Thursday, June 2, 2016

First triathlon since ACL replacement and Meniscus repair~Sand Hollow Sprint Triathlon~May 21, 2016

Last October, as I sat in the doctor's exam room listening to him tell me that I would be out of racing for a year, my heart sank. I had so many plans for the 2016 race season. He said that I could probably race a sprint triathlon by the fall, or a year after the injury. That news hurt more than my knee. I accepted this news and settled into the reality that I would have to cancel all of my plans for the upcoming year. 

That lasted for about one month. By mid-November, I got the crazy idea that maybe I could still do most of the races I had planned for 2016. I talked with my husband about my plans and he was 100% behind me (as always). I called my coach and told him about my plans. He thought about it for almost one second and was on-board too. He warned me that it was not going to be easy but if I stuck to an aggressive rehabilitation plan and met all the benchmarks set into place that I should be able to do it.

With that blessing, I set about planning my 2016 race schedule. The first triathlon that I would do was Sand Hollow Sprint Triathlon. I was able to start swimming in the pool by mid-January, bike on the trainer by the end of January, bike outside by mid-March, start running at the beginning of April, and open water swim by mid-April. 

Race weekend finally arrived. We drove to Hurricane, Utah on Friday night for packet pick-up. It was at a new location but I liked it better than the past locations. It was in a small strip of shops with a few eating places attached. We decided to eat at the pizzeria next door. After dinner, we went to our hotel. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Zion which was located between Hurricane and the race sight, Sand Hollow State Park. We got everything ready for the morning and went to bed.

We woke at 6:00 AM with a planned leave time of 6:30 AM. The hotel breakfast did not start until 6:30 AM so we ate the breakfast bars and bananas we brought just in case. We were in the car on time and on our way. The park required a parking pass for entry. We purchased it for $10 at packet pick-up so we were able to drive right through the pay station. We parked where we were directed and unloaded our gear. My race wasn't scheduled to start until 7:40 AM and my husband's was going to start at 8:00 AM. Since we arrived later than most of the racers, we had to park pretty far away. Once we arrived at transition, I was pleased to see that it wasn't too crowded and I was able to set up my transition spot with ease. 

After my gear was set up, I got my body marking done. I was then able to walk around and find some friends that were also racing. As my race time approached, I made one final stop at the port-a-potty, grabbed my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles and headed down towards the swim start.

With my biggest fan before the race
Once I was near the water, my nerves really began to run wild. I started to worry about being able to complete the race. There is one really tough hill on the bike that I was worried about and the entire run made my nervous. I kept repeating my concerns to my husband but he continued to remind me that I was ready. I gave him one final smile and kiss and made my way to the water.

A smile before the race masking my nerves
It was finally time for my wave. I followed all the other yellow caps into the water. I made my way towards the front of the floating herd. My goggles were fogging up so I made a few adjustments.

Getting a few final instructions from the race director
After just a minute or so, the horn was blown and we were off. There was heavy wind forecast for the day and it definitely followed up to it's prediction. Due to the wind, the swim course was altered to keep the swimmers closer to the shore. The water was so choppy that I swallowed more water that morning than I have at any other open water swim or race. The waves were coming in from the right so I was only able to breathe from the left but even then, waves would crest over my head and water would fill my mouth. I had to cough a few times but powered through. The wind had blown over the swim out arch that I usually use to spot my return route so I had a little more difficulty than usual. I finally reached the boat ramp and made my way out of the water. I completed the 750 meter swim in 18:27.

And we're off
Transition was short and sweet. I was a little nervous about getting my wetsuit off without pulling on my knee too much. I took a little more time just to stay safe and it came off without issue. I completed T1 in 2:50.

I started the bike portion feeling good. The beginning of the route is a nice little downhill which gave me a few minutes to rest my legs. Once at the bottom of the hill, I started pedaling. As you can see from the map below, there is a BIG hill that is about one mile long. It is affectionately called "The Beast". My goal for the bike was to not walk up the hill. I hadn't really done any hill training since I started biking again so I knew that this was going to hurt. It was very slow going but I put my head down and pedaled. I met my goal and stayed on my bike for the entire ride. Once on the other side of the hill, I was able to pick up speed to the turnaround. The remainder of the ride was good. The road had recently been resurfaced in chip and seal so it wasn't too fast or smooth. I completed the 12.4 mile bike portion in 53:21.
The bike course
I returned to the transition area and began to realize that I was going to be able to finish this race, even if I had to walk the run. As I was taking off my bike gear and getting my run gear on, I heard the announcer give me a shout out. I have raced with this company for several years and know most of the team. It was a nice added morale boost to have my friend cheer me along over the loud speaker. I finished T2 in 1:36.

The run course
My coach had given me the go ahead to run as much as I could and walk when needed. He reminded me to watch my speed out of the transition area. Since it starts with a downhill, he wanted me to make sure I controlled my run and didn't get ahead of myself. My Garmin watch was broken and off for repairs so I was completing this race without data. I had no idea how fast or slow I was running or how far I was along the course. The only point I would know the distance was at the turnaround spot. I ran for about the first 1.25 miles and then started to walk up the hill. I walked for about 3-5 minutes until I was at the top and then started running again. I made it to the turnaround and knew that I would be able to run the rest of the race since it was mainly downhill until the end. I started to run a little faster and let gravity help me. Once I reached the last uphill that led into the finisher's chute, I told myself that I was almost there and was not going to stop now. I pushed up the hill. I saw a few friends at the beginning of the finisher's chute and they started cheering for me. It gave me the final boost that I needed to pick up my pace. As I was making my way down the final few yards, the announcer told the crowd that I was about to finish my first race since my injury and major surgery. This caused the crowd to start cheering for me. It was an uplifting feeling. I tried to sprint the final few feet and crossed the finish line. At that moment, I started to cry. I was surprised at that reaction. Apparently, this meant more to me than I realized. I completed the 3.1 mile run in 37:26.

Finishing my first sprint triathlon since my injury and surgery
I received my medal, gave my timing chip back, grabbed a water and made my way to the transition area to grab my camera. I was still crying. I saw a friend who was working in transition and he congratulated me on my finish. I finally composed myself and returned to the timing table to see how I did. I completed the entire race in 1:53:42. It was good enough to place 2nd in my division of Athena, 40 and over. 
On the podium
While receiving my place medal, the girl announcing told the crowd about it being my first race back after my injury and I got another cheer. It was humbling. I was proud of myself for having completed this race less than 5 months after my knee surgery and about 5 months before the doctor said I would be able to. 

With my finisher's medal and  podium medal
I still have a long way to go in my training in order to achieve all the goals that I have set for this year but so far, I am well on my way.

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