Yesterday Mary and I did the Luna All-Women’s Triathlon, Tri-It Division. It was the second time for each of us, but the first time we did it together. My first time was two years ago. Last year I was injured and couldn’t participate and that was Mary’s first year.

The first part of the Tri-It is a ¼ mile swim in Blue Lake (noted for e-coli breakouts due to plenty of little kids in diapers pooping in the tiny roped off swim area. Thankfully that is not where we swam, though I doubt it makes much of a difference.) After the swim there is a 12 mile bike ride on Marine Drive along the Columbia River. The ride is mostly flat and very beautiful. The last part is a 3 mile run (though I can assure you we don’t run.)

We were in decent shape. We generally exercise 4 days a week. One day is a walk of at least (and usually not much more than) 3 miles. One day is a ¼ mile swim. Two days are a bike ride of between 5 and 6 miles. By now we had been hoping to swim a bit more than ¼ mile and to have one of our bike rides be 12 miles, but life intervened.

Still, we were not worried about how we would do in the triathlon. I was mostly worried about getting enough sleep the night before and having to get up at the ungodly (for us) hour of 6 am.

We got ourselves all packed up the night before – our bike chains greased, tires full of air, and left almost on time in the morning. There was the obligatory stop at McDonalds. “Super Size Me” be damned, Mary must have McDonald’s breakfast on the morning of a triathlon. Usually I refrain but I was starving so I ordered a sausage biscuit and then immediately began worrying about whether it was too salty and would make me too thirsty during the triathlon.

I always find arriving at the Luna Triathlon fairly daunting. There are all these tiny little women riding around on their bikes looking very serious, and because everyone is nervous, people are fairly rude. There is an area called the Transition Area which consists of metal bars to hang your bike on. Underneath, you are supposed to lay out a towel with the things you will need for your transitions (from swim to bike and from bike to run). For the Luna, the Transition Area is numbered so you have to be in the area designated for your number. Our numbers were 815 and 816 so the range was something like 800 -840. That is 40 numbers but the people who get there first take up way more than their allotted space. They’ll take one space for their bike and another whole space for their towel. That makes it hard for slowpokes like us to find a space for our bikes. We did manage to find spaces, though.

We laid our stuff out and then went to the booth run by the Triathlon Store to buy goggles, which we had forgotten. Mary bought the cheapest goggles they had and I paid a bit more for a pair that actually seemed to fit me. We basically had time to go to the bathroom and then they were starting people off on the swim. We were in the very last wave, the tri-it 45 and over. They start you off by age-group and in general the older you are, the later you start. It ends up being a bit demoralizing at the end. Since we are the last to start AND we walk rather than run at the end, we are just about guaranteed to come in last, when they’re not even keeping people off the course anymore. For this reason, Mary wanted to do the Sprint rather than the Tri-It. The only difference between the Sprint and the Tri-it is the length of the swim – ½ mile rather than a ¼ mile. If you do the sprint, you start before the Tri-Its, but also if you register as an Athena (a woman over 150 pounds) you get to start in an earlier age group. We both qualify as Athenas, but neither of us felt we were in shape to swim ½ mile.

Now before I go further I must write about my first Luna Triathlon, two years ago. I did it with my friend Claire and her sister, Serena. Claire was doing the triathlon because Serena was doing the triathlon, and she wanted to support her. I thought it would be fun. I can’t even remember what Claire said to me, some time prior to the triathlon, but she said something that I thought implied that I was out of shape and that it would be amazing if I could finish. I was highly offended and vowed that I would beat Claire come race day. Which was ridiculous, Claire being five years younger than me, much thinner than me, and much more fit. And she’d done a triathlon before. If I had, it had been in high school, and I barely remembered it.

On race day two years ago, I went out fast in the swim and actually beat Claire and Serena out of the water. I RAN to the transition area, put on my Tevas, didn’t even bother to put on a shirt over my bathing suit, and rode like hell. My thinking was that since I had done a very quick transition and Claire’s would be slower as she’d probably chat with Serena, if I rode REALLY fast, I could beat her on the biking. I was pedaling with all my might, probably two miles into the ride, when Claire came breezily up to me. I pedaled even harder to keep up with her. It was raining and I was cold. I said that I was cold and Claire said, “Why don’t you stop and put your shirt on?” “I don’t want to fall behind,” I said. “I’ll wait for you,” she said. So I stopped and put my shirt on, then continued to pedal like hell trying to keep up with Claire. It quickly became obvious that she was holding herself back. I said, “You can go ahead. You don’t need to wait for me.” “Are you sure?” she asked. I assured her and she was off. Ultimately, her bicycle time was 9 minutes faster than mine. This riding like hell completely wore me out, and my legs were cramping as I finished the ride.

“Okay,” I said to myself, still crazy and undaunted. “She beat me in the bike, but I can beat her in the walk portion, and I can do that by…. RUNNING!” I knew Claire wouldn’t run, and did it matter that I hadn’t run in 8 years? I didn’t run the whole thing (totally not capable) but I did a little walk five minutes, run 2 minutes sort of thing… if you could call what I was doing running. I finished the triathlon a respectable 10th from last and only 9 behind Claire. (Poor Serena had a bike malfunction and though she finished the walk portion, she was “disqualified” so didn’t get official results.) My final run/walk time: 50:22. Claire’s time (walking, no running): 47:53. And still I didn’t realize what an idiot I was being. It took a few days, when my whole body was sore, PLUS I had to go to the chiropractor because I had screwed up my back trying to run, with way too much weight on my frame AND no practice beforehand.

So, this time I was not going to do anything stupid like last time. I am way too old to abuse my body that way. This time I was going to do the triathlon for fun, and if I raced against anyone, it was going to be myself.

So back to yesterday: We stood on the beach watching the waves start. I waded into the water and was pleased that it was very warm – certainly warmer than two years ago and much warmer than the pool we swim in. I put my horrible yellow swim cap on (everyone wears a colored swim cap that identifies their division) and adjusted my brand new goggles as best as I could. And then it was our turn. We waded out into the water, there was a countdown for the start, and off we went. Last time I swam a combination of crawl and breast stroke. This time I only swam breast, still recovering an injured shoulder that would not take kindly to the crawl. I knew this was a disadvantage, so I just hoped to not come in last in the swim. As soon as we started, my new goggles started leaking into my left eye, so I swam with that eye closed the whole time. I swam as fast as I could which was, surprisingly, fairly fast. I could tell that there were quite a few people behind me, though I really only paid attention to the people on either side of me. My arms started hurting about ¾ of the way through, but I kept barreling on. I knew from experience that for some reason, I am most competitive in the swimming part of the triathlon, though I remember from a brief one week stint on the YMCA swim team in elementary school that I was a terribly slow swimmer. AND I swim much less than I bike and run. Go figure.

At any rate, I whooped Mary’s ass on the swim (I can’t help it – I’m competitive) and went to the transition area to put on a shirt and my socks and walking shoes. (In 2007, I couldn’t take the time to do such a thing, and my feet got very HOT in their black-soled TEVAS.) I took my time in the transition area because I was waiting for Mary so we could start the bike together.

While we were buying our goggles, there had been some guy over the loudspeaker giving advice. He said, “It’s easy to start out fast and then slow down. You should definitely start out as fast as you can. It’s not easy at all to speed up if you’ve started out too slow. ”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said to Mary. “That’s not how I’m going to do the bicycling.” She did start out faster than me and that was fine. I didn’t want to feel like I did before on the bike ride. I had been hoping for a 12 mile per hour pace, but I was a little under that and I was okay. For the first 6 miles, Mary and I took turns passing each other (you have to ride single-file; otherwise we would have been side by side.” She had a steady pace. I kept speeding up and then slowing down. I was uncomfortable. My legs were tired from swimming and my seat was not high enough (don’t ask me why I didn’t notice this BEFORE the triathlon) so my legs weren’t fully stretching out when I pedaled. And, the ride was a steady chorus of “On your left!”, “Passing on your left!”,”On your left”. Just to clarify we were the ones being passed, not the passers. We are slow bicyclists. We also have big clunky slow bikes kitted out with baskets and bells and all sorts of crap to slow us down. We love our paraphernalia, but it’s not our friend in a race. It was very sad watching as my swim lead was rapidly demolished. (Mary just rudely commented, “I ‘m not sure what you had was a swimming LEAD. It was just a swimming not coming in last.” Why I put up with such rudeness, I do not know.) Anyway, I wasn’t competing with anyone but myself. But, miraculously at about 5 ½ miles, I started to get some juice. And we passed 3 people. Which is 3 more people than I have ever passed on my bike in my life. It was really exciting! The course was up and back, and on the way back we had the wind at our back. I stopped to raise my bike seat and that helped tremendously. I went from an 11.8 mph pace to between 14 and 14.8. I caught back up to Mary who had kept going while I adjusted my seat, and I passed maybe three more people. When we were almost back to the park, there was a group of 3 or 4 women and I put on the steam and passed them too! My goal was to break an hour in the biking portion and we finished in 56 minutes. I was thrilled!

I’m a slow walker and Mary would have finished faster if she’d gone at her pace, but she slowed down to my pace. It was a very pleasant walk and as we crossed the finish line together the announcer said something about us finishing “neck and neck” which made us both laugh since we were strolling. After we crossed the finish line we were given the very disappointing news that they had run out of medals and would have to mail them to us. There’s always some sort of insult to coming in near the very end. At the Snake River Triathlon last year, the race officials actually packed up and LEFT before some of the walkers were finished.

Claire did not do the triathlon this year, but she and Michelle greeted us at the finish line, which was great. One of the things that Mary loves about the Luna triathlon is seeing all the families – husbands and kids – coming out to support their wives and Moms. We had no one there at the start, and one of us commented that that would be one benefit of having a husband, though in general we’re happy with the way things are. But it was great to have people there at the finish for us!

After the triathlon we drove to our friend Marla’s house, where she graciously allowed us to shower and use her spa-like shower amenities (coconut shampoo, some lovely-scented glycerin soap) and then went to the Ringside for onion rings. We’d been planning for weeks to try these onion rings which Marla said were divine. They were pretty good, though a bit greasy for my taste. Marla and I had fairly bad French dips, Mary had some sort of club sandwich that she really liked, and then we came home and collapsed. In the evening we watched “The House Bunny” which Mary laughed hysterically throughout. We’re not sure if it was really that funny or if she was just really tired.

And, finally, for the race results. Where I fared best was alphabetically. I came in 4th in Alphabetical Order, an improvement of one place over 2007. Here are the rest of our results and my comparison to the last two years:

Overall Time: Lis 2:22:55 – Mary – 2:22:54 Lis 2007 – 2:08:43 Mary 2008 – 2:32:15

Swim: Lis – 11:23 Mary – 12:52 Lis 2007: 11:20 Mary 2008 – 15:12

Bike: Lis – 56:22…… Mary – 56:25 Lis 2007: 56:01 Mary 2008 1:00:56

Walk: Lis – 1:03:03 Mary – 1:03:04 Lis 2007: 50:22 Mary 2008 1:02:35

Overall Place: 179 and 180 out of 183 Lis 2007 – 104 out of 114 Mary 2008 – 178 out of 182

Also, to refute my girlfriend who says I did not have a swimming lead, here are my stats:  Swim Place: 92 of 183.  Bike Place: 169 of 183.  Overall Place After Bike:  162 of 183.    Run Place: 182 of 183.  Final Place: 180.

I had actually hoped that I would better my times from 2007 without being a crazy competitor. I had hoped that my walk would be as fast as my crazy run/walk. In fact, I was faster in 2007, but I had much more fun in 2009, and frankly wasn’t that much slower. And look at how much Mary improved over last year! All in all it was a fantastic day. And, if you’re still reading this, congratulations!  You definitely have the endurance to complete a tri-it triathlon!