Ironing It Out

Bring it! Or something like that.

I have a rule: I don't do triathlons  in Boulder. Boulder is full of athletes who intimidate me; they have 4% body fat and always seem to have a game-face and clock splits I couldn't even dream of. Plus, most triathlon runs in Boulder are around the reservoir, where the lack of shade not only makes hot days scorchers, but leaves little to the imagination about how far you still have to go. (There are runners all the way over there? )

I made an exception, though, for the Athleta IronGirl. I know that women's-only races are worlds apart from coed ones; the supportive, we're-in-this-together atmosphere means people leave the 'tudes at home and all sizes, shapes, and experience levels turn out. I love that. I wanted to start this year-long chapter of my triathlon life in a place I knew I wouldn't--and couldn't--psyche myself out. Plus, the sprint distance--1/4 mile swim; 17.2 mile bike; 3.1 mile run--was a perfect length to see where I was, fitness-wise, before I commit to the Harvest Moon half-Ironman in September.

As much I as I love the estrogen-scented vibe, I'm not a pre-race hanger-outer. I'd rather get there, get my number, use the bathroom, set up my transition area, and race. Which is what I pretty much did, except that I had about 40 minutes between when the transition area closed and my age-group wave (hello 40!) went off. I'm not a warmer-upper either, but I jumped in the water to see how my Zoot racewear would feel (and to, um, use the bathroom again); this swim, in 74 degree water, was my first open-water swim without a wet suit. I felt sleek and strong and comfy, so did about 20 strokes then hung out with Beth from Shut Up and Run on the beach for a bit.

Feeling bold, I centered myself at the front of the swim, knowing it would be over in a flash. I went out too hard, if there is such a thing in a sprint triathlon, and my body felt all tingly within a few strokes and I freaked a little bit. But I reminded myself there isn't such a thing as pushing too much in a sprint tri, so I found my rhythm, and rounded the four buoys as quickly as my long limbs would carry me, which turned out to be a little over seven minutes. Sweet.

Transition one--or T1 in tri speak--from swim to bike was pretty smooth. Lyle, my two-wheeled Trek steed, is a little too tall to fit well on the rack, so it took a little maneuvering to get him him out, but once we hit the road, we were rolling. My one goal for this race was to see if I could average over 20 mph on Lyle; based on my training paces, I thought that would be a challenging but attainable goal. (And let's be honest: lightweight, sleek Lyle basically gives me at least 2 mph of free speed.) I thought it would be, but wasn't sure; I'm not a course studier either, so I didn't know what I was up against, hill-wise.

Turns out, the hills weren't bad at all. There was one slight climb for a few miles towards the beginning, but I put my bike computer on cadence and just concentrated on keeping my pedals turning quickly: I wanted 85-90 revolutions per minute, so I didn't wear my legs out prematurely. Once we got over that climb, Lyle and I flew. Every time I passed somebody, I made sure to say, "Nice job," and I got a few compliments back too. Love that too. We're all pushed each other towards the finish line.

I'm not saying that doesn't happen in co-ed races, but I'm never sure if the guy I'm passing in a tri would want me to say something, or if the fact that he's "getting chicked" stings him so badly I'd just be adding hydrogen peroxide to the wound, so to speak. I realize that's this imaginary male's problem, and not mine, but it stresses me out enough in a co-ed tri that I usually keep my mouth closed unless I'm passing somebody who I sense is friendly.

I was the passer, not the passee, until about mile 16 when a woman with 41 on her calf whizzed by. "Look at this view," she said, talking about the Flatirons ahead, "How lucky we are to be out here today." I agreed, trying to put on a poker voice to show I wasn't kinda pissed she was spoiling my no-pass record. Then I decided I would do my best to stay with her. (Yes, I'm all warm and fuzzy until I get passed.) She pulled ahead as we headed towards home, so I used the opportunity to switch my computer over to my average speed: 20.5 mph. Nailed it. Thankyouverymuch, Lyle and legs.

My shadow was the only shade my Altra kicks saw all morning.

Back in transition, I saw only 2 (!) bikes on our age-group rack, which meant I was in third place. Seriously? Third? I knew my run was my weakest link, so I took drastic measures: I decided to skip putting on socks and instead cranked my feet into my new Altra Instincts with super speedy BOA lacing. (This, by the way, is not recommended. My shoes were brand new and I've never run without socks. And, yes, I now have the blister to prove it.) I put on my badass mother runner hat, forgot to grab the water bottle off my bike I wanted to take with me, and off I went.

My goal on this leg: to not walk and hopefully hang onto third place. I've always said I survive the run in triathlons, and today was going to be no different. I saw my bike record spoiler/view admirer take off, and was glad I didn't chase her down too hard on the bike, as she was definitely a faster runner than I've ever been. It was warm, but not as the last time I braved the rez three years ago, and I had two friends--Nancy Reinisch, a breast cancer survivor and the author of Chemosabee, and the great group of Tribellas--call me by name, which always puts a little spring in the step.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to hang onto a podium place. Right before Mile one, I was passed by a woman with a "44" on her leg. She was running so strong, I tried to convince myself she was on a relay team, but after a few steps, I realized there were no relays at this event. So there goes my podium. "Nice job," I said as she ran by me, and meant it sincerely, even if I wished she weren't beating me. Right after Mile 2, another 40-44'er steamed by me, and all I could say was the truth: "Great run." I had a great run too--for me, anyway--finishing in 25:54.

Lyle and I are coming for you, Ironman. Get ready.

Regardless of missing a special medal, fifth in my age-group in Boulder (Boulder!) is not what I was expecting, so I'm definitely not complaining. I felt so solid and capable, and had such a ball, even on the hot, gravely run, when my left leg was whining and the sun was beating. The entire morning, I was reminded that triathlon is such a better sport for my strengths and my body.

I'll always love you, running, but I'm gonna have a fling with triathlon over the next year, when I'm going to transform from IronGirl to IronWoman. I can't wait.

49 responses to “Ironing It Out

  1. Triathlon can be fun, but I have to agree with you that the triathletes can sometimes be very intimidating. That is why I just ride my Morpheus bike with all my heart and don’t mind what others have to say with my style. Continue to be an inspiration!

  2. All I can say is just that I am so impressed with your determination, honesty and heart! You have made me want to do a “mini tri”! Is there one like that you may have heard of in Santa Cruz, CA, where I live. I have an okay, (just tuned up) Giant Mountain Bike, I used to swim on the swim team in high school, and I can fast walk a 5K! I have been working out with Beach Body, which I am sure you have heard of or at least seen the “infomercials”! My daughter got me started. My strength is much better and my desire to never be less than I am today is strong. Oh yeah, and I also must say I am 66 years old! So it would be a challenge, but now I feel, after reading your recap of your experience, a “bucket list”! I want to do one. Just need some direction, from anyone out there who might be able to help me hook up with someone in the Santa Cruz, CA, area! Thank you so much for your very inspiring recount of your “tri”! I do not care, at this point where I finish, just want to try it and finish, that is my new goal! Thank you again so much for lighting my fire! Kathy Cliff

  3. Awesome job, Dimity! You are such an inspiration! I too am hoping for a “Tri Like a Mother” book to be the next in the AMR series!!

  4. Wow! 25:54 for a 5k time…after all that swimming and biking. Super impressed! I dream of a regular 5k time like that. YOU ROCK!!!

  5. Congrats!! Awesome report! I raced a sprint this weekend too… Ended up w stitches from falling off the bike but learned a lot about myself as a racer and actually gained some confidence to Tri an Olympic. So excited to be able to follow your journey. Like the others, I vote for Tri Like a Mother once you’ve got your IM! Way to go!

  6. Great job, Dimity! I know what you mean about Boulder (I want to wear a burka whenever I go into Whole Foods because everyone in there is so fit and good-looking), but there are plenty of normal BAMRs here too. I’m glad you came up and kicked ass!!

  7. This race recap was exciting for me since I bought my very first road bike yesterday! So far I’m solely a runner but if I can add biking to my skills and then maybe swimming someday that would be really exciting. I’m so glad that getting into running has given me confidence to try another sport.

  8. I just finished my first half iron tri yesterday. It’s an amazing feeling and the tri is a great event. Good luck with your training and way to kick some sprint tri booty. My goal is to bust out an age group place next season before I hit the next age group. Hello 30! Can’t wait to hear about your half iron!

  9. Awesome race! I am so happy to hear you say (or read you write) that the run is your weakest link. I ran a sprint tri last Sunday too. I was 2nd in my age group (40-44) out of the water and was a passer on the bike too. Then the run. Ugh! It was so disheartening seeing all the 40-44 leggers pass me!
    Thanks for sharing your race run down! We had similar races, though I think the Canadian sprint distances are a bit different.


  10. Loved reading this as a Boulder County resident! So true, the locals are REALLY intimidating. Any chance we could talk Title9 into adding a Tri Like a Mother event to their Mother’s Day Title9K? What do you think?

  11. Way to go Dimity! I thought Sarah was the competitive one. I guess she has rubbed off on you. Loved reading your post. When I saw the pictures of the shoes I had a brief moment of worry that you had a shoe issue….but ahhhh you are much smarter than me and packed a left and right shoe. Cannot believe you ran sockless! BadASS for sure. Great job! I like you much prefer the female only Tri events. I had some pompous man yapping at me about how I had my transition area set up at my last event. I just blew him off. I was confirmation for me why I love the environment of female only venues. Great job!

  12. Not only am I slightly jealous of your rockstar physique in the picture, but you inspire the hell out of me. In doing a race the same day you did, I only wish I could have been as confident and fast. Could chalk it up to a sore back (true), but in all seriousness, I am fighting the second fiddle mojo to my triathlete husband. Thanks for the kick in the pants I needed to up my game!

  13. Way to go Dimity! and way to swim/bike/run YOUR race
    I love your honesty in posting your thoughts like the: “Nice job,” I said as she ran by me, and meant it sincerely, even if I wished she weren’t beating me.

  14. I LOVE the Iron Girl Tri series and was so very happy to hear that you were doing one.
    I have done every Iron Girl in Atlanta since 2007 (minus 2009 when I was pregnant) and I have loved everyone of them.
    I am so happy that you are taking on the IM, I cannot wait to follow you through this period in your life. You truly are an inspiration.
    Great job in your race yesterday!!
    You kicked Iron Girl but 🙂

  15. I’m having a love affair with triathlon this year too even though I’ll always call myself a runner first. I turned 40 in February and vowed to complete my first Half Ironman this year. I’ve been training HARD since March and I thought the day would never come, but now it’s only 5 days away until Barb’s Race in the California Russian River Valley. Yikes! I’m so damn nervous, but also really excited. I can’t wait to hear how your race goes in September. I applaud any mother who can work (inside or outside the home), take care of kids, and train for a Half Ironman. It’s like a big puzzle fitting all the workouts in, but it feels like such an accomplishment to make it happen. Yay for us!

  16. 5th? In *boulder*?! WOW! 25:54 is nothing to sneeze at either (at least in my age group, hahaha). You look great. Thanks for an inspiring recap!

  17. Great job Dim! Have you decided on HM or not yet? I’m also curious to see if you’re thinking about a spring 2013 HIM to get ready for CDA. I’ve done Galveston a bunch (and have a hard time recommending it because the run is a suck-fest). I’m thinking about Oceanside (hills, cold water) but I may do NOLA because I have a free place to stay. It would be fun to get a group of CO girls out there.

  18. Awesome post, and great job!! You did awesome. I will LOVE following this journey of yours – you make me want to be braver. You go girl.

  19. Sounds like a great race – and so well deserved, Dimity! I’m so looking forward to following along on your journey to IronWoman.

  20. Great job! Sounds like you are going to be in great shape for your September race. Can we look forward to Tri Like a Mother?

  21. Congratulations! Fantastic play-by-play…I wish I could have been there cheering you on! And BTW you look fantastic…you are going to totally kick the IM this year! Look forward to watching your progress from afar…

  22. Dimity, I have this A goal in my life about completing an IM for my 40th bday. I’m 32 now, and I’m sincerely very excited to “live” my dream through you before I can do it personally. Be sure to know that I’ll be cheering you all along very happy to see you fulfill your dream! Way to go ironwoman!

  23. Great photo and great race recap. Congrats! You’re like me on a the pre- race stuff! Advice alert, however: I felt it was invaluable to drive the bike course before my Ironman race. Felt much better oh there knowing where to expect hills. That was just for the Ironman. Otherwise, I’m like you… Not much of a course studied or a warmer upper. Great job!

  24. Woohoo, congrats! Running is my least fave part in a tri, which is funny since I’ve been a runner for years! I love the bike…so fun passing people too. Great job today. So excited to follow your journey to ironman! Way to go…

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