I vividly remember standing in the starting corral of the Chicago Marathon alone, even though it was my 8th marathon, it was the first one I was running solo – without Brian. I remember standing there a bit anxious because I was running solo and because even though it was my 8th marathon, it’s still 26.2 miles and that’s nothing to take casually. I was standing there listening to all the newbies around me. Oh my gosh, the range of emotions they had; excited, nervous, anxious, giddy, scared, worried. Most of them couldn’t contain themselves and while they were nervous, they were also so freaking excited. The first time starting a marathon – and more importantly – the first time finishing a marathon is one of the best feelings a person can have. As I was eavesdropping on the conversations around me, I realized I didn’t have the same level of excitement and I missed it. I wanted to feel those “first time” butterflies again. While I was happy it was my 8th marathon and that I was somewhat seasoned and I knew I could handle whatever the day threw at me, I was more than a bit envious of those around me. I wanted to be excited again.
I share this flashback because my first sprint triathlon is in 16 days. I not only have the nervous energy and butterflies of a newbie, I also have the terror! What the hell was I thinking when I said I wanted to be a newbie again? Being new is terrifying! And in a sport where there’s a real chance of dying (because let’s not forget I just learned how to swim in June!), it’s not making me feel excited about the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing – it’s convincing me that something horrible will go wrong.
And the difference between being new at running vs. triathlons is the fact that I have to “pack” for race day. And no, I’m not talking about packing and laying out my stuff the night before a marathon, I’m talking about packing for the actual event. I have to bring stuff with me. You don’t have to do this for a marathon! The most you have to do is maybe bring along a throw away shirt and some energy gels. Other than that, you’re good to go. And if anyone has ever traveled with me, or even just went someplace overnight with me, I OVER PACK! Hell, my gym bag right now has no less than 4 different shirts in it because I’m just never sure which one I’ll want to wear. I cannot believe I picked a sport to participate in that requires me to not only pack – but pack lightly. That to me is an oxymoron. And it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing to pack, if I felt as if I could bring a few “extras” with me, but there isn’t room for anything extra, the space in transition is extremely tight.
And that brings me to another concern I have – I have personal space issues and the thought of being crammed into transition in such close proximity to strangers just leaves me very anxious.
And speaking of transition, there are about 9,000 triathletes that compete in the Chicago Tri – so that’s A LOT of bikes and people and very little space. And besides being right on top of one another, there’s the issue with actually being able to spot and find your bike in transition. And while I know people say to pay attention to what row you are in and find a landmark, etc. – that truly means nothing to me because it won’t help. I lose my car in the parking lot of stores or other venues ALL THE TIME. I kid you not. I actually worry about myself sometimes because I’m amazed at how quickly I can forget where I parked. My husband is used to it – but yet it still amazes him. He constantly asks, “how can you not remember, it’s been 10 minutes?!” I have to park in the same row at the Y or else I can’t find my car. If there are open spots, close to the building but in a different row, I’ll forego those spots to park in the back of the row that I “must” park in. I wish I was kidding. So I’ve basically come to the realization that I will absolutely not be able to find my row and my bike. It will be the Seinfeld episode where the gang couldn’t find their car in a parking ramp. That will be me trying to find my bike in transition.
Let’s get back to the packing part of my anxiety. Let’s talk about the things I need to think about and/or pack that just pertain to my head/hair! Most people have to think about bringing a helmet and maybe a hat/visor for the run. They don’t have to worry about a swim cap because the Tri will provide that. Well, people don’t have to worry about it, unless you are me. As I was practicing with some of Brian’s old Chicago Tri swim caps I quickly and painfully realized I have too much hair to use the triathlon supplied cap. It pulls my hair out and it hurts like hell getting it on and hurts just as badly pulling it off. And it doesn’t stretch the way I need it to and it’s just bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. I purchased and have been using silicone caps (compared to latex caps most use) specifically designed for long hair. So what I’ve been doing lately during my open water swims is using two caps – I use my long hair-silicone cap and then put the cheap latex cap over it. I do this just to get used to wearing two caps, because it does take some getting used to – it’s really tight. I thought I was squeezing out my brains the first time I did it.
And beyond just having to worry about my extra swim cap, I have to worry about hair ties. And not only do I need to make sure I have a hair tie during the swim, I will need extra because I’m not sure how I’ll wear my hair during the bike and run. So I typically have extra ties on my wrist, but during my open water swim practice, I realized that they fly off when I’m trying to pull off my wetsuit, never to be seen again. UGH! So I will have to stash some extras on my bike or with my running watch. But again, something Brian doesn’t have to think about.
I will throw my hair into a bun on the top of my head for the swim. But as I mentioned I don’t know how I’m wearing my hair during the bike and run. I have some ideas but I haven’t settled on which one will be the easiest to do in a tight transition area. I was going to throw a bondi band on and have “loose” hair while biking. I wanted to have a band on to keep the sweat out of my eyes, but if I do that, I don’t know what to do for the run. I can easily take the band off and throw on a running cap for the run, expect as you are already aware – I have a lot of hair and when it’s really hot, I like to run in a visor instead of a hat to keep from overheating. But I can’t put my hair in a high pony for a visor while in transition. It takes up too much time. So that leads me back to thinking I’ll just throw on a running cap for the run and deal with the heat because it’s only 3 miles. Then I was thinking if I do that, should I just put the cap on right out of the water and wear it under my helmet? It looks a bit funny but it may work. But it will be hot to have both a cap and helmet on. Ugh, decisions, decisions.
And there are way too many reasons why I can’t keep the band on while running. There’s also way – way – way too many reason why I must have my hair in a bun on the top of my head for the swim. I’ve tried a few other ways to wear my hair, and nothing else worked. So I’m going with what I know and that’s a “shark fin” bun. But because of my hair issues, I have to pack extra swim caps, multiple hair ties, bands, visors and running caps. Oh yeah, and my helmet. Definitely more than what Brian has to think about.
I’m going to spare you the boring details on what I’m wearing on the bike and the run. I had NO – NO – NO desire to wear spandex in front of people. But lord help me, I may end up wearing an actual tri outfit, spandex shorts and all. It makes me kind of sick to think about my chubby thighs, saddle bags and love handles being on display for all to see in their jiggly glory, but I just don’t think I can throw an extra pair of shorts on over the top of the spandex like I had wanted to do originally. I haven’t ruled it out – but we’ll see.
Needless to say, I have so much to yet think about and/or pack for race day that Brian can’t fully understand (i.e. I got my race day top in the mail and then I asked Brian, “what the hell do I do about a bra? I need to wear a sports bra (and all of my favorites have some padding in them) and it’s going to be wet coming out of the water – how long is it going to take to dry and will I chafe?” To which Brian replied… you have padding in your sports bra!?!”) and isn’t really very helpful! I’ve reached out to two of my female friends who not only have done tris in the past, but are training for Ironman this year – I figured they could lend me a few tips/pointers. And while I’ve been getting tips from friends, reading blogs, and articles – I still feel that no matter what I do – I won’t be prepared and I will forget something. But as my friend Jamie, soon to be Ironman Jamie, said “try not to let anything get to you…. biggest thing to try and do… stay CALM.”
So, that’s what I’m going to try to do. Stay calm and not let anything bother me. I have to remember back to 2014 when I was standing in the corral at the Chicago Marathon and how I wanted to be a “newbie” again and I how I wanted to have butterflies and excitement again. As they say… be careful what you wish for!
Until next time,
Gotta run (and swim and bike)