones that continued past the street. I slowed and asked them “Do I go straight or turn?” Evidently I was dealing with the only two volunteers who kind of stunk at their job. They didn’t hear me at first, so I had to full-on stop and ask again, “Do I go straight?!” Finally, one of them says, “Sure, if you want?” Incredulous, I spat out “I’M IN THE RACE!” to which he replied, “OH, then go right!” I laughed and shook my head as I turned and started up again, a little annoyed at having to stop like that.
But once I came around the corner and into the finish area, the other volunteers were on point again. As I dismounted, one genuinely asked me how I was feeling, and walked with me until I answered, “Great!” and ran my bike back into transition for T2 and the run.
Bike Time: 55:18 (11 miles)
This transition was even simpler – I just had to drop my bike & helmet off and put my hat on, but I stayed a moment to slug back another 1/3 of my bottle of Nuun. Then I was off – Mike even got me there too!!
T2 Time: 2:08
Within a few strides out of the gate, I could tell this was going to be difficult. In the first quarter mile, I passed two women who were walking and really struggling, so I slowed to walk and offered encouragement to each of them: “We’ve got this, one foot in front of the other!” Honestly, it was half for them and half for me at this point. I had been feeling good, but the full sun right on the boardwalk was harsh. But I told myself it was only 3 miles and the quicker I moved the sooner it’d be over. So I ran.
I looked at my watch at .60 and let out a few curses that I kind of regret now, seeing as how there were children in the area. But it was getting really raw out there. At the turnaround near mile 1, I had somehow convinced myself that the race was only 2 miles. The finish line was right near transition, and all we had to do was run back to there, right? I know, I was delusional, but it got me through that middle stretch, OK?
I turned to cheers and high fives from the volunteers there and plowed through without even looking at my watch. At around 1.3, Heather passed me going in the opposite direction – all she could manage was “Where’s the turnaround?” I pointed behind me and said, “Not far!” But once I got near the finish line at mile 2 and saw that the finishers were coming in from the other direction, I realized I still had another mile to go. And that’s when I felt like crying.
It might have been the emotions of the day catching up with me, but I just wanted it to be over. Especially after seeing the finish line area filled with people already wearing their medals and celebrating, knowing that I had nearly another mile to go was a real gut punch. Instead of letting it get to me though, I put my head down and told myself – out loud – to suck it up and just finish the f*cking race. Once I made it to the final turnaround at mile 2.6, I made a mental promise to start running once I hit the boards and not stop until I had that medal around my neck.
That’s where I passed Heather again, and we gave each other some last minute encouragement. When my feet hit the boards I just kept trudging. I didn’t necessarily hurt, I just wanted it to be done with. I glanced at my watch and saw an average time of 11:45 and thought: Hell no, I’m not going out like that! So I pulled a little extra out of the tank and picked up the pace for the last quarter mile. Once I was in sight of the clock and saw 2:27, I wanted to beat 2:30 (never mind the fact that the time wasn’t adjusted for wave starts).
So I pushed and smiled and heard the shouts of everyone at the finish line cheering me on as I crossed the mat with the announcer’s voice booming out my name: I was a triathlete!!
Run Time: 34:45 (3 miles, 11:35/mile pace!!)
At the finish line I thought I’d cry or collapse or something – but I was honestly so amazed that all I could do was laugh and smile and shout out “YEAH!” as the volunteer handed me my medal. Mike was right there to give me a big hug and lots of congrats as another volunteer removed my ankle timing chip – and that was that!
TOTAL TIME: 1:49:00
Mike went to feed the meter while I waited to cheer Heather in – she finished not long after – and we had done it!
Even though I felt like crying there during the run, I knew from the moment I crossed that mat that I was going to do this again. The people in charge of this event deserve their own medals for organizing such a seamless experience, from the outstanding volunteer support to well-thought-out transition areas – it was all perfect. The experience was so overwhelmingly positive and rewarding that I’m already planning my next triathlon in September!