I am a swimmer. I am a biker. I am a runner. And as of today, I am officially a triathlete. Team APES (or APS, as we were today) headed to Staten Island this morning for the Pancake Triathlon. So-called because the course is "flat as a pancake," the race included a .25 mile swim, a 12 mile bike ride and a 5k run.
I pulled on my wetsuit and entered the water without a problem. I lined up behind the big, orange buoys with the other swimmers in my wave and listened for the starting whistle. Tweet! And off we swam. Three strokes in and I was kicked in the shoulder. Two more strokes and I was elbowed in the ribs. Another stroke and I swallowed a mouthful of salt water. And then I panicked. The feeling was unparalleled. I was flailing, I couldn't breathe. I could feel myself starting to sweat in my wetsuit. I was hyperventilating. As I felt myself getting farther and farther away from the other swimmers in my division, I had more space to move and gather my thoughts. I was only 25 yards off shore and could have easily paddled/floated back in, or flagged one of the many kayaking lifeguards to help me out. But I really wanted to finish the race. So I flipped onto my back and floated. A wetsuit in salt water certainly makes that easy! A few deep breaths and I started to regain composure. I turned back onto my stomach and proceeded to do breast stroke to the second set of buoys. I alternated back stroke and breast stroke for the rest of the swim. It was one of the longest 18 minutes of my life.
The course consisted of three four mile loops. I'd much rather do an "out-and-back" (six miles out and six miles back) but I finished without a problem. I enjoyed a snack somewhere around mile four, loaned a rider my tire levers at mile seven, saw another rider strapped to a stretcher get whisked off to a waiting ambulance at mile eight, sipped some Gatorade at mile ten and managed to get back to the transition area about 46 minutes after I left.
My legs, of course, felt like jello when I left off my bike and jogged onto the running path. It took me about a mile and a quarter to get comfortable. I caught Paige (who was still ahead of me from the swim!), grabbed a swig of Gatorade from the race marshals at the halfway point, and sprinted to the finish. Shockingly enough, I timed in at my normal 28-minute 5k time.
The Finishing Ceremony
Anyone who knows me, knows that my favorite meal is a buffet. And what did they have waiting for us at the finish line? A BUFFET! Here's my plate:
In case you can't tell, that's pancakes with PB&J, M&Ms (peanut for protein), Swedish Fish (for Red Dye #4), grapes, a pretzel rod, chocolate chip cookies, a banana, water and a Diet Coke.
Overall, minus my total meltdown during the swim, I think that it was a successful first triathlon. With one month and six days until the NYC Tri, I've got enough time to get in two more open water swims, some longer runs and a few more hilly bike rides. And maybe another buffet (or two).
And just for the record, the veteran racers and race officials did agree that today's swim was particularly difficult: choppy water, high waves and freezing temperatures all made this swim considerably harder than previous years. While I'm sure that had something to do with my "issues," I can't completely ignore my lack of experience. But it is nice to know that I'm not the only one who had problems.