Yes, I understand that's part of the whole sport of triathlon -- the first leg involves a swim. But earlier this month at Keuka Lake my first open water competitive swim was spent on my back, floating, backstroking and calling over Ashley, my personal lifeguard.
At the Quakerman Triathlon in Orchard Park on Sunday, there was no floating on my back. Granted, I made friend with the lifeguards on the surfboards during the swim warm up, but I never needed to hang on to board, canoe or member of the Buffalo Underwater Recovery Team.
Green Lake may be the ideal introductory open swim for a local triathlon. There are no waves. There is no current. It's kinda like a big pool.
I started out slow. My breathing was rushed. It wasn't panic but nerves and adrenaline -- like a basketball player who airballs her first 3-pointer at the start of a big game. I wrote notes on my hand before the swim: "strong" on my right hand and "chocolate milk" on my left to help me focus and relax. I started thinking strong and went to my default plan -- count 10 breaststrokes then 10 freestyle strokes. Eventually, I was doing all freestyle. I went back to breaststroke several times -- when I needed a breather, when I needed to site where I was in relation to the next buoy or when another swimmer bumped into me and I had to get my rhythm back.
Several times I was passed by some speedy swimmers. I paused again in breaststroke, let them swim into and on top of each other, then resumed my slow, but steady swim.
My official swim time -- including the run from the beach back over to transition -- was 18:51.
Most importantly, I swam the entire time. I felt smooth and strong.
On the bike I hammered through the second loop, including taking one of the intersections a bit too fast. I made a wide turn and ended up in a pothole filled gravel parking lot. Impressively (at least to me) I negotiated the mistake well, kept my balance and poise and got back on the road. I then said a quick prayer nothing broke on my bike and, thank you higher power, nothing did.
In the end, I averaged 19.7 miles per hour on the 22 mile course to finish in 1:06:54 -- that's more than three-miles an hour faster than my average speed at Keuka.
On the run, I felt like one big plodder. The route through a residential area next to Yates Park was well marked and tree-lined but I felt incredibly slow and heavy. It was a four-mile run and when I heard I had about 300 yards to go I started to kick it up. My timing on the run needs to get better, or my endurance needs to improve, because I try to speed up for the finish a bit too soon. The end, which was very cruel, included a short hill. Volunteers said "up the hill and the finish is there" -- but unfortunately it was still a few feet away.
l found the wizard on the final sprint and couldn't push it across the line, but still, my run pace was 9:19. Really? I ran a 9:19 mile? That's the fastest pace time I've ever recorded.
Final tally: I did the course in 2 hours, five minutes and 14 seconds finishing 131 overall out of 211 registered participants.
But more important than where I finished is how I did and how I felt. My swim was 100 times better while my bike and run were both faster paces and stronger finishes.
While family, friends and Sherpa have some suggestions on improving event management for spectators at the event, as a participant, I had no problems. For a first-time triathlon, things seemed to go smoothly, at least from my perspective.
And the Canisius sports information department will be happy to know that this triathlon did not ruin my appetite and I heartily finished all of my blueberry pancakes.
As an aside, my warm-up event on Saturday was the Ride for Roswell. A great event for a great cause, I got the rain and wind out of my system during the 33-mile ride. It was a light and easy ride for me, completely for fun.
Still, I have to note how disappointed I was in the Ride for Roswell's post-ride party. An event that's meant in part to help promote healthy living and disease prevention had hardly any healthy options in the lunch tent for participants. Worse yet, there was no vegetarian option. The announced rider figure was around 6,000 -- surely I could not have been the only vegetarian on the ride. How hard could it be to have a peanut butter sandwich option in the boxed lunches or offer veggie burgers with the cookout?