This year, I didn't enter because there was not an opportunity for me to practice swimming in the preceding months. And, because I didn't train in swimming, I didn't get my bike out to train for the cycling portion. I have been running, though, because I'm training for the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10.
When I arrived in Michigan last Thursday for a family visit, my brother and sister-in-law, Jon and Jo, urged me to once again enter the Lexington Triathlon, which was being held two days later. Jon and Jo are both training for an Ironman Triathlon. That's a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run - all completed on the same day. They will be competing in November in Florida - both hoping to finish in under 12 hours. So with Jon and Jo's urging and encouragement, I started contemplating signing up as a last minute participant. I had already completed a 13 mile run in my marathon training so I thought I just might be able to complete the triathlon. If I could just swim the 500 meters distance for the Sprint, I could participate.
The day before the Lexington Triathlon, I jumped into Lake Huron and swam between 2 boat hoists. I was told that they were 500 meters apart. I easily covered the distance and thought, "well, that was easy! I think I'll sign up for the Sprint. I know I can run 3.1 miles and I'll get through the 11 mile bike...somehow!"
Saturday morning came, I borrowed my brother's road bike that he got as a gift in the eighth grade (almost 30 years ago). I set up my bike, towel, running socks and shoes, and helmet and went down to the lake to fill up the water basin that would be used to wash the sand from my feet after the swim. I looked out at the buoy marking the 500 meter distance. It looked a bit further than what I swam between the boat hoists, but doable. I carried the basin up to my bike area, put on my bathing cap and swim goggles and went back down to the beach.
As I was standing among the 150+ athletes, a boat pulled up the buoy and moved it deeper into the lake. I was thinking, "Wait a minute! That's too far! They must certainly have made a mistake!"
I was starting to have a tinge of doubt as to my capability of covering the distance. The buoy 'stayed put' and the race was about to start. I said to myself, "Kristen (my good friend) would say, 'that's easy - you can do this Lisa!'" Kristen is a great swimmer and has inspired me to believe that I, too, can swim. So I thought, "If Kristen thinks I can do this, I can."
The race started, bodies rushed into the water, people bumping each other, swimming on top of each other. I was near the back of the crowd. Jo was far ahead of me. Jon was with the other Olympic Triathletes. It was just me ... and 2 other competitors that seemed to be swimming at my exact pace. We bumped into and collided with each other the whole way!
I knew I was moving slow but as I swam into the deep (very deep) water and rounded the buoy, I knew that I would be able to finish the distance. As I got closer to land, I kept trying to put my foot down in order to run out of the water. Goggles have a way of magnifying distance - making things look closer - and a couple times as I attempted to touch the bottom, my foot just swooshed through the water and my head bobbed under - each time I came up with a mouth full of water! Finally, I touched the sandy lake bottom with my foot and raced towards shore. I think I beat my two swimming friends out of the water but I know they passed me running through the sand!
I finally made it to my bike - taking a long time to dry my feet and put on my socks, shoes, shorts and shirt. I hopped on my brother's bike and then quickly hopped off. You are supposed to walk your bike out of the coral area. I hopped on my bike again and started the 11 mile ride. I rode at a 17.2 mph pace - better than last year on my mountain bike. After the bike, it took me 53 seconds to transition to running.
My run started very shaky due to my wobbly legs. My calves were tired from the ride and the first part of the 3.1 mile run was uphill. As the run progressed, I got stronger. I had a strong finish. Overall my pace was 10:18 per mile for the 3.1 miles.
I finished the triathlon 4th in my age group. My picture ended up in the local paper. A big color picture - the only one from the event! I ran wearing my Inheritance of Hope running shirt. One triathlete finishing behind me said that she kept wanting to give up but saw the word 'HOPE' before her eyes and felt motivated.
I'm thankful for every day that I can go out and push myself - to run or bike or swim farther than I think I can. I remember even harder days in the past when the big accomplishment was to just make it through the day without being sick to my stomach.
The boat hoists were not 500 meters apart, but 500 feet. The triathlon swim was 3 times further than my Friday swim. Would I have entered the Lexington Triathlon if I had known that?
If I could sum up this experience in a sentence in an attempt to share a bit of wisdom gained, it would be something like this: "The race is not only for the swift but for ALL those who enter and complete it - no matter the pace."