As you know by now, I'm a big fan of Mermaid races - they're well-organized with a great, friendly atmosphere, and the race swag is just awesome. However, I've never cycled competitively before. I mean, I know HOW to ride a bike, but bicycles to me are indelibly associated with summertime trips to 7-Eleven for slurpees and roaming the neighborhood with my third-grade friends. I don't even have a race bike - I have a cutesy pink cruiser that is better suited for trips to the farmer's market in search of organic cilantro than for racing. I might as well just attach a wicker basket to the front.
|Racked and ready|
I just went for it. After a bad night's sleep due to nerves, I woke up at 5am to make the long drive to Alameda alone so that I would have enough time to set up my gear and then freak out and then calm down before the race started.
Thank god for the Mermaid people - everything was really clearly marked, and the volunteers are always helpful and friendly, and best of all, the other participants are so friendly. The woman who had her bike racked next to mine was much older than me and (as I later found out) a seasoned veteran of the multi-sport scene (she must have been in her 60s, and she TOTALLY smoked me), and she was so encouraging and sweet, and she even found me at the start line later and gave me a hug. She also told me where to put the labels on my bike and helmet, so... yeah, that was really helpful, because I totally had my helmet sticker in the wrong place.
The 1st leg was a 1.5-mile run - not anything scary, but of course, my knee's been giving me problems lately. I started out with a brace on, but after about 3/4 of a mile, I stopped and just took it off, knowing that I could drop it off when I got to my bike. My knee usually only hurts for the first half mile or so until I get warmed up anyway, so I was mostly fine (with a few twinges and aches) for the rest of the race. Run time: 20:24
The 2nd leg was a 12-mile bike ride (actually, a 6-mile loop done twice). It wasn't easy, but it was SO much fun. I'd forgotten how fun it is to ride a bike - like I said earlier, it reminds me of my childhood. It was beautiful and sunny and there was the gentle breeze in my face (when ELSE will I ever experience what it's like to do 5-minute miles in a race?) and though my legs felt burn-y and my butt bones felt achy, I really, really enjoyed biking. I should really bike MORE. Bike time: 56:58
The 3rd leg was a 2.5-mile run, and this ended up being the hardest part of all - not the bike ride that I wasn't trained for, but the run that came after. As soon as I dismounted and re-racked, I found that my legs were flopping all over the place. It was like I couldn't remember how to run. And when I tried to run - well, let's just say my legs were used to the speedy turnover from pedaling, so I was having problems controlling my pace at first. It definitely felt grueling - it was aggressively sunny, considering how early it still was, and I just felt totally beat. I ended up breaking up the run into micro-intervals, running between cones or lamp posts or something, but I did jog the finish chute, coming in just under two hours (1:55:38), avoiding the mud piles and finally nearly twisting my ankle stepping into a large hold in the dirt on my way back to my bike. (It's okay, I'm fine.)
|Celebratory chocolate chip pancakes|