....Transitions are hard. They should be easy, but they're not. And why are they not? Because you're wet and salty and confused.
I found this out the hard way.
After exiting the water I stumbling my way up the beach, over the timing mat, down a little dirt path, across a bike route that was not closed for the event, and up the transition tunnel into T1. Thank goodness I new where my bike was. It was on the first rack! Hurray!
I had a heck of a time rubber-arming myself trying to find the damn drawstring on the back of my wetsuit, but had managed to wriggle it to about waist level out of the water. As I ran to my bike I slipped it down over my thighs (doesn't that sound erotic) and then butt flopped onto the ground (less erotic) where I attempted to yank the last remaining neoprene skin traps-of-death over my cold, wrinkled and (I would find out later) bleeding feet (definitely less erotic). I pulled hard, really hard, positioned in
what could only be described as the world's worst happy baby pose. I was not a happy baby. At all. And when that last leg finally snapped off do you know what happened?
I cramped. So hard! Because apparently wetsuit removal foot flexibility was not part of my prior 6 day training regime.
But no time to worry about that.
Fortunately my purple running shorts that I had on under my wetsuit stayed on. I was already on the ground so I decided to put on shoes first. Well, technically, socks and then shoes (top tip from Grandma). But my feet were soaked and sandy (and bleeding) and my socks were impossible to get on. BAM, cramp again!!
Okay, so socks on, shoes on relatively easily by comparison. Up I stand, then immediately hands to knees, still dizzy from swimming. Okay up I go again. Tank top on. Nope, on backwards. Dammit which way do tank tops go on? Who cares, fuck it. Helmet on. Reach down and grab some "nutrition".
Now I digress here for a moment. You see in my pre-triathlon forum reading I learned that "nutrition" was an important part of your race effort. You wanted enough sugars and salts to sustain your energy and electrolytes, a bit of protein if you could, and something easy on the stomach.
So what did I do? I bought a MASSIVE BOX OF CHOCOLATE COVERED ALMONDS. Makes sense right? Wrong. But back to that in a moment.
Unbeknownst to me I actually exited the water ahead of most of the children and old people I was racing, so my awkward run to the bike mount line was pretty much done free of any interference.
Now do you remember that fancy bike my buddy Brett lent me? Like all great triathletes Brett uses clip-ins (clipless, whatever you call them) pedals. I, being less than great, had normal-ass running shoes. So upon arriving at the mount line I straddled this amazing borrowed machine, positioned my basic running shoe on the clipless carbon pedal, and pushed oh so hard to get going.....in the amazingly tough gear I had for some reason racked the bike in.
Yep, I did that.....
So after wobbling a whole lot, slipping off the pedals on account of not having clips, and nearly crashing (one marshal gave me that "the Rock" eyebrow thing), I was off!! Time to crush the bike!
Amazingly my bike went pretty darn well. I settled into "aero" without dying. My feet didn't really slip from the pedals once I was positioned, and I figured out "gears" on the go and was able to make a pretty good run of things! My amazing yellow tank top flapping in the breeze behind me.
One of the "high points" of the entire race (pun intended, yuk yuk) was this hill climb that comes just before the descent to T2 (you see to descend, you first have to go up. Neat). I was actually the only one on the course at this point, having passed the few children who were faster than me out of the water, with any other real athletes leagues ahead. And as I absolutely grinded my way up this hill at what felt like a cadence of probably 40rpm, totally alone, totally out of breath, this one woman was just standing there randomly. But when she saw me coming she started shaking her little cow bell with the enthusiasm of a Texas Cowboys cheerleader!
I actually started laughing she was so great. And then she started laughing, because I passed her so slowly that we had time to have a nice chat about the weather and my race so far. I thanked her for her support. It actually made a difference and it left me with a huge smile on my face.
Now I have this brain function (or lack of brain function) that switches off the fear of death when speed is involved. So, having not ridden a bike in years, and being in aero, and not having the proper shoes, and all other thoughts went out the window as I hit the descent. I went absolutely screaming downhill as my face shook and my eyes watered and I just didn't care. This part was fun!
T2 was a breeze. I was already wearing my running shoes (convenient) and my running shorts (convenient) and my running tank top (convenient) and so I basically booked it in to T2, racked the bike, reached down and grabbed a huge handful of chocolate covered almonds and took off through the exit tunnel.
Now I'd never been in a race where I was alone so much before. Usually, it's easy to spot the course route, because their are 10,000 people running the same way. But here I was more focused on eating chocolate covered almonds and so I took the most obvious route which.....actually turned out to be the finishing coral!!
That's right! I started my run by heading out through the finish line the wrong way. But man was I cooking as I did it!
Fortunately, the crowd started yelling and I slowed down, and then stopped. I remember this so clearly. Some guy was like "dude, you got to go that way (pointing behind me)" and I said "really? I'm pretty sure it's this way (pointing in front of me) and he responded "well dude, you can do what you want, but it's that way..."
So I paused, and decided he must be right and turned around and booked it.
He was right!
And so now I'm on the right path (triumphant music) and I'm feeling great off the bike as my stride starts to lengthen and I'm asking directions to make sure I'm going the right way and I'm inhaling my chocolate covered almonds for nutrition and......I inhale too hard and I choke!
I choked on a damn chocolate covered almond! And had to mini-vomit to get it back out. Tris are awesome!
So screw you chocolate covered almonds. The rest went in the bushes where they probably grew into chocolate covered almond trees or something. Like I care.
Pick it back up Trevor, get going. In the distance I see a woman who is running my route. She must be a competitor! And I'm closing the gap. And as I get closer and closer and it becomes clear that I'm going to overtake her I have this wave of dread wash over me.
You see in a fun run, when you pass someone, you would wish them a good day or say "nice work" or "great ass" or something like that, you know, to be friendly.
But this was a triathlon!! Triathletes are intense! Competitive to the core! Do I wish her a good day? What do I do?
I know, fuck it, I'll blow by her like the super competitive triathlete I am.
And as I "blow by her" (read, run slightly faster than her) I hear this "great job" from my fierce competitor. "Dammit" I think, "I'm an asshole". "You too" I yell back as a tree branch hits me in the face. #karma
I've made my bed, and so I turn on the jets. I mean I swear I probably hit like a 5:50/km at least (kidding...sort of). I crossed the finish about 30 seconds in front of that female competitor. The finish line actually wasn't set up yet, so her and I sort of just hopped a fence and went back into T1 to gather our stuff. There were still racers coming in from the bike as we departed.
My buddy Brett was there, mostly to safeguard his bike. And it was only at this time, when I was finally relaxed, that I realized I had blood on me, a fair bit of it in fact. I looked all around and realized that my hands had been bleeding since the swim with what looked like 10,000 paper cuts. What from? Well, from dragging them through the sand of course.
Not only that, but upon getting home, my shoes were full of blood from the very same sand. How hardcore am I?
My hands took weeks to heal, my feet the better part of a year, but I was beaming and still beam. I had never, ever, had so much fun in a race in my life.
"Now wait" you say, "this is about your Ironman origin?" And you're right, it is. My next race after this one was Ironman 70.3 in Victoria. And it went great!
But with each race I do, I think back to this first one. Bleeding hands, gasping for breath, running the wrong way, choking on almonds, and I laugh and I smile and it makes it all so much fun.
I want every race to be like my first race.
Thus concludes my Origin Story. Fin.