I remember the day of the tri was freezing cold. Warren came with me to cheer me on; my friend, Marcia Lee, volunteered for the swim portion and was my lap counter.
I remember being so nervous about the race. What would happen if I couldn't actually swim a full 30 minutes? (Being a newbie swimmer, this was a very real possibility). What would happen if I had to WALK on the treadmill? Would people laugh? Would people be able to tell that I really wasn't a triathlete, but really only a triawannabe? Would they banish me from the kingdom? Could I ever again hold my head up high while wearing tri shorts and a snazzy tri top?
Well, the short end of that story is that not only did I survive the race, I fell hopelessly, endlessly in love with the sport and have never turned back.
From that indoor tri, I've moved up the distance ladder going from sprint to Ironman. I've graduated from my first outdoor races, where I actually walked some of the swim courses (when the water was shallow enough) and swimming 2.4 miles freestyle only stopping on occasion to pee. I've moved up from doing races with a hybrid bike to a road bike to writing the biggest sports equipment check of my life, when I plunked down a bunch of cold, hard cash to buy -- and ride -- my Orbea tri bike.
I love triathlon and am happy that it seems to love me right back. It doesn't care where I finish in the race, as long as I do my best. I don't have to be on the podium, I just have to show up, move forward and thank the volunteers. That's it.
So even though this will be my 10th summer racing, I love to go back to my roots: back to indoor tri.
Besides Tri U Mah, there are a host of other indoor tris now. I absolutely love the indoor triathlon series hosted by the YWCA and run by Nicole Cueno, endurance coach and race director for the YWCA Women's triathlon. Nicole has quite an impressive background. Among her many accolades, she is a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier; she WON the women's race at Fargo Marathon in 2009 and last year, she won the Lifetime Minneapolis Sprint race. She is also one of the nicest people I know.
Nicole and co-race director Kym Zest, know what they are doing. They, by far, run the best organized, most welcoming and fun for ALL outdoor tri. Participants experience a great venue at Cedar Lake, a well marked course, volunteers who actually know what they are doing and are helpful. This means a lot to the large portion of the field that are doing their very first triathlon. Every one is a racer, no matter what size tri suit you may be wearing, or if your bike has a woven basket hanging from the handle bars.
(I will also say that this is my absolute favorite race to volunteer for. They keep us well fed and have actual, hot, delicious all-you-can drink coffee available to us. A godsend at 5-oh-dark in the morning.)
I'm not sure when the Y started hosting indoor tris, but I've been doing them for the last couple of years. Love, love, love them. Here's why:
Great Venue: Indoor tris are held at the Midtown Y, near Lake and Hiawatha. The pool is great -- six lanes, 25 yards. Participants share a lane for the event. (I also have to note that, when I travel for work, I have a lot of success finding pools available for swimming at the local Ys. Most will only charge a small guest fee (like $5.00) and every location I've been to has a terrific pool. Just a little FYI for any of you traveling triathletes that struggle with where to swim while on the road).
The bike portion is held right next to the indoor track. The bikes used for the bike are Keiser spin bikes. These are different than "normal" spin bikes or your very own bike on a trainer. The trick with these bikes is the cadence, not the gear. The faster you pedal, the more "ground" you cover. (Frankly, I have my own little "issue" with this. I am a "grinder" by nature, so it wasn't till recently that I figured our the trick to a faster bike time with these bikes. Less gear, more cadence.)
Then it is a quick little hop off the bike and right on to the track. Eight laps equals one mile. (I like running an actual track rather than running the treadmill for the run portion. Time moves differently for me when I'm actually running through space versus bouncing up and down on a conveyor belt).
The venue is nice for spectators too. It is easy to watch the swim and there are bleachers set up by the track. (Today, there were lots of folks there cheering on their loved ones).
Great Volunteers: Volunteers are friendly! They are helpful! They actually know what is going on! (Today, most of the volunteers came from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin (a suburb very close to where I grew up). They are here for the week as part of a church mission. I chatted a bunch of them up as I was treading water in the pool waiting for my heat to start. None of them had done a tri before, but each was interested in getting involved. Once the heat started ,they whooped and hollered it up, while they diligently counted our laps).
Easy Access to the Massage Guy: Many races make the services of a massage therapist available to participants after a race. However, actually getting to that massage person is another story. Many times the lines and the wait are L O N G. Here, it is pretty simple and easy to get access to the massage person. (I took full advantage of this today. My hip and psoas, which have been pretty good these last couple of months, have been just slightly sore the last week. Warren and I started kettle bell classes (super fun), which puts some stress on that area. So today, when I was done with my race, I hopped right on the massage table and had a nice massage guy from Function in St. Louis Park, work out the kinks in my psoas and pirifomis. He was awesome.)
Wonderful, Inspiring Co-Participants: Newbies through veterans. All shapes, sizes, ages and speeds. (Sometimes it seems that triathletes with some time and experience under our belts, begin to take some things for granted. We've done enough races that things become "routine". We use the same stuff for nutrition; we wear the same kit time and time again, we do the same races year after year after year.
In some cases, "routine" is what helps us get to the finish line. For example, I have done those bike and run courses at Ironman Wisconsin so many times, I could probably do them in my sleep. The hills on the bike course never get easier, but I know what to expect. I think my race there went so well for me last fall because my day was totally "routine". I got in the water; I ran up the helix, I rode the stick and the first loop, I ate my sandwich at special needs, I rode the second loop and got back in to the city; I got out on the run course. I ran past my old dorm, I ran through Camp Randall, I ran State Street, I ran out to Picnic Point, I had my mini-meltdown about half way through, I got to special needs, I drank lemonade and I did it all again until I got to the finish line.)
It is really special to spend time with someone new to our sport. To catch the enthusiasm in their voice when they tell you "This is my first race", or "I'm getting ready for the race in August. I'm SOO nervous about swimming in the lake!". It is a nice reminder that we were there too, once.
It is a joy to watch the newbies cross the finish line. There was a women there today who walked most of the run course (hey: been there, done that. No judgement...). I was doing my cool down and watched her pick up the pace for that last lap. I saw that "OMG, I'm gonna FINISH this thing!" smile start on her face as she turned the last corner. Her husband and her toddler got to finish the last 1/8th of the lap with her. She -- and her family -- were elated and you could just feel the pride of her accomplishment all around her.)
Other fun things about today:
- Devon Palmer was the official race announcer: He did a nice job making participants feel special and at ease.
- Yummy snacks at the end of the race: Fruit, cheese sticks, bananas, bagels and, my friend, coffee;
- Nice tee shirt: technical.
Oh, my actual race results? Well, I'm not entirely sure. I didn't hit the start button correctly at the swim start. I didn't really track on the bike. I was mostly interested in my run, since my hip/psoas slowed me down so much last year. One of my goals for 2015 is to get my pace back. I did track my time for the run and was very happy with the results.
When I went to pick up my race certificate, I didn't have my glasses on and looked for letters that resembled my name. Ended up picking up a certificate for another racer (whoops and sorry, Jan....) So, I won't know exactly how I did for a few days.
Does it really matter? No. Indoor tris are for fun and practice and for getting back in to race season.
If you are interested, the Y will host two more indoor tris this spring: March 8th and April 19th. I'm already registered for both.
You can find out more about the Y tris, including registration information here.
Hope to see you there!