Still tri-ing.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

Right?

On that note, I did another tri.

And it was a lesson in patience and perspective from start to finish.

We combined it with a visit to Ninny and Pop’s house and headed to Arkadelphia for the weekend. The 15th Annual DeGray Lake Triathlon. I knew full well it could be 100 degrees that day, but I rolled the dice and completely lucked out.

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66 degrees? Are you kidding?? And no rain.  In fact, it had rained pretty heavily the day before so the whole area had cooled off considerably. Couldn’t ask for better weather in August.

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After arriving and getting my timing chip, I was unloading my bike when Jeff innocently asked if I wanted to ride around a bit to loosen up. I agreed it was a good idea and put my shoes on. I rode all of 20 feet before making a turn and heading back to the car.

And then it happened.

All my cyclist friends warned me, and I didn’t listen.

And sure enough, it happened.

I unclipped my LEFT foot from the pedal, but then tried to put my RIGHT foot on the ground to step off the bike.

And I fell. Hard. While AT the car. About a foot from where Jeff was standing. Before the race even started.

Smooth, right?

I’m guessing I handled it the perfectly wrong way, because I panicked and just – fell. On my right shoulder and right knee. These pictures don’t do a great job of showing it (and, frankly, they make it seem like I’m completely overreacting…) but I tore a pretty good hole in my knee. (I wouldn’t realize until the next day that I had earned myself a beautiful, baseball-sized bruise on the other side of that leg – from where the bike landed on me.)

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Awesome! First bike injury! ON RACE DAY… Ugh.

And now I had an open wound and blood trickling down my leg on the way down to the lake for the swim.

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This is my best pre-race pose in what Jeff now affectionately calls my “little costume”.

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Insert irrational, swirling thoughts of lake water wound contamination and infection.

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I was in the third wave – the red caps. And I was only slightly less nervous than the first time. Same distance. Same warm, green, murky water.

Go!

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Honestly, I felt pretty awful during the first half of the swim. I couldn’t find a rhythm and I kept getting kicked in the head. There was a girl DETERMINED to swim directly in front of me and kick me in the face though I tried several times to swim away from her. I just couldn’t get comfortable and I felt like I was flailing.

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Between the first two buoys I started to calm down and the crowd thinned a bit — and it got better. I still finished the swim thinking I’d kinda stunk it up.

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But Jeff was right there as I came out of the water (you can see his arm there at the far right) and ran with me up the hill to transition. He called out my time and I was shocked to hear I could have actually beaten my time from my first tri! Awesome!

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After the clumsy fall earlier in the morning, I was overly cautious getting my bike gear ready. I struggled a little with a twisted helmet strap, but I made good time in the transition area and I was off again.

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Before the stupid fall even happened, I was already nervous about my first race with the new clipless pedals. I’m still not 100% comfortable on the bike – on a good day – but I was determined to have a good ride.

And what was that quote I started with? It’s not what happens to you… it’s how you react to it that matters…

Well.

The bike happened.

And I tried to keep it together.

The bike course was 16 miles. At mile 2, my bike chain fell off. While climbing the first hill of the course. Fabulous. Even better because that had never happened before and I didn’t really even know what to do. I had to stop, get off my bike (without falling! yay!) and put the chain back on. Miraculously – it worked. So I got back on and took a deep breath. Surely that was the end of it…

Yeah, no.

Around mile 4, I noticed my gears weren’t acting right and I started to wonder if I’d knocked something off kilter when I fell. GREAT.

A few times, the bike would shift further than I told it to or wouldn’t shift at all, and my inexperience teamed up with my nervousness and threatened to derail the whole operation.

No! This is supposed to be FUN. That’s why I’m here. Just relax.

So the next time my bike chain tried to misbehave I quickly shifted back to the middle and saved it from falling off. Ugh.

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In other bike news, I got brave enough to eat AND drink while riding! Mid-race fueling (or lack thereof) was a big mistake during my first race so I made plans to eat a little something during the ride in anticipation of the run. And it worked! I rode – I ate – I drank. And I didn’t fall!

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All the mechanical issues on the bike were frustrating and I was relieved to be back at transition in a reasonable time. I knew I hadn’t had my best ride — and I didn’t get any faster than the first race — but I kept it together and made it back. Small victories…

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Bike-to-run transition wasn’t bad. I knew I had more energy this time – because of the fuel I ate during the bike – and I had more realistic expectations of my legs coming off the bike this time around.

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What I didn’t anticipate… was this hill. The run was 3.5 miles and it was straight out-and-back. And this hill was the last thing I wanted to see coming out of transition.

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I tried to remind myself that an uphill at the beginning means a sweet, sweet downhill at the end — so I kept moving.

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The first mile was painfully slow and I started to doubt my fueling plan, but it really turned around during mile 2. I felt GREAT. The sun had really come out by this time and it was starting to warm up, but I knew I was so close to being done with this thing! Keep moving!

One of the volunteers kept calling out, “here comes Red Hot!” when I came into view and it distracted me – perfect! Mile 3 felt even better than mile 2 and I knew I was making great time. (My watch did something weird during bike/run transition and I had to reset it during mile 1, so I just had to guess how close I was to the finish.)

I rounded the corner and headed toward the finish line, and Jeff was running beside me long enough to say, “wow! I didn’t expect you so soon!” YES.

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Yay! Done! Official Time 2:05:37 and I am THRILLED. My swim pace was a hair faster than Tri #1 and my run was MUCH improved. Stupid bike… but even with the mechanical issues, I wasn’t much slower overall than my last bike – so THERE.

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I don’t have plans for any more triathlons this summer, but I am not altogether done. I have my sights set on an Olympic Distance race next summer — there may be a triathlete in me yet!

Results are below – for the sake of recordkeeping – but it’s especially fun to point out that while I was last in my age group (fine with me!) I am only in the 30-34 age group because of funky triathlon rules about birthdays and calendar years. In my “true” age group of 25-29, I would have placed FIRST in the run!

Results

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Special thanks to my personal coach and photog, Mr. Jeff Hood, and my new friends at ArkansasOutside.com for a few additional on-course photos.

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