Alaska has an awesome women’s triathlon called the Gold Nugget, and it’s well-known to be super friendly toward beginners. I’m used to running, and started kicking around the idea of a triathlon last year, but not until the race was already sold out. This year I was ready for registration and got in (before it sold out in 9 minutes)! I was nervous about the swimming and biking, since I hadn’t really been swimming since I took a class in college 15 years ago, and I hadn’t biked since I was a kid. But I love having a goal to work toward, so I took on the challenge and started working!
The distances were (in this order): 500 yd. swim, 12.1 mile bike, and a 4.1 mile run. I trained through the winter at the gym and the indoor pool, and got outside as soon as the snow cleared (April). It was hard to estimate what a good goal would be since I’d never done one before, and I originally shot for 2 hours, 30 minutes, knowing that it would be easily doable. As my training went on, and I looked at previous years’ results, I started to wonder if I could actually go under two hours. While the biggest thing was just to finish and have a great time, I really started to have my heart set on that 2 hour mark. And, I’m proud to say, I beat it by quite a bit, with a time of 1:50! I almost had to let out a little scream in the race results tent when I saw it.
*I made a checklist for all my gear, and organized it in order of the day. I thought this would be so fail-proof…
*Swim: I was in the first starting wave of the day, which was 9am. This ended up being great for me, because the pool wasn’t congested and backed up yet. As well-organized as the race is, moving 1500 women through one swimming pool is a logistical nightmare, but my swim went smoothly, other than hefting myself out of the pool. My time was 13:02, which was about the 60th percentile.
*Bike: Ah, the bike. I have lots of room for improvement there. Kind of a comparatively slow time, and lots of people passing me, but a good time for me. Time was 55:07, which was under my goal of an hour, and also about the 60th percentile.
*Run: The run was definitely my best leg. By this point in the race, many of the people were walking this portion, but I wanted to run it. The last mile about killed me, but in the end, I was able to run the entire thing without walking, and ended up with an average pace of 9:01 minutes per mile, which is an awesome pace for me – I think my 5K split was my second-fastest 5K ever. Unfortunately I still had another mile to go after that! My total time was 36:59, which put me in about the 30th percentile overall.
*Meeting my goal time, of course!
*I was really happy with my training leading up to the race. Between working full-time, and 3 kids in various sports and activities, it was really challenging to fit in enough workouts. I had to be really creative, getting up early in the morning, swimming laps while my kids had swim lessons, etc. Not to mention that there are NO triathlon training programs that take into account that the ground will be covered in snow until the month before the race. But I used what I knew about running training programs, and wrote myself something that I felt like worked really well for me.
*The race itself. Everything was organized so well, the volunteers and organizers were super friendly, the other racers were supportive – you couldn’t ask for better energy in a race. It was amazing. The ages of the racers ranged from 9-76, and women of every size and shape.
*Crazy awesome run. All this cross-training has really helped my run times, and I ran some of my best miles ever.
*Seeing my family there, cheering me on! I also had several friends and family members in the race throughout the day, and it was fun to see them and cheer them on.
*Someone posted a picture of a black bear on the bike course the night before the race. Uh, can you say nerves?! And, reading the race reports coming in on the Facebook page, it seems that more than one person SAW black bears on the course today! Ack! Gotta love Alaska!
*I had shin splints in the two weeks leading up to the race, along with some crazy busy weeks at work. I knew I had to lay low and mostly stay off my feet for the shin splints, but it made me really anxious that my body would just forget all the training I had spent months on. It didn’t, but it caused me a lot of anxiety in the days before the race.
*Okay, I know this sounds like I have turned into a true Alaskan, but it was actually a *touch* too hot for me out on the course today. We’ve been uncharacteristically warm here lately (over 70 degrees), and I was super hot on the run. Felt like California! Of course, it’s better than the alternative, and I’m sure in future years I’ll look back longingly on this 72 degree day!
*I forgot my sunglasses AND my racing belt/bib (my number) at my first transition!!!! The racing instructions said you HAD to have your racing bib for the run, so I spent a LONG hour on my bike having nightmares of what they would do when I got to the run and didn’t have it (answer: nothing, but it was a lot of stress). How do you forget your BIB NUMBER?!? I think what happened was that it was so warm out, that I was setting aside a lot of the stuff I had packed and not using it, so I must have somehow included my race number with that? I don’t know.
*Um…. this? It took me forever to figure out how I got this, until several days later a fellow racer suggested that it was perhaps from getting out of the pool. Ah, yes. The pool has a really high ledge to get out – next year I’m going to do some practice swims in the actual race pool so that I can practice getting out.
And that’s it! I’ve had so many people say they could NEVER do a triathlon, but it was really encouraging to see women of all ages and fitness levels out there on the course today! Most people could do most beginner-level races with a few months of training, so start exploring what’s in your area and try something new this summer!