When’s the last time you did something for the first time? Doing any type of race/distance for the first time is exhilarating. You don’t know what to expect, what the finish line will be like, if your training was good enough….But being an athlete is all about being brave – doing things that scare you, pushing the limits, enduring through pain that you didn’t even know existed, doing things for the first time.As I prepared for Iron Girl – my second triathlon – I had more expectations. The innocence of my first triathlon was gone. I was nostalgic for those “first timer” jitters but at the same time I was excited that now I knew what to expect and I could set larger goals. This race was a little longer than Jersey Girl but it was a USAT qualifying race. Meaning, if I placed first in my age group I would qualify for Nationals! Yes, Nationals!!
So before the race I looked up last year’s winning times and saw that achieving first in my Age Group was totally doable. But as you know, anything is possible on race day – for better or for worse. During Jersey Girl we had ideal conditions; the sun was shining, the ocean was flat and things couldn’t have gone better. My first triathlon had been such an amazing experience that I allowed myself to have even higher hopes for Iron Girl.
The race takes place in Sandy Hook, NJ on same route where I train every Wednesday. So I knew the course like the back of my hand. I love racing in familiar places because I can call up memories of fun training days, long rides, and encouraging camaraderie while I am racing. I checked the weather like a crazy person all week. It is so much different than checking the weather when you’re planning for a running race. It’s no big deal to run in the rain – it’s not like you will melt, and it’s even refreshing. But to swim, bike and run in the rain – NO thank you!
Race morning was a blast. There is something so awesome about waking up super early, packing your bag, getting your gear ready…it gets me giddy. My friend Sophia picked me up. We loaded our bikes onto her car and off we went. As soon as I got there I started saying hi to everyone….what a different experience than Jersey Girl when I didn’t know a soul! I was comforted by all my training partners and super excited because they all knew I was trying to win my Age Group. My friend Rick was volunteering at the transition section; he has been doing Ironman since the 1980s. He was the perfect person to calm my nerves and help me set up my bike.We were to swim in the Bay that morning…and it was rough. Instead of looking at it as a disadvantage I looked at it as an advantage on my end. Because the thing about triathlons is that you’re trying to win your age group, not set a PR for your fastest swim bike or run. So the saying “your only competition is yourself” totally goes out the window. Your competition is everyone who has the number 20-24 sharpied on their leg!Not my fastest swim but not my slowest. I was with the first wave of girls 24 and younger and 60+. This would be a huge advantage – no weaving or getting stuck behind people. I found my groove in the water and counted the minutes until it was over – 15 to be exact. It wasn’t too bad but I knew I wasn’t the fastest out of the water and had to make up time on the bike.
Once on my bike I promised myself I would not go slower than 16-17 mph…and that I did. I flew on the bike! I passed all the girls in my age group and, since this was the first wave, I enjoyed the relatively empty course. When I got off my bike I felt great. It was the first time I clipped into my bike for a race and man, what a difference!At this point I was pretty sure I was leading my Age group, but I couldn’t be sure. I had to race like I was chasing someone. I laced up and went for it..It’s just three miles right? How hard can it be? I was still pretty much racing alone at this point. From time to time I would see another lady but mostly it was just me. And keep in mind there are 900+people in this race! I thought I had this race in the bag!
I saw a lady way ahead of me and made it my goal to catch her. As soon as I did she started to walk. I yelled to her “we are almost there lets go!” She yelled back “I love my bike.” I told her “learn to love it all!” She picked it up and I told her do not lose me. But as much as I strained my eyes I could not see the finish line. Then I turned the corner and something magical happened – the finish line! But suddenly I heard my parents yelling “Lottie, turn around!!” I had run in the wrong direction towards the finish line!! So I turned around and crossed the finish line. And I crossed it 3rd in the race! Of course there was hardly anyone there to witness it since I was in the first wave but either way it was pretty cool to lead the race the whole time.
Then I found out I won my age group! Whoot! I had the biggest grin on my face. I was thrilled. I never would have imagined in a few short weeks how much strength and confidence I would build in this foreign sport. My second triathlon couldn’t have gone any better.I felt so good that I signed up for a race the following weekend – One More Tri. This race would be a Co-Ed race and my first race with men. Needless to say, this brought a different crowd. Most of the people racing were the men and women I train with..I know their fitness levels and they are strong!
The race raised money for the Special Olympics, which had some of its own athletes competing. It was really inspiring to race alongside them and see how tough they are. I saw one of the Special Olympics Athletes on the run I started talking to her. Next thing I know she is hanging by my side. I figured I’d take it slow and run with her; it would be a relief to slow down a bit. She did the exact opposite. She was in it to win it. I told her to tuck behind me so I could block the wind for her but she didn’t listen and ran by my side. The last mile or so I told her we should pick it up. And ohh boy did she, we went from running 8s to low 6s. I was gasping for air and she kept pushing. I didn’t want to lose her so I stuck by her until we crossed the finish line.It was sad to end my triathlon season but I have a lot to look forward to. I can only get faster from here. I’m looking to tackle longer distances and work on my swimming this season. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to try to be great at all three sports but that’s what makes the Triathlon so special. I made my way back to New York this week and reality set in. No more open water swims, no more runs by the beach and more importantly, I would be separated from the amazing triathlon family I found in New Jersey. But as they say, “one door closes and another opens.” I am excited to get back into my fitness routine here even though right now I just feel lost in the big city. So to you all, feel free to send over any NYC/Brooklyn Triathlon info you have!