Sunday, July 24, 2011

There will be no DNF today!

Here's my "No, I'm totally not nervous!" face.
Dropping out of one race (known as a DNF for Did Not Finish) with a flat tire is bad luck. Two DNFs in a row starts an ugly streak of which I want no part. Thanks partly to a wonderful volunteer, there's no streak!  I finished my race!

Today's race was the Chisago Lakes Sprint Triathlon, in a small town about 40 minutes north of St. Paul.  I did this race last year, and I love the course: a short swim, a beautiful, mostly-flat bike ride, and a nice run course.  There's also a half-Ironman option for the race, with a swim course that stretches way across the lake, making the sprint course look even shorter by comparison!

This morning, temperatures were cool, and I rejoiced during the car ride on behalf of the half-Ironman athletes, who wouldn't have to compete for hours in a sludge of heat and humidity.  We got to the race site, and I set up my bike, shoes, sunglasses, hat, and other miscellaneous gear at my spot in the transition zone.  Fog sitting on the lake resulted in a few minutes' delay.  You can see the remnants of it in this picture of the half-Ironman start.

The swim was wonderful.  I've written about my troubles with swimming in the past, and I felt nervous before the race that I'd panic in my first open-water swim since last August.  But my wave started, and I took one ugly wrong breath in the water and then settled into a good rhythm, which lasted for the rest of the swim.  I wasn't fast by any means, but I was hanging in with my wave, swimming with the pack instead of bringing up the rear.  Yes! 

(Fun fact: just as the wave before mine started, the announced told that group that the race field's oldest athlete was in that field.  How old was he?  87.  He got a huge round of applause. So cool.)

The first 10 miles of the 24-mile bike leg were blessedly uneventful, and I felt strong.  Then my back wheel started to sound a little bit clunky. I worried for a second that I was getting a flat for my second race in a row, then wryly reminded myself that no, I would now definitely know a flat when I saw it.

Half a mile later, I knew a flat.  Rats.

I pulled off to side of the road and started to pull out my spare tube and tools.  I can fix a flat tire, but my problem is that I'm so slow.  (This week's goal: spend an evening fixing a flat over and over until it's easy.)  But unlike last time, I was stubborn: no quitting.  If it took me an hour, I'd bring up the rear of the race. 

Then a truck pulled up, and a guy jumped out wearing a "Forest Lake Cycle and Skate" t-shirt.  Turns out that there were bike shop employees driving around the race course, looking for people in situations like mine.  He was a complete gem and helped me change the flat in 10 minutes or less.  He also pulled a piece of glass out of my tire that may have lingered from the last flat and caused this one, too.  I was so grateful.  People: please patronize that business.  

And then I finished the bike leg!  No DNF for me today!

I'm in the "dismount" zone, preparing to demonstrate
what is obviously going to be a very graceful dismount.
I dropped my bike, switched from bike shoes to running shoes, grabbed my sunglasses and hat, and headed out for the 5K run.  I had a surprising amount of energy left, possibly stemming from my unscheduled rest break on the bike course, and proceeded to burn it all up over the next three miles.  I was super-pleased with the run.

I crossed the finish line and saw Josh.  I was covered in sweat and probably smelled like Eau de Lake Water, so I gave him a high-five.  (Totally romantic.)  The food tent was my next destination, and the results were eclectic.  Breakfast was the theme.  There were bowls of dry cereal and a big jug of milk sitting out on the table.  It seemed like a good idea for about a minute, but I resisted.  The best food in the tent?  Pancakes, hot off the griddle.  Divine. 

Cookies and pancakes: a really nice breakfast.
I am ready to pronounce myself over my fear of the open-water swim.  (In races, anyway.)  Now the scariest part of a triathlon comes afterward.  Wetsuit best practices call for rinsing out the lake water in the shower, and then hanging the wetsuit up in the shower to dry.  Every time I open the shower curtain and see the wetsuit hanging, I scream because there's a headless intruder who happens to be wearing a wetsuit in my shower.

He's scary, isn't he!?  Look at those broad shoulders.
Despite the temporary mishap on the bike course, I had a great time out there.  I started to really, really like triathlon, instead of viewing the race as two sports to simply get through before getting to run.  Each segment is a little adventure in itself, with highs and lows that can have nothing to do with the other segments.  I encounter so many good people on the race course, from families and friends cheering (thanks, Josh!) to volunteers to fellow triathletes.  All around, it's such a positive atmosphere in spite of (or perhaps because of) the challenge. 

And a sprint triathlon's early start time means I'm back home by noon with a pile of Chipotle and a watermelon granita by my side, with the newspaper waiting for me and a Twins game coming up on TV.  That makes for a very nice Sunday.


  1. Way to go, Becks! But watch out behind you--there's a headless diver in your shower!

  2. I'm so glad to hear it went well! Woot for no wayward muskies!

  3. I love this and laughed through most of it! A mother can be VERY proud~!

  4. Thanks, you guys! Bridget, it's even worse now: the wetsuit is hanging on the shower railing, so its arm curls around the curtain and scares me even more. Nat: sometimes in races, I picture wayward muskies right behind me to make me swim faster. It works!

  5. this made me want to do another tri! i love the photos and captions as well. congrats girl! glad you got through that flat!!and that no muskies were at your tail ;) (sj)