I remember all too well what it feels like to be a newbie.
Considering that my first three triathlons (sprint, olympic and olympic) were on a Giant Hybrid bike (which I thought was the coolest bike EVER at the time) I was 100% newbie for my first year of calling myself a "triathlete". I think my swimming background allowed me to "succeed" in the sport as a newbie but looking back, WOW- I was such a horrible biker and so-not-worthy to even call myself a cyclist.
That's ok - it didn't really matter to me if I sucked at cycling or running off the bike because I just loved the people at triathlons, the excitment, the finish line, the t-shirt and medal and the post-race soreness that lasted for at least a week. I just loved the experience and the lifestyle of swim-bike-run and never considered myself to be a die-hard competitive triathlete...that is, until I met Karel.
Karel always told me that I was having too much fun at triathlons because I was always smiling when I crossed the finish line. Well, I don't think there is anything wrong with smiling but perhaps me not breathing too hard when I crossed line was an indication that I was totally enjoying the experience and not truly giving it my best effort. Sure, I was hurting during the races but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle for a sprint or olympic distance.
6 years have passed since my first triathlon and I find myself getting more nervous than ever before most of my races. For some reason, the only race I don't get nervous for is the Ironman. Perhaps it is the year of anticipation and dedication that allows the nerves to be calm on the days and hours leading up to the race and the excitement of putting the training to the test. As for the less than a handful running and triathlon races that I do per year, I am not sure why I get so nervous but it is certainly something that I'm working on on a daily basis. I am certainly a hypocrite when it comes to my athletes because I can give the best motivation speeches but when it comes to psyching up myself, sometimes I can't seem to gather the right mental strength to feel confident going into race. Then again, I am fortunate that I am a coach, have supportive friends and family (and Karel) and have the privilege of helping others with training and racing nutrition because it reminds me how much I really do love triathlons and the experiences and memories that come with it.
4:30am came rather quickly but thankfully, Laura and I got a good night of sleep. I prepared some coffee and then used the coffee maker to heat some water for our oatmeal (no fridge or microwave). We had a big cooler of goodies so we had a little milk with our coffee and prepared oatmeal w/ banana and a little PB.
We packed up the car on Sat night so we quickly gathered our stuff and checked out of the hotel at 5:10am. We made our 2 mile drive to the race site and then made our .5 mile walk to the transition.
After body marking, Laura and I made our way through the transition area to set up our gear. I headed to the back of the transition area and Laura was near the middle. 1400 athletes and lots of bikes made for a wonderful time at 5:30am.
As the sun came up, I could see the nerves and excitement on so many faces from newbie athletes about to do their first ever triathlon. After setting up my transition area and giving Karel a quick text to tell him I was nervous but ready to go, I pumped up my tubular tires and then I went to Laura's rack to pump up her tires. After a few pics for the blog and meeting a few blog readers and FB friends, I made a few stops at the bathroom and then headed to the swim start at 6:35.
I was really nervous about the swim because my wave (29 and under) was the very last wave. Nothing like 1302 athletes ahead of you on the course and having to start with 98 youngsters, half of which are super strong HS swimmers.
The anticipation for the start really got to me and I found myself going in and out of excitement and nerves. I kept watching the top-females in each age group swim away from the start line and wondering to myself if I would even stand a chance placing in top 5. Sure, I considered the massive amount of people on the course ahead of me and me not knowing how the other athletes were doing as I was trying to "race my own race" but then again, how could I not dismiss the fact that I was participating in a race where over half of the athletes were doing a first-ever triathlon. I guess you could say I was worried about being in the last wave, 40 min behind the first wave but not the least bit upset that I was racing in this event. I absolutely love sharing the course with newbie athletes and enjoying the experience with them...an experience that I remember all too well.
I took in an Orange Hammer gel about 20 min before the start and at 7:40am, the 29 and unders walked into the water for a water-start.
Off we went. For a moment I thought I was in Kona. I have never been so beat up in my life. Those girls were vicious!! I was swimming all-out trying to keep up with these young girls but before I knew it, we were rounding the first of two turn buoys and catching up with hundreds of other swimmers. Without complaining to myself, I tried to swim around them but there just wasn't a lot of room in this 1/3 of a mile (minus 50 yrds according to officials) course. I did the best I could but I certainly lost a lot of time in that swim.
I sprinted my way out of the water and started my climb up the paved hill to T1. This hill is 10x steeper than the Macon Half hill and I found myself prancing on my tippy-toes to get up the hills. Finally I made my way to the top and ran towards my bike.
On went the aero helmet and glasses, as well as my socks (I wear socks in all of my races because I am not comfortable without them) and shoes. I grabbed TriMarni (who was likely pepping up the other bikes which included mountain bikes, hybrid bikes w/out clips or cages and road bikes) and sprinted out of transition.
Here's where the race got interesting. As I exited transition, I looked ahead to the line of bikes that were ahead of me. Considering that the top age groupers ahead of me (which was everyone except 29 and under) were racing on this 18 mile course with very little bike traffic, I had two goals for this portion of the race "go all out and be safe".
I stayed to the left for the first 5 miles of the race as I passed many riders. I tried to give some cheers and words of wisdom "small chain ring, great job!" but I was on a mission to go as fast as I could.
As a 2x Iron girl Atlanta finisher, I knew this course was not easy. There are 2-3 steep but short climbs and many rollers. There are actually a few tricky descends as well but overall the course is challenging and tough. The course ends with a false flat for about 2-3 miles which leaves you wondering if you have a flat tire or if your brakes are rubbing.
Throughout the course, I did my best to yell "on your left" but a few times I was stuck behind a group of girls walking bikes up hills and weaving around the hills.
Without getting upset, all I could do is say "keep it up" as I cruised on by.
Oh yes, the times of a heavy aluminum hybrid bike...I remember it all too well.
Throughout the entire bike I was playing cat and mouse with a 17 year old who climbed the hills in her aerobars and made it look so easy.
Here I am, a Floridian out of her saddle (in the small ring) pushing up these climbs and we seem to go the same pace, but with completely different effort. We both made sure to give ourselves legal distance between each other but every time she passed me I had to be sure to tell her "good job, you are doing great".
I finished about 3/4 bottle of a heaping scoop of heed (strawberry) mixed w/ water throughout the course and was feeling really really strong on the bike.
With about 1 mile to go, I figured I would need to give it everything I had into transition because by the looks of it, this 17 year old was ready to run me down.
I arrived into transition and got off my bike super fast and sprinted to my rack w/ my bike (shoes still on, I don't unstrap my shoes on the bike).
My transition was super quick because I needed to get as much time as I could to get away from this speedy 17 year old. I put on my running shoes and grabbed my visor and pink race belt as I ran through transition.
I started my watch and made my way onto the run course.
To my surprise, my legs were feeling fresh and I was ready to run. However, the fresh feeling doesn't last long on a course that is filled with rolling hills. I think about 400 yrds are flat and the rest is up, up, up and then down, up, up. How is it that running courses never seem to go down?
The first mile went by fast and my pace was good. 6:45
I talked myself into the out and back course and tried to keep myself motivated to push hard by telling myself "1.5 miles out, 1.5 miles back..you can do this".
After the first mile, I was passed. There goes the speed demon. I guess I lost my mojo for a little as I was climbing up a hill because my pace slowed and I was feeling tired. As I made my turn-around I heard a cheer from Stefanie (princess runner blog) who said "go get em Marni" and that just made my day. I picked up the pace and told myself "1 more mile to go when you get to mile 2!".
2nd mile: 7:07
I picked up the pace and kept the girl ahead of me in sight. I figured if I had any shot of placing top 5 overall I needed to get as close as possible to her. I wasn't able to catch her but I was feeling really good on the run. I have wanted a run like this in the past and finally it was all coming together.
As I made my way up the gradually inclining hill to the finishing chute, I was huffing and puffing to the line. I stopped my watch for my last mile to read 6:55
I found Judy and she told me that I had a chance of getting top 5 but she wasn't sure of the results. She said first place was 1:21 and considering that my time last year was 1:27 I had no idea how I finished.
When results were posted, I was pleasantly surprised with my results.
6th place overall and 1st age group.
The 17 year old got 2nd. If only I had her running legs!
Considering that my wave was last and I had only one girl in front of me to keep me pushing hard, I am really happy with my result.
I have never ran sub 7 min miles off the bike and I was 37 sec. away from having the fastest bike split of the day.
1/3 mile swim (-50 yards) - 18 mile bike - 3 mile run
52.17 bike (20.7 mph) - Karel is happy with this one!
20.46 run (6:55min/mile)
Could you imagine if we were all in the same wave? Check out the finishing times of the top 8 women (all within 3 1/2 min) and 2nd-6th were within 1 min apart!
Rebecca Villers - 1:21:55 (35-39)
Katie June - 1:23:19 (14-19)
Carmen Brahim -1:23:30 (35-39)
Amanda Harpring - 1:23:36 (30-34)
Kris Kester - 1:23:47 (45-49)
Marni Sumbal - 1:24:20 (25-29)
Helen Libby - 1:25.04 (30-34)
Jennifer Lesser - 1:25:25 (35-39)
A big congrats to Laura for finishing top 200 out of 1400 women! Also congrats to Patti for her first triathlon, Stefanie for having a beautiful pink Trek and to Cindy for having a personal best. Lots of congrats go out to the many first-timer athletes who raced on a really tough course in an effort to cross their first-ever triathlon finish line.
As usual, the race was a success and Judy reminded me how much I really do love triathlons.