Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My First Triathlon - Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Triathlon

The sweet race shirt

Doing a triathlon has been on my mind for several years now.  For those of you that know me, you're probably tired of hearing me saying I'm gonna do one.  But never really making an effort to do it.   I ride and run a lot and could easily complete one if I could swim.  I found myself coming up with repeated excuses.  I'm busy training for a marathon, I want to run this race or ride that tour. Always coming up with a reason not to swim.  Why?  Swimming has been a life long struggle for me.   Going all the way back to my childhood.  As a stocky kid, I was routinely teased by others and dreaded time at the pool.  To make matters worse, I have a birthmark on my chest that led to even more teasing. I hated the pool and I hated swimming even more.  The bullying kept me away from the water and helped grow a lifelong hatred of swimming.  Things didn't get much better as an adult.  During my 20's I was out of shape and obese.  Things had gotten so bad that I nearly drowned in a lake as I was so out of shape.  I couldn't even save myself.  I spare you the details, but if you'd like more of the story.  You can find that here. Welcome

The water was pretty calm, but got really choppy prior to the race.

I've always looked up to triathletes.  Always amazed at their dedication and conditioning to be able to be successful in not only 1 event, but 3 disciplines.  I wanted to do one so badly, but it would be mean i'd have to swim.  I had sworn to myself I would never go in a lake again, but as years past.  I began to wonder if I could do it.  Would I panic?  Could I save myself this time?  Will I get kicked in the face and drown?  All were things I'd constantly think about.  After this year's disappointment with how I ran at the Cleveland Marathon.  I was ready for a change.  Completely burned out from running and needing to try something different.  I sucked it up and hired a swim coach.  Fighting a lot of fears, I began to swim in a pool.  It helped at first, but I found myself failing to practice.  My favorite line was, I'll go tomorrow.  I never would and I didn't improve.  Continuing with the lessons.  I continued to flounder and wasn't getting any better.  The realization of this happening in 2012 was becoming more of a reality each day. It wasn't until I started training with Laurie and her constant motivation to swim in a lake that I began to improve and be at peace with swimming.  The support and help of swimming 3 times a week led to some personal bests and the confidence to finally give it a TRI!

Race day arrived and I was fairly nervous.  I kept telling myself that today is a day of firsts and success will only be measured by standing on two feet as I cross the finish line.  Fairport Harbor is about 50 miles from me and I needed to get to the start at 6:30 to get a good transition spot.  It was definitely an early morning for me.  When I arrived, I wouldn't look at the lake.  I was scared it would be rough and I didn't want to know.  Being a nervous wreck, I must have made 8 trips from my car to my transition spot.  Is it time for this?  Is it time for that?  How soon so I put my wetsuit on?  Are all things that kept repeated in my head.  

Trying to hide that I was pretty scared at this point. 

The last 30 minutes prior the race were a blur.  I found myself in a mob of people listening to directions and trying to figure where to go.  The race began with the Kayak group and the the first wave of males.  I was in the second wave.  As the race began, I entered the water.  HOLY MOSES!!!!  The water was ice cold.  It was by far the coldest water I have ever swam in.  Thank goodness I had my wetsuit on.  I continued to make my way into the water and BAM!!!!  I stubbed my toe on a rock and it began to throb.  I began to panic.  Is it broke?  Can I ride?  How will I make it through the run?  All began to run through me head.  The start was about 40 yards from the beach and I could barely touch still.   I hid in the back as I am still a pretty slow swimming.  Except everyone else wanted to hang back too.  I kept repeating.  I'm slow go ahead and they kept saying, no.  I'm slow too.   The count down was going on 2 minutes.  1:30.  1 minute.  Holy crap this is for real now.  45 seconds.  30 seconds.  15 seconds blared over the loud speaker.  GO!!!  Mass hysteria broke out everywhere.  Immediately the fast people took off and the rest of us seemed to converge upon each other.  I swam as hard as I could, trying to stay in the open water.  2 minutes in and I could already hear someone screaming for help.  I looked to my right and saw a guy in trouble.  Do I stop?  We can still touch, right?  What's the right thing to do?  I quickly saw he was helped and I forged on.  Around 200 yards, I began to fatigue.  My shoulders ached really bad.  I do not if it was stress or the cold water.   Bet I never felt this fatigued before while swimming.  Fighting through it, I continued on.  Hitting the 250 yard mark, which should have been half way.  I could see the turn around in the distance.  This was a 500 yard swim, yet I'm not even half way.  Continuing on again, I could see people when I would sight turning early.  I couldn't believe how many people were cheating! I made it to the turn around and headed back.  About half way, the next wave started coming through.  It was the first female wave and the leaders were flying by.  I tried to stay out of everyone's way as I didn't want to ruin someones race.  Coming to the final turn and making the left. I headed to the beach.  Of course, I started to run in the water too early and fatigued my legs pretty good.  But I made it!!!!!! I survived!!!!

616 yards in 14 minutes and 49 seconds.

I survived!!!!!

This is when I first realized my wetsuit was going to put up a fight. 

Transition 1
Wow, did things go horribly wrong here.  I forgot to take my Garmin off, which meant I could not get my hand out of the wetsuit sleeve.  I lost a ton of time here.  

Time:  5 minutes 18 seconds

I needed a big ride this time.  Not only was I needing to make up time for my lack of running skills.  I need to make up for being a bad swimmer and the comedy of errors that was my transition.  The ride was flat, except for the start.  As soon as you mount your bike.  There was a steep climb that was about 2 tenths of a mile.  I had my bike already set in a 34x25 gear and just spun my legs easily to get up it.  Traffic at this point was bad and I kept yelling passing, so people would move over.  Cresting the first hill and making a quick left, it was time to show them who was boss.  Turning the after burners on, I was through the first 5 miles in 13 minutes flat.  The next 5 miles were a little more technical and I made it through them in 14 miles flat.  Going all pac man on every one I gobbled up one after another and wasn't passed by anyone.  Mostly because all the fast people were too far ahead, but anyways.  It was still cool not get over taken over by anyone.  The last 3 were killer.  It was a false flat up and into a stiff headwind.  Dropping to an easier gear, I couldn't regulate my breathing.  I continued to spin as best I could, but lost a bit of time here.  The end of the route was pretty cool as it was downhill and the street was lined with people.  I think I freaked a few volunteers out as I was coming in pretty hot.  The people were so loud.  I had to ride fast for them right?  

Time:  12.32 miles in 35 minutes 20 seconds.  

Transition 2
Things went a little better for me this time.  Though, I did lose some time putting socks on.  Yes, I have learned to go sock free yet.  

Time:  2 minutes 26 seconds.  

The run sort of followed the same bike route.  So it was back up the hill!  I walked it.  I was still in need of catching my breath and I wanted to conserve energy.  Once atop the hill.  I did feel much better and eased into a decent pace.  The first mile and a half felt like 5 miles.  Grabbing some water at the half way mark, I pressed on.  I kept telling myself only a mile and a half and your a triathlete.  1 more mile and your a triathlete.  This is happening!  I kept running as hard as I could.  Fighting back the emotions that this day was brining.  Volunteers were cheering, only 1 more turn.  Only 1 more block.  One last turn on to the grass and I could see a massive finish sign.  I went as hard as I could and almost tripped on the hill as I hit it wrong with my foot.  Recovering, I floated to the finish line. 

The announcer raised my arm in congratulations and I was a Triathlete.  

Time:  3.1 miles in 25 minutes in 32 seconds.

1/2 mile to go!!!!

My official time was 1 hour and 23 minutes.  It was good enough for 144th out of 343 people and I was 15th in my age group.  I honestly have no idea if this was a good time or not, but it doesn't matter.  Today was about achieving a goal and a new beginning.

I love this photo.

I'm still on cloud 9 after this race and feel like I need to pinch myself ensure I am not dreaming.  I want to thank everyone for their support and well wishes.  It has been greatly appreciated.  I also want to thank Laurie, Alex, and Colleen.  Without your help with training and motivation, none of this would have been possible.  Another big thanks to Jason Mursch and Alex for the sweet photos.

Post race with Laurie.  I'm still in shock I made it. 

To answer everyone's question.  Yes!  I will definitely do another one and I look forward to working on becoming a better swimmer.  My next race will be an olympic distance triathlon in August and I have even bigger plans for this Fall.  It won't be easy and I have an aggressive training program in place to go with an aggressive race schedule.  With everyone's help and support.  Along with a lot of hard work.  I'm sure I can achieve my goals.

Lighthouse photo with Alex.

Post race.  Yes, still can't believe I made it. 


Jay said...

Great job Beal! I'm glad I was there with the zoom lense to capture this awesome event. See ya at the next one.

Matty O said...

LOVE THIS! Don't worry man, I wear socks all the time too no matter the distance. It's how I roll ;)

Didn't know the background w/ the swimming... dude you are 100% bad ass for overcoming all of that to get where you are right now and kick some ass out there. You finished in over 50% of the field for your first TRI and had to contend w/ a garmin eating wetsuit!

Keep up the hard work, trust me, swimming is the hardest thing to do since you can't just swim from your door... you have to plan to swim and that is what is a pain in the butt.

You will see huge gains w/ your dedication and I think these are MUCH more fun than just going to a race and running ;)

Bari said...

Woot!!! Congratulations - my first tri is in 2.5 weeks & I'm hoping I survive :)

inspirunning said...

I heard a great quote a few weeks ago that pertains to your history and post:

"Being fearless isn't having fear. It's doing it anyway"

Congrats! Killer.

Anonymous said...

COngratts!!! And your run time was awesome for doing a swim and bike before hand. WOWS!!!
Can't wait to come spectate one of these soon!!!!

Jen said...

That's so awesome! A REAL TRI!!! Great!!!!!