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Race Result

Racer: Jamie Roberson
Race: Manassas Mini Tri
Date: Sunday, May 16, 2004
Location: Manassas, VA
Race Type: Triathlon - Other
Age Group: Female 40 - 44
Time: 0:43:35
Overall Place: 108 / 110
Age Group Place: 7 / 7
Comment: My First Triathlon

Race Report:

Manassas Mini Tri, May 16, 2004

How I got here:

Last July, I was sitting by a neighborhood pool, pleasantly fluffy-headed by the effects of a smuggled-in adult beverage. After watching lap swimmers go back and forth, I decided, “Hey, I can do that.” Two lengths of choppy “freestyle” later, I was breathless and embarrassed. I had just turned 41 and at about 70 pounds overweight, was way too young to feel so old. I remembered living in Hawaii in the 80’s when my coworkers were doing what was then the Tinman Triathlon. I remembered with some shame that I had missed that opportunity and wasted some prime years of fitness. That’s when I decided to become a triathlete.

After the smuggled-in adult beverage buzz wore off, I did some research and was enthralled. I hate to run, and hadn’t ridden a bike in decades, but I love to swim. All together, the sum of the three looked way better than the individual parts. I bought some books, starting with Triathlon for Ordinary Mortals, and found a reasonable walk-to-run program on www.beginnertriathlete.com. Like any good deskbound nonjock, I made up an Excel chart on my lunch hour and posted it on the side of the fridge. I marked off each day’s walk with a diagonal blue line. My dog loved the increased activity, too.

Backing up for a second, I say “deskbound nonjock” because that’s what I am. I’ve never been an athlete. Ever. I was an honor student growing up, a band kid, a nerd. Not that I don’t love sports. There aren’t many Southerners – male or female – who don’t have a passion for the regional religion of college football. I am and always have been a devoted (non-Southern friends say maniacal) follower of the University of Florida Gators. I just never played sports. I was uncoordinated and uninterested in being sweaty. It just wasn’t me.

But this triathlon thing had me between the ears. I read and read and read. I walked, then I jogged. I swam in the pool at the Spring Hill Rec Center and rode Life Cycles when the weather turned cold. I was even nice to another gymgoer who was as much of a Miami Hurricane as I am a Gator. I bought a bike on ebay. I entered some events.

The Event:

Ten months (and many Excel reiterations) later, minus a few pounds that are being replaced by muscle, I was standing by the pool at the Freedom Center, ready for my first triathlon. I had competed in the Bethesda YMCA tri a few weeks earlier as part of a relay team, but this time it was all on me. Five laps in the pool, 3.5 miles on the bike, and a 1.2 mile run is probably not enough to get any respectable RAT out of bed on a rainy Sunday morning. For me, though, this was a Big Deal.

One, two, three, four, GO! A nudge on the shoulder from the race director, and into the pool I went. Uh-oh. Goggles immediately filled with pool water. ^*&$#%!!! I got to the far wall and adjusted, but it was too late. I was over-excited, breathing too hard, and couldn’t find the groove I had practiced in so many Total Immersion drills. It was back to freestyle-breaststroke-freestyle and hope for the best. I didn’t mind the crowded pool lanes, but I really could have done with Mr. Furbag who kept pulling my shoulder away to pass, especially at congested lane turns in the “snake” formation. Hey, pal, you’ve touched the side. If you wanna pass me (and the 3-4 others at the edge), go around. Or under. I’ll deck you next time.

I figured my swim was toast, so I took the ladder out of the pool and strode out to the transition area. “Wanna go for a bike ride?” I asked the volunteers. Bet they hadn’t heard that one all day! Dork.

It had poured rain while we were swimming, but I had put my running shoes and socks under a bucket. Much more pleasant to put on soft cotton. Aaahhh. I gulped a gel for practice’s sake, slurped some Gatorade (once a Gator…), buckled in, and headed out.

Although it had stopped raining, the road was slick with fresh rain, all of which Godzilla kicked up on my nice fluffy socks. I know that “Godzilla” isn’t much of a name for a sleek machine like my QR Kilo, but I was amazed by how much of a beast this machine was (in a good way) after I rode it for the first time. The name just popped into my mind. I put a bendable plastic alligator on the handlebars to ride with me. Geek.

My worries about not being able to properly inflate the tires were allayed somewhat when I realized that a little more rolling resistance might give me better traction on the turns. This was especially important since I primarily train on the W&OD. Not too many turns there. But the ride wasn’t too hard, and I managed to ride my goal speed of about 15 mph, despite being winded from the swim.

I cruised back into transition and gulped another gel and Gatorade. Because it was such a short event, I put dual-sided pedals on Godzilla to avoid changing shoes. Uh oh. As soon as I set out…slosh-slosh-slosh. Runners were already lounging about, eating post-race bananas, and here I was, heading out with water balloons on my feet. Great. But hey, it’s only a mile, I can handle it, right?

Then came the Big Uh Oh. Knife-like pain seared up my outer legs from my ankles, while my calves seized up in charley horses. Oh-kay. I can run on knives and charley horses, or I can walk on knives. Walking will take longer. Run, walk, run, limp, walk, run, try not to cry. Quitting is not an option. The charley horses went back to their stall about 100 yards into the course, but the knives just kept going. I just realized that the sooner I got this over, the sooner it would be done. Run, walk, try not to cry. Rinse, repeat.

Finally I finished. My first triathlon. As soon as I took the shoes off and walked a bit, the knives were gone. The shoes. I shoulda known. I didn’t mention buying new shoes over the past ten months because…I hadn’t done it. They finally gave up.

I made some new friends, collected my sodden stuff, and trudged home with no clue about my final time. Didn’t matter. I finished my first triathlon.


After an epsom salt bath, I went to Footsteps, where my suspicions were confirmed. Trusty Asics had long since outlived their usefulness. I spent way too much money on a new pair of fancyfresh Asics, then headed to Tri-nergy. Steve showed me that my stems weren’t bent, but that I had simply not properly applied the pump. I had ridden the race at 40 psi. On a rear tire with a big gash on it. We fixed that right up, and off I went.

Here’s the really good news: the official splits came in today. I made my swim and bike goals and surpassed my run goal! And…I didn’t finish last! Okay, it was next-to-last, and the final triathlete was a 10-year-old girl, but I wasn’t last! Not bad for an old fat chick who ran on knives and wrestled furbags in the pool.

Back in my initial “I think I can do this!” phase, I had enough sense (or hubris) to think to enter the Reston Triathlon. I got in. With melanoma surgery looming on June 4, I’ve cancelled my other events so that I can focus on healing and training. I may finish last in the Reston Tri, but I’ll make it. My time may be 4:29:59, but I’ll make it.