That's what I was told I would be on Sunday as I entered the water moments before the Trek Women's Triathlon started. A brilliant swimmer. A brilliant biker. A brilliant runner. And a brilliant triathlete.
I was ready. Donning my green swim cap, I was ready to return to the site of my first triathlon. A year older with two triathlons worth of experience under my belt. I was ready to tackle this tri and put up a smaller number than last year.
When I lined up at the swim start with the rest of the women in my wave, Sally Edwards, a former Ironman master's world record holder and the event's Chief Inspiration Officer, was waiting for me with her hand held out, ready to give me a high five.
As we stood there in the water, waiting for the gun to go off, Sally told us that our word was brilliant. We were going to be brilliant swimmers, bikers, runners and triathletes. And we would have a good time while we were doing it.
With those words running through my head, the countdown began. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go!
The Swim - 1/2 mile
Wanting to avoid the inital chaos of the swim start, I positioned myself towards the back of my wave and off to the side. Good choice. I was able to get into a decent swim groove fairly quickly. It sounds fairly simple - a straight 1/2 mile swim across Lake Andrea to the swim exit. But swimming in a straight line? Proved to be much more difficult that I remembered. Yes, there were some flags - white - and a yellow fence marking the swim exit, but when you're a half mile across a lake and swimming, it was kind of hard to see.
Somewhere around the midway point of the swim I realized I was completely off course. Heading to the shore, but unfortunately it was the wrong shore. So I paused. Got my bearings. Found the exit and started swimming again. Happened a few other times, and my swim was most definitely not a straight line, but eventually I made it to the exit.
I got out of the water, pulled my goggles off my head and promptly almost did a head first dive into the sand. If not for throwing my hand out to catch myself, I would have ended up with a face full of sand instead of having my hands and knees covered in sand. Bet ya any money the race photographer caught that graceful move on film.
Transition 1: Swim to Bike
Since I was covered in sand, I took a few seconds to wipe off my feet and my hand. Luckily my transition spot happened to be right by a grassy boulevard, so I had a little bit of extra room and a concrete curb to sit on while I put on my shoes. Threw on the shorts, tank, socks and shoes. Strapped on my helmet and grabbed my sunglasses and bike and I was off.
The Bike - 12.4 miles
The bike course took us out of the park and onto Kenosha County roads. Once you made that first left hand turn out of the park, you were greeted with an uphill climb over a railway overpass. Last year I think I struggled. But this year? That overpass - and the handful of other hills that were on the course - were nothing compared to the cliff road I tackled at High Cliff last month.
I felt good on the bike. Passed a good number of folks. Felt like I was making pretty good time. I glanced at the clock on my bike computer and based on an estimation of my approximate start time, I was posting a pretty decent time a few miles into the bike. But I wasn't going to let myself get too consumed with the time.
I kept pedaling. Kept passing a few folks. Remembered to eat the fruit punch package of Jelly Belly Sport Beans that I had shoved into the pocket of my tank. Even managed to open the package and not crash on my bike.
Soon the overpass that started the bike course was looming in front of me again. I tackled the uphill, passed one or two people and got ready to ride into the park and hit the road for the run.
Transition 2: Bike to Run
Quickly racked my bike, not once but twice. First attempt was close to my spot, but actually wasn't. So I unracked and re-racked my bike in front of my transition spot. Unbuckled the helmet, grabbed the visor, had a quick swig of water and I was off.
The Run - 3.1 miles
I had flashbacks to High Cliff when I felt like I was making good time and then completely died on the run. I was mentally ready for the concrete feeling to take over my legs.
It never happened.
My legs felt good. The run felt good. From the beginning until the end. About a quarter-mile in, I saw my Mom standing near the fence. I smiled. Waved. Kept running. The run went around the lake I had swam across a little over an hour earlier. I passed the swimming beach and hit the first water stop about a mile in. Grabbed some water, contemplated walking through the water stop, but I still felt good. So I kept running.
Somone had thought ahead and set up a sprinkler around the 1.25 mile marker. I watched as some women choose to run around it to avoid getting wet. Me? I ran right through it. It felt refreshing. Shortly after, there were some very nice looking firemen standing guard at the turnaround. The shouted words of encouragement. I said thanks. Then I was on my way back along the lake, about 1.5 miles from the finish line.
I kept running. Came upon a girl who looked like she was struggling. Gave her some words of encouragement. She thanked me and started running with me. We ran side by side for a little bit before she had to stop for a walk break.
I passed the second water station. Grabbed some water and a bag of Sport Beans. Tucked the beans in my pocket, drank some water and threw the rest over my head. The finish line was in sight. Just run around the swimming beach building, a curver or two and then the straighaway to the finish line.
I was ready to cross that line. Not ready to be done because I was tired. But ready to kick it into high gear and cross that line full of energy and fresh. Show that line who's in control.
My pace got quicker. The crowds started getting fuller. People were lining both sides of the path, making it seem like the finish line chute was much longer than just the fencing near the flags. Bent down to give a little boy a high five. Followed that up with an adult high five. Kept running. Still strong.
Then the finish line chute appeared. And Sally Edwards was standing there. I heard my name come over the loudspeaker. Sally held out her hand, greeting me at the finish line with a high five.
I'd like to think it was the strongest one she got all day.
I was done. I'd conquered the Trek Women's Triathlon. I felt good. Felt like I could keep on running. But I got my medal, grabbed some water and went to look for my Mom. She eventually found me in the chaos of people and I grabbed a post-race bagel before checking out the race results.
If I didn't feel so good, I would have thought I was seeing a typo.
There next to my name was a time. A time that was almost 17 minutes faster than the time I logged last year at this event. Needless to say, I was estatic.
So let's look at the numbers, shall we?
2009 Trek Women's Triathlon
Swim: 20 minutes, 35 seconds
Transition 1: 5 minutes, 20 seconds
Bike: 45 minutes, 41 seconds
Transition 2: 2 minutes, 32 seconds
Run: 35 minutes, 26 seconds
Total: 1 hour, 49 minutes, 37 seconds
For comparison, I finished the 2008 event (known as the Chicagoland Danskin Triathlon) in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 19 seconds. That's a difference of 16 minutes, 42 seconds. Woah. What a difference a year makes - but I'll address that idea in a different post this week.
An added feel good moment dealing with numbers? The time I clocked for the 5K run - 35 minutes, 26 seconds - is my fastest 5K time this year. If that's what I can do at the end of a triathlon, think of what it could be if I'm just running a 5K? Guess I'll get to see on Friday when I tackle the Sunset 5K.
Overall, I'd say it was a good day. No wait. Take that back. It was brilliant.