Sunday, July 16, 2017


About 7 years ago my friend Jean told me about her sister who completed a triathlon when she was 50. At the time I was 40 and hadn't gone swimming since I was a child. Friends (triathletes) were very encouraging about the goal. They recommended places to go swimming and swim coaches. I didn't do anything about it thinking "I still have plenty of time before I turn 50." 

Then I had frozen shoulder, or what a librarian referred to as "Librarian Shoulder." I could barely lift my right arm up to my shoulder, let along raise my hand. So as procrastinators do, I said "I'll start swim lessons after I fix this." That was nearly three years ago.

This fall Don started to take swim lessons. He doesn't remember ever learning how to swim. I at least remembered taking some lessons as a kid, but never mastering it.

Somehow the lessons came up in conversation at work and a new co-worker at Cenlar suggested the TriYouthAlon -- a really, really, really beginner tri. 

150 meters of swimming in a pool
5 miles biking on paved paths on closed roads
1 mile running, also on paved paths

Kerri, the organizer, referred to it as a Youth Distance. 

Compare that with Sprint Tri distances and you'll immediately see the benefit to this race:

500 meters swim in Lake Mercer (open water not normally open for swimming)
11.5 miles biking
3.1 miles running

Less than two weeks before the TriYouthAlon I put on my swimsuit and went to the high school pool. While I did about 200 meters in the pool I decided it wasn't for me. Don went back for his usual swim. His friends told him I looked strong and should do it. Peer pressure can be a good thing. I went back and did 300 meters. Felt stronger so I signed up for the race.

Keep in mind I have only one stroke -- I swim on my back and flail my arms about. Not exactly the best stroke for sharing a lane, but it gets the job done.

Race Day
For the most part races either seem to start super early or super late. This was no exception. Though our portion of the race didn't start until 8:30 AM (which isn't nearly as early as Disney race), it still meant waking up at 4 AM, leaving the house by 5 AM to drive to Philadelphia, parking, getting to the registration line by 6 AM, setting up the bike in transition by 7 AM, and waiting around for the kids races. It was, after all, a race geared for the kids.

The line for registration was really disorganized and seemed to take forever. Fortunately it was a small race. The hold up seemed to be people like me who missed the spot on the registration form to buy a one day USAT pass (annual memberships are $50, day passes are $15). There were three different tents and someone shouting every so often telling us which line to go to. Some of the lines had no one. The Tri line had people signing serious waivers (I suppose so we don't sue them if we drown in the pool).

We then got marked up. I forgot to tell them my age at the end of the year, which is USAT rules. Fortunately it didn't matter in this case.

Once we survived the line we set up our bikes. There was a spot for those of us with kickstands, so that is where we set up (as opposed to hanging our bikes). I think this approach helped us with transition in the long run.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. While waiting I cheered on complete strangers who were struggling with the swim portion. After all, that will be me soon.

It was in the 70s and very overcast. I thought I saw some dark clouds, but fortunately it did not rain or storm. We did have a surprise rainstorm on the drive to Philadelphia. Surprised apps, too.

The little kids went first. They only had to do 50 meters of swim. That means ONE full length of the pool. Um..wait...I thought the pool was 25 meters long like the one we've been using at the high school? (Actually, we learned that before that day, but thought I would add some drama.) The first person jumps in the pool. About 10 seconds later the second person jumps in. And so on. When you get to the end of the 50 meters, and the pool is only about 3 feet deep, you go under the ropes (or over them) and continue in the next lane. Repeat at the other end. This is called serpentine swimming. The pool in this case is 3 feet at the ends, and 7 feet in the middle -- which seems a bit unfair. You line up based on self-anticipated finish times. Passing gently is allowed. Kicking someone in the head is frowned upon.

Knowing I am not a strong swimmer I put myself towards the back of the line in front a big linebacker of a guy and a 75 year old man. Yup, they both passed me. Surprisingly, though I passed Don who was way ahead of me. 

Swim Times:
Jacquie: 6:44
Don: 9:50

Off to transition. A quick plug for this race for my stronger friends, this is a great race for practicing transitions because the distances are so tiny.

At transition I struggled with putting my socks on while standing up (not normally one of my skills, and even less so with swimming wobbly legs). Wishing I had gone with Plan A and worn my new Chacos. I even practiced with them. Remember, it was only 1 mile of running. I quickly gave up on the socks when Don blew through transition leaving me behind in the dust. Competitive much? We knew on his super speedy bike he would cruise through the biking portion. I didn't even pause to have a sip of tea.

Transition Times:
Jacquie: 2:36
Don: 1:45

Biking was two 2.5 mile loops through Fairmont Park. I ride a lovely baby blue bike I have nicknamed Catie. Catie is great on the trails. I was pumping my legs hard, but still the 75 year old man and the linebacker passed me on the biking. I must have been faster than them in transition since I had a head start on my bike. I didn't pause to take pictures, though the area was scenic and perhaps I should have. I did loop one. I did loop two. I returned to transition.

Bike Times:
Jacquie: 23.25
Don: 19:06

Don's GPS noted it was only 4.93 miles (instead of 5). I did not use my GPS, though I did carry my phone (it was safe in transition).

Transition was faster because it takes less time to toss off a helmet and go than it does to put on shoes, put on a helmet, and go. I paused for a sip of tea.

Transition Times:
Jacquie: 45 seconds
Don: 57 seconds

Off to the running portion. I was pleased my legs were not wobbly. By now Don was zooming ahead of me. I could see him running while I was still on my bike. 

Run up the "hill" to the gate, turn around and come back. Again, no pictures.

Run to the finish line. Where Don was waiting with his camera while drinking a bottle of water. I need to insert the picture later as it is on his camera. Later Don said the course measure 9/10 of a mile, which accounts for how I finished in under my usual 10:45 sprint pace.

Running Times:
Jacquie: 9:47
Don: 10:10

Overall times:
Jacquie: 43:13.86
Don: 41:45.88

I think I mentioned this is a small race. They were deep with their prizes. Every five years were awarded up to three prizes. I came in second out of two for my age group. Don came in third out of four for his age group. We felt bad for the fourth place finisher in his age group as he was the only one not awarded a medal (he came in way behind Don, it wasn't close).

This is the first time I have earned an age category prize, well the second but the first time I left before the awards because I never win. That was also a small race. I have come in fourth a number a times -- a place for years I have sympathized with Olympic athletes for placing. 

After the race Don was ready to sign up to "tri" to beat his time (especially in the swimming portion). On the other hand I felt "been there done that." I don't object to it, but wish it was closer to home. By the time we waited around for our exciting medals, and drove home, it was 11:30 AM. I was beyond ready for a nap.

Cross that item off my proverbial bucket list. Onto some new challenges. 

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