Did that really just happen? Did I really complete a triathlon?

Posted on August 26, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

On Sunday, August 21, 2011, I did something that was a long time coming, but I never thought possible.  I completed a triathlon.  My previous race experience includes two 5K’s that I walked.  The first was the Stagecoach Days 5K in Marshall, Texas back in 2009.  I walked it with my son.  The other race was the Father’s Day 5K (June 2011) that I walked because of soreness from canoeing the previous week.

I originally signed up for the 2010 Strathmore Women’s Triathlon, but I had an ACL injury in a skiing accident and Deanne thankfully let me roll over my entry.  I’ve been looking forward to this race for 21 months.  My training had been more focused on the running part to improve my endurance and my distance – I got the wild idea of signing up for a half marathon in September.  My goal for my first triathlon was just to finish and have fun.  However, as the day quickly approached, I begin to worry that I wasn’t ready.

The morning of the 21st came early.  My family managed to get out the door by 6am.  We arrived in Strathmore just after 7am and I set up my transition.  I guess it was obviousthat I was a newbie (my nervousness was showing) and was swarmed with other ladies offering advice or just checking on me.  I was so thankful for any and all encouragement I received.  After getting my body markings and timing chip I tried to relax.  My nerves had calmed and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the race.  It was bright, sunny, and the warmest day we’ve had all summer!

My swim heat was called.  I got my swim cap and stood on deck waiting my turn to enter the pool.  My mind was going a mile a minute.  Then it hit me – I haven’t been in a pool in a year.  I used to swim 2000m every day and it took me about an hour.  When I had to give a swim time I put down 500m in 15 minutes.  Questions raced through my head – “It’s been a year, what if I’m a lot slower now?” “Swimming was by far my strongest sport, what if I lost it all?”  “Will I finish the race or die during the swim?”  I walked to my designated lane and eased into the water, took a deep breath, and pushed off.  My first reaction was “Oh, this feels so good.  I’ve really missed swimming!”  I swam my laps, trying not to go too fast since I had a bike ride and a run left to do.  It didn’t take very long before the volunteer was telling me that I had 50m left.  Next thing I know I was out of the pool and headed to transition.

The first person I saw as I walked through the door was my husband, steadily taking pictures of me.  I was so thankful he was there (but did wonder who was watching the boys).  I got to transition and started putting on my bike gear.  I could hear the boys hollering at me and my heart swelled with pride.  My eyes might have teared up as well, but we’ll just say it was water from the pool.

I was on the bike, shoes were clipped in, and I was ready to go.  To be honest, I hadn’t been on a bike as much as I should have.  There was a fear associatedwith the fact that I would be attached to my bike and the idea of having to stop for lights or if a car pulled out in front of me kept me from training very much.  The course was amazing – it had been hand swept the day before.  As I rode, there were cheers of encouragement all around.  The volunteers that helped with traffic clapped and cheered as I went by, other race participants cheered me on as they made their way back to the transition area, and one lady rode her motorcycle up and down the bike course honking at everyone she passed.  I soon realized that one of the many voices I heard was mine as I yelled out encouragement to others.  At kilometer 9 my rear end was beginning to wonder when we were going to be done.  I reached the turn around point and started back.  Now Deanne had said that it would be a “gentle incline” on the way back.  I’ve decided that her idea of “gentle” and mine were different.  As I worked through my gears I realized that the kilometer signs weren’t coming as quickly as they had before.  At kilometer 13, my rear started screaming at me that we were done.  I kept pedaling.  Shouts of encouragement were still coming my way.  I didn’t realize how important it would be for someone to tell me what a great job I was doing, or to keep it up.  I heard a new voice around kilometer 14.  A hawk was screeching.  Yeah, he was encouraging me, too.  I tried to enjoy the scenery – the ducks in the water, the fields, even the cow lot, but the “gentle incline” was demanding my attention.  I found myself repeating a series of sentences.

“Don’t stop pedaling – if you do, you’ll fall over.”

“Don’t stop – if you do, you’ll never get started again on this hill.”

“Don’t get off the bike – if you do, you’ll never get back on.”

“You. Got. This.”

Finally I saw the big fire truck and knew I was close.  I rode back to transition and was once again greeted by my husband and kids cheering me on.  I was greeted by a lot of husbands and kids cheering for me.

I dismounted and thought I was going to have to do the 5K course bow-legged.  I got my bike shoes off and put my runners on.  I walked out of transition to the start of therun course hoping that my rear would realize we were off the bike and stop hollering at me.

I started jogging and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do my normal run: walk ratio.  I tried to run for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds.  Sometimes I ran more anda lot of times I walked more.  Once again the volunteers clapped and cheered all of us on.  One guy said that the water station was “just around the corner and down the street”.  Yeah, right.  He forgot to mention that you had to make a few more turns and go down a few more streets.  At kilometer 1, the muscle on the inside of my right knee cramped up on me.  What was this all about?  I thought maybe it was associated someway with the knee injury I had.  I kept going.  I finally reached the water station.  The water and Ultima were absolutely delicious.  I continued and at kilometer 2 the muscle on the inside of my left knee cramped up on me.  I finally realized that it was from the bike ride – I know that hard-core bikers have a “second knee”.  My second knees were not happy with me.  I kept going.  One of the residents had set up their sprinkler for us to run through.  God bless her.  Shortly before the turnaround point another resident had her hose out and was misting everyone as they passed.  I thanked her, and I hope she knows how much it was appreciated.  I made my way back and could see the finish line.  I had about 30m to go and my oldest (12 years) fell in step with me.  I called to his little brother (2 years) to come on and run with mommy.  He started and fell.  I had to stop and go help him up.  The three of us crossed the finish line together.  The first person I saw on the other side was my husband still taking pictures.

The next few minutes were a blur.  A young girl handed me a medal, someone was trying to hold onto my ankle to get the timing chip off, and my family was hugging me.  My body was exhausted, but my mind was racing.  I did it!  I completed my first triathlon!  I, Dawn Jackson Byars, was a triathlete.  What brought me back to planet earth was my two year old.  He was showing everyone my medal and saying “Mommy won!  My Mommy won!”  I guess he didn’t see that everyone else had a medal, too.

Wegot my gear loaded up and went to eat yummy salad and lasagna.  There were awards, raffle prizes and draw prizes.  To celebrate this being my first triathlon, I was given a lei.  I was also lucky enough to win a stability ball and Ridley’s bike repair kit.  I went to the results board curious for my times, but not wanting to make too big of a deal out of them (my goal was just to finish).

Swim: 500m – 14:53 (why was I so worried?)

Bike: 20km – 1:08:09 (this included T1 and T2)

Run: 5km – 44:54 (actually a little faster than I expected)

Total: 2:07:55.5

I still cannot get over how supportive and encouraging the volunteers and other participants were.  I tried to say “Thank you” to everyone and show as much support for other racers as they showed me.  I’m sure that I missed some people, but I hope they know that their words and encouraging smiles helped to give me the boost I needed to finish.

As we were walking out to the car my family gave me lots of hugs and told me how proud they were of me.  Once again my heart swelled with pride and my eyes teared – can’t really call it pool water now.  My little one looked up at me and once again said “Mommy, you won!”  Yes, my darling, I did.  Mommy won.  And she’s already got her sights set on next year.

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3 Responses to “Did that really just happen? Did I really complete a triathlon?”

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[…] to I’m a different person now.  After the race was over and we got back to the house, I read my recap of last year’s race.  It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come in a […]

[…] I felt ok in the weeks leading up to the event.  I had done the Strathmore Women’s Tri in 2011 and 2012 and after the second one I felt really good.  I knew that it would be a different race, […]

[…] son first crossed a finish line with me in 2011 when he was 2.5 years old.  I was competing in the Strathmore Women’s Sprint Triathlon and kids were allowed to run the last few yards with their moms and celebrate crossing that finish […]


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