A Fresh Start

I waited for it all winter with anticipation – my first race of the season. I trained for it, dreamt about it and really looked forward to it – until about three days before the start. On the morning of the event, I wanted to go to Lake Cahuilla County Park for the Toyota Desert International Triathlon about as badly as Stacey’s neurotic cat wants to go the vet.

My training partner Gayla from Tri-Zone graciously offered to meet me at my hotel and act as my tri-sherpa for the day. She drove up at 4:00 a.m. to help me out. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her! (Curling up in the fetal position in my hotel room was tempting.) She schlepped my stuff. She made me laugh. And calmed me down.

Okay, so this newbie triathlete hasn’t mastered her pre-race jitters. It’s my second season. It was my first time in a wet suit all year. The first time in open water all year – for a 3/4 of a mile swim.

Would I swim straight? (Pretty much.) Would I freak out about swimming in a crowd? (A couple of times.) Would I gag? (Only once.) More than anything, I did not want to be escorted by lifeguards. I did not want to hear, “Are you all right, ‘Ma'am?” It’s never good to be called “Ma'am.” (They didn’t get the chance.)

As I exited the water, one of the race directors shouted, “26 minutes!” Really? Was she talking to me?! Then I heard my swim coach, Beth Hibbard, cheering for me. I wanted to hug her right there. Even if I had three flats on the bike and bonked on the run, it was a victory. I may’ve taken more than 15 minutes off last year’s time. [SPLITS ARE IN NOW: See below.]

T1 was slow. Gayla joked, “We’re gonna have to work on that!” I joked back as I stumbled out of my wet suit, “Yeah, I need to practice my stripping.”

The bike course was flat. The wind was light. The roads were bumpy in places. There were two loops, which gave me the chance to watch the really fast, young guys blow past me on their tricked-out tri bikes complete with disk wheels. Of course, there’s a no-drafting rule, but I swear they went by me like a Tour de France peloton. And when they did, they made this distinct whooomp, whooomp , whooomp sound. I was trying to think of what that sound reminded me of – it came to me last night — a very loud neonatal ultrasound. Yup, that was it.

My pace seemed a tad too fast, but I guess all those pre-race jitters needed to burn up somewhere. T2 went better. Rubber wasn’t involved. Ditched the bike. Switched the shoes. And off I went.

The run took us through some sandy trails with beige desert mountains as a backdrop. It reminded me of an old John Wayne movie. Then the course took us around Lake Cahuilla where many areas were gravel and sand, too. The run was two loops. And of course, it felt great to finally reach the finish. Ahhh, no more jitters.

When the race was over, we had the chance to mingle with other participants before the awards ceremony started. Gayla introduced me to a few of her long-time customers. There was a funny moment when we all commented on the great bike fit she gave us. A chorus of “Thank you, Gayla!” Five glowing endorsements for Tri-Zone’s Certified F.I.ST. Tri Bike professional fitting. I don’t have my actual splits yet, but I think I took 15 minutes off last summer’s Olympic-distance time.

There was a special award given out – the Tony Curry Inspirational Award – to honor a fallen triathlete. The recipient was chosen for inspiring other athletes. The recipient came back from a broken neck to continue her career as a professional triathlete. Then he announced her name, “Beth Hibbard!” She’s been coaching me since November and I had no idea she came back from such a terrible injury. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient :-)

The official race results with splits haven’t been posted yet. My take-charge training partner, Sandy, emailed the race director and got the results today anyway. So, I know my time was 2:48:54. Last summer, on another slightly longer, hillier course, I had a time of 3:40:06. Couldn't have done it without Beth, Gayla and my other training partners (stay tuned for more about them in another post). ****SPLITS ARE FINALLY IN: Swim 26:48, Bike 1:26:46, Run 55:20; Transitions were added to these times rather than recorded separately. Think T1 must've been over 3 minutes compared to my Garmin.