Freedom Springs Sprint Triathlon Race Recap: 7.4.2013

Triathlon is a Team Sport

I signed up for the Freedom Springs Sprint Triathlon when a friend in a local moms running club signed up and announced it would be her very first triathlon. By no means am I a seasoned triathlete or a veteran of the sport, but I was elated to know that another person was being introduced to the sport. I also knew how much I dreaded the swim and thought she might have some concerns about the swim.

She had about 5 weeks of swim practice to prep her for the triathlon. She also told me at this time that she almost drowned when she 5 years old and was hoping to conquer part of that fear by doing this triathlon. During this time I asked around about the swim. I learned that the swim was an out-and-back swim in chilly, spring fed waters. The worst part of the swim would be grabbing and kicking through plant vegetation (long grass). An open water swim is challenging enough, but to swim through all that nonsense did not sound pleasant.

Race Day

Freedom Springs 001

The forecast for race day: 80% chance of thunderstorms by 9:00 a.m., 100% chance for the rest of the day. It did not help that is had rained everyday for the last 10 days. I had a late start out the door and the rain slowed me down. As I drove to no-man’s land Marianna, Fl, I had the privilege of crossing into Central Standard Time and gained a much-needed hour for the 7:00 a.m. race start.Once I arrived, I checked in, got my body marked, set up my transition, and started chatting with friends as they arrived. I kept a lookout for my friend and she arrived 20 minutes before the start and was in a mad dash to get situated. At this point, the rain had still held off.

A few minutes before the start we donned our wetsuits and began to wade into the water. The swim start was just beyond two concrete docks, which meant a treading water kind of start. We waded out about chest high and waited for the men to start first. I told my friend I would swim every stroke with her if she needed me to…. she said she would be fine. Having panicked in my own races before, I stayed close just in case. After the men started, we made our way just past the concrete docks. We stayed at the back of the pack and held onto a rope to help us float and anticipated our start. While hanging on to the rope, my dear friend implied that she would be grateful if I swam with her, at this point I had already made the decision not to leave her as I could see the fear in her eyes. A fear I was very accustomed to.

We heard the race director yell, “Go, go, go!” and off we went. Due to chilly waters and fogged goggles, my friend opted to swim backstroke and I guided her through her first tri swim. Another gal from my tri club was about 30 feet ahead of us. After getting caught up in some plant vegetation and experiencing a rush of anxiety, she made eye contact with me and told me she couldn’t do it. According to her, I looked at her with my mommy eyes and told her to turn around and start swimming toward the buoy cause that was just nonsense. My version is that  I offered a few calming words, which helped her catch her breath, turn around, and knock out her second race swim.

About halfway through the swim the skies opened up and it started raining. Not a drizzle; a genuine heavy rain. I swam side stroke, talked my friend through her first swim, and before we knew it we were done. There were three gentleman behind us when we finished our swim. As we trotted to our bikes in the pouring rain, I couldn’t help but feel that I had already the best race of anyone out there that day.

I didn’t rush through transition as I normally would. I checked on my friend before leaving on my bike to ensure she was feeling good. The entire 10 mile bike leg was through pouring rain. Just as I was taking off, some of the men were already coming back in for the run. The bike leg was out and back on some rolling hills. A few miles in I settled into a groove on my aero bars and soaked up the experience. I passed a few folks, some on fat tire mountain bikes, others on road bikes. I pulled into transition from the bike leg behind another gal in our tri club. We parked our bikes and donned our running shoes together and headed out for the run.

The run was through a torrential downpour on a hilly Georgia-style clay dirt road. For a few minutes I thought I was doing Tough Mudder again. I definitely slowed my pace down and watched where I stepped. Still not 100% recovered from my sprained ankle at Tough Mudder, the last thing I wanted to do was roll it again. My tri club team-mate pulled away from me and finished about a minute ahead of me. After finishing in the pouring rain, I waited for my friend to finish. She trotted on in a few minutes later without any shoes on. She took them off at mile 2 and ran the last 1.1 miles barefoot in pouring rain; definitely a run and race to remember.

I took 3rd in my age group, which I was very surprised about. The amazing feeling that I have from helping someone get through their first triathlon swim and to be there at the finish line when they complete their first race is far more rewarding than I ever thought possible.

MRTT MomsFreedom Springs 016

Results

Placed: 122/166, AG 3/6

No splits recorded, total time: 1:30:06

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