Ah! I did it! I am a sprint triathlete! I want to recap this day so I can remember it forever. Lots of pictures and thoughts to follow! I swam 0.5 mile, biked 12 miles and ran 3.1 miles.
Below is the view I woke up to on the morning of Saturday, August 30, 2014 in Hot Springs, SD – 10 miles from the beautiful Angostura Reservoir. I stayed at the Super 8 (very reasonable rates) hotel in Hot Springs so I could get up early and participate in the 17th Annual Southern Hills Triathlon. The triathlon benefits the Hot Springs library in the gorgeous southern Black Hills of South Dakota.
I had decided a few months back to challenge myself and train for a sprint tri. I was scared and nervous. I looked online to see races and was disappointed in the time frame that those closest to me in proximity would not work for one reason or another. Also, ND is very limited on these races to begin with. I found this race scheduled for the long weekend of Labor Day and it seemed to be a perfect fit. I emailed the race director and got a quick response saying this isn’t a large race and that also set me at ease. I would HIGHLY recommend this race to anyone, especially a newbie.
I completed a 12-week training plan for the sprint using a combo of plans I found online and tips from a friend/trainer, Melissa. I went into this not knowing how to swim. I mean, I could swim for fun and tread water, but I didn’t know how to competitively swim. I took one lesson, but I basically taught myself by watching a couple YouTube videos and practicing. I was horrible to start and have PLENTY of room to improve. Swimming isn’t necessarily physically hard, but it is mentally difficult and a challenge to get the breathing down. Sticking your full face in water is just not a first instinct.
I did every training session and also threw in T25 for cross training. I swam, biked and ran in rain, wind, cold, humidity and heat. Most of my training was done before work and swimming done after. I had a lot of 2 a days training sessions. I swam in Beulah, Center and Hazen pools. I incorporated some open water swims as Lake Sakakawea warmed up. I biked hundreds of miles and ran more than I ever have in my life.
There are obviously factors in a race you can’t control such as weather and just having an off or bad day. (I still stalked the online weather report, ha.) But I did take control of my nutrition. We took Friday off of work and I packed my 3 meals, 2 snacks and breakfast for the next day. I loaded up on water to stay hydrated. I ate the way I usually did with some extra healthy carbs. I took a cooler with and made sure the Super 8 had a fridge and microwave. Easy enough. I ate foods I normally would and knew agreed with my stomach. I practiced eating prior to doing brick workouts (bike and then run immediately after) and knew what worked for me. Any athlete knows you don’t want any bathroom issues while you are in a swimsuit, on a bike in BFE or running on a trail. Yikes! I’m happy to say this was a great breakfast/did the trick.
I was lucky enough that I had my family traveling with and supporting me. I can’t tell you how happy I was to have their enthusiasm and help.
- Dad – chief driver and seated cheerleader! And he even wasn’t feeling well.
- Mom – by my side the whole time. Would have strapped my helmet on if they allowed her in the athlete transition area. Excellent cheers from this one!
- Sister – huge support and cheerleader. Always giving me positive feedback and encouragement. Chief photographer and beer drinking partner.
- Brother – quiet but fierce. Lifted my bike in and out numerous times and helped me with food and water.
I had a room to myself the night before the race so I could sleep well. While they all went out to eat, I stayed back with my packed dinner and laid out all my race items. There is a lot you need to have for a tri. Oh, and tried on my race shirt. I EARNED that and I will wear it until it falls apart. I love it!
Friday night in Hot Springs you could go pick up your packet (your race number, timing chip to wear on your ankle, complimentary long sleeve race tech T, pasta dinner ticket – I skipped that to eat my own food, and info on Hot Springs). You could alternately pick up your packet at 6am at Angostura Reservoir the day of the race.
Here I am, loaded up and ready to leave. The lake was about 10 minutes south of Hot Springs. We had driven there the night before to scope out the lay of the land as I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very beautiful and I would say similar in landscape to areas around Lake Sakakawea. Hilly and scenic. Angostura is a state resort so we had to pay a $6 fee per vehicle when entering the park. If you are a camper, definitely check this place out. It is gorgeous. The weather was chilly but promised to warm up quickly that day with a high reaching 90 degrees and little to no wind. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt to have a perfect weather day!
We could rack our bikes anywhere we wanted. I basically checked how others were setting up and did the same. You need your bike on the rack so you can take off quickly after the swim. You also lay out your biking helmet, sunglasses, clothes, shoes, etc. for everything you will need after your swim. I felt a bit shy as most people had road (faster and lighter) bikes and I have a hybrid. I knew going in I wouldn’t have the fanciest equipment and that was OK with me. You don’t need a road bike, clip-in shoes, Under Armour clothes, etc. You just need determination, a swimsuit (mine was $30), a bike and some good running shoes.
There was a hand drawn map showing where we went. Besides the sprint tri, there was also an Olympic tri, kids tri, duathlon and relay races.
Welp! This just got real. I was going to do this. My sister took most of these photos along with my Mom. Thank you both so much as the morning was a blur to me. Adrenaline was kicking in!
My sister took a picture of the ambulance in case I had to leave in this. LOL! Luckily, I did not and I don’t think anyone else did either.
I got my legs markered. We got our age and the “s” for sprint tri. We had an athlete meeting at 7am explaining the course and a few other fun facts.
- The youngest youth participant was 6 years old!
- The oldest was 70 years old!
- There was a racer from Louisiana! Along with other states, there were 4 from North Dakota.
- There is one lady (Barb who answered my emails) who has participated in all 17 triathlon events!
- They also spoke a lot about the library and how heavily it is used which was pretty cool for a more rural type area.
- Just looking at the racers it was awesome to see there was every age and shape out there ready to give it their all.
This is the face of a very nervous woman!!
How beautiful is the lake? Also, the beach was fantastic. Super sandy! The water temp was about 74 degrees which felt wonderful.
There I am in the red/black swimsuit. The Olympic race started at 7:30am and the Sprint at 8 am. The clock started only once so when I would finish I just needed to take 1/2 hour off of my race time to figure out roughly where I was at. Which reminds me…
These are my handwritten goals for the race. I had read you should have different levels of goals starting with more general to more specific.
I was one of the only sprint racers on the beach watching the Olympic racers take off. They went 2 laps for a total of 1 mile, while us Sprint group only had 1 lap. I wanted to see how it went since I have never seen a race like this in person. I actually have never even participated in a race other than walking a few local 5k’s! It was reassuring they had boats, kayakers and paddle boarders around the course in case you needed a break or some help.
Now I wait for 1/2 hour until my race started. It took forever. I was cold but after the Olympic group took off I went in the lake to get used to it and swam a couple strokes. Also, I racked my bike next to a really nice gal (I wish I got her name) and she gave me some excellent pointers about the swim and a particularly vicious hill on the bike. Thank you! What nice people! The race volunteers were also very helpful and generous in visiting with me.
“Warming” up in the lake. It was warmer in there and I may have also had to pee. No one will ever know. You can see I am one of very few who has a swimsuit on and not a wet suit. I ran out of time to try one and I was used to my suit so I stuck with that option.
Since I have never swam with anyone, let alone in a group, I decided to line up on the far left outside to give myself space.
Here I am leaving the swimming area after I knew I could touch and take off my swim cap and goggles. I was one of the last to finish. I asked my Mom if I was THE last and she said no. I was a bit disappointed to be so far towards the back of the pack, but also super proud I never had to stop to hang on to a kayak or buoy. The scariest part of this swim was the other people and just the panic/adrenaline. I wasn’t scared at all of lake monsters or fish like when I swam in Sakakawea. I just wanted to finish!
In a slightly cruel twist, we had to run through the cold, wet sand up a small hill to the transition area to get ready to bike.
At this point, I headed to put on my clothes, socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses to go BIKING! We had to run our bikes out to the road before we could mount them.
This was an out and back ride. We rode 6 miles out of the park and then turned around to where we started before our run. I was giving it all on my bike as I was short on breath and when I glanced at my watch I saw my heart rate was quite high. I didn’t want to burn my legs out too bad but racing in a pack really makes you push yourself!! We had to ride over a few cattle guards (no biggie) and cross a major road. The local Fire Dept. was helping so I didn’t have to stop for any reason.
Here I am returning from my ride. I was very happy with my performance and I am certain it was my fastest personal time for a 12 mile ride.
Next was the run. I just had to park my bike and remove my helmet and stuck a piece of gum in my mouth to get some saliva flowing.
The only thing I could do was be alone with my thoughts during the run. I immediately said – don’t walk! I also wanted to keep it under 30 minutes and that would get me at my goal. Well, about 2 minutes into the run I came to a big hill. I did end up walking for about 20 seconds. Luckily, I saw so many people on the trail saying good job or running, I felt motivated to run.
I was pretty undertrained for the hills I encountered on the run. Especially after biking, they were a challenge. I ended up walking two more times but probably only for about 10 seconds each. I really wanted to meet my goal of 1 hour 45 minutes and waffled between it would happen to it will never happen. I just wanted to be proud and finish strong. I thought about all my training, all I had been through in my weight loss and fitness journey and the support of my family here with me as well as from my husband. (He was in Las Vegas with his nephew so couldn’t be with us at the race.)
The hills were tough, the sun was beating down and I was dripping sweat. I came upon a water station and knew I was really close to the finish. (I never took in any water or fuel during the race as I never do when I train at home but they had a lot of well planned areas for that.)
Sure enough, turn the corner and there was the finish!! I was momentarily confused as to where to run since the kids were going down to the start of their tri but quickly figured it out. Here I come! Look at my smile – so happy!!
The clock said 2 hr 15 minutes so I had to be close to my goal!!
This is the face of a tired sprint triathlete! I totally cried at the end. It was just very emotional to complete what I worked so hard for and to be greeted by my cheering family! Only a few tears slipped out though.
Posing by the finish line after I got my medal!
I love this photo with my Mom! I was drawn for a door prize where I could pick a book or old race T shirt. I let her pick this t shirt. I am sure that is enough payback for all of her help and support and taking me 6 hours for a race, right? LOL! I wish I would have gotten a photo with everyone but some of my family members refuse a photo.
And here I am with a plate full of food afterwards. I felt super hungry during the bike but really full during the run? I had almost a dull stitch in my stomach during the run? Something I never experienced before. I wasn’t sure if I was hungry but loaded up my plate with 1/2 a PB&J sammy, cantaloupe, watermelon and some homemade desserts. The cantaloupe was the best ever. My brother bought me a water back in town and I drank that plus a gallon of water to rehydrate. I was thirsty.
This is what my heart rate monitor read. On another screen it shows my average heart rate of 162. Which is super high! Again – nerves, adrenaline and pushing myself all contributed. I did my best throughout the day to replenish with beer, nachos and pizza!
This is one of my biggest and greatest achievements. I’ve already been asked if I’ll do it again. I don’t know yet. I want to beat my time as I am competitive like that and I really need to improve in the swim but we will see what the winter brings. I would love a road bike but these things cost money.
My goal of finishing came true. My experience of being with my family for the event is something I’ll never forget. Thank you family for being there for me!
I realize my finish time is hard to read. The link to the results is here. I was 5th out of 9 in my age group. My swim was 27 minutes 35 seconds (just horrible, so much room for improvement here but still glad I did it), my bike was 46 minutes and 27 seconds (I’m happy with that on my bike) and my run was 28 minutes and 35 seconds (I need to train for hills a bit more to get that down somewhat but I’m ok with that time). My transitions were OK considering I didn’t really know what I was doing, ha!
I have been busted saying I “only” completed a sprint triathlon. I’m changing my tune though. I COMPLETED A SPRINT TRIATHLON and I am so proud! My official time was 1 hr 45 mins, 37 seconds. Close enough to say I reached all my goals, far enough away to want to improve next year…maybe? TBD!
I need to end this a bit sappy and thank Mark. I know he wanted to be there but had other obligations. He put up with me being tired, hungry, crying, doubting myself, complaining, and sweaty. So sweaty. He took me swimming, he told me to keep going and get out there and do what I needed to do. I could not have done it without his support. We have a lot of different interests and do a lot of things separately but we support each other and his help means the world to me.