This little injured runner became a triathlete (holy sh*%!)

From left: Heading to T1 after exiting Lake Michigan, looping on the bike and near the finish.

“You’re a triathlete.”

That’s what the BF whispered into my ear as he got up from the table at my celebratory breakfast to head to the bathroom. Then he kissed me on the cheek.

I grinned really big. And then my eyes welled up.

It wasn’t the first time that the tears came on the day of my first triathlon. (The first time was earlier in the day when I was getting ready. The next was after crossing the finish line. The last was at the restaurant, thank goodness.)

What was all that crying about? It’s hard to put into words. After the months of injuries, the doctors appointments, the pain, the frustration, the having to ride a stationary bike while wearing a boot… it all just seemed so far away, and that this was the moment when I could finally let it all go.

Thankfully there wasn’t time for tears on the course — it was a short, supersprint tri (.25-mile swim, 6.2-mile bike ride and 1.5-mile run) — because I wanted to go hard and finish strong.

After all the panic-attacks I’d had in open water leading up to the event, I figured it would take me a half-hour to do the swim. I had no idea how long transition would take me, so I budgeted for 10-15 minutes. The run I figured I could do in 15 minutes. So I thought I’d feel good about finishing in 1:15:00. You can imagine how good it felt, then, to finish in 48:18, 17th in my age group and 54th out of the women.

Here’s a recap of the day’s event:

Setting up transition

I set up my bike in the middle of my row so I didn't have to think about where to go during T1 and T2.

After an upset stomach forced me to down Tums like candy, I biked up to transition early. It opened at 6 a.m., and I was there not long after that. I found my row, parked my bike, grouped my bike and run items together and then wondered aloud when I should put on my wetsuit. The race didn’t start until 7:30, and my wave didn’t start until 8:09, but transition closed at 7:15… so I needed to put the wetsuit on at some point, but what if my nervous bladder had to go?

I finally opted to walk the course for a while. I had more than an hour to kill, after all. So I grabbed my banana, and walked down to the swim start. I took in the rising sun, watched some race folks set up the swim course and chatted with a couple of other people down there doing the same thing.

Then I walked the course like I would be racing it. From “swim out” to my bike, to “bike out” and then “bike in” back to my bike, and then to “run out.” All four corners of the rectangular transition area would be used for coming and going of some sort.

Finally I put my wetsuit on and left transition to hear the course talk before the first swim wave entered the water.

My biggest mistake: not drinking any fluids for fear I’d have to pee after putting on my wetsuit.

The swim

The good thing about being in Wave 14, is that you have a chance to watch several groups ahead of you to get a feel for what you’ll be doing. The bad thing is that there’s plenty of time for nerves to take over. I tried to overcome that by standing along the boardwalk to cheer for the swimmers ahead of me as they exited the water.

By the time I lined up in the wave line, I was terrified. I couldn’t help thinking about how badly my open water practice had gone. I actually said, “Oh my God!” out loud. And when I realized I had, I apologized to the girl next time. She said that everyone was thinking it, and that I just happened to be the only one who said it. That calmed me down for some reason.

When the buzzer went off, my mind shut off and I ran into the water. I did remember to lift my knees high like I learned at the swim clinic. But when I dove in to start swimming, I would take a stroke and then look up. Take a stroke and then look up. After about 30 seconds to a minute of “swimming” like that, I remembered that I knew how to swim and I should just effing do it! So I did, and I swam the entire time. No panic attacks. No stopping.

I ran out of the water energized and shaking — the adrenaline had officially kicked in. I started taking off my wetsuit and other gear so I was pretty much ready to hop on the bike by the time I reached it. I just had to rinse off my feet, stuff my feet in my shoes, slap on my helmet and go.

The bike

I jogged my bike out of transition, hopped on and went. I killed it. The short distance of the race combined with all the training I’d done in hard spin classes and at the Centurion Wisconsin ride paid off. I got passed exactly two times — and both of those cyclists had aerodynamic bikes and helmets, so I didn’t feel bad about it.

The course was a two-mile loop, so we had to ride around three times. Having to slow down at the ends to turn around an orange cone was maddening, if not dangerous.

No matter, clumsy me never crashed. So off to the final leg I went…

Here I am coming out of T2 wearing my Team F*ck My Injury shirt.

The run

I brought along my now-infamous blue shirt to wear after the race. The one that reads, “Team F*ck My Injury.”

On a whim in T2, I decided to wear the shirt during my run. It energized me the whole way, even as I started to bonk a little for lack of enough fluids. One woman even yelled to me, “nice shirt!” which of course made smile ear-to-ear.

But that shirt almost cost me the cheers of my spectators — they didn’t know to look for me in a blue shirt.  And I had three sets of the best spectators — the BF, my friend Mary and my colleague Tal, who brought along her boyfriend. They were all stationed at different points along the race, so it felt like I always had someone cheering for me.

The BF didn’t see me until the end, when the announcer called my name as Kristen Miller (it’s Kirsten, not Kristen for those of you who are wondering). But he looked up in time to snap a shot of me crossing the finish line. (Will post it when I get my hands on it.)

I threw my hands up at the end, yelled, “I did it!” and then burst into tears once more… so I guess my count up above is off.

I can’t wait to do the Lake Geneva, Wis., sprint triathlon on Sept. 11!!!

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19 Comments

Filed under Chicago Super Sprint, Cycling, Open Water, running, Swimming, Triathlon

19 responses to “This little injured runner became a triathlete (holy sh*%!)

  1. Dustin

    Congrats! I need your inspiration to get into the athletic spirit. Good luck this weekend. :-)

  2. annieb123

    How did I miss this? I am so proud of you. It is funny how often injury leads to triathlon. It definitely shows the true athlete in you that you chose to do this instead of just giving in when you couldn’t run. Well done lady.

  3. claudia

    Congrats!! I’m so glad to see that you’re back to running and have found so many other things you love. I’m still not running, but have been swimming and cycling while recovering. 1st Century is this weekend. And hope to tri as soon as I’m able. Congrats again!!

  4. Woohoo, you did it! And yep, you’re a triathlete now. :-) I’ve done two sprints and had to tell myself many times “hey, just swim — you’re not gonna drown!”. Can’t wait to read about your next race!

  5. Congratulations! You did awesome, so proud of you. You’re even managing to inspire me to get back running a bit.

  6. Connie

    Congrats on your first triathlon & your awesome finish time! I was in the same wave as you and I’m bummed I didn’t get to say hi! It was my first tri as well and I’m definitely hooked. Your blogs inspired me to start training for it when tendinitis killed my running for 4 mos. I’m so glad I did. Thank you & keep up the great work!

  7. What an awesome accomplishment! After the long road it is so much fun to celebrate with you in a small way. Thanks for sharing it with us. Can’t wait for more.

  8. Congratulations! What an amazing accomplishment. Good luck in Lake Genenva.

  9. Amazing! Congratulations, Triathlete! I need you to inspire me to give this a go next year!

  10. what a great accomplishment, congrats all around!!!!!!! GOOD FOR YOU!

    And, PS, you know we pee in our wetsuits – right? Yep…no worries.