I did it! And it was awesome. I have such a sense of pride and accomplishment, and really feel unstoppable. TAKE THAT WORLD! I'm a triathlete now!!
(also, I am exhausted and can barely move.)
Shaun, Fuzzy and I drove up to Lake Geneva Saturday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and then drove down to the site to check things out and buy a parking pass. We were planning on biking to the site, but ultimately decided to drive down, which I am really happy about, for myriad reasons. While down there, we asked what the temperature of the water was--73 degrees--and walked to the lake to check it out. We decided that we would go without our wetsuits, which would make things easier, but also different, since Fuzzy and I had not trained in open water without them. We had some dinner out, bought a ton of fudge, then headed back to the hotel to prep and get some sleep.
Side anecdote--I had purchased a small bottle of iced coffee in Chicago to take with me for race morning. I left it at home. What I ended up purchasing instead in WI was a freaking GROWLER of iced coffee from the Caribou Coffee, which we stored in the fridge in our room. It's awesome. I have had 2 glasses of it already today. 64 OUNCES OF COFFEE!!!
Sunday morning, we woke up at 4:30am after a fitful night's sleep. My start time was 7:09am. We set up transition, then killed time doing this that and the other. When it was time to begin, they sounded the airhorn, and myself and the other 34 women in the female aged 30-34 division took off! This race was the Bigfoot Triathlon
, put on by RAM Racing
, and it was a small event, with only about 1,000 participants--half for the sprint, and half for the Olympic distances. The ladies in my group were super awesome--as we rounded the bouy at the half way mark, one yelled out "alright ladies, halfway there!" When I accidentally choked on a mouthful of water, another woman asked if I was ok. So supportive! I swam the half mile in about 20 minutes (I had guestimated it would take me a half hour). The swim is my strongest of the 3 sections, and I really loved it. The lake was super gross and seaweedy, though, and when I took off my trisuit hours later, I was all mermaided-out with seaweed all over my boobs. It was pretty awesome.
Transition one took me about 11 minutes. I know that that is over half the time it took me to do the first section, but it is to be expected. I had to use the bathroom; I couldn't run to transition without my knee braces, so I walked it; I needed to eat; and I needed to wriggle on both braces with wet legs. Fuzzy caught up to me (he was in the wave after me) and the two of us set out to tackle the bike. We biked together for about the first mile, then he took off to run his own race.
The bike ride was GORGEOUS--all on country roads near farmland and horses. However, it was SUPER hilly. Hills from the start, hills all along the way. One hill was so hard, it hurt my legs and I talked out loud to myself as encouragement to push through it. (I actually talked outloud to myself on all 3 legs of the race. I guess I am a motivational talk-to-myself-er.) It was gorgeous smelling the country land and seeing the sunrays peek through the clouds. Biking is the hardest for me, and I tried to eat on the bike (hard but needed). I thought the 12 miles would take me an hour and a half, so when, after an hour, I was being flagged into the "bike in," I got so excited! I did it in an hour and 2 minutes. YEAH!
Transition 2 was a lot easier. I changed shoes, ate a little more, got rid of my bike gear, made another pit stop, then took off. It think it took me about 4.5 minutes. I saw Shaun right at the beginning of my run (he was already finished) and that gave me a nice burst of energy. The run was all on unpaved park paths, and it was so gorgeous. Right at the beginning, though, I stepped into a deep hole, and wrenched my left Achilles tendon--youch. It did ok, and didn't really start to hurt til later in the day. I passed an older gentleman also in the sprint and I said to him "home stretch! We're almost there!" and he said that he kept thinking about how good breakfast was going to taste. I told him beer was my motivator. I ran for a good portion of the start of the race, but again was faced with tons of hills. With all the hills we had faced on the bike, my legs were just running out of energy, so I sadly had to walk some. I tried to give myself goals, like "run the entire last mile" but I was just so sore and worn out, I did the best I could.
During the bike and the beginning of the run, there were spectators nearby, which was awesome for their encouragement. Whenever someone clapped for me, or told me I was doing a great job, it gave me such a boost and I thanked them. The rest of the run, however, was deep in the woods, so you didn't see a lot of people. It was quiet and gorgeous. I was getting lapped by the Olympic distance runners, but I didn't care. I noted at one point, that I was smiling the entire bike and run--I was eating it up and breathing it in. At one point on the bike, I said a prayer out loud thanking God for giving me the ability to do an athletic event like this (especially since last year, I wasn't able to--I could barely walk) and for allowing me to experience the beauty and glory of His land. I was/am just so thankful that I was able to experience something like this.
When I heard the finish line in the distance and was told by the water stop that there was only a quarter mile to go in the run, I took off running and kept it going. When I broke into the clearing, there was Fuzzy and Shaun, cheering for me, and I instantly started crying. I was so happy that I did it and so proud of myself for accomplishing something so huge and so important to me--I am amazed with the obstacles I have overcome to get to where I am today. I booked it and kicked it into overdrive. Before I crossed the finish, the announcer said "Erica Gerdes is crossing the finish line" and I got so overjoyed--she even said Gerdes right, and no one says it right! As I crossed over, tears rolled down my cheeks (I am even tearing up writing this) and as I was handed my goodie bag of food, etc, the woman said "You looked great!" and congratulated me. I did the run in about 40 minutes, so it only took about 7 minutes longer than my regular 5K time. Not too shabby! I looked at my watch, and it was only 9:29am, which means that I did the race in 2 hours and 20 minutes--40 minutes shorter than the time I expected
to do it! it turns out that I was #34 out of the 35 women in my division, and #374 out of only 400 competitors, but who cares? I DID IT!!
Fuzzy, Shaun and I took some photos and then headed over to the beer tent to celebrate. I wept for about another half hour, and drank a delicious beer. We compared notes on the race. Shaun finished in an hour and a half, Fuzzy in 2 hours. I am so proud of and amazed by us. Here we are in the beer tent. Triathletes!!
We went back to the hotel to shower, then had a celebratory meal at Culvers
. I had a double bacon cheeseburger, fried cheese curds and onion rings. I EARNED THAT MEAL. We made a quick stop at the Mars Cheese Castle
, and another at the outlet mall in Pleasant Prairie, then we headed back home. I slept in the truck, cause I was so tired. I napped when we got home, then went to bed early. Today, I am tired, but happy.
The interesting thing about these hardqore races is that, no matter how hard they are, when they are done, I instantly want to do them again. I want to swim in the lake. I can't wait to run again. I want to bike. I love that, even though I might struggle to get through something, the lingering aftereffect is not "no way, I am done with that" but instead, "when can we do it again?" Add to that the fact that I was so happy for all 3 legs of the race, and therefore I can proudly say I am a Triathlete.
The next Sprint is July 28th...BRING IT. YEAH!